Budgeting for CRO: Why You Need To Set Aside a Budget and How To Create One

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is still under-prioritized at many companies and is often the last, sometimes even neglected, marketing investment. However, omitting CRO from your marketing strategy means you’re assuming that acquiring new users is more geared to ROI as compared to maximizing your existing base – whereas, in reality, your user base is already…

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is still under-prioritized at many companies and is often the last, sometimes even neglected, marketing investment. However, omitting CRO from your marketing strategy means you’re assuming that acquiring new users is more geared to ROI as compared to maximizing your existing base – whereas, in reality, your user base is already available for conversion to actual revenue.

Even though the outcome of SEO and Pay-per-click ads can be quantified more easily, and the true impact of CRO only shows over time, CRO should be prioritized. This is because not optimizing your website could eventually push back your SEO and PPC efforts too. If you cannot convert your visitors into customers, you are not doing justice to your brand and traffic spend. Without CRO, you also run the risk of focusing on vanity metrics and lose money due to lost opportunities and conversions. Besides, your decision-making around website updates, if not conversion-focused, can end up costing the company too. 

Rutger Kühr, Head of CRO at Pricewise, says,“CRO is not just about getting the golden nugget of a 20% uplift, but also about preventing bad ideas from going live”.

Rutger believes that while it could work differently for different companies, without CRO, any change in eCommerce is basically a gamble.

Despite this, many companies still do not set aside money specifically for CRO. Also, those starting to understand its importance might not know how to budget for it. If they spend on CRO at all, the funds are likely to be drawn from a shared marketing pot. Having worked with thousands of brands, at VWO, we’ve realized that many companies struggle to transition from this shared budget, where CRO is not a priority. Hence, we want to demystify the CRO budgeting process for you.

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In this guide, we share our findings providing an actionable framework with real-world insights.

Budgeting for CRO

What are the benefits of creating a dedicated CRO budget?

Budgeting for CRO generally means you are looking at either hiring an agency or investing in bringing CRO in-house. 

Here are some common benefits of creating a separate CRO budget:

  • You can hire dedicated staff or an agency to run tests. Dedicated staff can coordinate with other departments allowing for a CRO strategy that aligns better with overall goals.  
  • If you have the budget to hire a dedicated CRO Manager, you can create a robust CRO testing roadmap.
  • You are not fighting for funding against other marketing functions.

“To us, it’s just as important to spend on CRO as it is to spend on our advertising or our creatives”, says Harry Cederbaum of Twillory eCommerce company. 

Rutger from Pricewise puts forth the perspective of flexibility to this. Though a staunch advocate of CRO, he does not agree on attaching a specific number to it.

“If you put aside a fixed amount for CRO, you’re probably missing out on potential opportunities outside of that amount”, he says. 

What constitutes the budget for CRO?

Here are four of the main categories that you must consider within your CRO budget:

Human capital

Human capital is likely to be the highest cost as a proportion of your budget. Human capital costs include the cost of your existing staff spending time on, or any new team members hired, to meet your CRO objectives. It also includes fees for external consultants or agency teams, if you’re using them. 

Building an in-house team (it is unrealistic to combine all required skills into a single role) usually costs a lot more than outsourcing your CRO program to an agency. If you do opt for building a team of experts, you would ideally need at least one specialist each in the area of project management, strategy, UX design, data science, and front-end development. Even a conservative estimate of the team’s total compensation would fall at nearly half a million dollars annually(1).

Hiring a digital marketing agency to run your CRO program can cost you in the range of $3k/month up to $9k/month. If you choose to get a freelance CRO practitioner on-board, you tend to pay them $10/hour to $400/hour, depending on the level of expertise. The other alternative is hiring a specialized CRO firm – the top ones can cost you around $16k/month, but you can also find some of the smaller ones charging approx. $3k/month to $5k/month(2).

Tool cost

Tool Cost

Alongside staff costs, you’ll also need to consider the cost of any tools or equipment you need. Tool costs will depend on the providers you use and the features you require.

On average, companies spend nearly $2,000 a month on CRO tools(3). The tools available in the market can be evaluated based on your requirements at each stage of the CRO journey – research, hypothesis, prioritization, testing, and learning. If you’re a beginner in CRO, there are free tools with basic features that can give you a headstart. Depending on your level of CRO maturity, you can also choose a single, integrated tool for all your optimization needs.  

Harry from Twillory explains how decisions around acquiring a new tool are based on reviews in their company. 

“If we are considering a new tool like VWO, for instance, we have a review for whether we want to invest in it. We are a bootstrapped company and don’t have VC money to spend, so our decisions are usually based on reviews”, he says.

Opportunity cost

Opportunity cost refers to revenue lost as a result of the choices not made. 

CRO helps you identify the best call-to-action (CTA). In the period when your website runs with the lower performing CTA, you are incurring an opportunity cost. 

For example, if you decide to use CTA Option 1, you lose the potential sales you would have gained using CTA Option 2. If Option 1 is less successful, you have incurred an opportunity cost during the period CTA 1 was run. 

Once a winning variation is identified, it takes time to deploy it on the website. There is a cost associated with the time lapse between testing and implementing a winning idea.  What you need to bear in mind though, is that A/B testing is an important part of the CRO process. What it essentially does is prevents you from making changes to your website that don’t improve conversions and implementing ideas that could potentially damage conversions.

Request a demo with VWO and start A/B testing your website for improved conversions.

Experimentation regret

During any test, one version will perform better than the other, however small or sizable this difference may be. If the variation performs better than the control, the overall performance of your website will be better than the status quo. Experimentation regret, on the other hand, is if the variation happens to perform worse than the status quo, therefore resulting in an overall decreased website performance. 

When you create your CRO budget, aim to strike a balance between highlighting potential issues and focusing on the potential benefits.

Does a CRO budget fit into your current needs?

How A CRO Budget Fits In Your Current Needs

Before you go any further, consider whether a budget is right for your needs at this time. 

According to Rohit Dey, Optimization Consultant & Sales Head North America at VWO, clients start thinking about budgeting for a CRO service when typically one of these two things happen:

  1. They’ve started acquiring traffic through paid mediums and they understand the composition of this traffic along with the conversion rate for each of these traffic mediums. Now they want to see an ROI on it.
  2. They are reiterating their design philosophy i.e. taking major design decisions that they need to validate and make sure that they impact conversion rates positively. 

Rohit also believes that a lot of organisations are realizing that analytics, by itself, is not enough.

“Analytics gives the answer to ‘what is the problem on your website’, but does not explain the ‘why’ of it. Getting to the solution for the problem requires a hypothesis, which in turn needs research and data. Organizations look for CRO services for this”, he says.

How to prepare your CRO budget

How to prepare your CRO budget

If you’re preparing a budget for CRO activities, it means you’re convinced that these activities will impact your bottom line positively. But you need to convince your management on this too (more on how to do this in the coming sections). If everyone is on-board with the idea that the resources required are worth the end-goal, budgeting should be a smooth process for you. 

Start with calculating your lead value. If your average lead value is $5, and you’re generating 5,000 leads every month, you know you can set aside less than or equal to approx. $25,000 for setting up CRO tools, and a team. As your lead value increases, you can consider increasing your CRO budget too. Likewise, if an A/B testing tool costs less than the lead amount it generates, you can go ahead and purchase it. 

Rutger from Pricewise says, “It depends on the tool you’re using and where you’re storing results. For instance, client-side testing can be done in-house with developers but would be more expensive for us than using a tool”.

