Website conversion and conversion rate optimization are hot topics these days, and rightly so. It’s getting ever more difficult and expensive to drive traffic to your website, and anything you can do to turn those visitors into leads, customers, etc. will improve the return on investment of the whole effort.
When I speak at events like Pubcon, The Conversion Conference, and the upcoming Conversion Summit in Frankfurt one of the great benefits is getting to share ideas with industry experts. Two of these people who really know what they are doing are Brian Massey, founder of Conversion Sciences, and Chris Goward, co-founder and CEO of WiderFunnel Marketing Optimization. They both have recent books that will help you improve your website’s performance. Here are the particulars:
Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Formulas of The Conversion Scientist™ by Brian Massey
Brian Massey can be spotted easily at conferences because he often dons a white lab coat to emphasize his adopted nickname, The Conversion Scientist. While some may find this shtick to be a little corny, Massey uses it to make an important point: conversion optimization should be a scientific process.
In Customer Creation Equation, Massey starts from the beginning. After introducing readers to conversion science, he explains how to set up a “conversion lab” by adding appropriate analytics tools. Everything is presented in a straightforward manner and with minimal jargon.
While landing pages get plenty of discussion, Massey devotes a chapter to the often ineffective home page. He notes that it is often hotly contested turf, with many departments or business units trying to get their sliver of prime real estate. Ultimately, the home page has to offer a visitor choices, and the most effective ones offer these choices clearly and help the visitor choose.
Got abandonment issues? Massey explains why buyers freeze before checking out, describes the different kinds of cart abandonment, and tells you how to keep your buyers going.
Massey includes plenty of screen shots and other illustrations to show how to do things the right way, and occasionally to show the wrong way as well.
Beginners at conversion optimization will find Massey’s book highly accessible. More experienced hands at CRO will find much of the material familiar, but can certainly extract some useful nuggets to test. With its relatively short length and easygoing style, Your Customer Creation Equation is a great introduction to the field of conversion optimization.
You Should Test That by Chris Goward
Go to any conference where conversion optimization is discussed and you’ll hear lots of sure-fire ways to improve your website and increase the conversion rate. What’s often missing is the key piece of advice, “This worked for me, but you should test that in your environment instead of assuming it works. So, when I saw the title of conversion expert Chris Goward’s book, You Should Test That, I was confident that it would be a winner. The book also sports what is surely one of longest subtitles on Amazon, Conversion Optimization for More Leads, Sales and Profit or The Art and Science of Optimized Marketing!
Testing is the only way you can make changes to your website with the confidence of knowing you’ll improve, not hurt, outcomes. Goward punctuates his conference presentations with examples of A/B tests he has run, showing the audience both versions and asking which they think performed better. Almost always, the option that draws the most votes proves to be the loser. One simply can’t assume that logic will prevail, or that so-called best practices are the best for every situation.
Goward starts with a chapter explaining why testing is important. As obvious and logical as this may seem, in the real world of business most website decisions are made by committees with varying interests or supposed experts using their “gut.” One pitfall of website decision-making highlighted by Goward is the “HiPPO in the room,” HiPPO being the “highest paid person’s opinion.”
You Should Test That isn’t just about testing. Weighing in at 360 pages, Goward’s book is a comprehensive guide to conversion optimization and results-oriented web design.
Need a LIFT? Goward sets the stage by explaining the process of conversion rate optimization, and devotes a lot of space to topics like optimizing your value proposition, increasing relevance, eliminating distraction and reducing anxiety. These are part of his LIFT model, which views the conversion process as an airplane driven forward by the underlying value proposition. The positive forces of relevance and clarity give the plane upward lift, while anxiety and distraction drive it downwards.
The book is profusely illustrated with screen captures of real websites, usually with notes showing where they succeed or fail. An unusual feature for a business how-to book is a 16-page color section which features illustrations and topics where colors help the reader understand the key points.
If you can’t afford to hire a conversion optimization firm, You Should Test That is the next best thing. Goward pours his years of experience into explaining every aspect of the process, and he’s a highly competent and engaging guide to the field.
Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash
I previously reviewed one other notable title on this topic, and it’s worth revisiting while we are discussing Goward and Massey’s titles. It’s Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners. This book is the granddaddy of the field, first published in 2008. It’s now in in its second edition and features the addition of co-authors Maura Ginty and Rich Page.
I won’t go into detail here (read my earlier review, Landing Page Optimization), but suffice it to say that this 500-page heavyweight is an extremely comprehensive guide to website conversion. It’s far more than a book about landing pages. Ash brings a strong dose of psychology to the topic, too, which Neuromarketing readers will appreciate.
Whether you start with Massey’s introduction to the topic of conversion or go straight to the in-depth treatments of Goward and Ash, you’ll find tips and tricks that will make your website perform better. I picked these three books because I’ve read them and have personal experience with the authors and their conversion credentials, but I was amused to see that Amazon’s suggestion algorithm grouped the same three titles as I did on one of the book’s pages.