Stop me if this doesn’t sound like a familiar conversion rate optimization strategy…

Step #1: You find a leak on a certain page in the funnel that needs fixing.

Step #2:  You think to yourself: “Let’s Google best practices on fixing this issue.” 

Turns out, blog posts say yellow call to action buttons work 10X times better than green (…or any other random “best practice” articles that promise a 500% uplift in one day). 

Step #3: You spend tons of hours creating a new variation and get many team members involved.

You also spend a lot of resources launching that test.

After all, it’s these best practices that will help optimize conversion rate right?

Step #4: Results come in. You have no idea why that didn’t work or you got a small uplift in conversion but have no idea why or what to do next.

Step #5: Rinse and repeat.

This chain of events is one of the most common and frustrating things about conversion rate optimization. 

I see this process happen time and time again within every business I talk to or work with. 

Here’s the thing; this process won’t make you a conversion rate expert.

The reason this keeps happening is because conversion rate optimizers keep repeating the same three mistakes most people are making in conversion rate optimization. 

I’m not the only person who realizes this. I asked members of my We Optimize Facebook group to identify the common mistakes people make on landing pages.

We Optimize Facebook Group Poll

Although this poll focused on landing pages, these mistakes fall within the three broad categories of conversion optimization mistakes I’ve seen.

Mistake #1: Making meaningless changes to pages.

You change stuff like headlines or button colors, single elements on a page, and expect them to yield the amazing, record breaking results you see in different articles.

Mistake #2: Not having a solid strategy.

You follow best practices from blog posts, listen to random advice and guess what to test. Lack of a solid strategy means you keep following best practices that won’t work.

Mistake #3: Missing the point of conversion rate optimization.

You treat conversion rate optimization as a bunch of tactics to get more signups, downloads or sales. No thought is given to the customer and the emotions that drive the customer’s purchase decisions.

3 Common Mistakes Made With Conversion Optimization

You might be thinking “Shoot, I’ve made one (or all) of the above mistakes!” 

But, don’t stress.

All conversion rate experts have been there.

I was in the same boat until I learned the power of emotional marketing

What matters is that I’ve stopped making these mistakes and so can you.

My goal today is to help you become a better conversion rate optimization expert.

We’ll discuss the different traits, skills and characteristics you need to work on first and then talk about a conversion rate optimization process that will help you feel confident with the tests you run.

All of this will help you deliver meaningful results.

The Most Essential Skills That Make a Successful Conversion Rate Expert

There are many skills and traits that are required for being a conversion rate expert. 

As opposed to other fields in marketing, like SEO or PPC for example, conversion optimization requires a person to be profound and have experience in almost every aspect of marketing: research, data analysis, UX, psychology, copywriting, design and many more skills. 

So, it becomes very hard to either become a successful conversion rate optimizer or hire one for your team.

It comes as no surprise then that a repeating question I get from clients, conference attendees, CEOs of large companies and entrepreneurs I meet is, “How do I become an outstanding conversion rate expert that drives meaningful results and contributes to the growth of a business(or hire someone like that)?”

The question always revolves around identifying the skills required to be a conversion rate expert.  

However, with conversion rate optimization, it’s not just about the skills or experience, it’s about the type of person you are.

I admit. I’ve been hiring people for conversion optimization positions for more than a decade now and it is NOT an easy thing to do.

I have struggled with it and it took me a long time to figure out the type of people I’m looking for and who I actually want to hire. However, I’ve determined over the years that no matter what business you’re in, there are three skills that all successful conversion experts possess.

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#1 A Conversion Rate Expert Must Be Passionate

Most people want me to name specific skill sets. 

My answer is always the same; skills and techniques can be taught but passionate, dedicated people are extremely rare and should be held on to.

Knowing how to set up a campaign in AdWords or a variation in an AB testing platform isn’t all that matters. 

A conversion rate optimizer should have a passion to learn, grow and drive the company forward.

For our CRO consulting service, we don’t look for advanced or extremely experienced individuals. We search for analytical, creative and customer- driven people who want to continuously learn and optimize their surroundings. 

A true conversion rate optimizer isn’t just someone who can optimize a funnel, but someone who constantly optimizes their life. 

Passion is something that cannot be taught, which is why it is a huge decision factor for our team.

Talia Wolf's Conversion Rate Expert Quote

As Wil Reynolds, Founder of Seer Interactive, puts it,  “Tenacity over Tenure.”

