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Conversion rate optimization is like the banana peel in those really cheesy video clips.
It’s pretty obvious it’s there.
We all see it.
But we all know it will trip you up when you get too close to it.
Because that’s the punchline, right?
Except tripping up on optimizing conversions for your business isn’t such a funny joke.
Not only is failure keeping you from growth, but it could also be pushing your business towards the red.
And while you might acknowledge conversion rate optimization (or CRO), it’s definitely not something you should be afraid of.
Instead, you should chase it just as much as you do anything else in digital marketing, if not more.
That’s why I want to share with you some of the hard lessons I’ve learned from my own failures with CRO.
I want to save you the silly slips that end up on your gag real.
And shortcut your way to the real money-making deals.
If it ain’t broke, do I need to fix it?
I sometimes have the question posed to me, in some form, whether I truly think conversion rate optimization is such an essential task.
In short, yes.
To elaborate, I believe that your business is built around conversions.
The more often a visitor to your website’s business completes a goal, like clicking through a landing page, the greater your chances are of making a sale.
And when you have someone convert by purchasing a product, you just made x amount of money because of a conversion.
Every click is an increase in the potential for your business to grow, so optimizing clicks is vital.
So calculating your current conversion rates is the first step every entrepreneur should take when discussing CRO, and thankfully it’s a pretty basic principle.
In this example, we have three page visits but only two conversions, which means our conversion rate is at a strong 66%.
It won’t likely stay there as page visits grow, but you see the basics of how we calculate conversion rates.
Actions divided by sessions equals conversion rate.
Optimization kicks in when you take the same page you’ve been tracking and start changing elements to see if you can get more conversions.
This illustration helps show the process.
Variation A has a healthy 23% conversion rate, while variation B dips to 11%.
This tells you that you’re better off going with variation A for this audience.
Your next step would be to find a new way to run this test with the same element, or change to a different area of the page and see what you can find.
The more you optimize and combine your winning elements, the better your conversion rate will become over time.
And the potential benefits of CRO, when done properly, are pretty astounding.
I don’t know about you, but a 49% increase in conversions would be a very impressive increase for my business.
And taking the average revenue per visitor up from $3 to $4.50 might not sound like much, but it’s a jaw-dropping increase when you start crunching numbers.
But let’s get to the meat of this issue.
What can you do to streamline your conversion rate optimization and start improving revenue?
I’ve worked on CRO projects that have generated hundreds of millions of dollars.
And to help you learn from my successes and failures, I’ve boiled down the basics to help you understand what to look for and why you should look for it.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. so you don’t have to.
Lesson #1: Play for the long-term
Let’s get this out of the way now.
All of this advice can help you generate millions of dollars in revenue for your business.
But these results will not happen overnight.
Or maybe even this year.
The reason for this is that conversion rate optimization is all about long-term gains.
When I first started focusing on building my CRO strategies, I initially thought I would see conversion improvements all the time.
I was wrong.
While I did see small improvements from time to time, the drastic jumps I had hoped for came infrequently.
Even when I spent money on consultants, I would question whether my investment was worth the small gains I made.
But then I looked back through my years of data and realized that there were periods of drastic improvement.
And when I ran the numbers, I saw that my revenue more than made up for the price of my consultants.
That brought me to a realization.
This is all about long-term persuasion.
CRO is not a get rich quick scheme.
It’s a be patient, work hard, and get rich scheme.
It’s all a game of establishing lifetime value.
Lesson #2: Gut-testing will be gut-checking
I’m all for business owners following their gut when it makes sense.
Just not when you’re running tests.
I have good reasons for this too.
Mainly, you’ll likely just waste your time and money with unnecessary failures that could have been avoided by a little pre-test data gathering.
But perhaps more egregiously, you’ll be ignoring the insight of your existing and potential customers.
Alienating your customers is the last thing you want to do.
The big takeaway here is that more data is better.
If your ideas take less than five hours to test, there’s a good chance that you’re not devoting enough time to collecting the data that will give your testing direction.
Which means you may need to spend weeks on gathering information about relevant ideas before you make a change.
Remember how I said this was a long-term process?
So gather as much information as you can beforehand to give direction to testing.
One way you can do that is with a simple customer survey.
Using open-ended, multiple-choice questions like this in a survey of your existing customers can help pinpoint elements that contributed to their conversions.
You can then use that information to change the elements that your existing customers claim would have helped them.
For example, if you get significant feedback that your landing page’s headline wasn’t a big factor in conversion, you may not need to test it much.
But your gut reaction may have initially been to start with your headline.
See what I mean?
Don’t just jump in based on your gut. Gather data and move with precision.
And if you do want to start making changes immediately, I recommend using proven conversion optimization methods to optimize your conversions before you leap into testing.
Try conversion scent methods for example, like with this retargeting ad.
As you can see, this method maintains the “scent” of your digital marketing by creating and maintaining the same look and feel across all of your efforts.
You can use this stylistic approach to help conversions and improve the consistency of your optimization testing results without making gut decisions.
