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A guest post by Andrew Follett, founder of ConceptFeedback

While most marketing professionals are familiar with the term “conversion rate optimization,” few have actually put it in to practice. Fortunately, a recent proliferation of online tools and services will greatly simplify the process for most companies, making 2011 the year of conversion optimization and testing.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of incrementally increasing online conversions (e.g. orders, leads, sign-ups) by optimizing and testing website design, content, and user experience. CRO can significantly reduce customer acquisition costs and increase per visitor value. It also provides measurable results (a must-have in today’s business climate) and can help you avoid costly website redesigns, saving you time, money, and headaches.

CRO is a 3-step process and should be an indispensable part of your 2011 marketing plans. Here is a quick step-by-step guide to help get you started.

1. Set Up Web Analytics

For most companies, implementing a web-analytics system (like Google Analytics) is a no-brainer. However, it is increasingly important to make sure your analytics are up to date and accurate. Keeping track of key performance indicators, like which pages are causing your visitors to leave, is critical to understanding how to improve your website. By sorting your analytics data by bounce rate, you can easily identify which pages on your website need the most attention.

2. Improve Key Pages

After identifying the pages on your website in need of immediate attention, start brainstorming ways to make them better. Often, this can be as simple as changing a headline, increasing the size of your call to action, or removing unnecessary distractions. Sometimes, you need an outside perspective to identify barriers to conversion. Online tools like Concept Feedback (expert website evaluations), UserTesting (crowd-sourced usability testing) and ClickTale (customer experience analytics) provide fast, affordable ways to generate actionable improvement ideas.

3. Test and Repeat

Before you scrap the old page and run with the new one, make sure to use a split testing tool like Visual Website Optimizer or Google Website Optimizer to verify the results. Split testing tools allow you to serve up multiple pages at once and track which one generates more conversions. As soon as you have enough visitors to reach a statistically significant conclusion, you’ll be able to implement the best performing page with confidence.

CRO doesn’t stop there. It’s a continual process of identification, improvement and testing. With this simple 3-step framework, you should be able to quickly and efficiently increase online business and drive revenue on a limited budget.

If you have questions, suggestions or website improvement stories of your own, please let us know in the comments!

Andrew Follett is the founder of ConceptFeedback, offering fast, actionable website evaluations from a hand-selected panel of experts in design, usability, copy and strategy.

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