Analytics CRO

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Site’s Conversion Rate

Photo credit: The Great Sigmund

Your site’s conversion rate can make or break your ability to generate sales and leads online. Site owners often spend countless hours, utilizing numerous A/B testing tools, to try and come up with the perfect headline, call to action and button color only to see their work result in very minor improvements.

Creating statistically significant improvements in conversion rate is more than just testing a red button vs an orange button, it’s making foundational changes to user experience that drive meaningful results. Here’s 3 ways you can quickly see massive conversion rate gains on your site with minimal work involved:

Shorten the Checkout

Many sites still use a multi-page checkout experience flow like this example

  • Account creation
  • Shipping
  • Payment
  • Review
  • Confirmation

Each one of these steps allows a user to leave for a variety of reasons and marketers have been obsessed with trying to plug leaks between each step vs taking a step back and trying to simplify the checkout experience.

First of all review pages shouldn’t need to exist, a review process (verifying name, shipping, addresses, amounts) should be within the checkout UI vs a dedicated page.

Second newer iterations of some of the world’s most popular carts have the ability to conduct the process within a single screen. In my experience, moving from a multi-page funnel into a single page can improve checkout rates by 25-50 basis points.

Add Payment Methods

We live in a world where people utilize Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Paypal and a host of other services to regularly conduct transactions and sites that let users leverage 3rd payment systems have an immediate advantage over their competitors.

Often the pushback we here from merchants when looking at 3rd party payment platforms is the swipe fee. These can be 25-40 basis points higher than their negotiated merchant processing rates and while this is important to factor from a margin perspective, consider the incremental revenue generated that would have otherwise gone elsewhere especially for people trying to checkout on mobile devices.

Furthermore adding payment installment providers like Affirm can generate significantly better checkout rates on higher AOV carts especially if your brand sells items that tend to skew toward younger demographics.

Give Options

With the first two recommendations we’ve focused heavily on the cart experience and now I want to focus on the product experience. The most common dead end on a retail site is a product being out of stock and for most sites the response is to provide an input allowing users to be notified when a product is back in stock.

That is by far the worst product experience you can provide because by the time you notify someone, if at all, that their product has been restocked, the momentum to drive a conversion is often gone and your happy to let you know email ends up in the trash.

A product being out of stock should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a liability. Consider carousels with substitute goods that are bought in place of that item, additional configurations of quantity and amount and what else users who view/purchase the product tend to buy.

Don’t let an out of stock product create a u-turn for your visitor. Instead use it and embrace it as a retailing opportunity.


Avoiding One Size Fits All for Email

Photo Credit: The Sophisticated Eric Odiin

Email should be every brand’s highest performing channel but often brands struggle with how they can extract value without overwhelming their subscribers. In this post I’ll show you how to design email segment strategies that will perform well without overloading and alienating your audience.

Why Did They Subscribe?

This is the fundamental question that will drive your email marketing flow. Most sites have three sign up points, newsletter, promo and checkout and often they make the mistake of assuming consumers on all three lists want the same outcomes.

Newsletter / Signaling Signups – These customers aren’t ready to buy but want to be kept in the loop so that later on when conditions are more favorable, they may turn from subscriber to buyer

Email for Promo Code Signups – These signups are often the most fickle because the motivation for signing up is strictly a financial incentive for the end user

Checkout Opt-In – Web consumers at this point implicitly expect that they’ll be added to a marketing email list after they purchase and in our experience, even when checkout funnels have clear opt outs, if a brand has a strong enough value proposition people will often consent.

The first mistake outside of a basic post order flow is that many companies send the same exact emails to each list instead of meeting consumers where they are and designing campaigns around them.

What Do They Want in the Relationship?

Referring back to these core groups, we need to understand what they would be looking to get out of subscribing and staying engaged.

Newsletter signups will definitely need nurturing in addition to product announcements, use cases and upgrades to feel confident they are making the right decision when they’re ready to buy

Promo code subscribers will likely respond well to offers, closeouts and deals and aren’t going to want to click on emails detailing minor edits and holiday announcements.

Checkout opt-in subscribers will want post purchase nurturing of how-to guides, enhancements and with the right mix of both can easily be upsold both for deals/promo and new releases.

