The Conversion Research Plan For
Impatient Marketers

Josue Valles
Josue Valles

Conversion rate optimization is fun, especially when you get straight to it and start testing a ton of different things.

You might test color after color, change your landing page copy, and even follow the UX best practices closely. But no matter what you do, you might not be getting the results you want - which leads to crying. Lots of crying.


It’s because you didn’t do your homework. More importantly, you didn’t do your conversion research.

And while no one can truly say that they “enjoy” homework, conversion research helps you create a testing plan so that you not only achieve higher conversion rates and higher profits, but that your tempo of testing doesn’t slow down.

When you discover why visitors are leaving your well designed landing page or site without converting, you’re able to come up with a more effective testing hypothesis, and, therefore, your likelihood to succeed increases.

You ready?

Let’s get rolling.

What’s Conversion Research, Anyways?

When it comes to CRO, data is the most crucial element as it helps you understand your audience.

Those who understand their audience better, are the ones who will win the war in what we call “marketing.”

Brian Clark puts it well:

“The battle is won or lost, right here. Put me up against the greatest copywriter in the world,
and if I understand the audience better, I will kick his or her ass whenever it comes to connection, engagement, and conversion.”

When you know how to track and interpret the right data, you’re able to address real problems, not just arbitrary guesses, and, therefore, you’re in a better position of increasing your conversions.

For instance, data can show you the demographics of your audience, their interests, challenges, and even desires.

With that information, you could make more accurate decisions - like the color choice, verbiage, and the right imagery.

In addition to that, the right data can help you develop smarter test hypotheses, which are a key element for an effective CRO.

Here’s where conversion research comes in handy:

Conversion research is a strategic approach focused on identifying and interpreting relevant data to find possible points of friction in a sales funnel - and, ultimately, to increase the overall conversion rate.

Many companies and agencies have experienced big improvements in their conversions after implementing conversion research.

One of those companies? Walmart.

After doing some research, Walmart realized that a huge percentage of their visitors were coming from mobile devices, but Walmart’s site wasn’t fully responsive. This issue was causing that many visitors leave the page without buying.

conversion research
Adjust your site to your audience - image source

Once Walmart redesigned their site, conversions increased by 20%. This increment wouldn’t be achieved without that previous conversion research.

But Walmart isn’t alone.  

Moz - a leading SEO company - made $1 million by interviewing their customers to know how they would improve the product. They used that information to improve their landing page and offer exactly what customers wanted.

The new landing page was more engaging to visitors - image source

Another good example is Black & Decker.

Through rigorous research, they were able to increase their click-through rate by 4.1%, which increased projected annual revenue by six figures.

conversion research tips
See how they added "Where To Buy" next to the Search bar? - image source

The bottom line?

All major improvements in a sales funnel are preceded by rigorous research, so if you really want to succeed, you must take conversion research very seriously.

But before you start gathering random data, I want you to understand the two types of research you can perform: Qualitative and Quantitative.

Introduction to Quantitative Research

“Quantitative research is about asking people for their opinions in a structured way so that you can produce hard facts and statistics to guide you.

To get reliable statistical results, it’s important to survey people in fairly large numbers and to make sure they are a representative sample of your target market.”  - Marketing Donut

In other words, quantitative research is all about the numbers - you’re looking for patterns in your audience’s way of thinking, so you can align your marketing efforts with those patterns.

For example:

  • An experiment that concludes that a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
  • A survey that discovers that 61% of the most effective B2B content marketers meet with their content team daily or weekly.
  • Interviews that conclude that 61% of companies carry out less than five tests every month.

That kind of information can help you identify and fix possible points of friction within your sales funnel.

Think about it:

If you find that a 1 second delay can decrease your conversions, you could start working on your website’s speed.

On the other hand, if you find that 86% of your audience are women, you could start reframing your marketing message, so women feel more attracted to your brand.

As you can see, data can open your eyes – the right information can help you perform conversion research the right way.

There’s no one-size-fits-all method to find quantitative data. Your approach needs to be completely aligned with your business goals and resources.

“The aim of the quantitative research method is to test predetermined hypotheses and produce generalizable results.” Acaps

This means that all quantitative methods don’t allow people to express their opinion, but just predetermined choices. For instance, multiple choice surveys, where the participants can’t respond with their own words.

quantitative research marketing
MC Surveys are one way to get quantitative data - image source

Your goal is to determine the relationship between one thing and another within a population.

When done properly, quantitative research can help you answer crucial questions like:

  • Is there a market for your products and services?
  • What awareness is there of your product or service?
  • How many people are interested in buying your product or service?
  • What type of people are your best customers?
  • What are their buying habits?
  • How are the needs of your target market changing?

We’ll go over ways to gather quantitative data later in this post.

That said, let’s talk about the other face of the coin: Qualitative Research.

Introduction to Qualitative Research

“Qualitative research is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research.”  Snap Surveys 

In simpler words, qualitative research is all about finding WHY users think and behave in a certain way, what’s their opinion about your products or services, and why they buy or not buy.