There could be some tools and talent already within your organization that you could maximize for CRO. It’s a good idea to scope the projected use of these in your budget. 

Set conversion goals in your budget that circle back to quantifiable, profitable returns for your company. Calculate your present conversion rate to determine a baseline and set benchmarks for the tests you’re committing to in your budget. 

According to Alan at ClickThrough Marketing, it typically takes 10-14 months to see a good ROI and actionable learnings from CRO experiments. So you’d want to start with an annual budget that allows you sufficient time to test your ideas and analyze the outcomes.  

Based on your specific reason for investing in CRO, you can create a budget and build a CRO test-case that aligns with your goals.

What you need to be mindful of is that demonstrating value early on in your CRO journey is very important. Without that, getting a budget sanctioned in the future may not be possible. To get early results, make sure you scope for and focus on experiments that don’t require a lot of development work or occur on low-traffic pages, hence slowing down your testing velocity. VWO’s Bayesian-powered stats engine, SmartStats, enables you to conclude tests faster and more accurately.

Take a free trial with VWO to improve your testing velocity.

How to decide if you should use an agency or an in-house team

Should You Use An Agency Or Build An In House Team?

One of the most significant decisions you will make as you draw up your budget is whether to hire a CRO agency or manage your campaign in-house, and the right choice will depend on your company and your needs. There are numerous considerations. 

First, consider the skills and capacity within your existing marketing team. How much do they know about CRO? Companies with a strong marketing team that already understand CRO might consider directing existing staff time towards the process rather than hiring a new person or bringing in an agency.  However, this may not be a good idea in the long-term. The skills needed for nailing CRO are wide and deep, and many marketing teams might not have the required knowledge of say, statistics, psychology, or user research. The question then would be if you’re willing to spend considerable time to upskill your existing pool of resources, or use an agency. 

You can start with a smaller budget focusing on those low-cost, high-reward options we mentioned earlier. Just keep in mind that CRO can fail if you don’t have the right person for it in-house. Something as simple as not knowing when to conclude a test can damage your position to get further buy-in for CRO from the management. 

Also, hiring is expensive. As mentioned before, putting together even a small team of specialists would cost more than what many companies, particularly smaller businesses can afford. 

For this reason, it may make more sense for small businesses and newer companies to start out by working with an agency. 

Here are some of the benefits of working with an agency: 

  • Shorter project-initiation times. Hiring a new team member and getting started can take weeks or months, whereas a project with an agency can be initiated in a matter of days. 
  • Greater flexibility.
  • Smaller upfront budget commitment.
  • Shorter-term financial burden.
  • Strategic experience in experimentation and building a testing culture so you get the ROI needed to convince stakeholders.
  • A wide range of expertise in different areas that would prove very expensive to achieve in-house.
  • An unbiased approach to conducting research. 

Working with a CRO agency can cost anything from $5,000 to $16,000 per month as mentioned earlier, depending on your project’s size, complexity, and the velocity of testing you opt for. 

Another option for companies is to start their CRO journey with an agency and transition in-house when the timing is right. Agencies are equipped to help companies build and run an in-house program. Also, your CRO program does not end when your contract with the agency ends, it makes sense to use the agency when extra resources are needed or for help to resolve specific challenges. Therefore, the options need not necessarily be mutually exclusive. 

Here are some benefits of bringing CRO in-house: 

  • An in-house team will be focused solely on your business, as opposed to having multiple clients. 
  • An in-house team can work out more cost-effectively if you are dedicated to CRO as a permanent business function. 
  • In-house staff can get to know your business best. 
  • Stronger opportunities for collaboration between teams. 

The team associated with each business unit works closely together to share best practices, monitor progress, and fix anything that isn’t working. With CRO specialists entrenched in the company, they can operate in an agile fashion, planning on a month-to-month basis with an eye on the long-term goals and overall KPIs.

An in-house CRO team can be structured around 3 models depending on your company size, CRO budget, and metrics: centralized, decentralized, and center of excellence (COE). Centralized teams focus on developing long-term optimization strategies and have localized expertise within the team. Decentralized teams have responsibilities distributed among team members across departments. The COE model utilizes a combination of centralized and decentralized approaches. Each model has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so figuring out which one works best for you is important. 

One final aspect that you might consider as you make your decision around hiring is your average order value. 

Alan at Clickthrough says, “if the average order value for a website is high, then [an agency’s] capability to get that return on investment is much greater”.

Creating a proposal and making a compelling case for CRO

Before you begin constructing your proposal, there is some critical information you will need to gather. 

  1. What is the current conversion rate on your website and how is it being measured?
  2. How does your company currently define conversion? Which important actions is it aiming for visitors to perform?
  3. What is your maturity level compared to others in your segment? 
  4. Which tools do you currently use to manage your website and analyze its performance?
  5. Who are the important stakeholders, and who are the people you need to liaise with on an ongoing basis for the CRO program to work effectively?

Once you have this information in place, create a proposal that incorporates the following:

  1. Your explanation of what CRO means and how it will improve the business. 
  2. Your conversion goals and how you will measure them. 
  3. The process you will follow to achieve the goal in terms of audit, action, and reporting. 
  4. The existing resources that you will need access to; both tools and talent.
  5. The cost of planned CRO activities bundled in an easy-to-consume package.
  6. The expected outcome and ROI.

If you’re bent towards hiring an agency, you will most likely receive such a proposal from their side. If you’re considering CRO in-house, you will need to create one. 

In either case, each of the proposal elements should focus on the company’s benefit. The proposal should clearly articulate how the CRO goal of getting more visitors into the sales funnel will be achieved.  Rohit from VWO explains that an agency’s focus during the proposal stage is to help the client understand that CRO is a process, it would take 6-12 months for a successful CRO program to yield results, and what a projected uplift in conversion rate would mean for the client in terms of say, gross sales or number of leads.

Request a proposal from the experts at VWO Services and leverage VWO’s insights, testing, and deploying features.

“We focus on the ROI, and then justify the investment in the CRO program. We also focus on learnings – we don’t say every experiment will be a winner but there will be a learning in each experiment”, Rohit says.

As a follow up to the proposal, many companies also present a business case to the senior management highlighting specific financial details of the budget. For instance, considering your current traffic and conversion rate, how much an X% increase in a particular metric could drive in terms of revenue, how it could make paid campaigns more profitable, or allow you to spend an additional X amount of money into ads to scale your business.

Navigating the proposal process

The proposal process is likely to include the following steps: 

  • Generating buy-in from relevant team members. 
  • Getting support from the Head of Marketing (or equivalent). 
  • Running test-cases and gathering data. 
  • Creating your proposed budget. 
  • Presenting your proposal to the Board or C-suite. 
  • Answering questions about your proposed project. You’ll need to show you have thought through the possible risks and taken steps to manage them. 
  • Possibly refining your proposal or providing more information, if required. 

If you use a financial justification for CRO, present specific numbers and robust data at every stage of the process to support your case.

“Associate CRO to one lever in the organization – whether it’s UX, financial, or operational. Explain what an un-optimized form means for say, an insurance provider. What does the loss of conversion look like in terms of revenue loss?”, Rohit from VWO explains.

Often, focusing on the negative can get you the buy-in you need. You could stress on something like – CRO will get you a 10% uplift (which is very tough to predict in the first place) – or you could show how bad UX will create a negative brand image. The latter could prove to be more effective.