Flow Design

Each intent should have it’s own flow with very few emails being sent to subscribers on all three lists.

Pre-Purchase Subscribers

  • Nurture Flows
  • Use Cases
  • News/Enhancements/Launches

Enhancements / Launches

  • Promo Subscribers
  • Deals and discounts
  • Value Add

Checkout Subscribers

  • Next Steps
  • Use Cases
  • Pertinent Updates
  • Enhancements/Launches

This is just a 101 level article. For ways to really dive deep into email, follow this space.


My Favorite Changes in Google Analytics 4

Photo credit: The detail oriented Hakon Grimstad

Google Analytics 4 provides businesses with a fresh interface and new metrics with which to view their performance.  It’s a major change that’s been years in the making and we’re highlighting some of the new enhancements in GA4 that solve common reporting problems and provide additional insights to marketers.

The End of Bounce Rates

Bounce rate has been a core KPI for many businesses but the metric and thinking behind it was long overdue for change. The classical definition of bounce rate is how many people landed on your site but didn’t advance to another page.

It was supposed to be a barometer for both traffic and landing page quality but often reporting around it had to be filled with caveats because a high bounce rate does not always mean a poor performing page. If someone lands on your site and clicks to call or successfully fills out a form that doesn’t take them to a confirmation page, in both instances the bounce rate would be 100% even though you had conversions in each example.

Because of this brands began to use it as a directional metric that when layered with conversion rate by page was a better metric set. In GA4, bounce rate is replaced with engagement rate which takes into account actions on page and provides a measure of true engagement not based on page progression.

Events by Default

In the old version of Google Analytics, if you wanted to track events (button clicks, video plays, tab clicks) you had to add special code to the site that would fire whenever a user took an action. For sites with content areas that varied significantly between pages, implementing full event tracking was a nightmare for marketing and development teams.

The new GA4 can automatically track and standardize events eliminating the arduous work of setup under Universal Analytics. Marketers can still append custom parameters to each one if they need additional context but the days of page by page div implementation is now over.

Native Cross Domain Tracking

Another obstacle for marketers involved measuring ROI among campaigns that could include multiple domains. For instance if a client has their own careers site as well as a careers page on their main corporate site … measuring an ad click to one that resulted in a conversion on the other was difficult to implement and track.

GA4 can now track activity among multiple related domains which will help marketers truly measure their efforts among the entire brand spectrum. The days of caveating reporting to try and account for accretive conversions from other sites/campaigns are now a thing of the past.

Get Started Today

If your business has yet to migrate to GA4, you need to get that setup soon so that you don’t lose year over year data. There are a number of guides to get started as well as agencies that can implement it on your behalf.

Paid Media

Managing Marketing Spend in a Downturn

Photo credit: The composed Rafael Felisilda

In times of economic uncertainty, marketing spend is usually the first expense to get cut because it’s incredibly easy to adjust a budget or pause entire blocks of campaigns – but should marketing be the first place your business looks to conserve cash or is cutting budget a move that can worsen existing challenges to your business?

Marketing is Even More Important in Downturns

When consumers begin to cut spending and take a harder look at their choices for products and services, that’s the perfect opportunity for marketing to reinforce value propositions to existing customers while prospecting for new ones. 

Your existing customers will want reassurance that they’ve made and will continue to make the right decision buying from your brand and new customers need messaging that lets them know they are making the right choice. 

Pausing campaigns can have unintended negative consequences far beyond just losing visibility in a market. Keep in mind that almost every ad network/platform now uses machine learning to discover audiences with the best chance of conversion and stopping that flow of data and forcing those campaigns back into a learning phase will severely impact performance when you decide to restart spend.

Leverage Technology to Improve ROI

Many brands still spend large portions of their budget on prospecting campaigns that are often driven only by demographics or simple lookalike lists. These campaigns often have low ROIs but are seen as valuable to the business because they serve as a point of introduction and cast a wide net for brands at an inexpensive CPM/CPC.

Instead of continuing to spend on these “wide net” approaches, take a strategic look at the audiences, behaviors and demographics driving these campaigns and make strategic adjustments to cull underperforming groups or test new ones that can improve ROI. Little adjustments like changing the composition of a lookalike audience or pivoting out of specific demographic combinations can make a big difference. 