Wil Reynolds weighs in on skills required for a conversion rate expert

Tenacity Over Tenure

“I tend to look for curiosity primarily.  Our industry is still in its infancy, and I find that with the amount of change we have going on getting “set in your ways” is career suicide.  

In that I have found that sometimes people who have a strong desire to learn & 2-3 years experience coupled with an environment that supports learning can run circles around a 8-10 year professional who isn’t as curious, so also don’t get caught in the tenure trap.” 

Many CEOs and managers agree. It’s about finding the people who have the passion and willingness to learn, the rest will follow. 

This isn’t something you can teach yourself to be. Passion needs to be embedded in you as a conversion rate optimizer. It should be part of your personality. 

#2 Your Work As A Conversion Rate Expert Isn’t Done In Isolation; Teamwork Is Crucial

I only hire people who can work as a team and get things done together.

An effective team, one that constantly grows and optimizes the business (or your client’s business), is one that:

  • Works together
  • Listens
  • Learns from each other

Uncooperative teams are one of the biggest issues companies face; people working alone, not communicating enough or spreading knowledge within the team.

This uncooperative approach to work causes a lot of frustration and things being missed. At times, it even results in people working on things that have already been covered by another team member.

A productive team is one that helps each other out and motivates one another. You’re looking for team members that compliment each other, work well together,  take on their own responsibility and are aligned under the same goals. 

These are the qualities that create a winning team that is connected far beyond just the workspace.

This is even more crucial for a conversion rate optimizer as you must be able to work with anyone on the team: product, development, design, sales and customer success. 

Working well with everyone assures you can generate valuable insights and data to optimize the entire funnel, not just one point in it.

Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz, looks for people who can move mountains and inspire teammates.

Sarah Bird weighs in on what makes a good conversion rate expert

Inspire Teammates

“I look for initiative, creativity, empathy, and technical skill. The person with these skills can move mountains for the customer, and inspire their teammates.” 

 

Larry Kim, Founder at Wordstream also gives a great deal of thought to teamwork as part of his hiring process.

Larry Kim weighs in on the skills every conversion rate expert needs.

Culture Fit Matters

My company has hired nearly a thousand people and contractors in the last 10 years. So we’ve done a lot of hiring overall. In marketing, I look for channel specialists rather than generalists – people who are remarkably great at the things they do. To determine this, I ask situational questions like: tell me about your greatest ad campaign and why it worked? Or how do you prioritize what topics to blog about? (etc.) I also look at culture fit. It doesn’t matter how great they are if they are going to make life miserable for everyone here.” 

#3 Agility Is A Must Have For A Conversion Rate Expert

You must be able to adapt and move fast as a conversion rate optimizer since change is constant in the digital world. Whether you’re an early stage company or a large corporation, you want to focus on learning and implementing as quickly as possible.

While many other teams may be able to take their time (product or engineering for example), conversion rate optimizers have to constantly change according to their findings, the market and new data that keeps coming in. You have to constantly learn new skills, try out new technology and optimize conversion rate at a fast pace.

Hiten Shah at CrazyEgg elaborates…

Hiten Shah weighs in on the skills every conversion rate expert needs.

Be A Quick Learner

“I believe that the ability to learn new skills and tactics fast is one of the most important characteristics. The way I would assess that is by asking candidates to tell me about the last time they learned something new for their job. I’d want to hear how they approached it and the results of applying what they learned.”

Georgiana Laudi, digital strategist and former VP of Marketing at Unbounce puts it simply, she is constantly looking for people who are ready to get their hands dirty and move fast.

Georgiana Laudi weighs in on the skills every conversion rate expert needs.

The Ability To Dig In

“I’m all about people who give a shit, and get shit done. To me, those 2 things are more important than a particular skill set (since those can be learned, particularly if you give a shit). The ability to dig in, get your hands dirty and hustle while you do it, is priceless. Achiever types have a big influence on the rest of the team as you build it out too, drive and passion tends to be contagious.”

The 3 Basic Traits of a Successful Conversion Rate Expert

Conversion rate optimization isn’t a profession you can learn anywhere. There are only a handful of online courses led by various agencies and consultants that require a heavy background in marketing for enrollment. 

So, most conversion rate optimization experts learn on the job. They gain experience by running hundreds of tests and learning as they go. They also work as PPC managers, designers, digital marketers, growth marketers or marketing managers. This is why you need 3 basic traits in order to become a successful, well rounded conversion rate optimizer. 