How to design an initial test case that builds buy-in

Test Case For CRO

A test case is a set of actions designed to prove a hypothesis – in this case, that CRO matters and is worth the investment. Your test-case should be low risk and high reward. In other words, the investment cost in time or money should be minimal, while the outcome will help either decrease cost or increase earnings.

You will need to design a simple experiment and establish a framework of trackable KPIs to demonstrate the outcome. Focusing on compound annual earnings when measuring success can help. In other words, how much additional revenue are you likely to generate for the next year based on the results of a successful test?

For example, let’s imagine that you design a test case based on changing the layout of your sales page to improve the customer experience. Now let’s further imagine that this change brings in a 5% increase in conversion rate. That number might sound small, but project it out over the next one year. What does that small increase in conversion rate mean in terms of annual revenue?

A great test-case should have the following characteristics: 

  • Low cost – both in terms of the financial cost and time.
  • Easy to implement.
  • Easy to replicate or re-run if necessary.
  • Controlled for other variables. For example, don’t run your CRO test on Black Friday when your revenue increase can be easily attributed to the sale instead of your CRO efforts.
  • In addition, you should consider the long-term potential (or lack thereof) for a test and result. Alan at Clickthrough told us about a test he ran using the “dark mode” on Apple’s iOS system. Though the initial results were promising, he noted that they likely wouldn’t last. “Those results are likely to be short lived because dark mode was a trend”, Alan says.  

There are numerous test-cases you could run, but the important thing is to start with research or user insights and identify the low-hanging fruits. Based on your observations, you could formulate a hypothesis around some of the examples mentioned below : 

  • Changing the wording, color, or placement of your call to action. For example, in one test VWO ran for a client, a simple change to the CTA button yielded a 62% increase in conversions
  • Improving product image quality. 
  • Adding customer reviews or testimonials to your sales page. 

If you ensure your test case meets all the criteria we outlined above (low cost, easy to implement, easy to re-run if necessary, and controlled for external variables) and is based on user insights gained from research tools like heatmaps, you’ll ensure that you present a results-oriented and detailed case for CRO budgeting. If this sounds tricky, you can always get in touch with our experts at VWO for a detailed audit of your website.

Common problems that might sink your budget (and how to avoid them)

With any project, things can go wrong. If you’re the person in charge of the project, the blame will land at your feet. The best way to avoid this is to be aware of the areas that could cause your CRO project to go over-budget or identify tests that might fail and mitigate those risks.

Some of the most common budget-sinking problems you should be aware of are:

  • Delays. Preventable delays are the biggest cause of project overspend. 
  • Testing ideas that are based on gut rather than user data; which is likely to lead to failed experiments.
  • Incorrect prioritization of hypotheses i.e. the high impact ideas are not tested first.
  • Lack of patience to see the first (and regular) “successful” tests.
  • Inability to interpret test results correctly, so you don’t know what to do with them – implement or take learnings
  • Incomplete buy-in/support from management/relevant teams you want resources from.

The best way to manage these strategies is to have a clear plan and be aware of what you want to achieve. For instance, you can avoid delays by creating a clear and realistic timeline for the project, with numerous smaller deadlines and check-in points along the way. 

In addition, when an experiment fails, or you don’t see the results you wanted, ensure you take the time to learn from them. Every failure teaches you something that will enable you to increase revenue, improve customer experience, or streamline your processes next time. 

Experiment the right way with VWO. Take a free trial to leverage all available features

How to strategically scale your CRO program and increase your budget

CRO is still undervalued in many companies, with senior executives preferring to use their budget for traffic acquisition rather than increasing conversions. To overcome this, you need to demonstrate the value CRO can add. Low-risk, high-reward tests, and a strong project proposal and budget, are the tools that will allow you to do this. 

The trick to a scalable strategy is to build a company culture that values experimentation and sees the value in CRO. 

You need to be forewarned with the knowledge that CRO investments tend to go down the path of diminishing returns if not treated wisely. A boost from 1% conversion rate to 2% will generally cost less than a boost from 2% to 4%. You then need to adapt your strategy as your website gets optimized – test bolder ideas and test more broadly throughout the business.

As Alan from Clickthrough Marketing says, “CRO is not cheap, but if you do it well, it pays more dividends than you can hope for. You need to be open-minded and think long-term”.

Build A Culture Of Experimentation With Vwo

A/B Testing Tools: VWO Compared to Google Optimize and Convert

Using an A/B testing tool is one of the easiest ways to discover which variations of your website increase your website sales and leads the most. To help you understand the different tool options available…

visual website optimizer screenshot
Using an A/B testing tool is one of the easiest ways to discover which variations of your website increase your website sales and leads the most.

To help you understand the different tool options available to you, I have created a guide that compares three leading tool choices: VWO, Convert, and the newly launched Google Optimize.

All of them have their advantages and disadvantages, so I have created a grid comparing VWO (Visual Website Optimizer) with its major rivals, including pricing and functionality. Below the table I’ve also included an overview along with the pros and cons for each of the tools.

Let’s get started with the ratings:

Google Optimize VWO logo
Cost rating
10/10 Free (with premium 360 version also available). 7/10 Plans start at $199 per month for their growth plan (but only for 10K visitors). 6/10 Plans start at $599 per month for their core plan but includes 500K visitors.
Test creation options and ease of use
5/10 Good visual editing options but only using Chrome plugin. Poor usability of A/B test creation process. 8/10 Great A/B test creation process, with easy to use visual and code editing options. 8/10 Very good editor for coding and CSS. A/B test creation process is lacking though.
Ease to add test code 9/10 Very easy. Just one extra line of Google Analytics code needed. 9/10 Very simple – only one tag needed. 9/10 Very simple – only one tag needed.
Testing types available
9/10 A/B tests, MVT, redirect, multi-page included in all plans. 6/10 A/B tests and redirect tests included in all plans, but MVT not in basic plan. 9/10 A/B tests, MVT, redirect, multi-page included in all plans.
Test targeting options
8/10 Google Analytics segments used for targeting, and very simple to use. 8/10 Good targeting behavioral options for all levels, with basic ability to build custom target segments. 9/10 The most advanced targeting options included even in lowest level plan.
Conversion goals & success metrics 7/10 Google Analytics goals are used only, no customized goals. 9/10 Great – good selection of goals and metrics, including revenue. 9/10 Great – good selection of goals and metrics, including revenue.
A/B test reporting
6/10 Standard reporting but indepth analysis can be done in Google Analytics. 9/10 Great reporting, and now includes an A/B testing repository for managing and recording insights. 8/10 Good results reporting and dashboard overview. Being updated soon.
Customer service
1/10 No support offered. Only included in premium version. 8/10 Email support included in basic plan, 24/7 phone support in enterprise plan. 9/10 Support available by web chat in addition to phone and email.
Overall rating 7/10 Good for beginners but lacks advanced features and support options. 9/10 Highly recommended for all types of users, with reasonable costs. 9/10 Better features for A/B testing pros – although more expensive initial cost.
Free trial? Try Google Optimize – free Get a 30-day free trial of VWO Get a 30-day free trial of Convert

 

Now let’s get more detailed, with an overview of each of these tools, including their pros and cons.

Google Optimize overview

Google Optimize launched in 2017 and is a major improvement over their previous A/B testing tool which was built into Google Analytics (called Google Content Experiments). It has limitations but is improving. Here are the notable pros and cons of the tool:

Pros:

  • Very good tool for free, much better than their previous offering.
  • Excellent integration with Google Analytics makes A/B testing very easy.
  • Easy to analyze reports in greater depth using Google Analytics.
  • Can be upgraded to their premium 360 version to unlock more features.