If You Have to Cut Spend

Should you need to reduce budget, the first place to start will be Google Ads because you’ll be able to use their competitive analytics data to make informed choices on spend reduction.

For any campaign that accounts for at least 5% of budget, look at the last 5-6 complete months of auction insights data and plot who bids on your terms and how that behavior has changed  over time. You may see competitors who have gone from having high impression overlaps (their ads were shown on the same searches as your own) to barely being visible and that may open opportunities for lower bid and target adjustments.

For non-brand campaigns you’ll want to take a deeper look at your main keywords and their underlying queries to determine your next steps. Utilize first click attribution as your starting point and look at both keywords and themes that perform well or vice versa.

For branded campaigns, really take a hard look at what you’re bidding on and how competitors are adjusting. Competitor conquest campaigns traditionally have the lowest immediate ROI and if the other players in your space are using ROI as their base metric you may find your branded campaigns as an opportunity to cut.

The second part of that equation is to audit your brand search queries and look at what branded terms are driving clicks. Any terms related to post purchase activity should be excluded as well as terms indicating an already strong preference for the brand.

I realize branded campaigns, for better or worse, are the aggregate ROI driver for marketers but freeing budget to go after people looking at alternatives while keeping costs in check is a scalable strategy that can fuel growth in better economic conditions.

Going Forward

Economic downturns are always stressful and having the right team in place that can assess existing spend and develop strategies to minimize loss of visibility while maximizing value is critical to success. If you haven’t already revisited marketing budget and priorities for Q3/Q4 and beyond, now is the time to do so.


Common WordPress Security Issues and How to Fix Them

Photo credit: The sublime Milosz Klinowski

WordPress is the world’s foremost content management system powering tens of millions of websites across the world. The platform is incredibly flexible powering everything from blogs to major corporate sites to eCommerce retailers.

However being the most popular CMS means that hackers will always try to find ways to target and compromise the platform and the millions of sites on it. Here is our list of the most common WordPress security issues and how to fix them.

Poor Username Policies

While it may be obvious that setting a username as admin or siteadmin is not a best practice, there are countless other ways that poor username choices can lead a site to be compromised.

The first way is setting usernames to be exact employee names or initial + last name. Often the people accessing your site backend to contribute content or edit posts will use their WordPress password for other services and if a service is compromised then it’s easy for hackers to then try and successfully access your site.  If a hacker can successfully guess a username, they can use brute force login techniques to try and guess the password and with frightening speed.

When assigning usernames for staff … use a naming convention that will be easy to remember but won’t be obvious to guess.

Allowing User Enumeration

Another way that hackers can gain access to username lists is with scripts that spam requests by taking advantage of WordPress URL redirects. A script can spam requests like, … and so on and WordPress will resolve those numbers to user names.

Once a script gathers a list of user names, it can then attempt to brute force passwords and gain access similar to the above loophole. The solution is to edit the functions.php file so that it doesn’t route those requests to IDs or block those requests overall at the server level.

Missing HSTS Headers

These headers increase site security by ensuring browsers always access the HTTPS version of a site. If someone types in the domain or clicks a link to the site that doesn’t include https:// a browser may first connect to HTTP before routing to HTTPS and that non-secure to secure handoff can be a target for malware attacks.

Get these added to your site and improve your overall security in minutes.

Missing Content Security Policy Headers

These headers reduce vulnerability to XSS (Cross Site Scripting Attacks) by instructing browsers that they should only load scripts and resources from trusted domains.

Missing Secure Referrer Policy Header

If an external resource is compromised (example: a site you link to on your blog) and is accessed from the site, having a secure referrer policy header protects the amount of information sent to a hacked site and in turn could protect the site from exploit attempts

Not Appending External Links

Add rel=noopener to all external links. Should any external site get compromised, this will help prevent users from being redirected to a malicious URL and mitigate any SEO issues from Google seeing a link to a less reputable domain.

Security has unfortunately become the most important thing online and having a secured site should be the most important priority for your brand and customers. There are a number of companies that provide secure hosting, vulnerability testing and web development services that provide peace of mind and prevent against attacks.

Personally this site is on WPEngine and I would endorse them.