Then, when your data gathering is complete, you’ll be able to test new methods.
And you can even test the effect of a method like conversion scents as you branch out, too.
Because it may not work best for you.
The point is, you don’t know until you have enough data to tell the difference.
But for the beginning, my advice is to rely on best practice and gather data to inform your testing.
You’ll see more improvement faster by leaning on the successes of others and building your own methods on top of that.
Lesson #3: Performance is important
One of the elements I see slip a lot when businesses perform CRO tests is their overall site performance.
What they don’t know is that this can inadvertently skew their data and make their test results ultimately useless.
Why do I say that?
Take an element like load times, which are incredibly important for increasing conversion rates.
When you let a load time bump above four seconds, you’re already creating a huge spike in your bounce rate.
Or, an equally huge dip in your conversion rate.
And it’s a fairly common occurrence amongst marketers to inadvertently increase load times when adding imagery, copy, or any other new element to a page.
When Moz performed an extensive redesign of one of their landing pages, they noticed a significant increase in load time as well.
To help mitigate the effect they used a few tricks to make it easier to fully load their page even on a slow connection.
They were able to shrink their load time by 40% and provide a 17% lift in the overall performance of their landing page.
All of this was based on one performance oriented element.
Pretty wild, right?
But load time isn’t the only thing you should consider.
I also see a lot of businesses ditch underperforming keywords and landing pages because they don’t see a reason to put effort into an inherently low performer.
That’s a million dollar mistake to my mind.
I think your underperformers are just showing red flags that call for a little extra attention.
Take AutopilotHQ for example.
They took their underperforming keywords and decided to revamp their approach completely.
They created individual landing pages and performed A/B tests for each.
When they spent some significant time with each, they saw drastic improvements.
The kicker here?
It only took a week, and they saw huge increases in conversions.
So don’t just abandon your poor performers.
Give them more attention, and make sure none of the technical elements of your website are working against you.
Lesson #4: Test your A/B testing software
There’s an assumption out there that all A/B tests are created equal, but this isn’t so
When I first started A/B testing, I had a few strange instances where I saw drastic increases in conversion but no additional revenue.
This wasn’t because my sales process was flawed, it was because I had inaccurate A/B test results.
How could that be?
To be honest, I’m not sure why any A/B tester would purposely try to skew a user’s results.
You rely on accurate data to make informed decisions, so getting unreliable data from a test will just persuade you to use a different A/B testing platform.
Either way, I always recommend testing the initial variation of your landing page as both elements of your A/B test to tell you if your A/B tester is telling you the truth.
I call this the A/A test.
If your results look even remotely different, like this graph:
You should probably switch testing software immediately.
Here’s how you could do this on a platform like Optimizely.
When you open up your dashboard on their site, you’ll want to start a new test.
Click on the Experiments tab, then create a new A/B test.
Now, you’ll need to fill in some basic information about your test and include the URL of the landing page you’ll be conducting your test on.
Once you input this information, you’ll be back on a dashboard that looks like this:
As you can see from my notes, you’ll want to leave both your original and variation #1 alone.
The idea is to test identical pages for their similarity, thus testing the accuracy of your actual testing software.
To get started, you’ll have to add a Metric.
You can choose one metric or many.
For now, let’s just test a metric related to general page visits.
You’ll be given the option to track an increase or decrease in total conversions, unique conversions, or a few other options.
Once you’ve added a metric to your experiment and saved it to the project, you’ll be able to fire up the actual testing.
Now, you’ll be able to track the performance of your single page using the two “variations” we’ve created.
Since they’re the same page, you should get very similar results from both.
They might not be exact, but as long as they’re close, you know you have an accurate testing tool.
And there are tons of A/B testing tools out there to choose from.
Use one that’s both helpful and accurate.
You’ll save time and money.
And you’ll be making informed decisions with the degree of certainty that only testing can give.
Lesson #5: Test one variable, and only one
When scientists run tests, they look for something called “causal relationships” in their data.
In simple terms, that means they look for how the piece of data related to or caused another in their experiment.
To control the flow of these relationships, they will only change one variable at a time while keeping a “control” variable the same.
But when it comes to digital marketing, I see the very common mistake of testing multiple variables all the time.
It’s even promoted as a winning feature by many testing platforms.
I’m not so sure they’re right.
This practice is known as multivariate testing, or the idea that testing multiple elements of a landing page, email, or anything else can help you increase your conversion rates.
My biggest grief with this is that it encourages businesses to test too many elements at once, thus nullifying any tangible results from the test.
Here’s an example from that shows how a multivariate test works.
Let’s say this is the original email.
You have a very clear understanding of your email, its performance, and the tendencies of your audience.
But on email B, you change both the time of day you send the email, the formatting of the email itself, and the subject line.
That’s three new elements.
Not surprisingly, the results are different.
It just so happens in this case that your open rate and click-through rate see a decline. Bummer.
But now what do you do?
In this case, they went with the original email for their final list of receivers.
And what a win, they got a better response across the board.
My issue here is that the final email is the exact same as the original email, but now you have a higher open and click-through rate.
