Ultimate Guide to Conversion Optimization

John // Uncategorized


October 16  

Here at Income Mesh, I’m all about conversion optimization. And as much as I want to dive straight into advanced strategies, in this post I want to go back to the beginning.

At the end of this post, you will learn:

  • What is a Conversion and Conversion Optimization?
  • 14 Key Conversions in Your Online Business
  • Tips and Tactics on how to improve your conversion rates easily


What is a Conversion?

In Marketing, a conversion is the point at which a recipient of a message performs a desired action.

Pretty basic, right? Your online business has a purpose. Building influence, selling products, and to achieve these goals, there are several smaller actions that you need your visitors to take.

Some of these actions are things like:

  • Getting your visitors to read your posts
  • Then getting them to join your email list
  • Then getting them to buy your product

So with this working definition of what conversions are, we are ready to add optimization to the discussion.

Conversion Optimization

Conversion optimization is the systematic process behind measuring & improving your conversion rates using controlled methods and experiments.

In other words, when you are optimizing your conversions, you have stepped out of the world of hobby blogging, and have entered a whole new arena.

This is where  you put on the lab coats and start following the scientific method to discover better ways of running your business.

The scientific method lets you:

  • Develop theories on what would convert your audience better in a critical part of your business
  • Design experiments to test these theories in a way that doesn't impact the experience for your audience
  • Measure the results and try to reach statistical certainty that you have built a better mousetrap
  • Learn from the experiment and do the whole thing over again to find further improvement

While this all seems high-tech and difficult, it doesn't have to be.

There are incredible tools available today to put a lot of this work on autopilot, and I am going to share 14 of these with you now.

Here's an outline of what you're going to learn so you can jump to the part you want 🙂

Conversion #1: Opt In Ratio

We all want more leads on our email list, right?

Well the best way to get more of them is by having a compelling offer to give away in exchange for your audience’s email address.

Call it a lead magnet, opt-in, freebie, whatever. It’s all the same thing – the first transaction you have with your audience where they give some of their personal information to you in exchange for the solution to one of their problems.

But make sure that it is something of value that sets the first impression with your readers and makes a great first impression.

So how do you know if your offer is a good one?

By measuring it’s opt-in ratio!

Depending on how your website is set up, this can be very easy, or slightly more difficult.

Here are a few ways to measure your email opt-in success rate:

3 Ways to Measure Your Opt In Success

  • Using Google Analytics, set up a goal that measures the number of page views on your landing page, vs the number of views on your confirmation page (This only works if you have a specific confirmation page for every opt in page)
  • Using your email provider, view the conversion rate of each specific form
  • Using a 3rd party tool like Thrive Leads or Bloom, look into their built in analytics

The example I show above is a snapshot from Bloom, which shows a 16.9% conversion rate for this specific form.

How to improve your opt in rates

It’s important to remember here that not all email opt in offers should be converting at the same rate.

Conversion rates depend on a number of factors, like:

  • How warm or cold is your traffic?
  • Is the email opt in the only action the reader can take?
  • Is the offer relevant for where your reader is right now?????

For example, if you are sending paid traffic from Facebook to a landing page that is 100% dedicated to getting their email address, you would expect to get a higher conversion rate than if you sent that exact same audience to a long blog post where the opt in is hidden somewhere 2,000 words down.

As you start to measure your opt in rates, keep track of what types of opt ins do the best for you. This way you can begin to hone in your specific marketing channels that lead to the best conversion rates.

Key Takeaways

  • Email opt ins measure # of visitors on opt in page vs # of visitors that saw your confirmation page.
  • The higher the conversion rate, the better
  • Not all opt in styles are going to convert the same.
  • Get a baseline for a type of opt in area, and use A/B split testing to improve your conversion rates.

Conversion #2: Blog Pop Ups

This may be cheating because this conversion is very similar to #1. However, it is very important that we cover pop ups, because they have seemed to consistently perform higher to build lists.

Aren’t pop ups annoying though?

Yeah, maybe. But they still convert, and with good reason.

If they are set up correctly, your readers will think that you are reading their MINDS and offering them a solution to a problem they were only just realizing they had:

If you were reading a great post, about starting your first blog and at just the right moment this pop up appears, you will be very likely to click on it.

How do you increase your chances with pop ups?