Cons:

  • Only 5 tests can be run at the same time (unlimited when upgrading to 360 version).
  • Multi-page and mobile testing not included (only in 360 version).
  • No support included, only through forums or paid 3rd party consultants or agencies.

Rating on G2Crowd: 4.3/5 (as of August 2019)

VWO overview

There are now several versions of VWO. One is called VWO Testing, and others are VWO insights (including visitor recordings, survey tools and form analysis), and VWO Full Stack (includes mobile app and server side testing). Here are the pros and cons of the VWO Testing plan:

Pros:

  • Intuitive user interface with great A/B test design wizard to help you get better results.
  • Includes A/B test duration estimator tool which helps you see if you have enough traffic.
  • Now includes their great ‘VWO Plan’ for managing and recording insights from A/B tests.
  • Great integration between all the tools on their platform, including visitor recordings and surveys.

Cons:

  • MVT testing is not available in their lower level package, only in their pro plan.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to create tests across pages with complicated URLs.
  • Pricing has increased recently as they move away from the low cost tool market.

Rating on G2Crowd: 4.2/5 (as of August 2019)

Convert overview

Convert has evolved from being a great low cost A/B testing tool to one of the most advanced and complete tools available.

Pros:

  • Great for pros, including a very good editor for CSS and Javascript.
  • Is one of the only GDPR compliant A/B testing tools.
  • The fastest loading tool for user experience, with no flicker experienced.
  • Offers the best support of all tools, including web chat support.

Cons:

  • Expensive monthly plan, although includes many more visitors than VWO lowest plan.

Rating on G2Crowd: 4.6/5 (as of August 2019)

I have managed to get their free trial extended from 14 days to 30 days – you won’t find this elsewhere.

Which is better? VWO, Google Optimize, or Convert? 

To help you make up your mind, here are my expert two-cents about these tools:

  • Google Optimize is the best for beginners or those with no budget for A/B testing, but has limitations.
  • VWO is a great tool for those looking for more A/B testing features than Google Optimize.
  • Convert is best for advanced users, with excellent features and the best support options.

Ultimately I suggest you sign up for Google Optimize to see if that meets your needs, and also try a free trial of VWO to see the benefits of their more advanced A/B testing features. If your company can afford Convert and you want expert features, then use that tool instead.

Extra reading: If you want to get much better results from using these A/B testing tools, then don’t forget to read my essential user guide for A/B testing tool success.

Other A/B testing tools worth considering

I have reviewed 3 of the most popular A/B testing tools, but there are certainly some other newer tools. Here are some of the best other ones for you to also consider, each with their own strengths:

  • Omniconvert – a multi-purpose tool that also offers personalization, surveys, and website overlays.
  • Optimizely – Use to be the most popular low-cost testing tool, but now focused on enterprise market only.
  • A/B Tasty – a good tool that also includes useful options for visitor recordings and heatmaps.

There are also other good tools purely for the enterprise market like Adobe Target, Qubit, and Monetate.

Wrapping up

That’s my expert two cents. Now over to you the readers – what is your favorite A/B testing tool, and why? Please comment below!

The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (2019)

The ultimate guide to conversion rate optimization for websites, helping you generate many more website sales and customers.

ultimate guide to conversion rate optimization

It’s no longer just about driving more traffic to your website to increase sales. To really increase sales you need to optimize your website experience to convert more of your visitors. This new technique is called conversion rate optimization (CRO), and many websites already gain great results from it.

Are you ready to take advantage too?

This guide helps you quickly benefit from CRO – and it’s not a basic CRO guide.

While it starts with the basics, it reveals the essential aspects of CRO, including the four main elements of CRO, the importance of conversion research, and a CRO process flow to maximize your success.

I created it based on my 10 years experience with CRO and it will help signficantly increase your website sales or leads, without needing more traffic. It’s a long guide, so here is a table of contents:

What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimization is the art of converting more visitors on your website into your goals (e.g. sales or leads). By increasing your conversion rate, you increase your website sales or leads without actually needing more traffic.

What are the benefits of doing CRO for your website?

The biggest benefit is that it helps you generate much more revenue from your website. Here is how:

  • Generates more leads or sales on your website, with the same traffic you already have, which means you don’t have to spend more money on traffic.
  • Helps maximize the return on investment from your marketing spend, and reduces the cost per sale or acquisition.
  • Improves your website so that it engages more visitors, and increases the chances of them returning and converting in the future.

What kind of results can I expect from doing CRO?

This depends on how much effort and budget you put in, and your level of expertize. With modest efforts you can increase conversion rates by 5-10%. This may not sound much, but it often has a big impact on your online sales. If you maximize your efforts with CRO you can get  amazing results like these:

  • GetResponse.com increased sign-ups by 153% with CRO
  • CrazyEgg.com grew revenue 363% by doing CRO
  • TheGuardian.co.uk increased subscriptions by 46% by doing CRO
  • Moz.com generated an extra $1 million in sales doing CRO

How is conversion rate calculated?

Your conversion rate is the proportion of your website visitors that convert for your main website goal, which is quite often a purchase or a signup. This is how it is calculated for an ecommerce website:

Ecommerce website conversion rate
(Number of orders / number of website visitors) x 100

This conversion rate is often setup by default in tools like Google Analytics. They also track ‘goal conversion rate’ for specific goals like signups or leads.

What are the main elements of CRO?

CRO is made up of four overlapping main elements – conversion research, user experience (UX), website persuasion, and A/B testing and personalization. Making strong use of these will increase your chances of improving your conversion rates, and therefore your sales or leads.

CRO main elements

  • Conversion Research: Gather insights and improvement ideas from conversion research. This comes from web analytics, heat maps, visitor recordings, surveys, user testing and expert CRO reviews. This is the most essential piece of CRO, and cannot be done effectively without it.
  • Website Persuasion: Don’t just hope your website converts your visitors. To engage and convert many more of them, use copywriting best practices and influence techniques, including the usage of social proof, scarcity, urgency and reciprocity.
  • User Experience (UX): Improve your website user experience so visitors can browse and convert more easily, including using best practices for improving your website navigation, forms and user flow. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your website looks or how persuasive it is.
  • A/B Testing & Personalization: A/B tests and personalization techniques are used to discover and show the highest converting experience for your website. This is very useful, but not essential, particularly because so many websites don’t have enough traffic or conversions for this.

All of these elements overlap and feed into each other to gain better results from CRO, particularly conversion research. For example insights from conversion research feed into better ideas for A/B testing and personalization.

Why is conversion research so important?

Don’t just guess at what to improve on your website, or only listen to what your boss wants to improve, as this often fails to get good results on your conversion rates and sales.

Conversion research is essential for determining what needs improving and why, and is gathered from visitors and analytics tools.

