Website optimization improves the performance and return of your marketing investment.
What is website optimization?
Website optimization (often referred to as conversion optimization) is the process of systematically improving the performance of your website to meet your business objectives.
Whether your goal is to get more leads, sales, or reduce customer service phone calls, website optimization can be used to make your website more effective at meeting those goals.
How do I optimize my website?
The process for optimizing your website follows the same principles as conversion rate optimization. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Website optimization is best conducted as an ongoing process that over time makes your website more effective and valuable for you.
By following the process below you can improve the performance of your website through continual optimization.
This process consists of the following steps:
- Establish a hypothesis – Review your analytics and look for parts of your funnel that are performing poorly, such as pages with high bounce or exit rates. Collect qualitative feedback from visitors as to why they’re not converting. You can brainstorm potential causes of poor performance to build a list of website optimizations to test.
- Prioritize – After building your list of potential optimizations, you need to put them in priority order. Put them in a spreadsheet and rank them in order of their anticipated impact, your confidence in their potential to improve performance and how easy it is to implement the change.
- Test your optimizations – A/B testing your website optimizations is the next step. Keep changes that improve the performance of your site, eliminate those that don’t.
- Analyze tests – Review the testing data to determine which hypotheses were true and which weren’t. By implementing the winning tests you’ll optimize your website for higher conversions with each winning variation. Make sure you don’t end tests too early so that you don’t fall victim to misleading testing data.
- Optimize your website – Put your winning tests into play and learn from tests that didn’t win. Use both outcomes as inspiration for successive tests to run. Remember, website optimization is an ongoing process that produces its best gains over time.
Why is website optimization important?
Website optimization is important because it helps your website visitors be more successful with their visits to your website. Every visitor comes to your site hoping to answer a question, find a solution to their problem, or complete a task of one kind or another. When you optimize your website you are making it easier for your site visitors to accomplish those tasks.
For example, if you are an ecommerce website that sells shoes, you can optimize your website to increase the number purchases made by people visiting your website. You can do this through conversion rate optimization, which is focused on systematically a/b testing different parts of your website to increase this conversion rate.
When you optimize your website, your site becomes more effective for your business. A more effective website can increase revenue for your business through new sales or leads, and reduce cost, through better conversion rates on existing marketing spend, or by reducing customer support needs through better information and clarity for visitors with questions.
What should I optimize on my website?
Every business is unique, therefore every website will need to be optimized for different things. The place to start is to understand two things:
- What is your website visitor’s intent? In other words, what task are they trying to accomplish? When you know this you know what behavior you’re trying to help and facilitate. If their goal is to find a job, you can focus on getting them to the right spot on your site. If it’s to learn more about a product, you can focus optimizations on helping them achieve that goal.
- What are your business KPIs? Hopefully your business goals are related to your visitor goals. Know what you are trying to optimize your website for is the first step in deciding what to test, change and fix. Prioritize your business objectives for your website and those business goals will help you decide where to invest in optimizing your website.
Once you’ve identified the priorities of both your business and your website visitors you can then determine what you should optimize first. Here are a few common areas that people choose to focus on when doing website optimization.
Landing pages – Optimizing your website means optimizing the entry or landing pages where visitors first come into contact with your site. Whether they come from Google, Facebook or somewhere else, the landing page is where people make an initial decision on whether you can help them with their needs.
Image via SmartInsights
Optimizing the landing pages on your website can lead to lower bounce rates and greater conversions as people gain confidence that they’re in the right place to get their questions answered. Don’t confuse landing pages with your home page. Look at your top landing pages reports in your analytics package to figure out what landing pages to optimize on your website first.
Conversion points – If you’re asking your visitor to fill out a form or take some other action that counts as a conversion for you, you’ll want to investigate the user behavior on those pages. How many people visit those pages versus how many complete the form? Can you test different elements of that experience to improve the conversion rate? Focusing on these conversion points is always a great place to look for website optimization opportunity.
Checkout process – If you’re an e-commerce company, your checkout process is your biggest source of opportunity and biggest source of frustration. Studying the user behavior through the checkout process can provide you with all sorts of inspiration for optimization opportunities.
Home page – This is a special landing page, the front door to your website online. While not everyone will start here, a large portion of your traffic will use this as the jumping off point for their journey. Website optimization requires time spent optimizing your homepage. Collect insights on the jobs people want to accomplish when they come to your homepage and develop an optimization plan to meet those needs.