Use engagement triggers. Most tools will allow you to set engagment triggers that will allow your pop up to appear at the right time. Some engagement triggers you can test are:

  1. When your reader has been on a page for x seconds.
  2. When your reader has scrolled down x% of the page.
  3. When your reader reaches the bottom of a post
  4. When your reader has been inactive for x seconds
  5. When your reader is about to leave the page (exit intent)

Stack your triggers. Just because you have an engagement trigger set, that doesn’t mean you have to stop there! You can include multiple triggers for the same form, so that the form will be displayed either when the user reaches 50% of the page OR is about to leave the window (for example).

This is a great way to increase your likelihood of catching your readers at the right time, BUT also have a last ditch effort to make sure they see it before they bounce off your site.

But this begs the question…

How to avoid annoying readers with pop ups

Display settings in Bloom for pop ups


Pop up triggers, while effective, can also have some negative side effects if you aren’t careful.

Here are some quick tips to make sure you don’t annoy your existing audience:

  1. Limit the number of times your viewers are shown the pop ups. I like to set my pop ups to only display every 2 days. So if I see the pop up on Monday but don’t opt in, I won’t see the same pop up until Wednesday.
  2. Make your pop ups relevant. If you have 3 topics on your blog (dieting, running, and lifting weights for example), create a specific offer that is targeted to each category of posts.

Key Takeaways: Pop Up Forms

  1. Increase Pop up Conversions by making them engagement based
  2. Limit visibility of your pop ups to once per day to avoid frustrating your readers
  3. Make the Pop up offers relevant.

Conversion #3: Sales Page -> Checkout Page

Moving on past the list building conversion metrics, we can start to dive into the money-making conversions, which are much more fun!

The sales cycle can be simplified down to the following flow:

Somehow you get your readers to find your sales page. This could be through an email promotion, finding your product on Google, a link from a blog post, whatever.

The first conversion in this process is to convince a reader of your sales page to view the checkout page. You are convincing the reader to move forward with the purchase.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they will MAKE the purchase, but it is the first convincing step.

Studying sales pages is a career all on its own, but below are a few areas to consider when optimizing your sales page for conversions:

General Sales Flow

Sales Page Tests

  1. Short form vs long form. In general, the more expensive the product, the longer your sales page is going to need to be to convince a potential buyer.
  2. Video Sales Letter vs Written Sales Letter. While video is definitely becoming a huge way to build a relationship with your reader, it is not always the best way to convert someone to becoming a customer.
  3. Picking Testimonials.  You definitely need to include testimonials on your sales page to convince your readers that OTHERS have purchased your product and gotten benefit from it.

But which testimonials should you use? Hopefully you will have several testimonials sent in from previous success students, but you may struggle to find the perfect ones to put on your sales letter. The best way to cut through the guessing is to group your testimonials into groups, and test one group against the other!

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of tests you can run on your sales page, but it will give you several places to think to increase your conversions.

The whole goal of your sales page is to get the visitor to click through to the checkout page and make the purchase (which is the next conversion!)

Conversion #4: Checkout Page -> Successful Sale

Here is where the money is made! The checkout page is normally a very simple page, and most programs like Samcart, Thrivecart, Teachable, etc have pre-built templates that limit your ability to customize their appearance.

This is most likely a good thing for us however, because these companies have done all the research to determine which elements are helpful for conversions, and which ones are wasted effort.

The main elements you want to test for conversions on your checkout page are:

Scarcity. Some tools like Deadline Funnel and Thrive Ultimatum will allow you to inject true scarcity into your checkout process. Additionally, you can choose to close your cart throughout the year and sell in “seasons”. More simply, you can simply include a count down timer at the top of your checkout page.

Checkout page video. Thrivecart has added the feature to include an actual video embed onto your checkout page. This may be helpful to reassure your money back guarantee and other benefits of your product WHILE the customer is entering their credit card info (in case they start to get cold feet).

Testimonials. Just like your sales page itself, you should be putting testimonials onto your checkout page to build credibility and trust with your potential customers. A/B testing your selected testimonials will make sure you find the right voice to convince people to buy.

One-step vs Two-step. Teachable has recently moved to a 2 step checkout process where visitors first enter their name and email info on one screen, and put their billing info onto a second screen. The idea here is to make the user feel like they are making progress through the process, and to avoid them looking at an intimidating number of fields to fill out all at once.

Thrivecart gives you the option to select one-step or two-step. This would be a worthy option to split test.

