How many times has the phrase "conversion rate optimization" crossed your mind? Probably not as many times as the phrase "search engine optimization" does! Which is a shame, considering how important CRO is to affiliate sites. Let's take a closer look at why that is and what you can do about it.
What's the conversion rate on your affiliate website? Is it "about average"? Meaning that it's about 0.3% - 0.5% of your total traffic and maybe 5% - 10% of the traffic that you actually send to the affiliate products.
It really doesn't have to be this way!
There is a notion that rings true with a majority of affiliate marketers: if you want to get more sales, drive more traffic to your website. You can probably see why that's a popular train of thought. After all, the law of averages dictates that the more people you send in, the higher the probability that more of them will buy.
The problem with this notion is that it isn't quite a sound as most people would like it to be. Yes, someone who gets 50,000 visitors monthly to their affiliate site is more likely to make more sales than someone who gets 10,000 visitors.
But did you know that with the right kind of optimization (conversion rate optimization for affiliate sites), you can turn the traffic that you already have into a money-making machine without necessarily needing to attract millions of eyeballs to your website?
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
This is the systematic and deliberate process by which you attempt to increase the number or percentage of website visitors who undertake a desired action!
The action can be anything from:
However, for affiliate marketers, the desired action is almost always to make a sale through the promotional links on the page.
Conversion rate (CR), therefore, is the number of desired goal achievements divided by the number of website visitors.
While the sheer volume of visitors is almost always good for any website, in affiliate marketing, the money is in attracting the right kind of visitor and getting them to achieve a certain goal once they land on your pages. These goals are more often than not:
Unless you attract the right kind of visitor, you will end up with high website traffic that converts poorly. So, the very first thing you need to do is to attract the right kind of visitor by doing excellent keyword research.
Although, even with the right kind of visitor, you could still end up with a low conversation rate thanks to a myriad of issues that can easily be fixed through conversion rate optimization.
What Can Conversion Rate Optimization Do for My Affiliate Site?
Imagine having a website that gets 20,000 visitors a month, but only one in every 2,000 visitors converts by clicking the affiliate links within your blog posts. If you think that's horrifying, compound that with the fact that not everyone who clicks on your affiliate link is going to buy the product.
Therefore, as dismal as the original conversion rate of 1/2000 is, it gets much worse when it comes to getting a commission if only 1 out of the 10 people you convert every month buys the product you are promoting.
This is exactly the problem that conversion rate optimization seeks to solve. As mentioned earlier, the idea is to increase the number of conversions, even when considering only your current traffic.
However, it is about much more than conversion rates. When done properly, conversion rate optimization can do so much more than just increase your conversion rate.
The Benefits of Conversion Rate Optimization
Ultimately, if you do enough things right on the CRO point, you will end up beating your competition and dominating your space, turning your affiliate site into a trusted authority site that opens up even more earning opportunities for you.
Tips on How to Improve Your Conversion Rate
Make no mistake about it, CRO calls for a systematic and data-driven approach. The ideas are to put in the work in areas that will give you the most result. You don't want to focus your efforts on sections of your website that will barely move the needle forward as far as conversion optimization is concerned.
As such, it's best to take on an 80/20 look at the entire website. Go through your analytics and find the top 5 pages that bring in the most traffic as well as money and start working on those before moving down to the other pages and blog posts.
Once you have identified the target pages, here is the systematic approach you need to take to employ the right CRO strategy on them:
1. Employ A/B Testing
Would you be surprised to know that no matter how "awesome" you think that killer blog post is, there can be a better version of it? It might sound crazy to you because your view of your own blog posts is subjective. However, A/B testing will tell you exactly how your viewers see it, and it will show you which versions convert better.
Simply put, A/B testing is the art of pitting two or more versions of the same blog post against each other to see which one converts best. While it might sound complicated at first, it is quite simple:
Once you get your data-driven answer, all you have to do is rinse and repeat throughout your website.