These are just a few areas where website optimization can be immediately valuable, but the best bet is to look at your site performance through the dual lense of what your visitors want to achieve and what your main business objectives are.
What are the Best Website Optimization Tools?
Website optimization requires the same tools and approach as conversion rate optimization. Website optimization is an ongoing process of constant improvement by learning about the behaviors of your visitors, developing hypotheses about what changes to your site might get them to take more of the action you want, and then measuring and evaluating the performance of the changes you make.
This process informs the types of tools that are useful for website optimization. There are both qualitative feedback tools and quantitative tools. Both are important for finding the best opportunities to improve your website.
How do you you do Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization is the process of finding and eliminating the roadblocks and confusion on your website that keep website visitors from achieving their goals. Think of improving conversion rates as a simple formula:
Qualitative Optimization Tools – Tools in this category help you get feedback from their users about why they’re doing the things they do on your website. These can be used to understand the visitor intent and thought process while on your site. Use these tools to understand the why behind visitor actions.
Best Website Optimization Tools (Qualitative)
Qualaroo – Qualaroo is an on-site survey tool that enables you to collect visitor feedback in real time. Qualaroo helps you understand why visitors leave, get confused or don’t convert. On-site surveying is a key tool for optimizing your website.
UserTesting.com – UserTesting.com lets you watch recorded videos of people trying to complete the specific tasks you’ve asked them to complete. In these recorded sessions, the site visitor talks through their thought process while using your site, allowing you to “get into their heads” as they try to complete a task. This feedback can provide all sorts of ideas to help you optimize your site.
Inspectlet – Inspectlet lets you record the visitor session for any user on your website. While you don’t get the same commentary as with UserTesting.com, it’s much cheaper and can be used on a large portion of your audience. The path the visitor takes through the website and the behavior exhibited through their mouse movements can give you insights into how visitors use and move through your site, which can give you ideas on which web pages to focus your optimization efforts on first.
SurveyMonkey – SurveyMonkey lets you survey users who are registered with your site to get their feedback on how the website meets their needs and what could be done better. Email surveys let you ask more in-depth questions and enable you to follow up with the same group to track performance over time. While they lack the real-time nature of on-site surveys, they are a valuable way to get insights into how you can optimize your website.
Feng-GUI – Feng-GUI uses thousands of eye tracking studies to analyze your landing pages for visual focus and attention. See where people are focusing on your landing pages to ensure that they’re looking at what you want them to see. This is a great tool for eliminating distractions from your conversion funnel to improve your conversion rate.
Best Website Optimization Tools (Quantitative)
Let’s face it. If you’re going to optimize your site you need to know what’s going on with it in the first place.
Google Analytics – The de facto free analytics tool for many websites. A great product that can give you robust insights on what's happening on your website.
KISSMetrics – Google Analytics tells you what’s happening on your website, KISSMetrics tells you who is doing it. Their people-level and cohort reporting let you understand what types of visitors are the most valuable and which paths through your website are the highest converting. Use KISSMetrics to go deeper than Google Analytics data.
CrazyEgg – CrazyEgg is a heat mapping tool that allows you to see where your visitors click and how far down the page they scroll. If you have a special offer or call to action in a location where only 30% of your visitors ever see, you have a huge opportunity to optimize your website simply by making that element more visible.
Best Website Optimization Tools (Testing)
In order to know which website optimizations are actually improving the performance of your site you need to test the changes against one another. Website optimization goes hand-in-hand with A/B Testing.
A/B Testing lets you test one optimization against your original design to see if it improves the performance of your website or hurts it. After your test is complete you can keep the winning version. By repeating this process you methodically optimize your website for a higher conversion rate.
These are the best tools for Website Optimization Testing:
Optimizely – Optimizely makes it easy to test different attributes of your website against one another quickly. Once Optimizely is installed on your website, you can set up as many optimization experiments as you like without needing to know how to code or asking your engineering team to make changes. Their easy to use editor makes website optimization through A/B testing much easier.
Unbounce – Unbounce is a landing page testing platform which lets you quickly create and test different variations of the landing page to see which performs better. If you run a lot of paid advertising campaigns, Unbounce is a great way to improve the performance of those campaigns by optimizing the page that visitors originally land on when they come to your website.
Visual Website Optimizer – VWO as it’s known is another optimizing software that you can use to A/B test different variations of your website elements like copy, images and call to action buttons to see which combinations make your website perform better.
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