Pricing Structure. This is a scary option to test, but it is likely one of the most impactful. If you run a membership site, would you make more money by charging month to month, or in quarterly payments? One time fee for lifetime, or annual membership?

If you are selling a one-off product, would you sell more volume if you reduce the price, or would you diminish the perceived value of the product?

Marketers will continue to debate the perfect pricing structure, but the best way to know what works for YOUR audience and YOUR product is to test. Luckily, platforms like Thrivecart allow you to do pricing split tests directly in their platform.

Conversion #5: Blog Post Bounce Rate

The ultimate goal of blogging is to build a relationship with your readers in order to get them to know, like, and trust you enough to join your email list and build a stronger relationship with you.

But in order for any of that to happen, you need to get them to actually consume your content.

This is why I like to measure a few conversions around my content marketing.

Bounce rate on your blog posts is an imperfect, but useful measurement to see how you are doing here.

Measuring Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

In your Google Analytics Dashboard, you can navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and view your top 10 page statistics:

Looking at your bounce rate, you can see values hovering from 10% (meaning 10% of the people who viewed that page did not engage with it), all the way to 88%.

The lower the bounce rate, the better.

Some pages will naturally have higher bounce rates than others. For example, the “Thank you Page” that you show your users after the opt in SHOULD have a very high bounce rate, because you really aren’t asking for engagement. For these pages, there is really nothing to optimize.

But for other pages like pillar posts and sales pages, bounce rate is a metric worth testing to optimize.

Luckily, optimizing for bounce rate is a little easier than optimizing a sales page for clicks, because the root cause of the bounce should be much more isolated.

Key Takeaways: Bounce Rate

Keep your bounce rate low by focusing on:

  • Site Speed. We all know that feeling when you are waiting forever(i.e. more than 3 seconds) for a page to load. We get antsy and flee. You can run your website (or specific post) through https://gtmetrix.com/ and look for ways to optimize page speed.
  • Intriguing (but relevant) headline. Here is double edged sword. You need to find the right balance to create a catchy headline that is more than just click-bait. Luckily for us, Thrive has a very useful plugin to help you test multiple headline ideas against each other to optimize for reader engagement.
  • Gripping opening paragraph. Much like the headline, the next most important part of your post is to engage the reader immediately and make it clear why your post is worth their time and attention.
  • Featured Image. We are visual creatures, so make sure you’ve included an interesting featured image (not just a stock photo!) that will make the reader curious about the info in your article.

Conversion #6: Page views -> Comments

Just like bounce rate, comments is a great way to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing.

Of course, comments don’t necessarily equate to dollars, but it can be a pre-cursor of you building a loyal and engaged tribe.

And while bounce rate focuses mainly on the initial engagement with your post (reading past the first line), measuring your comments shows how many readers are still active at the end of the post, which can help you determine proper blog post length and writing style.

Conversion #7: Emails Sent -> Emails Opened (Open Rate)

Time to jump into Email Marketing! The first conversion to track here is your Open Rate, which is the percentage of people who are opening your emails.

So if you send your email to 100 people, and 60 of them open your email, your Open Rate is 60%.

Your email marketing platform is likely one of the most expensive tools in your overall stack, so it is important to get results!

Here are some tips to improve your open rates:

1. Email consistently.  Whether you email daily, weekly, or some other schedule, it is important to maintain consistency. Once your subscribers get accustomed to receiving emails from you, they will begin opening them more frequently.

2. Intriguing subject lines.  Much like your blog post headlines, you need to focus on creating a compelling headline in your emails to get the clicks. Test with personalization (adding your subscriber’s name in the subject), putting emojis in, or adding questions to the subject to make them irresistible.

3. Auto Resend. Just because someone didn’t click your email immediately doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. Everyone is overwhelmed with the volume of emails they get daily, and yours might have just been missed.

Luckily for us email marketers, advanced platforms like Drip and Mailerlite have a feature built in just for this. You can set rules to have the same email re-sent to the subscribers that didn’t open the original email within a set period of time (like 2 days).

This can be done with the same subject line, or with a different one to improve your open rates. While this is a great feature, it requires balance (especially if you email multiple times per week), and should be reserved for the more crucial emails in your sequence, like emails with important offers in them.

Conversion #8: Emails Sent-> Links Clicked (Click Through Rate)

Email marketing is useless if your readers don’t take action on the offers you make. Enter click-through rate.

Your click through rate is the number of links clicked in your emails, divided by the total emails sent.

