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Top strategies for mobile conversions with Justin Christianson

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Episode Overview

With the recent major changes in mobile search, companies need new SEO and content strategies based on user psychology and their predictable mobile behaviors. In this Voices of Search podcast, we cover:

  • User expectations for their mobile experience
  • Strategies for engagement and simplification
  • How to develop rich content and high volume for better rankings on Google
  • What are micro commitments and why does understanding them matter?
  • Best practices for analyzing heat and click maps
  • Understanding the data on page flow, engagement and bounce rates, and time on site for optimal conversions

Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome back to Mobile Marketing Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re gonna take a close look at the small screen and discuss what SEOs need to know about optimizing their strategies, content, and technology for max impact on mobile devices. Joining us today is Justin Christianson who is the co-founder and president of Conversion Fanatics, which is a customer-centric conversion rate optimization agency that helps e-commerce and SaaS companies improve their return on advertising and increase conversion results by building a better understanding of their customer’s site visitor behavior.

Ben:                 And today, Justin is going to walk us through his keys for mobile conversion rate optimization. But before we get started, I wanna remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic where a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                 Okay. Here is our interview with Justin Christianson, the co-founder and president of Conversion Fanatics. Justin, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Justin:              Thanks for having me Ben. Man I appreciate it.

Ben:                 It’s great to have you here. We’ve talked on another podcast of mine. I know that you are an expert in conversion rate optimization. Obviously you’ve run an agency. But for the people who are just getting to know you, tell us a little bit about your background, and tell us about Conversion Fanatics.

Justin:              Yeah well I’ve been in the digital marketing game for, I guess, since 2002. So whatever the math figures out to be there.

Ben:                 I think you’re up to 17 years.

Justin:              Yeah I think, this yeah, I guess that would figure out, that’s year 17 for me. So been around the block a couple times. And basically I started out in kind of  affiliate game and then got partners on a company that I was top affiliate for. I sold my chair in my company back in 2009. Then got asked, because of some of the information that I’d published about implementation and optimization, ’cause I’ve always been fascinated about the psychology of what makes people do things online and take the certain actions that they do take. And from there it just kinda blossomed and grew based on demand, into what is now Conversion Fanatics. So we’ve been doing Conversion Fanatics for, I guess since 2014. So we’re coming up on year five. Here at the end of year five. And yeah, we just work with some amazing brands really helping them better understand their visitor behavior through relentless experimentation.

Ben:                 So you mentioned that you’re interested in the psychology of what makes people take actions on any sort of a digital property. This is Mobile Marketing Month here for us on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m interested to hear your thoughts about some of the differences in the behavior for mobile and desktop as it relates to the psychology of the person browsing. How do you think about how people take different interactions based on devices?

Justin:              Well on desktop, I guess, you have a lot more real estate to work with. You know, you have a bigger screen, you can use bigger images, you can use different visitor flow. But on mobile it’s very vertical. So you have to kind of remove a lot of those, a lot more roadblocks or a lot more steps or a lot more friction in that process that you might have on desktop. For example, drop down menus, selection process, form submissions, things like that have to be treated differently on a mobile device and you have to pack a lot of information into a very small space or real estate.

Justin:              So what happens is a lot of companies will think that just because they have a mobile responsive website which, you know, in the last couple years Google really cracked down. Particularly from the SEO’s perspective, if they were not mobile ready. But people then failed to realize that they have a totally different experience on their mobile, just even if they have a mobile responsive environment. So you just need to really pay attention to how the visitors are behaving and what their interacting with separately from what a desktop experience is. Just because it looks great on desktop and it might look okay on mobile, does not mean that it’s user friendly on mobile.

Justin:              So you need to really, truly, even in that mobile responsive environment, to treat them completely separate. You know, they’re gonna have different points and different friction points and different interaction that you really need to identify and isolate to work to improve.

Ben:                 Before we talk through some of the optimization techniques that you use for mobile, I wanna dig one level deeper in terms of talking about the psychology. We’ve mentioned multiple times on this podcast that it is an on demand world and people are constantly doing more activities on their phone as they are moving around mobily, commuting, right? They’re just on the go and they expect results quicker on their mobile device. Talk to me about some of the psychology that you see as people are getting used to doing more computing in the small device while they’re mobile. Do you see that affecting user behavior, and how does that then change conversion rates?