What did you learn from email B?
Because you don’t know what caused the potential change.
For all you know, one of the two lists is a group of outliers, and you can’t trust your data to make a decision.
I see this problem every time I examine data from tests that contain multiple variable changes at the same time.
The data I got back was ultimately useless.
And the further you dig into the logic of this, the more my point makes sense.
If I change two elements and see a 15% increase, did element A cause the increase, or element B?
Was it a combination of both?
Instead of getting answers, your questions compound exponentially as time goes on with no actionable results.
Change one headline. Test.
Change one body of text. Test.
Use this data to your advantage, and don’t confuse yourself.
Lesson #6: Remember your ultimate goal is revenue
A lot of talk goes toward conversion rate optimization without acknowledging the fact that we’re really focused on revenue optimization.
You want more money because that keeps you in business and lets you achieve your goals.
And even though it might negatively affect conversions, sometimes revenue optimization takes you on a different path.
Like raising or lowering prices.
Let’s say you sell 100 products at $50 at a 5% conversion rate. That would make you $5000.
But if you put that same product on sale for $45 and sell an extra 50 products, you just made $6,750.
But you didn’t change a single element of your landing page or email. You just changed the price.
What I’m trying to convey (again) is that your overall focus needs to be on your long-term goal.
Incremental wins in conversion rates will eventually lead to big wins in revenue, like when I helped Adore Me boost their revenue by $5.6 million.
This means focusing on the big picture, or macro conversions over micro conversions.
A macro conversion is a big picture goal like buying a product.
Micro conversions are small wins like clicks and email address that don’t necessarily equal revenue.
If a test boosts micro conversions but not macro, find out why.
If it’s a permanent effect, drop your short-term gains for the long-term picture.
If you keep this in focus, you’ll stop your efforts from being bogged down in tiny details that are ultimately irrelevant.
Lesson #7: Drastic changes = drastic results
You’ll eventually hit a point where the low hanging fruit has been picked.
Congratulations, you’re now at a crossroads.
You can either keep trying to provide minuscule improvements to your conversion rate and maybe see some revenue increase.
Or you can start making drastic changes and take a jab at your own explosive growth hacks.
If you’ve hit a wall, consider adding elements you haven’t before, like video.
They’ve had success, with up to 20% increases in conversion rate.
This video from Mint is a great example of an “explainer video.”
Or like when I changed my contact page on Quicksprout into an infographic about my inbox.
These are the types of changes that get you noticed and can shake up your conversion rates when you’ve hit a dead end.
It’s where you can really input your own flair to help take your brand to the next level.
Conversion rate optimization is only hard if you make it hard.
If you can avoid the serious pitfalls that others experience, you’ll be well on your way to improved conversions and revenue in no time.
Just remember that this is a long-term endeavor. There are no overnight success stories here.
Don’t make gut decisions. Your data will beat your gut 99% of the time.
Optimize your site’s performance and take time to ensure your testing software is accurate and reliable.
Don’t fall prey to the quick-fix lure of multivariate testing. One variable at a time is the only way to get actionable feedback.
Above all else, remember that you’re here to improve revenue, not just conversions. The big picture always wins.
As long as you make incremental improvements over time, your conversion rates will turn into multi-million dollar improvements.
What tactics have you seen successfully improve your CRO tests?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
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What if there was a way for you to find your competitions most niche ideas without having to conduct an in-depth audit of their site?
Wouldn’t that be great?
Just think about what it could do for your own digital presence.
If you know what you’re up against quickly, you have a clear path to create more nuanced content.
So you’ll be doing your SEO a favor.
And that means more organic traffic and conversions.
Sounds good, right?
Hold on to your hats then.
Because I have a secret weapon that can let you steal your competitors’ ideas in seconds.
It’s 100% free to use too, which means anyone in any industry can use it.
In fact, you probably already know the basics.
There’s even a good chance that you use the platform every day.
That’s because my secret weapon is Google’s search operators.
And here’s why you should start using them immediately:
What are search operators?
Google search operators are commands and characters that you can input into your search bar that expand or limit your search.
They can be used for just about any purpose, including competitor research.
This really comes in handy when you have an abundance of information on Google, but you don’t want to see what particular people have to say on a topic.
If your competitors aren’t showing up immediately in your search results, a traditional search won’t be very helpful for research.
And scrolling through every search results would take way too long.
When nothing is showing up in search, and you don’t have time to wade through all the information that’s available, search operators are a lifesaver.
How do you use search operators to find your competitions ideas?
Search operators can be your friend for SEO, content marketing research, and many other reasons.
Unlike many of the specialized tools that are available, these are ready to be used immediately by anyone.
So to give you examples of how you can conduct research, I want to use a consistent hypothetical throughout this post.
Let’s imagine you’re a small web design firm that helps marketers and wants to take on DIY, low-cost or free online solutions like Canva.com.
How would you go about researching their content, marketing strategies, and audience?
Checking out their entire site would be a chore. So would simply Googling “Canva competitors.”
