I know: A website evaluation is one of those free “gimmie” services you see offered up as a lead gen tool on a lot of these Internet Marketing sites. Translation: That means it’s a computer-generated report with a shit load of stats that mean absolutely nothing to the average website owner. After all, being trying to bring in new business and service the business you already have, who has time to add “website analyst” to the list of skill sets you need to learn and constantly update?
But in the hands of a conversion rate optimization (CRO) expert, a website evaluation is a vital tool. CRO experts specialize in evaluating websites to find out how many conversions they are losing every month due problems like:
- Untargeted Traffic/Weak Traffic Sources
- Problems with the Shopping Cart Configuration (typically issues with the shipping/handling calculation especially for companies shipping internationally)
- Glitching Features, Dead Links and Other Website Programming Errors
- Bad Copywriting
- Confusing Web Page Layout and Design
- Complicated Main Navigation Layout
- Configuration Problems with CMS (like Word Press)
- Improper Social Media Integration with Website
- Incorrect or Inconsistent Pricing/Offer Info in the Marketing Funnel(s)
A lot of websites try optimizing their sales pages, landing pages, and product descriptions using A/B split testing or perhaps even multivariate testing. However, this usually ends in disaster and wastes loads of time, traffic, and ultimately money. This is precisely why all reputable conversion rate optimization firms first conduct a thorough web evaluation before changing anything or beginning any tests.
3 Reasons Why Your CRO Success or Failure Depends on the Website Evaluation
#1: Your Website is Too Complex to Simply Guess or “Eyeball” the Conversion Problems
You remember that list of potential conversion rate issues we listed above? Most of these conversion problems aren’t even visible on the site and require sophisticated web analysis tools to find. Even copywriting and user interface problems require heat mapping tools to isolate and verify. Otherwise, you would have to start from scratch on any sales or landing page which means you’re tossing out the good copywriting tools with the bad. Never forget that despite the relative few number of web pages, your site is actually a very complex machine with 1,000’s of components, including:
- 100’s, 1,000’s, or even 10,000’s lines of Code
- Several Software Suites Like Word Press, your Shopping Cart, and Plugins All Working Together
- 1,000’s or even 100,000’s of SEO text, videos, graphics, and infographics
Add them up, and your site might well have more individual components than your house or even the most advanced machines. Any one of them could be costing you money each month and most of them require time-consuming website traffic analysis to find. So without a thorough website evaluation, you could be missing some of the simplest problems that just aren’t found on the sales or landing page you keep split testing.
Now please note: Web traffic analysis isn’t the same as just running a bunch of reports and presenting the client with a bunch of stats and charts. It means specifically isolating the exact problems that are costing the site conversions–all the way down to the sentence level. No guesswork. No b.s.
#2: A Thorough Website Evaluation Includes Actual Engagement with Site Content and Features
What if your site was losing 25% of it’s conversions because the price you have in the shopping cart is just $1 different than the price listed on the product description? That’s right, pricing mistakes are one of the most common conversion problems we come across especially on ecommerce sites. It’s a simple transcription error but no web analytics tool is going to pick it up. The only way to find it is to experience the site like a customer and actually go through every page and interact with every feature. That, is part of a thorough website evaluation and it’s vital to conversion rate optimization success. You need to “contextualize” the raw data and especially pay attention on pages with low avg. time on page or high bounce rates–there is usually a UI or web programming issue. But in some cases, it’s just the wrong price being input and no one double-checking their work. In fact, manually engaging with all of the primary content during a thorough website evaluation can help uncover a lot of issues missed by the automated web analysis tools, such as:
- Pricing Inconsistencies in the Sales Funnel
- CMS Configuration Problems (visitors not getting access to lead gen materials, incorrect email automation settings, etc.)
- Videos that Have No Pause or User Control
- Spelling/Grammatical Errors Especially on Highly Visible CTA’s or Bullets
- Confusing or Ineffective Design/Layout
#3: Testing is Very Expensive
For even a simple lead gen CTA, you need at least 500 visitors for each version of an A/B split test. That’s 1,000 unique visitors per test to statistically verify the results. And for price points over $500, you might need 5,000 visitors or more per version to verify results. And one of the biggest reasons why conversion rate optimization experts rely on a thorough website evaluation is to contain testing and overall project costs.
Because one way or another, you’re paying for that traffic. Even if you are cashing in favors from your network to boost website traffic and reduce testing time, that is still costing you. So how many times can you afford to split-test a headline or any sales component? The answer: Not many.
In fact, with conversion rate optimization, you might have to fix 4, 5, maybe even 8 problems to get the site converting at it’s true potential. Now, depending on the site, most conversion rate optimization companies and experts will attack the biggest problems first and then verify results as they go. But if you don’t conduct a thorough website evaluation first: Can you imagine how long it would take you to find all of the problems by just “eyeballing” the site or assuming all the issues are on the sales page?
A simple computer-generated website evaluation is indeed a waste of your time which is exactly why they give them away for free. But, a thorough web evaluation using several sophisticated web analysis tools and actual engagement with the site literally pays for itself in three ways:
- Reduces Testing Costs by Avoiding Unnecessary Split Tests
- Reduces Unnecessary Copywriting and Design Work by Helping Fix Only What is Wrong vs. A Complete Revamp
- Identifies the Hidden Issues that Automated Programs Can’t Find
Basically, don’t try optimizing anything before conducting a thorough website evaluation. Otherwise, you could fall into a black hole filled with endless split testing and spiraling optimization costs with no end.