Justin:              Yeah I mean, you put yourself in the mind of the visitor. On desktop, they have a bunch of stuff. They have more time generally, because they’re sitting at a bigger device. Often sitting at their desk, sitting on their couch with their laptop. And they have time to browse, and move, and shop, and experience that. On the mobile world we have to kind of predict what they want based on some of the past behaviors and some of the qualitative type analysis.

Justin:              And you have to make that process so much simpler. So you have to really, kind of how we approach it from an optimization standpoint is we wanna get them engaged in that process and help them find what they’re looking for as quickly as we possibly can. Answer all of those hidden objections up front. And then lead them very quickly down the path we want them to go, making it very easy to navigate, very easy to find what they’re looking for, and what the actual next steps are. And the simpler we can make that process, given that everybody is busy these days and like you said, on the move, they’re commuting, you have to just pay attention to how they’re behaving and really just make it as simple and streamlined as you possibly can.

Ben:                 So I think the moral of the story here is the mobile experience has to be a simplified and streamlined experience. And that puts the SEO community in an interesting bind because a lot of SEO is about finding the right content and basically putting as much relevant content as you can on a page.

Justin:              Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ben:                 Which seems to be in conflict with conversion rate optimization, right? SEOs want rich content and high volumes of it so they have a higher probability of ranking on Google. And conversion rate optimization wants to strip out as much as you possibly can. How do you justify or think about the right volume of content and where does sort of the organic impact come into your thought process?

Justin:              Well we always wanna keep the integrity of the SEO structure in place when we’re optimizing. I mean you have product descriptions, you have all of these different on site elements. And what we’re really just trying to do is maximize the call to action element. So if you’re sending them to a rich piece of content, just making that call to action very simple and streamlined, making it very mobile friendly from a content perspective. And we could still keep the integrity of all the key word stuffing and all the things that we’re using from that perspective on the SEO side. But we just want to make it very easy for them to know the next steps, what they’re gonna get on that next step, and make it very visually appealing from that. So just not trying to over clutter say an article. Or over clutter a specific page that you’re running on.

Justin:              And I mean, I just did an analysis for a company that is very SEO driven and they sell a very high-ticket product. I think they’re average ticket on their e-commerce store is 3000 dollars. And they did a good job of it. They sold almost ten million dollars worth of it last year. But all of their pages are very content heavy so we’re just trying to make it easier for people to understand those key benefits of the product and know exactly what next step there is in place.

Justin:              So we gotta kind of skirt that fine line a little bit on making sure that we keep that integrity. But as well, get the maximum amount of effort because what good is that traffic if they don’t do what it is that you want them to do. And on the flip side of that, we have companies that have articles that might get 30% of their overall site traffic, but they’re not maximizing where those visitors go from there. So they get a ton of people to their site. They might read the article but it’s not of benefit because it’s not producing sales or leads.

Ben:                 The thing that pops into my head is where you’re talking about some product descriptions and you’re focused on e-commerce and SaaS companies. I understand the conversion oriented pages having content that doesn’t really necessarily need to be modified. When you’re working with companies that are more content centric, let’s say media and publishing where they’re building longer format content, have you seen that there is different conversions and consumptions for longer form content on mobile as opposed to on desktop?

Justin:              Yeah I mean, that is not, I mean I haven’t seen a necessary direct correlation if the information is engaging. You know, I haven’t really seen the length be of impact. And I mean I can’t really speak from it from a SEO perspective. But all we’re trying to do is from that media and publishing type angle, is make sure that we break it up into micro commitments. So we might treat the optimization side of it from a conversion perspective a little bit differently, and break it down into say micro commitments. Did they click on this certain element? Did they move through that process and take that next step versus did it produce more sales? All the way through the end of the goal. So we’re just working to push them maybe from that content.