#1- Analytical Conversion Rate Experts Are Better Able To Optimize Conversion Rates

The first step in optimizing conversion rates is to find the leak in the funnel. To do that, you can’t be afraid of numbers.

You must be curious and like to dig deep. You need to know where to look, what tools to use, and how to use them.

One of your first goals will be to identify what visitors and customers do on the site, where your funnel could be leaking money and turn that data into insights you can use to optimize the site. All these steps require analytical skills and a lot of curiosity.

Dr. David Darmanin, Founder and CEO of Hotjar, agrees.

Dr. David Darmanin weighs in on the skills every conversion rate expert needs.

4 Crucial Traits of Successful Conversion Rate Experts

“At Hotjar we don’t believe skills are critical since they can be learned. However, what we look for are the following traits:

– Analytical, data driven and inquisitive

 – Technical – enough to understand how the web works and question the product

 – Creative and understands demand generation – how to get people to want what you have

 – Customer focused – obsessed at finding better ways to create value for them”[

#2- Customer-Driven Conversion Rate Experts Succeed

Many marketers forget there are people behind the screens. They spend a lot of time analyzing the behavioral elements of an audience – their age, geographical location and the browser they’re using, but not enough time really getting to know the customer on a personal, more profound, level.

Conversion optimization isn’t about fixing technical things on your site. It’s about meeting and solving your customer’s expectations and challenges. 

Every visitor who arrives on your site is there to solve some sort of challenge (whether to find something to wear or a SAAS platform to solve their team’s issue).

So, you must not only be data informed, but also customer driven, constantly exploring, learning and researching your customer’s challenges, their expectations and looking for ways to solve them.

You also need to know how to use emotional marketing to influence buying decisions. 

#3- A Conversion Rate Expert Is Process Oriented

What you want to avoid at all costs is optimizing your funnels based on intuition, someone else’s best practices or random blog posts that promise 500% uplifts in one day. 

A process is necessary if you want a successful CRO program, one that drives growth, knowledge and those amazing results you’re looking for.

Lack of process is what leads most optimizers to making those top three mistakes we discussed earlier. As a conversion rate optimizer, you must be process oriented and able to follow a constructed process for optimizing your customer journey.

Mackenzie Fogelson, Founder & CEO of Genuinely, sums up all traits and personality attributes in what they look for in a successful employee.

Mackenzie Fogelson weighs in on the skills every conversion rate expert needs.

The Most Powerful Traits

“Hands down, we look for people who:

Are excellent (if not superior) oral and written communicators – This is imperative not just for the client-facing experience, but also for internal interactions and overall team synergy.

Embrace uncertainty, change, and a good amount of risk – The people we hire must also have an “always-testing” mentality, knowing that no one ever has the answer; we need to be agile enough (without wasting effort) to continue to figure out where our expertise can provide the most value for the companies we work for

Are analytical and holistic – People who can get dirty with data and also approach their work from an integrated perspective and how all of the integral pieces of a company and their marketing must work together

Understand how to set boundaries – Work has to fit into the lives of your employees, not the other way around. Our job is to find the people we can trust to do the work under a variety of circumstances and get out of their way so they can get it done

Finally, and most importantly, we look for people who have a very strong understanding of self-awareness and are willing to work on themselves as people – Our work as consultants requires us to work closely with and gain the trust of teams of people who are very busy and often overwhelmed. Being authentic and genuine is imperative to how successful we will be implementing recommendations and how big of an impact we will make on these companies we’re working with.” 

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The Next Step in Becoming a Better Conversion Rate Optimization Expert

So far, we’ve discussed the traits and characteristics required to be a successful conversion rate optimizer.

But, there’s one piece of the puzzle still missing – the conversion rate optimization process itself. 

Remember, conversion rate optimization isn’t meant to be a tactic, a means to optimize specific KPIs within the funnel rather than seeing it as it is – a way to transform your entire business.  

The only way to truly optimize your funnel and see real growth via conversion rate optimization is by transforming the way you treat optimization. 

Conversion rate optimization needs a much bigger place in your marketing strategy because it can help you optimize every part of your business (online and offline).

A successful conversion rate optimization program drives not only more subscriptions or sales, but can optimize your ad campaigns, your acquisition funnels, retention emails, billing processes and even your shipping.

For example, PowerupToys increased their sales by over 95% and 10X their leads via our conversion optimization program. But, more importantly, the conversion optimization program drove meaningful insights to the business, helped them optimize their products, and also helped them understand their customer better. 

