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In the previous installment, I outlined the key differences between a typical optimization plan and a holistic strategy for conversion rate optimization. In short, the difference is between tweaking random website elements based on what your boss wants, and truly improving your website by identifying your must-have user experience and engineering the conversion funnel to get users there quickly and effortlessly.

So how do you optimize your funnel, and shuttle visitors quickly along their way to the experience that will turn them not just into a conversion but into engaged users who love your product and spread the word to their friends?

In other words, how do you knock down the barriers on your way to the land of rainbows and unicorns?

Uncovering Pinch Points and Confusion

In your funnel you have bigger challenges than button colors. It's your job to find and fix them. Unlocking conversion improvements requires you to step back and get a good look from all angles at what's really transpiring in the conversion funnel for different visitor types.

Analytics is the place to start digging to uncover existing challenges and potential opportunities for performance improvement. Analytics packages, such as CrazyEgg, KISSMetrics, and Google Analytics, can help you find pinch points that are hurting conversion.

When you're looking at the data, the goal is to gain insights by looking at user behavior and comparing it to what you think should be happening in an ideal user experience.

Here are some common examples of where your ideal scenario is likely distorted by reality.

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image of Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis is the founder of GrowthHackers.com and CEO of Qualaroo, a technology company that helps marketers better understand the needs of website visitors and improve conversions. He has held marketing leadership roles at breakout companies, such as Dropbox, LogMeIn (IPO), Uproar (IPO), Eventbrite, and Lookout.

Twitter: @SeanEllis