2 links clicked / 100 emails sent = 2% click through rate

To improve your click-through rate:

Test short emails vs long emails. They say the human attention span is now less than 10 seconds long. While we always want to make our emails valuable, test sending emails that are much shorter to see if they get more clicks out of your audience.

If your audience knows that every email you send is a novella, it may make them be more selective about the ones they click through.

Appropriate calls-to-action. If you are writing an entire email about your workout routine, the link you include in your email may be to a health-related blog post or video. Don’t try to send your audience to a sales page about Facebook advertising! Keep your calls to action appropriate, relevant, and natural-feeling in the context of the emails to increase click through rates.

Single purpose emails. If your email has 7 different links to click on, you run the risk of confusing your reader with too many choices. Each email should have a single objective. It’s good for you because you will be able to measure impact more clearly. And it’s good for your reader because they will more easily be able to complete the action and get the info they need from you.

If you find that you need to add multiple CTAs every time, it might be time to increase email frequency.

Conversion #9: Facebook Ads: Cost per Lead

Paid ads are an incredible way to rapidly build your business, but only if you are effectively measuring and managing them.

A key conversion metric for your ads is your cost per lead (CPL).

If you spend $10 on ads and get 20 sign ups to your email list, your CPL is $0.50.

There are a ton of ways to improve your CPL. A few key options are:

  • Placement. News, messenger, sidebar, instagram, etc
  • Headline. We’ve beat headlines up enough today. Yes, they’re important 
  • Content. Long-form story ads have become more popular recently, so long as you can keep your readers’ attention.
  • Imagery. Single image, gallery, videos… plenty of options to test to find the perfect image.
  • Audience targeting. Lookalike audiences, website traffic visitors, retargeting, cold traffic, interest targeting… limitless options to find your perfect audience.
  • Landing page. This one may seem out of place, but the experience of going from Facebook ad to your landing page should be as seamless as possible. If you have a particular color scheme on your website, try to incorporate the same color scheme in the ad. You want your visitors to clearly feel like they belong when they land on your landing page.

Conversion #10: Webinar Show Up % – Registrations -> Webinar Attendees

Webinars are great! Where else can you go from someone knowing NOTHING about, to having them spend an entire hour learning your story, coming to trust you, and be interested in your product – almost instantly?

But webinars are only effective if you can actually get the registrants to show up to the event!

Webinar attendance can be measured by the number of registrations divided by the number that actually attend the webinar.

So if you get 100 registrations for your upcoming webinar, and 35 show up – you have a 35% attendance.

A common sales funnel looks like this:

Paid ad -> Webinar registration page -> Webinar -> Sales Page

In this model, you are paying for every registration you get! So it is important that you optimize the attendance rate to give you the best chance at profiting in the end.

To optimize your attendance rate, here are a few areas you can test:

Give your registrants options. “Evergreen” webinars (automated) have risen in popularity due to their scalability for the entrepreneur, and their convenience for the attendee.

If you perform all your webinars live, you likely only have the ability to do a few per week (if you want to make time for anything else in your business).

Having an automated option with your webinars will give your readers the option to pick a few time slots per day that are convenient for them, and some even allow the viewer to catch a replay within minutes!

Email sequence to warm your audience up. Automated webinars may not be in everyone’s budget, which is totally fine! You can still improve your attendance % by crafting a thoughtful autoresponder sequence to warm up your registrants to remind them of their upcoming event.

Many webinar platforms even have this feature built in, because they know it is one of the best ways to keep your message top of mind.

Retargeting your registrants on Facebook. This option may seem counter-intuitive, but it is an approach that can absolutely be profitable.

It is widely understood that retargeting audiences can be some of the most profitable advertising you can do on Facebook.

This strategy can even extend to webinar registrants. Let’s see how this can work.

If you get someone to register to a webinar that is 5 days away, you could create a specific Facebook audience that retargets them with reminder ads up until show time.

This is a good strategy to use when preparing for a big live performance where you really want to maximize your attendance.

Conversion #11: Webinar Attendees -> Sales

Of course webinar attendance is not the end goal in the funnel – Sales are!

So how do you go about increasing your sales rate off your webinars?

Of course, entire books have been written on this subject, but here are a few quick bullets you can tackle in your testing:

Tempo. When putting on a webinar, tempo – or the overall pace of the presentation – is crucial. It needs to be fast enough to keep your audience engaged and listening, but not so fast that you confuse your audience and lose them.