Justin:              We look at a lot of heat maps and click maps to see where the ultimate point in that article is to maybe present them with a call to action, to see how the engaging content is and maybe restructure it. Adjust the content slightly ’cause maybe they’re dropping off 50% of the way through of 25% of the way through. And we might have lost them because we’re missing a hook or something in that particular article. So we might position a call to action a little bit separately there. And I’ve seen it in long form sales letters for example, going back to the direct response world. We’ve optimized some of those as well where you just have to just pay attention to what those visitors are actually paying attention to, and how far they’re actually engaging in that content.

Ben:                 So walk me through some of your processes. When you’re doing mobile conversion rate optimization or you’re transferring a desktop site to mobile, what are some of the checkpoints, or give me the checklist of things that you’re looking at, just to help the SEO community understand the thought process of someone doing CRO.

Justin:              Yeah, so generally we’ll just look at the data. So we’ll look at the analytical data, the qualitative hard data that we’re looking at. What the demographics are, what the page flow is, what the engagement rate is, bounce rate, time on site, the overall conversion rate, to get a better picture of what those visitors are looking at, and kind of where they’re falling off. That’ll identify some of the key friction points in that entire process. And you know a lot of times, majority of our clients will have 60 plus percent of their traffic be mobile.

Justin:              So we will come from a mobile first perspective. And then from there, we’ll really boil it down to looking at the qualitative data. So we’re looking at the heat maps, the click maps, the scroll maps, to see some of those key pages that we’ve identified to have friction on them. We’ll wanna know where those visitors are falling off, what they’re clicking on, what they’re ignoring on that page, so then we can kind of develop our hypothesis on why they’re not taking the desired action that we want them to take. And then we just create a bunch of different ideas to kind of support that hypothesis.

Ben:                 And what are some of the most common mistakes that companies make when they are doing mobile conversion rate optimization?

Justin:              They don’t lead with benefits. They don’t pay attention to their key product pages. So they keep it very linear. Speaking on an e-commerce perspective, they might have oversized images on the site which push down calls to action. They don’t have the benefits above the fold of the page. On like category pages or collections pages where it lists all of their products, they have it very linear. So they only have like one, you load the page and it only shows one product versus having like a two by two grid style to position more of the products. Because again, we’re trying to get the visitors engaged as quickly as possible in helping them find what they’re looking for.

Justin:              Another thing that they fail is search on a site. So if you have a lot of products, I speak to e-commerce world a lot more than a lot of the others even though we do a lot of optimization on others. And just for say an example is you know, we find that those that search on a mobile device on the site, actually have converted sometimes twice as well as just a normal visitor. So making the search very prominent, making the filter and sort options very prominent, positioning the best-selling products in key places, and then making that checkout process very mobile friendly and those form field very mobile friendly. And just positioning it and like say you got a size or a quantity or a color selection, making that very mobile appealing and kind of we go on passing accessibility.

Justin:              So we go on a lot of accessibility rules because we have very little real estate and if it’s a small icon, you might mis-select something. So we try to increase the size on some things and decrease the size on others to pack as much as much information as we can into a very small space, and usually trying to maximize above the fold.

Ben:                 It sounds like the biggest optimization that people are missing for CRO really is mostly around design. In terms of content formatting, or in terms of content extraction or addition, where do you see companies making mistakes?

Justin:              Well, the biggest thing that they try to do is they try to fit a lot of things into a very small space on the mobile side. And what we’ll do is we’ll position it differently on the page. So keeping like the calls to action above the fold. What they fail to do a lot of times, particularly on mobile, is a lot of people don’t read. They skim. I’m guilty of it. Majority of people are. So breaking up sentences, breaking up paragraphs, using a lot of bullet points, and very easy to consume elements, as well as imagery. So instead of saying that we’ve got a 60 day money back guarantee, we might put that into an icon or something that’s easily consumed, in position, so we can then maximize the space that we have without over cluttering it with so much content per se.

Justin:              And that is again, that fine line between SEO and CRO, is we gotta keep a lot of that integrity in a lot of places. But switching it up to do like image tags and things to still keep some of that integrity will help.

Ben:                 And are there any technical optimizations in terms of things like site speed or you know, just basically the technical performance as you move to mobile, that you see providing a big impact?

