Optimizing Your Visitor’s Journey

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The importance of conversion rate optimization through all the marketing funnel

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a structured and systematic approach to improve the performance of your website. By defining your goals and analyzing the traffic you already have, you make the most of it.

If, as blogger or owner of a website, you could obsess about only one metric, it should be conversion. No other metric so holistically captures as many critical aspects of a website–user design, usability, performance, convenience, ad effectiveness, net promoter score, customer satisfaction… that is, the whole visitor’s journey experience–in a single measurement. In other words, CRO means figuring out what users are looking for when they arrive at your site and giving them that.

Usually, CRO has been understood as the process and techniques of continuously improving a website’s effectiveness at turning visitors into customers. As described in the Buyer’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (Trustradius team):

Conversion Funnel from TrustRadius
Conversion Funnel

Increasing conversion rates usually involves measuring visitors, gathering insights, testing hypotheses, and evaluating results.

CRO WorkFlow
CRO WorkFlow

However, conversion is a metric that does not only apply at the top of the funnel, it is by far the most powerful internet metric of all: conversions happen through the customer’s lifecycle: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, and Referral, as easily described by Dave McClure’s: Startup Metrics for Pirates.


Let’s see some examples of tests to optimize each lifecycle stage for better conversion that may help you to get new ideas for your website:

1. Acquisition

At the top of the funnel, the goal is clear. Drive people to your website and get them to convert into a subscriber, lead, or customer.

However, people arrive to your site with specific needs in mind, which may not necessarily correspond to your conversion goal. It’s your job to make it easy for them to, on the one hand, quickly learn how you will help them with their specifics needs and, on the other hand, guide them toward meeting your conversion goal.

Let’s consider the following example. You’re running an e-commerce site that sells fresh vegetables. The Original Landing Page of your website may look like as follows:

Mockup of a Fresh Vegetables Landing Page
Mockup of a Fresh Vegetables Landing Page

As you can see, it shows a list of the product you sell. The first step towards CRO is thinking about how people arrive to the site and what possible needs they may have. Thus, for instance, you may think of the following hypothesis: “I think some of the visitors come to my site after searching a recipe with certain ingredients (e.g. ‘carrot cake’). Thus, if I suggest a recipe section for each vegetable, I may attract more visitors”.

With this hypothesis in mind, you may think of an Alternative Landing page aimed to improve the user experience. For example, you may add a suggested recipe for each products shown in the e-commerce:

Mockup of Alternative Fresh Vegetables ecommerce

Depending on your website, you may easily create an experiment of Pages, Widgets, Menus, or the whole Theme and you’ll better know the different types of visitors that come to your site and what solutions are most valuable to them.

Remember that if you serve your visitor’s need effectively, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to convert them.

2. Activation

Visitors arriving to your website, will be “activated” or converted in your customers as soon as they find value in your product or service. Regardless of what “activation” means for your business (buy a product, join to a group, subscribe to a newsletter, and so on), there are probably some steps your customers must take to get there. At this point, you have to ease those steps by optimizing the call-to-action portions of your website!

If we continue with the previous fresh vegetable e-commerce, we may have for instance the following Original Sign Up form for buying products.

Mockup of Sign Up formHuman beings are inherently resistant to labor intensive tasks, so each field you ask for runs the risk of making your visitors turn around and give up. Particularly, someone filling the form from a mobile device, may decide to postpone this step with the risk of losing her forever. Taking into account this information, you may think about the following hypothesis: “reducing the number of fields of the Sign Up form will improve conversion”.

How can you test the new hypothesis? That’s right! You have to create an Alternative Sign Up form, with less fields, for buying products.

Mockup of Alternative Sign Up FormNote that this type of experiment is very easy with Nelio A/B Testing since it supports Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms.

3. Retention

According to Alex Lawrence in Five Customer Retention Tips for Entreprenuers, when it comes to growing their start-ups many entrepreneurs are so focused on gaining new customers that they fail to effectively address the need to retain those they already have.