There are 6 elements of conversion research that you need to use to gain the best results:

  1. Web analytics. Tools like Google Analytics are not just for reporting on traffic and KPIs. Doing in-depth analysis forms the quantitative part of conversion research, and reveals pages and traffic sources with the highest potential to improve.
  2. Visitor recordings. Use these to watch EXACTLY what visitors do on your website. They are great for discovering visitor issues, like page elements or form fields they find hard to use. Always gain insights from these recordings for pages you want to improve.
  3. Heat maps. These are a good compliment to visitor recordings. Don’t just presume you know what visitors click on or how far they scroll – check these for your key pages. Great for revealing CTAs, images and content that should be clicked on more.
  4. Surveys and polls. The voice of your visitors is THE most important thing in CRO. Essential to find what they like and don’t like with surveys and polls. Create single question polls for specific feedback, and send customer surveys.
  5. User testing. Gain feedback from your target audience while they try to complete tasks on your website and ask them questions. Great for discovering what people think of your website, their issues with it, and what needs improving.
  6. Expert reviews. This is done by an experienced CRO expert (often called heuristic analysis), and is a fast effective way of getting CRO insights and recommendations. These are offered by CRO experts including myself, CXL and WiderFunnel.

Insights from these elements of conversion research then feeds into better ideas for the other elements of CRO, including A/B testing.

Conversion research is often neglected or not well understood, apart from web analytics, so you have huge potential to take advantage of this element of CRO in particular.

How is website persuasion used in CRO?

You need to persuade your website visitors to purchase or sign up – don’t just hope they will. Therefore you need to use this newer technique of website persuasion, which is one of the 4 main elements of CRO.

Compelling copywriting plays a huge part in persuasion, particularly headlines, bullet points and CTAs. Mention how your website solves pain points and benefits. My copywriting guide gives many best practices and techniques to use.

Social proof, urgency, scarcity, reciprocity are essential influence techniques to use, as made famous by Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence’ book.

Social proof is particularly important to show prominently, including reviews and ratings, testimonials, ‘as featured in’ and logos of well known customers. Doing this will increase the chances of visitors thinking your website is liked by others, and also using it.

Showing urgency and scarcity messages can also work well. People don’t like to feel like they may miss out, so this messaging can help convert visitors. UseFomo.com is a great tool for doing this (but don’t go to travel website extremes though!)

Why is user experience (UX) essential for CRO?

It doesn’t matter how good your website looks or how persuasive it is, if visitors find it hard to use they will not convert very often.

Therefore you need to ensure you adopt website usability best practices to improve your website user experience. Navigation, forms and user flow elements are very important elements of UX  to improve, and here are some good examples:

  • Use tool tips for fields or pieces of content that require explaining.
  • Improve error handling on form fields to ensure greater completion rate.
  • Make buttons and links fat finger friendly on mobile devices.

Best practice UX improvements should be just launched and don’t need A/B testing first. UX trends should be A/B tested first though.

Can you do CRO if you don’t have enough traffic for A/B testing?

A/B testing is certainly a part of CRO, along with personalization, but it is not essential. While it is very useful for discovering which versions of your website ideas convert better, many websites don’t even have enough traffic to do A/B testing (you need at least 5,000 unique visitors per week to the page that you want to run an A/B test on, and at least 200 website conversions per week).

If you don’t have enough traffic you should just launch your website improvement ideas and then monitor their impact on your website conversion rate. Here is a great guide that explains how to do CRO if you have a low traffic website.

Do I need to A/B test all CRO improvements or just launch them?

You don’t have to A/B test every CRO improvement you want to make to your website. This would require a lot of traffic, time and effort. Most importantly though, there are improvements you can just launch, even if you have enough traffic to A/B test them. These are considered best practice and will improve any website, so should just be launched without needing A/B testing first. This frees up time to A/B test other elements with higher impact.

Launch it – website improvements to launch instead of A/B testing:

  • Usability fixes and improvements (improving confusing or difficult navigation)
  • Prominent unique value proposition elements on key entry pages
  • Purchase risk reducers like guarantees, free shipping and free returns
  • Social proof like reviews and ratings, ‘as featured in’ and third party ratings

You can certainly do follow up A/B testing to fine tune these or iterate on the exact location or style of them, but the key thing is to just launch them first because they are so important to have.

A/B test it – website elements always worth A/B testing:

Any time that it is unclear which improvement version will perform better, particularly when it comes to elements regarding psychology and influence, these are definitely worth A/B testing to find the one with the highest conversion rate. Here are some examples:

  • Headlines (these have a huge impact on visitor engagement)
  • Website copy on key pages like the homepage and service/product pages
  • Call-to-action wording on buttons
  • Influence and persuasion elements mentioning scarcity or urgency

How to make best use of personlization for CRO

Don’t just do A/B testing, move beyond this by also doing personalization to improve your conversion reates. Instead of a one size fits all, you need to personalize your website to engage and convert more visitors. Headlines and hero images on key entry pages have particularly good impact for personalizing.

One of the best ways to use personlization is to target visitor segments with more relevant content:

  • Returning visitors with content relating to what they saw previously
  • Frequent purchasers with loyalty content like rewards or discounts

This personalization can be done with any A/B testing tool, like VWO or Google Optimize.

However, it doesn’t matter how well personlized your website is if it doesn’t have a good user experience or doesn’t persuade them to convert. Therefore to see best results from personalization you need to ensure your website has first been improved with the other elements of CRO.

What tools do you need for CRO?

For doing conversion research and A/B testing, you need three key types of website tools:

  • A web analytics tool. This tool is essential because it helps you monitor your current website conversion rate and success metric performance. It also helps you to gain great visitor insights and find poorly converting pages for improving. A simple web analytics tool like Google Analytics needs to be setup and used for this.
  • Visitor feedback tools. Getting great feedback from your visitors is essential for really understanding their needs and for gaining high-impact ideas for improving your website and conversion rates. The most important tool to use for this is Hotjar.com. User testing tools like Userfeel.com and UsabilityHub.com are essential too.
  • An A/B testing tool. Ideally you need to test different versions of your content (like different call-to-action buttons or different page layout) to see which version increases your conversion rates the most. A low-cost A/B testing tool like VWO is a great place to start, and here is a review of common A/B testing tools.

Is there a process I can use to get better CRO results?

CRO shouldn’t be done randomly or only as a project – a continuous CRO process is needed for success. I created a CRO success flow that helps ensure you get the best results for improving your conversion rates and website sales. Here are the 5 steps of this process:

Step 1 is to do in-depth conversion research, this is essential and was discussed earlier in this guide.

Conversion research then feeds into CRO ideation step 2 where ideas are created for improving your website, along with ideas from website persuasion and UX elements (2 of the other parts of CRO).

Prioritization of CRO ideas in step 3 is important to ensure you launch ideas with highest impact. Use my website prioritization tool in my CRO toolbox to help you do this.

Next in step 4 you launch the website improvement or A/B test it (if you have enough traffic).

The last and very important thing to do for step 5 is to review, learn and iterate from what you have launched or tested. This then feeds back into forming more conversion research, and the process continues again.

What website elements have biggest impact on CRO?

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet that will work every time. Depending on your type of website, your unique value proposition and your type of visitors, there are hundreds of website elements that contribute to increased conversion rates. However, here are some things to improve that often have a big impact on increasing your conversion rates.