While you can practice and practice to get the tempo right, ultimately it’s just going to come down to repetitions of doing it live.

Many platforms have some built in engagement analytics so you can see at what point you have drop-offs in attendance. Examine it, see what happened at that point (did you drag on in a story for too long?) and rinse-repeat with your new tweaks.

Story sells. As an engineer, this is a truth that I struggle with. While facts and statistics are great, they will never sell as well as a dialed in story.

People do business with people, so it’s important to craft that emotional connection that helps them understand you, and why they should do business with you vs someone else.

The offer. Webinars can sometimes be annoying, because when it gets to the end, you know exactly what’s coming: a long, drawn out offer with bonus on top of bonus.

This is known as “the offer stack,” and there are many psychological factors at play here.

After your attendees have been engaged for a full hour of education, you probably have them excited and feeling motivated to take action.

The sequence of offers helps build up an incredible hype, as if you are giving them EVERYTHING they need on a silver platter to succeed. And as the offer unfolds, you price the individual pieces at a rate that is believable, but higher than you would ever consider charging them. This way, when you finally reveal the reasonable price, your audience has to think it is a no-brainer!

Conversion #12: Affiliate Links clicked -> Affiliate Sales

Conversions are equally important for affiliate marketers, and strong affiliate programs can sometimes provide easy access to your conversion metrics.

For example, SiteGround web hosting affiliates have a clear view of how many times their affiliate links have been clicked, and how many affiliate sales have been attributed to them.

This allows them to increase their conversion rates using many of the methods already mentioned in the sales page sections.

Conversion #13: Number of Membership signups vs renewals

One of the holy grails for online business owners is achieving consistent, recurring monthly income through membership communities.

But one of the challenges facing these business owners, is that they now have to convert their members month after month.

There are a few tactics to “decrease your churn,” or increase your conversions month over month:

Drip content over time. Some members take a bit of time to fully indoctrinate into your community. Dripping content – releasing it over the course of weeks or months – allow your users to pace themselves through the value you have to offer.

Create community engagement funnels. We always think about funnels as a way to sell a product. But a valuable concept in membership sites is creating user engagement funnels – a systematic process where you can introduce members to each other and create micro-communities to give a social aspect to your site and retain members through their own friendships they form. Think about social mixers in the first week of college – same concept.

Systematize your value creation. Do you offer members only webinars every week? A new post every 2 days? Or do you randomly provide help based on how you feel?

I bet you can guess which method is going to maximize your membership!

Conversion #14: List Growth -> Dollars Earned

I’ve saved the best for last. In my opinion, this is the most important overall conversion for you to track.

You might have heard the phrase before, “The money is in the list.” Or some variant of it.

This is a nice way to track the truth in that statement.

The goal with this conversion is to understand your overall effectiveness at converting leads to customers.

To do this, take a particular time period (I like to look at monthly snapshots), and divide the total profit you generated over that time period by the number of leads you added to your email list over the same period.

So let’s say you made $5,000 from affiliate marketing, $10,000 in course/ebook sales, and $1,000 in Adsense money. Your total income for that month was $16,000.

In the same month, you also spent $6,000 in expenses (software, contractors, marketing spend, etc). So your profit for the month is now $10,000.

If during the same time period you added an additional 2,000 leads to your email list, then your $/Lead would be $10,000 / 2,000 leads = $5 per lead.

This is an incredibly powerful KPI to your business. What this means is that you could theoretically pay up to $5 in advertising cost to collect a new lead and still turn a profit.

When you combine that with a strong understanding of your Cost per Lead (Conversion #9), you now have a predictable roadmap to growing a huge audience.

But a quick word of warning. Online businesses can have huge spikes – posts going viral, launching new products, a great joint venture deal, etc.

Make sure when doing this math that you take out some of the unpredictable events and simply work off a profit level that you can reasonably expect to maintain over time. Better to be conservative here and create a framework that you can repeat over and over.

Go forth, and convert

Today we’ve just covered the top 14 conversions that you need to be tracking and improving in your online business.

What conversions do you track most closely? Are there any that you track that aren’t on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author

John Whitford is an entrepreneur who has built over 12 profitable online blogs and businesses. He's also the founder of Unbeatable Tech, a data-driven digital marketing company that specializes in sales funnel implementation for both his own businesses and clients alike. John loves to be a beach bum while brainstorming new ideas for marketing strategies, but he's always excited to take on another project!