We learned the challenges these customers face, how to talk to them, and what drives and motivates their decision making process. We were then able to optimize their entire customer journey to create a long-lasting impact.

 READ THE FULL CASE STUDY HERE

Conversion rate optimization is all about gaining knowledge and optimizing every single aspect of your product and customer journey. That’s when people will start paying you top dollar for your conversion rate optimization services.

How To Create An In-Depth Conversion Rate Optimization Program

 

So, how do you create such a process? Well, first you need to understand one very important thing (prepare to be shocked); A/B testing is just one part of the conversion optimization process, it isn’t everything.

In fact, there are many steps that come before even launching your first test (which most optimizers tend to ignore) that should be performed by all conversion rate optimizers. 

These steps can be executed by any size company, even those with little to no traffic.

Talia Wolf's 4 step conversion rate optimization process

#1 The Research Phase

The first step looks at any leaks in the conversion funnel using behavioral analysis. Some of the tools we use include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Hotjar (for heatmaps)

This behavioral analysis helps us understand:

  • The actions customers take on the site
  • The browsers and devices these customer use
  • Website pages they visited
  • Where in the world they’re located
  • Any other relevant behavioral elements that help us identify the source of the problem

Not all leaks are worth fixing though because they won’t impact the client’s bottomline. So, we use Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg’s  prioritization scoring system to determine:

  • Impact – What’s the extent of the impact optimizing this part of the funnel will have on the bottomline?
  • Time – How much time is needed to effectively execute this project?
  • Resources – What resources (people,tools,space etc.) are needed to execute the project?

We have since optimized this scoring method by adding more elements to it. There are many prioritization systems that you can use, including the LIFT model.

#2 Emotional Targeting Research 

This is where we deeply anaylze the emotional triggers that influence customers’ purchase decisions. We use that data to create a psychological profile for these customers. 

Our emotional targeting research, prioritization, insights, and observations then help us formulate a hypothesis of what we can do to fix the leak. This hypothesis helps us create a conversion optimization strategy. 

According to Craig Sullivan, a good hypothesis has three components:

 

  • Data
  • Expectations
  • Metrics
Craig Sullivan's Hypothesis Test

#3 Building The Experiment

 

Step two would have helped us clearly pinpoint the emotions we’re trying to trigger. All we need to do now is use the right elements to highlight those emotions. We’re essentially testing our hypothesis.

Seven Steps For Testing The Conversion Rate Optimization Hypothesis 

  1. Write copy that converts
  2. Wireframe and design the landing page
  3. Create an email sequence.
  4. Update the development team on the relevant components. 
  5. Use our testing tool (usually Google Optimize) to set up the test.
  6. Review the test to ensure it meets our quality assurance (QA) standards.
  7. Launch the test. 

#4 Testing, Analysis And Further Optimization

We don’t just run the test and leave it. This is step is where we do everything we possibly can as conversion rate experts to help our clients get results. We:

  • Monitor the test
  • Double check the quality midway to ensure everything is ok
  • Analyze the test
  • Create a report
  • Launch a new test based on what we learned 
  • Continue optimizing

The report we present to clients includes:

  1. A strategic analysis of the test’s impact
  2. Insights the client can use to improve other areas of the marketing machine
  3. An accurate record of everything we did for future reference
  4. A clear outline of what should be done next to further optimize the asset

So, everything is documented so that we can clearly identify the impact each test has on conversions. What makes this 4-step process different from the strategies other conversion rate experts use is the emotional targeting methodology.

Your Next Steps To Become A Conversion Rate Expert

I could’ve listed many more traits and skills required to become a successful conversion rate optimizer. There are many skills and traits that can be taught and learned in various ways. 

But, a true passion for knowledge, optimization and growth isn’t something you can learn.

Whenever I meet a fellow conversion rate optimizer at an event, we joke about how easy it is to identify a true optimizer outside of their workplace; we’re the ones who keep thinking about how to optimize restaurant menus, TV remotes, entrance paths and even the queues to the bathroom.

If you have this basic passion and willingness to learn every day, you’re definitely on the right path to becoming a better optimizer.  

Think I’ve missed out on crucial skills or characteristics for the job? Let me know in the comments.

– Talia

PS – If all else fails, try to recruit Professor Xavier to your team… I mean who doesn’t want a mind controller on their marketing team?

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