This might be helpful, but it’s going to send you on a wild goose chase as you click through other websites.
There are just too many search results. 185,000 to be precise.
You would be scrolling for hours to find the links that actually lead you to relevant and helpful information.
But what if you could simply pull up their best-performing pages in one go?
That’s where search operators help, and why I want to show you how to use them.
Just remember that this advice is to help you discover and innovate, not just copy.
Let’s get started.
When in doubt, use command chains
Actually, one word of advice before I get started.
The catch with Google search operators is that they can be tricky in application.
And they’re not always best without an additional operator or two to help them.
So with many of these examples, you may still have trouble narrowing down your competitor research if you’re using them alone.
Command chains allow you to use more than one search operator to sharpen your results.
These command chains will help you find an elusive page, or they could also act as shortcuts for the beginning of your search process.
Whichever way you decide to use them, chaining search operators will help you get the results you’re looking for in no time.
As I go through my advice below, I’ll show you powerful ways you can chain these commands and steal you competitions ideas.
Let’s start with a filter you can use pretty much universally.
Command #1: site:
Site: is a basic command you can use to find a page on your competition’s site without having to wade through everything else they’ve posted.
It restricts your search results so that they stay within the confines of a particular site, which means your results are hyper-focused.
It’s a great operator to use for when you want a quick list of actionable results instead of a laundry list of unusable sideshows.
So let’s say you’re researching Canva and want to see only pages on their website.
You can go to their site and click around, which might take a while.
Or, you can input site: canva.com into Google and let it work its magic.
Here’s what you’d get:
Notice all of these are specifically from Canva.com.
And you’ll also notice that even an absurd amount of searches in, it’s still all from Canva.com:
Which means no wading through ads, extra material you’re not ready for, or walkthroughs on how to use some obscure feature.
Just a concise list of pages from a single site.
By quickly browsing through this list of pages, you can develop a shortlist of ideas that you can use for your own designs.
But there’s a flaw with the example I just showed you.
In the example above you have design templates, infographics, a wireframe tool, and even more as your scroll.
You even have pages in different languages, as well as 1.2 million results.
That’s still not very helpful in the long run, which means you’ll need to start adding to your search.
Let’s say you specifically want to stand out in infographic creation. How would you research this?
Just add the phrase “infographic creation” to the search bar after you input the site: operator.
This is a much narrower pool of results at only 702.
Now, you can browse through and find relevant pages to your specific search topic.
By clicking on a post, you get a direct look at a few extra tidbits as well.
Let’s look at the top infographic post for example.
You immediately learn a few things and have ideas for how you can reach out to a competing target audience.
You also see how popular the article is in this case, and can get even more ideas by scrolling through the piece.
Now, just rinse and repeat with the other top-performing pages, and you’ve created a list of targets to aim your efforts at.
Simply putting the search terms “infographics” and “Canva” can lead you to the same results, but it can also leave you wading through tons of competitor content showing others how they can use Canva.
That type of search doesn’t provide insight into Canva’s digital marketing strategy, so including the site: operator narrows your search significantly and helps you get better results.
Command #2: intitle: or allintitle:
The second operator command you want to look at is actually two commands that do roughly the same thing.
The intitle: and allintitle: operator commands search for pages that have only your selected search terms in the title of the page.
They’re great for finding exact-match quotes or phrases that someone knowledgeable in your industry (like a competitor) might use as a headline for a blog post or landing page.
Here’s an example of how you can use the intitle: operator to get a narrower picture for your search results.
Let’s say you do a basic search for “infographic template.”
Congratulations, you now have over 24,100,000 results to sift through.
That should take roughly the rest of your life, right?
You don’t have time for that, so let’s narrow the results by using our intitle: operator.
That’s better. You now only have 925,000 results, which means you’ve already narrowed your search by 96%.
So you’re already seeing improvement.
The thing is, this still isn’t very specific.
And even though you won’t necessarily notice, this search operator is only modifying the word “infographic.”
If you include intitle:template, you’ll get a different and much narrower result.
Now you’re down to 244,000 results. That’s an almost 99% narrower field of results.
And you’ll also notice this is the same result as inputting our second operator allintitle: infographic template in favor of the more obtrusive intitle: infographics intitle:template.
That’s just hard to write anyways.
So you’ve significantly narrowed down your results to pages that only have your search term in the title.
You’ve weeded out 99% of the sites you don’t want to see, and can now browse through a specifically curated list of highly relevant results.
That makes this is a great tool for finding other high-performing pieces of content with your specific keywords.
It also gives you a benchmark for what you have to beat.
But there’s a way you can make the results even narrower.
How do you do this?
You add back in the site: operator.
Let’s get back to looking at our friends from Canva by inputting our first modifier.
You just knocked your results down to only four results.
There are too many decimal points in the percentage to share for that, but suffice it to say you’ve really narrowed things down.
But you now have specific results about infographic templates that are native to Canva’s website.
Now whether or not these exact examples are helpful, the principle applies when you’re doing your own research.
If you’re still getting too wide a pool of results with the intitle: or allintitle: operator command, drop the search down with an additional modifier.
