Conversion Optimization Science – SMX West 2011

Well, folks, this is the last session at SMX West 2011. Here’s a tissue, dry your eye. Conversion is an important last-step in your Internet marketing, so let’s hear from the experts on how to implement conversion rate optimization.

SMX West logo

Moderator: Chris Sherman, Executive Editor, Search Engine Land

Q&A Moderator: Angie Schottmuller, Founder, Interactive Artisan


Scott Brinker, President & CTO, ion interactive, inc.
Sandra Niehaus, VP UX & Creative Director, Closed Loop Marketing
Khalid Saleh, President, Invesp

Scott Brinker is first.

Scott starts with market and audience segmentation. He thinks this is the most important part of conversion. For this particular segment, campaign, keyword, who are the respondents? How well can we get a sense of their identity? What do they want?

He is showing an example of someone searching for “data storage SOX compliance”. Who is this person? Probably a technical person, probably a public company or thinking about going public.

Consider creating targeted content for that specific query. Answer very specific requests. He is using an example of a company that does that and sees a conversion rate of more than 16 percent.

Now that we know who they are, what do they want, what are they after? What’s the next logical step to developing a relationship? Give people choices. Segment people once they are in the experience. This is a great testing opportunity. You can take people different places based on who they are and offer information targeted to them.

Then, it all boils down to content. It must be persuasive. You need to get an emotional reaction and make it engaging.

SMX West 2011: CRO Session

In conversion optimization, we tend to overplay things like layout, call to action and colors, etc. The content is the most important, then the details. It’s a natural progression for the user once they’ve decided they are interested in the content.

Conversion optimization is a series of ongoing next steps you want to have in the lifetime of the relationship. Sometimes we leap a little too fast into testing. It is important, but to have a positive impact, think more about the context and the content.

Scott is finished and Chris comes up to the stand, and is talking about a milkshake story and Clay Christianson – he’s on the cover of Forbes this month. Apparently this milkshake story is something worth checking out, if you’re not sure what it’s about.

Next is Khalid Saleh.

[He is giving us a quiz. No one is participating. Note to self: Never ask anyone in the audience at SMX to participate in anything.]

The CRO Process

  • Plan where to start. There’s many opportunities to optimize within a site.
  • Implement optimization using a framework. Follow a methodology.
  • Improve in iterations.

One of the biggest challenges is deciding what to change on a page. To determine, he follows a process called conversion framework:

  • Visitors. Start drilling deep about who the visitor is. Personas can help. The four segments of personas: logical (this is the majority), spontaneous, caring, aggressive. Appeal to all those on the same page.
  • Trust. Less than half a second to gain or lose trust.
  • Buying stage
  • FUDS: Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Need to address those.
  • Incentives. How do you incentivize and it’s not just about discounts.
  • Engagement

SMX West 2011: CRO Session

Last is Sandra Niehaus. She wants to talk about keeping a testing program moving within a company.

She thinks this crowd is hard core ‘cause we’ve stuck around until the end.

Three approaches prove useful to keep testing going in your company:

  • Think small. You can have huge conversion boosts with small changes – copy. Button placements and so on.
  • Go modular. Break pages into manageable chunks visually for testing. Break a page into buckets, such as top, middle and bottom. Then designate what those areas should do: meet expectations, prove credibility, offer detailed information.
  • Be persistent. Keep coming up with ideas and test.
  • Keep tabs. Deconstructing the elements tested to keep track of your efforts.


Q: How many personas are too many to target?

A: Khalid says the most we create is seven, it gets out of hand after that. Focus on the main four. The aggressive personality is pretty easy to satisfy with headlines.

Q: How do you establish credibility?

A: Sandra says social proof is great for credibility.

A. Scott says it’s not a one size fits all. If you can get a sense of what resonates with what type of audience, you’ll be more successful.

Q: How do you measure what actually leads to conversion when you have so many elements on a page?

A: Every single change on the page has to have hypotheses behind it. Do an analysis and see which hypotheses helped.

A: Scott says try a/b testing first, then move to more of a multivariate approach.

A: Sandra says there’s usually not one thing that leads to a conversion, but if you think there is, test it.

Q: Registered trademarks symbols in Web copy or Title tag – does that help with credibility?

A: Sandra says use sparingly for readability is her only suggestion.

A: Scott says there is an evolution of expectation online, approaches to engaging audiences are getting old fast. He realizes this is a tangent, but his reaction is that it may not be effective anymore to credibility.

Q: Does asking more questions on a registration form ever increase conversion?

A: Sandra says you can get away with more questions if you break the registration process up so it seems like less questions.

It’s been a pleasure liveblogging for you. Safe travels to everyone who is here and headed home. And for those at home, thanks for tuning in!

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (0)
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent Digital Marketing Optimization posts is better than the last!
Bruce Clay on January 22, 2024
How To Optimize Content for Facebook and Instagram
Bruce Clay on December 14, 2023
SEO vs. PPC: How To Choose
Bruce Clay on October 16, 2023
7 Proven Strategies To Increase Website Traffic for Your Business


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | PO Box 1338 | Moorpark CA, 93020
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919