Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
This is part 2 of a 4 part series on conversion optimization. For part 1, go here


Testing Is About Process and Every DMO Should Be Doing It

Growing up we are often taught to trust our gut. My mother often told me to trust my instincts, and if I did, I would always make the right choices. While mom is right in most cases, that's simply not the case when it comes to testing.

As mentioned in our first post, developing a solid optimization process is the key to proper testing. In order to achieve your site's goals, you need to be clear on what you're doing. Conversion optimization is all about growth. So how exactly do you accomplish growth? First, you must clearly define your goals. The next step, and probably the most important, is developing a conversion research process. This comes in phase two: Analyze.


Before moving onto phase two however, you need to accept that there are no shortcuts or magic formulas to increase conversions. Although it may be hard to swallow when it comes to testing and CRO, opinions don't matter. Without proper testing, it's impossible to know with any certainty what is going to work. 

Don't get me wrong, experience does matter, and doing a heuristic analysis is part of what we'll get into later. But ultimately, experience only provides a more educated place to begin. It's crucial not to let egos get in the way. I've seen ideas that were originally delivered with extreme certainty, only to fail miserably in the real world once put to an A/B test.

Egos aside, let's get back to developing a research process. Once the primary optimization goal is determined, it's time to take a deep dive into the analytics. Make sure to fully understand your website's current visitor flow, conversion paths, areas of high traffic fallout, and determine sections of the site that have the highest impact for testing. Since you can't test everything at once, pages will need to be ranked based on factors such as importance, potential conversion lift, and ease of implementation (more on that later).

At Simpleview, our CRO team uses the following 7-step process to develop a testing roadmap. Now, let's walk you through our process, keeping in mind that this should be adjusted to fit your own organizational goals and needs.

Marketing plays a huge role in conversion optimization. This can also affect your ad rank and cause an increase in your costs per click for Google ads; as they will take into account visitor engagement as part of the factors they include in determining your ad quality scores. A good place to start is by doing a thorough review of the site's current traffic sources and mediums to identify areas of concern that may need to be addressed.

Bugs, bot traffic and technical issues can be conversion kryptonite. Addressing conversion issues in Google Analytics by reviewing performance across various browsers and devices can reveal quite a bit. With the huge growth in mobile, reviewing site speed and obtaining site search insights for friction points and opportunities are also important. Fix technical issues to provide a better user experience which will in turn help increase conversions.

This step gets as close to providing an opinion as is allowed. Here you will identify areas of concern and interest based on past experience, knowledge, and expertise. Start by reviewing top pages for the following:  

  • Relevancy: Does the page meet user expectations?
  • Clarity: Is the offer and/or content clear to the user?
  • Value Proposition: Does it communicate value to the user? Can it be better?
  • Friction: What on the page is causing doubt, hesitation or uncertainty?
  • Distraction: What is prohibiting the user from taking action?
  • Make a list of these items and decide whether they need to be tested or just fixed.

Analyzing where visitors are exiting the site is also important. Every DMO wants its site's visitors to do something before they leave, whether it's requesting a visitor guide, filling out a form, clicking on a partner listing, or simply finding information for an upcoming event. However, sometimes these tasks are not easy for visitors to accomplish. Understanding where and why fallout occurs can provide the opportunity to make necessary adjustments and changes. Set up the necessary goal and event tracking on the site and make sure at least one is associated with your conversion funnel(s). Once a sufficient sample of data has been collected, analyze it and discuss ways for improvement.

Before you start tweaking and testing, you need to dig even deeper and discover true visitor intent. Once intent has been identified, it'll be easier to satisfy that intent through an optimization process that aligns the user experience with user needs-driving real results for your DMO. To truly understand intent, you need to hear the voice of your customer. Search keywords, page views and time on site are good places to start, but surveys are one of the best ways to determine intent. Since the goal is to get more visitors to take action on the site, you'll want to start by learning more about friction points and distractions that are affecting those visitors and preventing them from completing your desired actions. Use on-site and satisfaction surveys as well as live user tests (as needed) to do just that.

Heatmaps, visitor recordings and scroll maps are visual representations that show how visitors use your website. This information provides deeper insight into where to begin testing. Start by reviewing the data to see where and how many times people clicked on different elements of the site, along with an analysis of user behavior on the page. This is a valuable tool to help in tying together user experience design (UX) with your DMO's interactive goals.

Take it one step further by using these visual reports of the most clicked sections to improve usability, as these reports can provide a better understanding of visitor click patterns. Some advice: Make sure you get a minimum of 2,000 pageviews per page for a more accurate reading, as low volume can lead to inconclusive results.

Lastly, if you are using third party tools such as Arrivalist or Adara, or have had an ROI study completed by Destination Analysts, make sure to thoroughly review and analyze the data from these sources to provide a more holistic view of your conversion landscape.

Once all analysis is complete, get together with your team to discuss these findings in an internal strategy session. This session should lead the way for your team to create a solid conversion optimization testing plan, which can then act as a roadmap.