It’s much more helpful for competitor research than a traditional Google search.
Command #3: intext: or allintext:
The intext: or allintext: operators allow you to search for a word or phrase, but only in the body text of the page instead of in the title.
The allintext: operator, much like the allintitle: operator, will help pinpoint pages that have phrases or larger groups of text without having to type intext: a million times.
That means you’re getting a more specific look at copy and seeing where else they’re putting content that points toward your specific topic.
It’s especially helpful in researching your competition’s on-page SEO footprints and how Google categorizes them.
Once again you notice that without a site modification, you’re given a wide variety of high-performing posts you can pull from.
You can see that your results are now based entirely on specific words and phrases that are in the text body of the page, including hints towards your target audience of marketers.
Now, in this case, many of them are also in the title, but I’ll show you how you can still use this as a tool for narrowing down our search to find specific ideas.
Let’s go ahead and add the site: operator command back into the search for Canva.
You once again have a very narrow pool of search results, just 533 down from your starting point of 3.5 million.
You also have a promising looking article that I’ve highlighted that gives tips and inspiration for the Canva user.
When you click on the page, you don’t have to go far to find out that this post is indeed for marketers.
It’s also well-liked, so you know you can get some good ideas from this post.
Now all you have to do is scroll through, read the post, and take your competitor’s best ideas and make them better.
But notice that you didn’t see this page on our previous search.
If you hadn’t narrowed your search to look at the text, you might never have flagged this popular post that’s aimed at the marketing crowd.
It’s always possible you would find it, but with the right search operator input it was one of the top choices.
Which means you saved a lot of time that would have otherwise been spent in frustration.
Command #4: Exact search with quotation marks: “word”
Our next command is another method you can use to find exact matches to a word or phrase, which is especially helpful for competitor keyword research.
By using quotation marks around your keywords, you can find results that are an exact match as opposed to the broader spectrum you’ll see with a normal search.
It can be used as a more generalized method of finding sites that are targeting your exact word or phrase.
Or, it can lead you directly to specific words and phrases on a site of your choosing, like a specific competitor.
Let’s see how it works on a search for “infographics for marketers.”
These results are perfect because you can now see a smaller list of exact word matches in both the title and body of your search results.
This is especially useful when you compare it up against a non-exact match search of the exact same phrase.
The very first thing I noticed is that I was getting results for “marketing” vs. “marketers.”
While you might say this is semantics, I see a very big difference in a generalized page for marketing rather than a specific page for marketers.
My search results are already muddy, and I haven’t made it past the fourth-ranked post.
So I hope you can see just how useful an exact match for your search terms can be even for a more generalized search.
But let’s not stop there. You want to know if your competitors at Canva are targeting this keyword, so let’s add our site: operator into the search bar as well.
It seems that Canva might not be directly targeting this keyword, which means a few things.
It’s very likely that there’s nothing more you can learn from Canva on this keyword, which is a letdown.
Or, you can now see an opportunity to present yourself as a solution in opposition to Canva for your audience of marketer based on this keyword.
Do you think you would have reached that conclusion without an exact match keyword? Probably not.
You may have unintentionally ranked for a keyword like this, but now you have a clear decision on what otherwise would have been a shot in the dark.
So use this operator as a generalized method of finding how others have implemented a keyword or keyword in their SEO footprint.
Then go and attack the keywords you find with top-notch content.
Command #5: Exclude Words: (-) or Add words: (+)
Sometimes when you’re researching your competition, you’ll need to include or exclude certain search times to find the results you need.
In those cases, you can use the (-) or (+) symbol to add or remove specific words in your search that you absolutely want to see.
As you could probably guess, the minus symbol is exclusion.
Say you want to find information about Infographics but don’t want to see too many examples of infographics.
So you modify with -examples, and here’s what you could get:
You’re now given another potential source of infographic template sites, like Venngage and Choose MyPlate, which you can draw ideas from.
You also don’t have to search through an extensive list of example infographics that might dilute your search for more specific advice.
On the other hand, the plus sign is the symbol of inclusion.
Notice the difference it makes when you use it for infographics related to content marketing:
This is our basic search without the operator attached to it.
1.1 million search results isn’t too bad, but let’s see what happens when we add our inclusion modifier.
Now we’re cooking. Only 146 results, which means we’ve once again succeeded in narrowing our results into a very curated selection based on our unique search term.
If you feel like you’re still getting too many results, or if you want to add in an even stricter modifier, you can add you exclusive term back in like this:
You’re now down to just six highly specific results, just like we achieved with our other search operators.
By taking a look at this specific content, you can dive deep into your competitor’s ideas and then innovate as appropriate.
Command #6: Related:
The last search operator I want to look at will help you cast a wider net and find more resources to draw ideas from.
In other words, if you want to open up the playing field, use the related: operator.
Related: gives you sites that are similar to a specific target domain.
Instead of taking a hyper-focused approach, you can see who else is out there in your space trying to do what you are.
You may find a good idea that helps you stand out from the crowd.