Therefore, once you’ve got a customer, the next objective is to keep the customer engaged in your product or service so they continue to gain value from you and remain a customer. You may be also interested in reading The Ultimate Guide to Increase Customer Retention by Bea Hernández describing two ways to measure and calculate customer retention.

But, what can you do in your website to engage more users? Basically, you should improve your acquisition and activation actions continually to ensure your customers always find more value to your services or products. Your goal, then, is to optimize call-to-actions and user-flows to hep users have a more successful and enjoyable experience and keep them wanting to stay aboard.

Let’s continue with our grocery example. After testing the previous hypothesis and concluding that recipes attract visitors to our website, we’ve decided to create a new tab in our main menu with a blog of recipes.

Mockup of blog of grocery

Thinking about retention, now as any publisher or blogger, one of the main concerns is to know which headlines (including title, excerpt, and featured image) works better than the rest. Headlines are key for retaining readers.

Therefore, the best way to ensure the engagement of readers is to perform as many as Headline experiments as you can.

Hypothesis: you may find plenty of tips around what works best in a headline. Some examples are the post of Jeff Bullas: 10 Awesome Heatdlines that Drive Traffic and Attract Readers or the one from Courtney Seiter: 8 Winning Headline Strategies and the Phsychology Behind Them, among others.

For more ideas about how to retain yours customers, I recommend the reading of Alex mentioned above.

4. Revenue

According to the Gartner Group, “80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers”. This means that you do not only have to ensure that you retain them, but you have to present them call-to-actions for any upgrade or up-sell opportunity.

Example: the e-commerce that sells fresh vegetables.

With our running example, after experimenting the recipe experiment and the blog, and concluding that recipes attracts more visitors, you may come up with the following hypothesis: “some of my visitors would be interested in signing-up for a ‘secret recipes’ weekly magazine that would include special fresh vegetable offers”. Let’s create an Alternative Landing page where you test new Ads offering your clients to subscribe to the newsletter.

Mockup of ecommerce with AdYou may easily create different Widget experiments trying different versions and positioning your Ads in different places.

5. Referral

Referral marketing is a a process to increase word of mouth marketing by encouraging clients and contacts to talk as much as possible about your brand or product. A study conducted by the Goethe University Frankfurt of Pennsylvania on referral programs and customer value found that referred customers were both more profitable and loyal than normal customers. Referred customers had a higher contribution margin and a higher retention rate and were more valuable in both in the short and long run.

Let’s consider a new hypothesis: “some clients find recipes very interesting, and it’s likely they want to share them with their friends”. In order to ease this sharing process, you may want to create an Alternative Sidebar with social sharing buttons:

Mockup of ecommerce page with sharing buttons


Optimizing a website does not mean to stop at the top of the funnel–there is plenty of conversion points to optimize in order to get more customers engaged, retained, paying you more money over time, and sharing your product or service with others. It’s important to identify different paths to conversion. Testing is the best way to improve the flow!

You may be interested in the full series that shows you the importance of conversion rate optimization through all the marketing funnel and provide different ideas and examples to improve your website:

  1. Motivation – Optimizing Your Visitor’s Journey
  2. Acquisition Optimizing Your Website for Customer Acquisition
  3. Activation (I)How to create a great first experience in Your website
  4. Activation (II)How to Improve the CheckOut Experience
  5. RetentionHow to Retain Your Customers
  6. RevenueHow to Increase the Revenues on Your Website
  7. ReferralsHow to Improve Your Customers Loyalty and Referrals

I took the picture used as Featured Image last December. Nice place, isn’t it?


Ruth obtained her PhD in Software Engineering at UPC and did a Master of Information Systems at DePaul University (Chicago). She has professional experience in the business world and at the University. Ruth has been University Lecturer at UPC, Vice-Dean for Corporate Relations of the Barcelona School of Informatics, and Associate Lecturer at ESADE. She specializes in software engineering and information systems management. She is also certified in Inboud Marketing.

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