  • Call-to-action buttons. These important call-to-action (CTA) buttons that influence visitors to take an action on your website have a high impact on your conversion rates. To improve their effectiveness, improve the wording, style, color, size and even the location of them on your pages. Dual CTA buttons can be used effectively when there is more than one main goal, as can adding useful related text very close to the button. Here are some good examples for your inspiration:
  • Headlines and important text. If your text doesn’t grab the attention of your visitors and intrigue them to read the rest of your content, then there will a greater chance of them exiting your website, lowering your conversion rates. Test improving your headlines by keeping them simple  wording that solves for visitors needs or explains benefits. You should also condense long blocks of text, and use bullet points instead – these are far easier for visitors to scan and understand quicker. Here is an example:
  • Shopping cart and checkout pages or signup flow pages. These are key because if your visitors struggle with these pages (regardless of how good their prior experience has been on your website), then they will abandon your website, lowering conversions and potential revenue. In particular you need to make your forms simple to complete, remove non-mandatory fields, improve your error validation, and use risk-reducers like security seals, benefits of using your website, guarantees and shipping/returns offers.
  • Your home page and key entry pages. These are often referred to as your landing pages, and usually get the most traffic on your website, so often have the biggest impact on conversion rates. Making sure these are focused, uncluttered and solve for your visitors main needs will greatly improve your conversion rates. Using targeting for your tests on these pages to customize your visitors experience will meet their needs better and increase your conversion rates too.

For more details on these, and hundreds of other ideas to improve your conversion rates on many types of web pages, check out my CRO course, or check out my book.

What is a good conversion rate?

This last CRO question is a very common question, and sorry to disappoint you, there is no simple answer. This is because conversion rates are hugely dependent on your website type, your unique value proposition, and your marketing efforts.

For a rough benchmark though, 2% is average for an ecommerce website and anything above 5% is considered very good. But to prove my point, it’s not unusual to have conversion rates above 50% for good, focused paid search lead generation landing pages.

Also, don’t compare your conversion rate to your competitors or what you have read in a blog or a report – it’s risky because it may set you up for a fall or set incorrect expectations to your boss. It’s more important to increase your current conversion rate – never stop improving!

Resources for deep diving into CRO

To help you learn even more about this growing subject of conversion rate optimization, there are a number of very useful resources you should check out, from great training to courses. You will find these very useful.

Conversion rate optimization training and courses:

So there we have it. The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization. Hopefully you found this very useful – please share this with your colleagues, and feel free to comment below.

Statistical Design in Online A/B Testing

A/B testing is the field of digital marketing with the highest potential to apply scientific principles, as each A/B experiment is a randomized controlled trial, very similar to ones done in physics, medicine, biology, genetics, etc. However, common ad…

Statistical Design in Online A/B Testing

A/B testing is the field of digital marketing with the highest potential to apply scientific principles, as each A/B experiment is a randomized controlled trial, very similar to ones done in physics, medicine, biology, genetics, etc. However, common advice and part of the practice in A/B testing are lagging by about half a century when compared to modern statistical approaches to experimentation.

There are major issues with the common statistical approaches discussed in most A/B testing literature and applied daily by many practitioners. The three major ones are:

  1. Misuse of statistical significance tests
  2. Lack of consideration for statistical power
  3. Significant inefficiency of statistical methods

In this article I discuss each of the three issues discussed above in some detail, and propose a solution inspired by clinical randomized controlled trials, which I call the AGILE statistical approach to A/B testing.

1. Misuse of Statistical Significance Tests

In most A/B testing content, when statistical tests are mentioned they inevitably discuss statistical significance in some fashion. However, in many of them a major constraint of classical statistical significance tests, e.g. the Student’s T-test, is simply not mentioned. That constraint is the fact that you must fix the number of users you will need to observe in advance.

Before going deeper into the issue, let’s briefly discuss what a statistical significance test actually is. In most A/B tests it amounts to an estimation of the probability of observing a result equal to or more extreme than the one we observed, due to the natural variance in the data that would happen even if there is no true positive lift.

Below is an illustration of the natural variance, where 10,000 random samples are generated from a Bernoulli distribution with a true conversion rate at 0.50%.

Natural Variance

In an A/B test we randomly split users in two or more arms of the experiment, thus eliminating confounding variables, which allows us to establish a causal relationship between observed effect and the changes we introduced in the tested variants. If after observing a number of users we register a conversion rate of 0.62% for the tested variant versus a 0.50% for the control, that means that we either observed a rare (5% probability) event, or there is in fact some positive difference (lift) between the variant and control.

In general, the less likely we are to observe a particular result, the more likely it is that what we are observing is due to a genuine effect, but applying this logic requires knowledge that is external to the statistical design so I won’t go into details about that.

The above statistical model comes with some assumptions, one of which is that you observe the data and act on it at a single point in time. For statistical significance to work as expected we must adhere to a strict application of the method where you declare you will test, say, 20,000 users per arm, or 40,000 in total, and then do a single evaluation of statistical significance. If you do it this way, there are no issues. Approaches like “wait till you have 100 conversions per arm” or “wait till you observe XX% confidence” are not statistically rigorous and will probably get you in trouble.

However, in practice, tests can take several weeks to complete, and multiple people look at the results weekly, if not daily. Naturally, when results look overly positive or overly negative they want to take quick action. If the tested variant is doing poorly, there is pressure to stop the test early to prevent losses and to redirect resources to more prospective variants. If the tested variant is doing great early on, there is pressure to suspend the test, call the winner and implement the change so the perceived lift can be converted to revenue quicker. I believe there is no A/B testing practitioner who will deny these realities.

These pressures lead to what is called data peeking or data-driven optional stopping. The classical significance test offers no error guarantees if it is misused in such a manner, resulting in illusory findings – both in terms of direction of result (false positives) and in the magnitude of the achieved lift. The reason is that peeking results in an additional dimension in the test sample space. Instead of estimating the probability of a single false detection of a winner with a single point in time, the test would actually need to estimate the probability of a single false detection at multiple points in time.

If the conversion rates were constant that would not be an issue. But since they vary without any interventions, the cumulative data varies as well, so adjustments to the classical test are required in order to calculate the error probability when multiple analyses are performed. Without those adjustments, the nominal or reported error rate will be inflated significantly compared to the actual error rate. To illustrate: peeking only 2 times results in more than twice the actual error vs the reported error. Peeking 5 times results in 3.2 times larger actual error vs the nominal one. Peeking 10 times results in 5 times larger actual error probability versus nominal error probability. This is known to statistical practitioners as early as 1969 and has been verified time and again.

If one fails to fix the sample size in advance or if one is performing multiple statistical significance tests as the data accrues, then we have a case of GIGO, or Garbage In, Garbage Out.

2. Lack of Consideration for Statistical Power

In a review of 7 influential books on A/B testing published between 2008 and 2014 we found only 1 book mentioning statistical power in a proper context, but even there the coverage was superficial. The remaining 6 books didn’t even mention the notion. From my observations, the situation is similar when it comes to most articles and blog posts on the topic.

But what is statistical power and why is it important for A/B experiments? Statistical power is defined as the probability to detect a true lift equal to or larger than a given minimum, with a specified statistical significance threshold. Hence the more powerful a test, the larger the probability that it will detect a true lift. I often use “test sensitivity” and “chance to detect effect” as synonyms, as I believe these terms are more accessible for non-statisticians while reflecting the true meaning of statistical power.

Running a test with inadequately low power means you won’t be giving your variant a real chance at proving itself, if it is in fact better. Thus, running an under-powered test means that you spend days, weeks and sometimes months planning and implementing a test, but then failing to have an adequate appraisal of its true potential, in effect wasting all the invested resources.

What’s worse, a false negative can be erroneously interpreted as a true negative, meaning you will think that a certain intervention doesn’t work while in fact it does, effectively barring further tests in a direction that would have yielded gains in conversion rate.