Justin:              Yeah. I mean we haven’t seen any crazy direct correlation in site speed given, you know it isn’t gonna be a big impact if you’re say improving it from five seconds to three seconds. It’s more when you get into that ten, eleven, twelve second range and you drop it down to six. Shopify for example, which has just millions of stores on it essentially, is we can’t really improve the site speed from that perspective, just the way that they load all of their code. So on average, you’re gonna see a six second load time on a Shopify store.

Justin:              So what we try to do is just when we’re doing our optimizations is making sure the images load properly, that we’re doing some things like infinite scroll, and we’re making sure that the code is clean from that perspective on a technical side. But there really isn’t a whole lot you can do, depending on what kind of platform you’re on, to really maximize that page load time. But again, we haven’t really seen a major direct correlation. And it isn’t something that we focus on whole heartedly.

Ben:                 That’s interesting. So one of the keys to SEO optimization, not CRO optimization, is site speed. It sounds like the site speed doesn’t really have an impact on getting someone through the conversion funnel. It definitely has a big impact getting someone to the conversion funnel, mostly if you’re trying to drive organic traffic.

Justin:              Yeah.

Ben:                 Talk to me about where you see the future of mobile and specifically the future of mobile CRO going. What are some the things that you’re keeping an eye on as the mobile landscape develops?

Justin:              What we’re really keeping an eye on is cross device purchasing and attribution. ‘Cause we’re seeing a lot of people that, now that are maybe browsing on their mobile device but not necessarily making the purchase on their mobile device. And they might come back to their desktop later. Also we’re keeping an eye on the attribution window. ‘Cause we kind of are getting away from the direct response. You know, you place an ad, they click on the ad, they buy something day one, versus we’re opening up kind of that attribution window to a little bit longer sales cycle.

Justin:              So we’re seeing a little bit more education creep up into the conversion world in that they might not buy day one, but they might need help with answering some of the questions, or they might need a little shove over the edge with some valuable insights or training, or some other objection handling. So we’re not racing right away to say fix an abandoned cart rate by just offering them a free discount. We might fix an abandoned cart rate by putting them in a nurture sequence that then educates them on the process and educates them on our company more often, and then ask for the sale again. Because the timing might not necessarily be right, and given that we are very mobile heavy is just treating it from that perspective.

Justin:              So the best we can do at getting them engaged in that process and having them find specifically what they’re looking for as easily as possible, and then not beating ourselves up over it on day one conversions, versus just kind of focusing on that attribution model.

Ben:                 That’s interesting. One of the things that we talked about a lot for our content month which was the content we published in February, was understanding the marketing funnel, right? Your top awareness, your middle of funnel which is your education, your bottom and conversion. And it’s interesting to hear you talk about the device experience factoring into that. Where someone who is exposed to your brand on a mobile device gets a lot of information, but maybe they want that richer experience. So if they don’t convert on mobile, you put someone into a nurture campaign. You’re presenting them with a different format of content, which makes a ton of sense to me.

Ben:                 Any last words that you have for the SEO community as they start to think about and understand CRO specifically as it relates to mobile?

Justin:              Yeah, I guess the biggest thing is just the organization of how they view the content. Pay attention to micro commitments and how the visitors are actually interacting with the content. So getting some of that qualitative feedback on that information to see just exactly how. I mean it’s one thing to you know, have a very SEO heavy type article and SEO heavy content, but it’s one thing to actually make that content effective once you get that visitor there. So look at those drop off points. Look at the friction points. Find where you can get some of those micro commitments and improve those metrics and then that’ll lead up to improving the other bigger overall metrics that you’re looking to improve.

Ben:                 Okay. Justin, I really appreciate you making the time and coming onto the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for being our guest.

Justin:              Yeah, thank you. Appreciate it.

Ben:                 Alright. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Justin Christianson, the co-founder of Conversion Fanatics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Justin, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is C-O-N-V-F-A-N-A-T-I-C-X. Which is a short version of Conversion Fanatics. Conv fanatics. Or you can visit his website which is conversionfanatics.com. And if you have any general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet @benjshap.

Ben:                 And if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed next week to discuss more about mobile marketing optimization.

Ben:                 Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.