So let’s return to Canva and see if Google can help us find sites that have a similar model.
Only nine results, which is a huge success.
You now have a fresh list of extra sites that you can repeat all of this research with.
Use the insights you steal from your competition to launch your own custom content and overpower your competition.
Then rinse, wash, and repeat, because you know they’ll be moving forward with you.
If you’re stuck in the idea generation phase of creating digital content, you need to get out and see what your competition is doing.
But as we’ve seen, sticking to traditional search methods can give you watered down search results that don’t give you an actionable path forward.
Instead of stumbling through these results, narrow your research by using Google search operator commands.
These commands will let you filter by site, title, text, or even find other sites that are related to your competitor’s.
You can customize your operators as much or as little as necessary to give you the best results.
They can take your search results from a list millions to a single, highly specific page of results.
Stop frustrating yourself with endless scrolling through your search results.
Start using search operators to save time and start stealing your competition’s best ideas.
Have you used operator commands to figure out what your competitor is up to?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
Most firms say they cannot measure the return on investment (ROI) of specific pieces of sales content, according to recent research from Demand Metric and Seismic. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
I can’t get no satisfaction.
Aside from hearing it as the chorus in a rock n’ roll classic, it’s a phrase you never want to come from your customers. No customer satisfaction = no retention. No retention = shrinking customer base. And bad word-of-mouth. And plummeting profits.
Yes, you need a great product. Yes, you need a competitive price. But the future belongs to the experience around your product or service, through each stage of your sales funnel.
In fact, Walker Consulting predicts that experience will be the key differentiator by 2020. Not the price nor the product itself. It will first and foremost be about the experience – and customer satisfaction – you provide.
In essence, their satisfaction with your brand, your product, your service, your messaging, and more, will make or break you. Are you ready for that?
In the 2018 Digital Trends report, Econsultancy asked which opportunity businesses were most excited about for the year ahead. The #1 response?
Customer experience (aka CX).
More than content marketing, more than mobile, more than personalization, and more than social. Experience – and by extension, satisfaction – beat out some very heavy hitters.
The good folks at Walker also discovered that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better CX.
Businesses are going to focus on customer satisfaction and experience, and consumers are actively looking for those brands that deliver on the promise.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But of course, you may have more questions than answers: how do you achieve customer satisfaction? How do you increase customer satisfaction? How do you define customer satisfaction?
Let’s dig in.
What Is The Meaning Of Customer Satisfaction?
Before we explore it in more detail, we need to define customer satisfaction itself.
At its most basic, customer satisfaction measures how your product, service, and overall experience either falls short, meets, or exceeds customer expectations.
How you measure it varies from business to business. Some may base it entirely on retention and repeat customers, while others may create a numerical value based on data and/or customer feedback.
Regardless, it measures, rates, and attempts to manage how happy your customers are with you, your products, and your brand as a whole.
Happy = good. Not-so-happy = bad. It’s really that simple.
Why? Glad you asked.
The Importance of Customer Satisfaction in Business
It’s obvious that satisfied customers are a good thing. However, it may be a bit harder to articulate exactly why.
The short answer: companies that prioritize customer satisfaction grow and increase revenue. Those that do not, don’t.
So, are you prioritizing customer satisfaction and success? And if you’re nodding your head, are you absolutely sure? Less than half of surveyed consumers – only 48% – believe the brands and businesses they buy from are actually doing so.
Growth and revenue are key elements of a successful business. That goes without saying.
Beyond the growth correlation – if you actively work to increase customer satisfaction, you’re more likely to see an increase in revenue – there are plenty of other reasons to make it a top priority.
Take word-of-mouth, for example. It matters, especially in the ultra-connected and always-on digital world we call home. We can instantly share our experience with a brand with thousands of others on social media and review sites like Yelp.
And aside from that potential reach, we trust and seek out online recommendations:
That’s a lot of potential goodwill and positive publicity. But it works both ways. 60% of consumers share a bad experience with others – and they tell 3x as many people – compared to only 46% who share the good ones.
The takeaway? You’d better do your best to ensure each customer interaction is a positive one. If you don’t place a premium on relationship marketing and customer satisfaction, you won’t be aware of problems or complaints until it’s too late.
Once the word is out, it’s out. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you prioritize keeping your customers happy, you’ll a) reduce the number of unhappy ones, and b) know about and work to resolve dissatisfaction that much faster.
But the benefits of a customer-first approach don’t stop there:
Measure, understand, control, and improve.
Customer Satisfaction Goals
So, what should your customer satisfaction goals include? Hard to say. No one knows your business better than you. Your goals may not be my goals, and vice versa.
Generally speaking, you want to keep things simple. Use the SMART goal system (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-limited). Set only 1-2 at a time (otherwise they start competing with each other). Write them down (studies show you’re 2-3x more likely to follow-through). Keep them realistic.
Your first goal should be to start collecting customer satisfaction data if you haven’t already. That’s a no-brainer, and we’ll get into the how in a moment.
Identify the problem spots, the bottlenecks, and the frequent complaints.