Power and Sample Size

Power and sample size are intimately tied: the larger the sample size, the more powerful (or sensitive) the test is, in general. Let’s say you want to run a proper statistical significance test, acting on the results only once the test is completed. To determine the sample size, you need to specify four things: historical baseline conversion rate (say 1%), statistical significance threshold, say 95%, power, say 90%, and the minimum effect size of interest.

Last time I checked, many of the free statistical calculators out there won’t even allow you to set the power and in fact silently operate at 50% power, or a coin toss, which is abysmally low for most applications. If you use a proper sample size calculator for the first time you will quickly discover that the required sample sizes are more prohibitive than you previously thought and hence you need to compromise either with the level of certainty, or with the minimum effect size of interest, or with the power of the test. Here are two you could start with, but you will find many more on R packages, GPower, etc:

Making decisions about the 3 parameters you control – certainty, power and minimum effect size of interest is not always easy. What makes it even harder is that you remain bound to that one look at the end of the test, so the choice of parameters is crucial to the inferences you will be able to make at the end. What if you chose too high a minimum effect, resulting in a quick test that was, however, unlikely to pick up on small improvements? Or too low an effect size, resulting in a test that dragged for a long time, when the actual effect was much larger and could have been detected much quicker? The correct choice of those parameters becomes crucial to the efficiency of the test.

3. Inefficiency of Classical Statistical Tests in A/B Testing Scenarios

Classical statistics inefficiency

Classical tests are good in some areas of science like physics and agriculture, but are replaced with a newer generation of testing methods in areas like medical science and bio-statistics. The reason is two-fold. On one hand, since the hypotheses in those areas are generally less well defined, the parameters are not so easily set and misconfigurations can easily lead to over or under-powered experiments. On the other hand – ethical and financial incentives push for interim monitoring of data and for early stopping of trials when results are significantly better or significantly worse than expected.

Sounds a lot like what we deal with in A/B testing, right? Imagine planning a test for 95% confidence threshold, 90% power to detect a 10% relative lift from a baseline of 2%. That would require 88,000 users per test variant. If, however, the actual lift is 15%, you could have ran the test with only 40,000 users per variant, or with just 45% of the initially planned users. In this case if you were monitoring the results you’d want to stop early for efficacy. However, the classical statistical test is compromised if you do that.

On the other hand, if the true lift is in fact -10%, that is whatever we did in the tested variant actually lowers conversion rate, a person looking at the results would want to stop the test way before reaching the 88,000 users it was planned for, in order to cut the losses and to maybe start working on the next test iteration.

What if the test looked like it would convert at -20% initially, prompting the end of the test, but that was just a hiccup early on and the tested variant was actually going to deliver a 10% lift long-term?

The AGILE Statistical Method for A/B Testing

AGILE Statistical Method for A/B Testing

Questions and issues like these prompted me to seek better statistical practices and led me to the medical testing field where I identified a subset of approaches that seem very relevant for A/B testing. That combination of statistical practices is what I call the AGILE statistical approach to A/B testing.

I’ve written an extensive white-paper on it called “Efficient A/B Testing in Conversion Rate Optimization: The AGILE Statistical Method”. In it I outline current issues in conversion rate optimization, describe the statistical foundations for the AGILE method and describe the design and execution of a test under AGILE as an easy step-by-step process. Finally, the whole framework is validated through simulations.

The AGILE statistical method addresses misuses of statistical significance testing by providing a way to perform interim analysis of the data while maintaining false positive errors controlled. It happens through the application of so-called error-spending functions which results in a lot of flexibility to examine data and make decisions without having to wait for the pre-determined end of the test.

Statistical power is fundamental to the design of an AGILE A/B test and so there is no way around it and it must be taken into proper consideration.

AGILE also offers very significant efficiency gains, ranging from an average of 20% to 80%, depending on the magnitude of the true lift when compared to the minimum effect of interest for which the test is planned. This speed improvement is an effect of the ability to perform interim analysis. It comes at a cost since some tests might end up requiring more users than the maximum that would be required in a classical fixed-sample test. Simulations results as described in my white paper show that such cases are rare. The added significant flexibility in performing analyses on accruing data and the average efficiency gains are well worth it.

Another significant improvement is the addition of a futility stopping rule, as it allows one to fail fast while having a statistical guarantee for false negatives. A futility stopping rule means you can abandon tests that have little chance of being winners without the need to wait for the end of the study. It also means that claims about the lack of efficacy of a given treatment can be made to a level of certainty, permitted by the test parameters.

Ultimately, I believe that with this approach the statistical methods can finally be aligned with the A/B testing practice and reality. Adopting it should contribute to a significant decrease in illusory results for those who were misusing statistical tests for one reason or another. The rest of you will appreciate the significant efficiency gains and the flexibility you can now enjoy without sacrifices in terms of error control.

image 
Natural Variance
Classical statistics inefficiency
AGILE Statistical Method for A/B Testing

20 Ways to Optimize Your Unique Value Proposition and Lift Website Sales Today

What if I told you there is an element on every website that is crucial for increasing sales and conversion rates, but is often neglected by online marketers and online business owners? It’s your unique…

unique value proposition improve tips

What if I told you there is an element on every website that is crucial for increasing sales and conversion rates, but is often neglected by online marketers and online business owners?

It’s your unique value proposition (UVP – or unique selling proposition). To be effective, it should quickly show visitors the benefits of using your website, who it’s ideally for, and why use it instead of competitors.

But websites often poorly convey their UVP, unknowingly causing visitor misunderstanding, higher bounce rates and many lost sales.

In this in-depth article you’ll learn 20 ways to quickly improve your UVP. And if you do a great job with this (and better than your competitors do), you’ll get fantastic increases in sales and leads without needing more traffic. Indeed, it’s one of the key things I get my clients to focus on.

Ready to give your UVP some much needed love? Let’s get started in two key areas of tips…

Optimize the uniqueness and strength of your value proposition

These first 7 tips are essential. It doesn’t matter how good your website looks or how much traffic you get if your UVP is not very engaging, unique or strong – it won’t convert well into sales or leads. Never presume its already good enough! Here are some ways to improve and get the most out of it:

1: Get great UVP feedback from your target audience
First it’s essential to get feedback about your UVP from people who will be interested in your offerings.  Use a tool like UserTesting.com or UsabilityHub.com to get this feedback and find out what they think, including what could be improved. You should also test showing them different UVP variations to see which versions appeal to them most. Here are 3 revealing questions you can use to get highly actionable feedback:

UVP feedback questions

2: Brainstorm ideas to improve your UVP and test to find best elements
Start thinking of new ideas to improve and mention in your UVP. For example, maybe your customer support is available longer hours than competitors, or you don’t include hidden fees like other websites do, or you have the most customers. Then test to find the most compelling elements from your ideas – using Adwords or Facebook ads is great for testing to see which are most compelling to use on your website.

3: Make your UVP customer focused, not business focused
Make sure you realize your UVP is not your mission statement! Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your visitors and think ‘what’s in for me’ and ‘why should I use this website’ – don’t just list the objectives of your business (often very dull).

To help with this, always use more visitor centric wording in your UVP, like ‘you’ and ‘yours’ instead of ‘we’ and ‘our’. Here is an example of a poor about page with business-focused mission statement, not showing good UVP – a real turn off for visitors, right?
mission statement

4: Answer common visitor problems and pain points with your UVP
To make your website and UVP even more customer focused, make sure you address your visitor’s common problems and pain points in your area of business, and then make sure your UVP helps solve them. Spend some time brainstorming these most common pain points, challenges and frustrations, then clearly highlight why your UVP and offering is the best solution for them.