One of the biggest reasons why you absolutely must carry out A/B testing is that it gives you cold hard data. This way, you won't be shooting in the dark with the changes you want to make. A practice, by the way, that more often than not ends up harming your website conversion rate. With A/B or Split testing, you know exactly what to do. It is far more effective to turn your current traffic into paying customers than to acquire new traffic altogether.
How Do You Decide What to Split Test?
While running the A/B test might sound simple enough, the problem always arises when you start thinking about what exactly you need to test. Remember, not everything on that blog post isn't pulling its rightful weight.
What do you test? There are two approaches that you can employ here:
These page elements include:
Remember, A/B testing needs to be a well-managed process. That is why you have to find the right pages and pick the right elements within those pages to test. Don't just test for the sake of testing. You run the danger of losing half your traffic for no good reason. Use the 80/20 approach we discussed earlier to find pages that will give you maximum returns on your A/B testing efforts.
2. CRO Process Checklist
If you have been in the digital marketing space for a while, you know that at some point, you begin to get a little complacent. This is especially true when your website is getting reasonable traffic and a reasonable, if not "average" conversion rate. You quite simply begin to think that your conversion funnel is working just fine and that you don't need to mess with it.
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking might keep you on a plateau as far as earnings are concerned. Until you realize that, as awesome as your website looks, it could be better; convert better, you won't do what is necessary to achieve that.
However, coming to that realization isn't always the easiest of things. To help you along, here is a CRO checklist that should help you run a quick diagnostic of your website to determine which areas need conversion optimization:
The idea here is to simplify the process as much as possible for your visitors. The more they have to think and try to figure things out, the lower their conversion rate. If they can find what they are looking for, see the reviews, features, pros and cons, and a CTA right away, they are more likely to make that buy decision right there and there.
3. Structuring Your A/B Tests for Maximum Success
There is one mistake that most people make when carrying out A/B testing: they test multiple areas of the blog post at the same time.
Here is the problem with that approach. Once you have decided to test your comparison tables, for example, also testing your CTA placement will invariably affect those results.
The idea is to test one element at a go. Do not test any other part of the page that might affect the results if you want reliable data.
That being said, here is how you can structure your testing to achieve maximum success:
Find the highest-earning pages
There is no substituting this step. It is almost always a fact that 80% of your revenue and traffic comes to your website from 20% of the posts (the top 5 - 10 posts). The results are further skewed towards the top end; you will find that the top 3 pages bring in the most revenue. That is why you are advised to start with the top 5 pages, as these will give you the quickest results.
Isolate the tests
Decide on which test you are going to run on which page and run it in isolation. In short, pick one test to run for every page and run only that test until you have enough data to try out a different test. There is a very good reason for this particular process. If you run a test on area 1 and get a 15% increase in conversion, running a test on area B on the same page at the same time could get you a 20% decrease in conversion.
As you can see, this will completely skew and offset the results as well as gains. Testing in isolation, therefore, allows you to evaluate each test and results independently, thus showing you what works and what doesn't. While you can carry out multivariate testing (testing more than one variable at a time), this is often complicated and reserved for very high traffic websites and, as such, doesn't quite apply to affiliate sites.
To record the right conversion metrics, you need to employ the right CRO strategy and process. The best part is that if you are starting to feel overwhelmed by all this, there are conversion rate optimization services you can hire to help run the tests for you. The right CRO agency will have the expertise and the right testing tool to give you reliable and actionable results.
4. Defining Conversion Goals
As an affiliate site owner, your ideal conversion goal is when a visitor clicks on your CTA, heads over to the product page and buys the product, so you make a commission. While that might be the fundamental goal, any good website has several conversion goals that could all be tested using the same CRO strategy outlaid here. After all, the point of all this is increasing conversion rates (constant) - the conversion goals are variable.
So how do you determine your conversion goals, and most importantly, how do you track them?
Word to the wise: Track everything.
Website traffic behaves in a very funny and fluid manner. Say, for example, you were testing your page CTAs, and the results show that the changes you made led to a 30% increase. While that result is good and shows that whatever you did is working, as the affiliate marketer, your ultimate goal is to make more sales.
