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What does a conversion rate optimisation expert really do?

When you were at school did your careers teacher ever suggest that being a conversion rate optimisation expert might be a great job? No, thought not. It’s one of those careers that just never existed until a few years ago, like web master, professional blogger or Wizard of Light Bulb Moments (yes, that’s a real job title). 

So given that there are now thousands of people worldwide who make their living by being an optimisation expert, what exactly do they do?

Conversion rate optimisation expert

An optimisation expert is the star of the show when it comes to getting more sales from your website. He or she is person who ‘optimises’ a website to improve the visitor experience and get them to spend more money. There are three ways users might spend more:

  • More people buy (ie: more visitors converted to customers)
  • People buy more often (ie: customers place more orders more often)
  • People spend more when they do buy (ie: the average value of each order goes up).

To do this, the optimiser needs to make the site easier to buy from. In all three points above, ‘people’ is at the core – so the optimiser needs great people skills. But that’s not all.

Conversion rate optimisation is a team sport

They also need the skills to carry out rigorous research and analysis to find out why customers don’t order more and spend more. And they need to be a good team player to work with designers, copywriters and developers to create new web pages to fix the problems.

So far so good…

But what exactly does that involve? How does an optimiser fill his or her time? What does a conversion rate optimisation expert really do?

Left brain skills: Research and analysis

Here’s what one AWA optimiser recently did on a web optimization project for a major UK retailer:

  • Analysed 20 million Google Analytics and Coremetrics sessions
  • Observed website visitors for 20+ hours during usability research
  • Examined the click pattern from 175,000 sessions using heat maps, scroll maps, confetti maps and others
  • Read and analysed 20,000 survey responses
  • Performed 443 navigation tasks using specialised tools
  • Read numerous live chat transcripts
  • Conducted five store visits, interviewing store managers and shop floor staff
  • Interviewed the Customer Service team and the live chat operators

All this led up to a ten-point plan pinpointing exactly the areas that were holding the website back from making more money – and why.

Finding out what to A/B split test

Some of the areas were a complete surprise to the client, holding out the possibility for huge profits that would never have been discovered without doing the groundwork. Other areas were suspected to be an issue, but without evidence the client didn’t have the confidence to tackle them.

Now the client has the focus to carry out changes and the knowledge about what form those creative changes should take. We’re not talking cosmetic changes but real developments that get to the heart of the business.

Right-brain skills: Creative Execution

Developing creative work

The optimisation expert’s role now is to create new web pages for each of the areas identified as troublesome. This will be done as a team with specialist designers and copywriters, as well as developers to get the test live. The optimiser acts like the conductor of an orchestra, bringing these teams together, making sure they understand the heart of the issue and creating a solution that makes the most of the opportunity.

Statistical skills for A/B testing

When the test is launched then the optimisers statistical skills are brought into play. Do you understand exactly what a 98% statistical validity really means?  Most of us don’t but it’s vital that the optimiser does – if only to prevent everyone getting excited when there’s a spike on the graph that looks like a winner but really isn’t.

When the A/B split test has run and is declared statistically valid, the optimiser will work with the client to decide what to do next. If it’s a big win the client should put it live on the main site straight away, to start getting in the extra revenue.

Evaluating the results

If it’s a small win, or if it goes down, there may well be some valuable learnings to be had. This is where the judgment skills of the optimiser really comes to the fore. As the central person who has analysed the data and conducted the usability sessions with live users, the optimiser is the person who can interpret the results with clarity and marry it to the motivations and experience of the user.

In our experience, it’s often the small or negative test results which can lead to the breakthrough of a huge win – but only when it’s informed by the genuine desires of the customers, which comes out of rigorous research.

A good web optimiser

left-brain-right-brainConversion rate optimisation expert may be a fairly recent job title, but it involves ancient skills, following in tradition of a renaissance man. Optimisation experts need to use both left and right brain in equal measure, have an intense curiosity and a passion to work long hours to get to the heart of what really matters to mankind. A rare beast, and if you find a good one, nurture them for they will make you a fortune.



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