Here is a great best practice example of UVP solving pain points on Unbounce.com:
unbounce UVP

5: Evaluate and beat your competitor’s UVP
Review your major competitor’s websites – do you offer anything good that they don’t? Or vice versa? It is essential to think of ideas to make your value proposition a bit more unique. Perhaps no one offers free returns yet or a money back guarantee? And if you are selling products, always give reasons for visitors to buy from you instead of Amazon.com! Lastly, don’t just copy competitor ideas – make them better!

6: Is your offering really that valuable and beneficial in the first place?
Take a step back for a while. Is there actually much interest and demand in your value proposition? It doesn’t matter how unique it is if people don’t really care about the benefits you are offering. Getting good feedback on this essential – run a quick visitor survey using a tool like Hotjar.com to discover their true interest. Maybe its time to pivot into a business that people really care about and there is a real need for?

7: Don’t show off by using many superlatives in your UVP
Don’t scare your visitors away by using over-the-top superlatives in your UVP that you can’t back up with facts or stats – this will often cause an increase in bounce rates and lost sales. For example don’t just say ‘the worlds best’ or ‘#1 provider in the USA” if you can’t prove it! Removing wording like that will make your UVP seem more believable and less salesy – and more engaging!

Optimize the promotion of UVP on your website

Many websites have strong UVP, but forget or neglect to promote it well. It doesn’t matter how good your UVP is if your visitors often don’t seen it or be influenced by it. Never just presume they know it! To ensure its quickly understood, show it on key places on your website – as you’ll see in these next tips:

8: Prioritize the best parts of your UVP and promote them more
Don’t presume all elements of your UVP are equally important. Maybe your price match guarantee is more important than your free shipping? Find out which parts engage visitors better by doing some testing. Either with A/B testing, or if you don’t have enough traffic you can test using titles in Google Adwords or Facebook ads. Once you find the most clicked versions, promote them more often by using the next tips.

9: Use bullet points to show UVP above page fold on homepage
One of the quickest ways of conveying UVP is by adding some short bullet points on your homepage that highlight the top reasons to use your website (particularly instead of a competitor). This should be shown above the page fold so your visitors can see it without having to scroll, and come up with a good title for the section (like ‘reasons why you’ll love us’). Here is a good example from one of my clients:
unique value proposition homepage bullet points

10: Use a tagline under your logo to show elements of your UVP
This is quick easy thing to add to your website – take 3-5 keywords that best highlight your UVP and add them right under your logo as a tagline. Your visitor’s eyes often look towards the logo first, so adding UVP messaging there ensures that it’s quickly seen and engaged.

11: Use UVP-focused headlines on key pages to increase prominence
Headlines are often one of the key levers for increasing conversions and sales, particularly for engaging visitors quicker. Therefore, on your homepage and key pages, use a compelling headline that mentions the strongest aspects/benefits of your UVP. Asking questions and mentioning pain points is a great way of doing this. Here are a few good UVP focused headlines for your inspiration:
uvp headlines

12: Mention key aspects of your UVP in the header of your website
Don’t presume that visitors will see your UVP on your homepage – many visitors will arrive on interior pages via SEO in particular. To compensate for this and make sure your UVP is seen no matter what page is arrived on, mention the most compelling key elements of your UVP in your header, ideally with icons to help draw your visitor’s eyes.

This is particularly important for ecommerce websites to mention things like free shipping, lowest price guarantee etc. Here’s an excellent use of this on AO.com:

unique value proposition in header

13: Promote your UVP high up in your blog sidebar
Never just presume your blog visitors will understand your UVP and who it’s for, even if you think its obvious. And realize that many blog visitors will only see your article pages and miss the UVP on your homepage. To prevent this from happening, in your sidebar you should create a small area with a quick overview of the benefits and reasons of your blog (a summary of your UVP), and place it towards the top to ensure its noticed.  Here is a great example of this on the RebootedBody.com blog:
blog unique value proposition

14: Create a ‘why us’ page to compare your offering to others
Take your UVP messaging to the next level by  creating a page that explains ‘why use us’ and the uniqueness of your offering in more detail. This page should compare your website offering against your key competitors, and even against the offline/conventional way of doing it. Be honest though, and always include some aspects that your website is not quite as good.

Using a comparison table or a matrix can often work well to highlight UVP – here is a great example of a ‘why us’ page from one of my clients:
why us UVP

15: Add UVP related items to your main navigation menu
After you have created a good ‘why use us’ page, you should add a link for this page in your main navigation menu so it can be prominently seen and often visited. You should also have a page in your navigation menu with the wording of ‘benefits’ that explains this in more detail – don’t just say ‘products’ or ‘services’. Those two navigation improvements are great ways to get your UVP quickly seen and engaged upon, from any page on your website.

16: Simplify your UVP to make it easily scanable
When mentioning your UVP and benefits avoid using long paragraphs – visitors often don’t read online as much, they scan. To help ensure your UVP is read, cut out less important words to make it easier to read and digest, format them visually, and make use of bullet points and bold to convey key points/words.

And don’t confuse your visitors by using jargon or less known acronyms – always dumb down your UVP wording. Here is an excellent example of a great visual, highly scanable UVP on WebSynthesis.com:
synthesis value proposition

17: Reinforce your UVP on your checkout/signup flow
On your checkout or sign-up pages to reduce visitor abandonment (where the chances are often highest of) you should also reinforce your UVP by repeating the key benefits of using your website. A great place to show this is in the sidebar of these pages, using short bullet points.

For best results, this UVP wording should be shown in combination with risk reducers like guarantees, and secure wording/imagery. Adroll.com does an excellent job of this doing this on their checkout page:
UVP signup

18: Emphasize uniqueness when mentioning benefits and features
When mentioning features of your service/products on key pages, always take the opportunity to add wording to point out ones that are most unique or better than your competitors.

For example instead of just saying ‘we offer 200 templates’, also add ‘double more than leading providers’. Or for the pricing section, don’t just state the price, also mention things like ‘we don’t include hidden fees like other competing services do’. This is a great highly contextual place to emphasize your UVP.
UVP features

19: If using a homepage slider, make your first slide UVP focused
If you are using a homepage image slider – make much better use of it! Instead of just showing a random promotion or product in your first slide, a better way is to show a slide that mentions key points of your UVP, with a good matching headline, imagery and call-to-action. Better yet, test replacing the whole homepage slider with just a static image mentioning UVP, as ASOS.com recently had the great idea of:
slider UVP

20: Think outside of the box – promote UVP on emails, ads and more
And last, don’t just promote your UVP on your website – take a step back down your visitor journey and always mention it in all your ads, search results and all your email marketing efforts. Basically anywhere you can place a message in front of your audience, mention key your benefits and UVP. This way you can intrigue them to come to your website in the first place! Here is an excellent example of UVP in an ad:
UVP in ad

Don’t forget to test to find the best UVP variations!

Just like any content or elements on your website, you should always test to find the best converting variations and page locations for your UVP. Use an A/B testing tool to find the best elements of your UVP, the wording you use, the style of them, and their location on your key pages.

And if you don’t have enough traffic, you can test using ways I discuss in my low traffic A/B testing article.

Wrapping up – how good is your UVP?

Your UVP always has room for improvement – particularly how you promote it to your visitors. So go ahead and try using some of these 20 UVP tips, then sit back and watch your sales or leads increase!