What good is that 30% increase if all the clicks you send over to the merchant don't end up in sales and commission for you? What this means is that you have to track that entire process to the very end. Track the sales too.
Consider another scenario: the changes you made to the CTA (making the buttons stand up, giving them a different color, and changing their position on the page) could lead to your visitors clicking on the very first shiny CTA they see. Because they didn't take time to look at the other offers that might have addressed their needs, they find that the first CTA isn't what they are looking for, and they decide to bounce off your page.
Not only are they not buying from you, but they are indicating to Google (falsely in many cases) that your page doesn't succinctly answer their query. Google will then respond in kind by lowering your ranking for that particular keyword, therefore, taking away website traffic and potential for higher earnings.
These are all things you need to track if you are to achieve the right kind of result.
When setting up conversion goals, try as much as possible to cover every single action that your website visitors can take. You can do this easily if you set up your A/B testing with a testing tool like Visual Website Optimizer. With it, you can track:
In short, with the right tool, you can do a lot more with your testing, and you have a platform that helps you track the results all the way through. That is what you need if you are going to successfully run conversion tracking on both macro conversions and micro conversions.
5. How to Successfully Manage Your A/B Tests
A/B testing might sound complicated at first, but it doesn't have to be as difficult as most people imagine. With a well-managed process, you will consistently get usable results that will lead to a higher conversion rate.
While your overall conversion optimization strategy plays a great role in giving you those usable results, it ultimately comes down to how well you manage the tests themselves. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Give the test enough time to run
Most website owners tend to pull the plug as soon as they begin seeing results in their favor. This is a mistake. All statistical tests and results depend on sample size and time. That is why these kinds of optimization tests are run on websites with a significant amount of traffic. While there is no specific "one size fits all" duration that your tests need to run for, VMO does have some metrics that can help with this.
For example, one of the key metrics that you need to keep an eye on is "statistical significance" (this indicates the likelihood that the results you are getting are not based on random changes such seasonality or luck). It is advisable to run your test until the VMO tool says that you have achieved a statistical significance of above 95%. As for the sample size, only run tests on at least 1,000 visitors for the specific pages.
That being said, there are some common mistakes that almost every first time A/B testing website owner makes. Here are a few that you should try to avoid:
Focusing the tests on the wrong elements
The idea here isn't to necessarily carry out website optimization, although, in the process, you tend to achieve that as well. However, just because a page exists on your website doesn't mean you need to test it. If it isn't part of your sales funnel or doesn't have elements that significantly affect your sales, don't waste your time testing it. The most important elements are the ones we already listed above.
Not isolating the tests
While multivariate testing is a thing, as a first-timer with a small affiliate website, it might not be the thing for you. Testing multiple elements at the same time won't save you time, as many webmasters often erroneously assume.
In fact, it will do the exact opposite. Not only will it give you contaminated data, but you will end up having to go through the CRO process all over again down the line once you realize that things aren't working as projected by the "results."
Not properly refining your data
While a test might give you an overall negative result, without looking at the specific metrics and refining the data, you really can't call it as a confirmed result. For the most part, you will find that what might show negative results for one element as far as conversion rates are concerned might show overwhelmingly positive results for another. It just shows that you have made the right choice for one and not the other.
Not paying attention to statistical significance
As already mentioned, you don't want to call it too early. Just because the numbers seem to support your hypothesis earlier doesn't mean that the test has worked or that you now have reliable data. Wait until the statistical significance is at least 95% before calling it.
What's your hypothesis?
Finally, you need to know what you are testing for. What do you hope to achieve? What kind of changes do you think might work to increase your conversion rate?
Although it might all sound quite overwhelming right now, content marketing is about running tests trying to find what resonates the most with your target audience. To get a good conversion rate, therefore, calls for a robust CRO strategy and a well-managed process. The steps conversion rate optimization tips and tricks laid out here will help you get started.