After that, your goals may include reducing churn or increasing retention by X%, reducing the number of contact points with repeat customers, decreasing complaint response time, increasing the NPS by X%, experiment with different communication channels, boost the number of “completely satisfied” customer interactions, reduce shipping time, and so on.
What would most benefit your business and your customers? Go with that.
Learn How to Measure Your Customer Satisfaction
Now we get to the meat and potatoes. It’s all well and good to plan and promote customer satisfaction within your business, but how exactly does that play out in the world?
Hubspot recommends a simple acronym to remember the steps: OCCAM (as in Occam’s Razor, the idea that the simplest explanation or approach is usually the best one):
You can’t get much simpler than that.
Begin by asking yourself: Why? Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish? What do I want to get out of this?
A customer satisfaction survey is one of the easiest and most reliable methods for getting a snapshot of satisfaction levels around a particular element of your business (your products, your complaint resolution, your customer service, and so on). Popular methods include:
Next, determine who will receive your survey, and when. Immediately after a purchase? At the end of an online chat? A week after a complaint was lodged? Look to your goals from the first step for guidance here, as the who and when is determined by what you’re trying to accomplish.
The cardinal sin of data collection is doing nothing with it. Once you have the data, make sure you analyze and use it to make improvements. Otherwise, you’ve wasted everyone’s time and effort.
Some methods are easy to analyze – NPS is simply the percentage of Detractors subtracted from the percentage of Promoters – while others are more complicated. Many customer satisfaction tools have built-in analysis as part of the service. If not, a quick online search can provide dozens of tutorials and how-to guides.
Surveys with a single question and a multiple-choice answer are typically best, but don’t be afraid of longer ones with open-ended questions. They require more effort in both creation and analysis, but they also provide deeper and more varied understanding. You get what you put in.
Once you have some insight, use it. Make adjustments. Unclog bottlenecks. Remove friction. Make it easy and convenient for your customers to get what they want and do what they need to do.
That’s the whole idea.
3 Customer Satisfaction Examples
Looking for some inspiration? Here are three examples of the satisfaction game done right:
Trader Joe’s is a popular chain of grocery stores with 470+ locations. They have a truly remarkable return policy that puts customers completely at ease and removes all friction, especially those thinking of trying a new product. They will literally take back any product – even if it’s open and/or partly consumed – without a receipt. No. Questions. Asked. The policy includes food, beverages, and alcohol. Don’t like that new wine or beer? Bring back what’s left, get a refund.
With a generous return policy like that, you can bet everyone is recommending them to their family, friends, and followers.
Read or Leave a Review
Click the upside-down triangle, and you can select the star-rating that matters most to you, and instantly read the comments left by those consumers that rated it as such. What problems did people have that resulted in a 1-star rating? What pros motivated others to give it five stars?
Not only is Amazon collecting mountains of valuable data on customer satisfaction to answer those questions and more – allowing them to identify common complaints and issues – but they’re also leveraging that data immediately as testimonials – both positive and negative – for those thinking about making a purchase. One-click. One stop.
And that’s one of the many reasons why Amazon is the king of the e-commerce game.
Customer Satisfaction Survey
Dashlane is a password vault and manager. Already one of the most popular in the niche, they’re not resting on their laurels.
This simple NPS survey was sent out via email to existing customers, literally takes just seconds to complete, but collects priceless data and makes their customer base feel warm, fuzzy, and appreciated (their opinion matters).
The Best Strategies to Improve Customer Satisfaction and Retention
Convinced yet? You should be, so let’s jump into some of the best strategies for better customer satisfaction and retention.
Net Promoter Score
The NPS is one of if not the most popular strategies for gauging customer satisfaction with and loyalty to a particular brand. It’s simple, easy to calculate, and boasts some excellent completion rates because it takes just a few seconds to complete.
One basic question (usually a straightforward one like “How likely are you to recommend us/this product to your friends and family?”), and a scale from 1 (least likely) to 10 (most likely). That’s it.
Anyone answering from 0-6 are called Detractors. They’re your unhappy customers, and they can do a lot of damage to your reputation if left to fester.
Passives are those that answer either 7 or 8. They’re satisfied, but not really enthusiastic.
Your Promoters are those customers responding 9 or 10. They’re happy, loyal, and frequently recommend your brand and products.
Your NPS is a quick calculation:
Percentage of Promoters – Percentage of Detractors = Net Promoter Score (a value ranging from a low of -100 to a high of 100).
Just knowing your score instantly tells you how your customers feel about you. But you can do so much more with it: segment your customers into promoters (reward and encourage them), passives (what can you do to increase their enthusiasm?), and detractors (what issues are making them so unhappy?), collect “reasons why” (most services allow for a follow-up open-ended question about why they responded as they did), drive reviews and improve retention.
The Likert scale survey can deliver most of the same benefits, too.
Social Media Monitoring
The internet is awash in people talking about, well, everything. It’s your job to keep abreast of what people are saying about you, your brand, and your products. You can’t sit back and assume everything is hunky-dory.
To that end, social media monitoring has become a keystone of digital existence. And there’s a long list of top quality tools and services that do it for you (more on that below).
Select one, set a few keywords and phrases, and start listening. The faster you “hear” that someone had a bad experience, the faster you can reach out and try to fix it. Likewise, the faster you “hear” someone had a great experience, the faster you can reach out and thank them, possibly offering some special reward or discount for their patronage.
Listen. Respond. React.
Ask for Feedback
Ask and ye shall receive. The simplest way to improve customer satisfaction and retention is to ask for feedback.
Consumers are ready, willing, and able to provide feedback and reviews…if you ask them. Far too many businesses don’t bother. What better way to find out exactly how they feel about everything and anything than asking them directly?
It might be a message on social media, a short email, a pop-up on your site, a push notification, a link at checkout or the end of a chat, or anything else you can think up. The method isn’t all that important. The asking is.
Customers want to feel appreciated and recognized as individuals, not just dollar signs. Asking for their opinion gives them that, and gives you the concrete data you need to make good business decisions.
They feel respected. They feel valued. And that’s half the satisfaction and retention battle right there.
Asking for feedback is one thing. But how do you use that to improve customer satisfaction?
You provide solutions. If they’re unsatisfied with some aspect of your product or service, it’s easy to offer excuses and get defensive.
That benefits no one. You need to provide solutions to their complaints.
Shipping takes too long? Offer an express option. Customer service not available at midnight on a Tuesday? Launch a chatbot or self-serve help center.
Their problems + your solutions = better satisfaction and retention.
Try implementing these four strategies to increase customer satisfaction today. Not tomorrow. Today. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will kick start things and deliver some quick wins to motivate you and make you hungry for more.
Customer Satisfaction Tools And Methodologies
No matter what strategy or method you’re considering, the tools exist to make it fast, affordable, and convenient for businesses or any size or budget.
Net Promoter Score
Social Media Monitoring
No matter what you need, a Google or Bing search will find you dozens of tools and services to get the job done. Then, do it. Ask the right questions. Make the right decisions.
Are Customer Satisfaction Surveys Useful?
Ah, the $64,000 question. Is it worth it?
Short answer? Yes.
We’ve already seen the connection between prioritizing customer success and revenue growth. That alone makes it a worthwhile exercise.
Identifying satisfied customers allows you to nurture them into loyal customers using reward programs, special incentives, personalized content, and more.
A focus on customer satisfaction makes you stand out from the masses. Not everyone is doing it yet. Make an impression now.
Satisfaction surveys bridge the gap between what you think you’re doing, and what your customers believe you’re actually doing. For example, 80% of surveyed CEOs said they deliver an exceptional customer experience, but only 8% (!) of customers agreed. That’s a serious disconnect.
In 2018 and beyond, the customer experience and satisfaction is everything.
What is The Best Way to Deal With a Difficult Customer?
No matter how hard you try, you will encounter unhappy, upset, and difficult customers. How you deal with them will determine your overall success.
You can’t make everyone happy all the time. Don’t even try. When a difficult customer crosses your threshold – digital or otherwise – follow a few best practices:
Of course, they are other tips and tricks you could employ in the situation, including some psychological strategies if you want to get fancy, but the steps outlined above are the simplest way to turn a difficult customer into a satisfied one.
How To Treat Customers And Provide Them a Good Service
It goes deeper than that, of course, but treating them with respect at all times goes a very long way in creating happy, satisfied, loyal customers.
In addition to that:
We could devote an entire post to this subject. Suffice to say, follow the golden rule: treat others as you’d like to be treated. You may be a business owner, but you’re also a customer at other times. What do you look for in exceptional customer service? Do that.
Common Questions About Customer Satisfaction
The quality of questions you ask determines the usefulness of the answers you get. You can – and should – ask questions about every aspect of your customer service:
Ask how well a product meets their needs. Ask about the most important missing features. Ask which features are most important to them. Ask them what one thing they would change. Ask if they’d recommend your business or product to a friend. Ask if they’re likely to buy from you again. Ask about the ease in which they accomplished their purpose (make a purchase, make a complaint, resolve an issue). Ask about your competition. Ask, ask, ask.
Ask questions. Get answers. Then ask why they gave that answer. Keep it short. A multiple choice or scale question with a short input field to explain why is about all you need.
Customer satisfaction is your business, regardless of your product, industry, or niche. You must make it a priority. That’s true today, and will only increase in importance in the years to come.
Collect, analyze, and use data on customer satisfaction for every stage of your funnel, every interaction and touch-point, every product launch, and more. Pick and choose your moment, of course, as no one wants to be inundated with surveys all the time. But no area is off-limits for selectively surveying and asking for feedback.
That’s how you improve. That’s how you grow. And that’s how you turn customers into repeat customers and repeat customers into cheerleaders.
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
Pricing can be one of the most sensitive parts of a marketing proposal, but these four tips can help your prospects focus on the value of your services rather than the dollar amount&#8212;and give you their Yes. Read the full article at MarketingProfs