Qualitative research can also help you find what’s trending in your industry, your audience’s biggest challenges, and even the exact words they use to describe those challenges.

Smart marketers use that information to create more compelling marketing material and attract users by addressing the right problems.

For instance, you could integrate an exit survey on your website or landing page so you can understand why people are leaving and what can you do to improve their experience.

exit-intent survey
Exit surveys gather more detailed information about your visitors - image source

You could also interview your customers one by one via phone calls, and ask them what’s their experience with your product and what you can do to improve it.

By performing these kind of activities, you’ll be able to understand your audience in a deeper way.

As a matter of fact, StubHub - the world’s largest ticket marketplace – increased conversions by 2.6% by performing qualitative research.

Using UserTesting, they found that their “See Details” link was confusing to visitors, so they removed it. That minor change allowed StubHub to make millions of dollars in extra revenue.

Awesome, right?

There are many methods you can use to find qualitative data. Here are the most common ones:

  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Direct observation
  • Open surveys
  • Frequently asked questions customers ask

As you can see, qualitative research is a great tool to know who your audience is. With the right data, you can develop more accurate buyer personas, test the right elements, and make data-driven CRO decisions.

Leverage The Power of Analytics

20 years ago, marketers struggled to understand their audience. Traditional marketing channels were hard to track and results weren’t accurate.

In other words, nothing was easily correlated. Nowadays it’s much (and I mean much) easier.

Digital channels are completely measurable - now you can see how many visitors your site is getting every day, the exact percentage that buy, and other relevant information that can help you make the right decisions and grow faster.

For instance, with analytics, you can find the age of your visitors, their language, interests, and many relevance patterns like bounce rate and time on site. This data can lead to a well-thought hypothesis that can ultimately generate more revenue for you.

Most people don’t know how to use analytics the right way, though.

First, they don’t know where to find the right data. And second, they don’t know how to interpret data.

If you’re one of those people, don’t worry.

There are two main sections you should pay attention to (assuming you’re using Google Analytics, you already know your current conversion rates, and your account set up correctly).

In case you haven’t. Here’s a list of resources that will help you out.

1) Audience

In this section, you’ll find information that will help you determine who your audience is.

First, head over to your Google Analytics account and click on “Audience.”

cro analytics
Find out who your audience is.

Then, you’ll see a list of sections you can click on. Here they are:

  • Demographics – age and gender
  • Interests – affinity categories and market segments of your audience
  • Geo – language and location
  • Behavior –  the time users spend on your website,  what pages they visit the most, returning visits, and new visits.
  • Technology – what browsers visitors use the most.
  • Mobile – the type of devices your audience uses.
  • Users Flow – the path your visitors follow from the moment they arrive your site to the moment they leave it.

With the information you found in this section, you should be able to create more detailed buyer personas and come up with some hypotheses.

2) Behavior

This section will help you learn how your audience interacts with your website.

Again, head over to Google Analytics and click on “Behavior.”

behavior in marketing
Find out the behaviors of your audience.

You’ll see the following sections:

  • Site Content – how many visitors you’re getting on each one of your pages, landing pages, and exit pages.
  • Site Speed – the average loading time of your website.
  • Events – you can use this section to track data about interactions with your content. For example, “Play” button clicks.
  • Site search – if you’ve set up an in-site search, this section will show you the keywords and search terms people have used to find content within your site.

The information you find in this section will tell you whether your site or landing pages are performing as they should. For instance, if your average loading time is above 3 seconds, you can potentially lose 47% of your visitors, which would obviously hurt your bottom line.

Make sure to analyze this data carefully and very often.

Resources to dig deeper:

Three Awesome Ways to Gather Accurate Data

At this point you should understand the most important concepts of conversion research.

And although there are many ways to start gathering accurate data, here are three of the most effective ones:

1) Heat Mapping

I know, I know.

It seems like everyone knows about heat mapping these days. But are you able to be actionable with the data?

Heat mapping is one of the fastest ways to get actionable information you can use to increase your conversions.

For those who are not familiar with this term:

“A heat map is a two-dimensional representation of data in which values are
represented by colors.” -

In other words, heat maps allow you to see how visitors interact with your website or landing page (where they click, how they scroll down, etc.) so you can identify points of friction or lack of attention very quickly.

Place your CTA where those high attention points are - image source

This technology has allowed many companies and ppc management agencies to uncover revolutionary information – like the F-shaped pattern for reading web content and that people aren’t paying attention to banner ads anymore.

This is why I highly recommend that you start implementing heat mapping. You’ll find conversion ideas that you have never thought about before.

For instance, you might find that your visitors are paying more attention to the right side of your website, so your hypothesis could be that by incorporating the most important elements on the right side, could help increase your conversions.

You could also figure out that one of your navigation links is distracting people from your call-to-action button, so you could start by moving that link to the bottom of the page.

There are different types of heat maps you can use. Let’s break down the most common ones:

A) Scroll Mapping - Scroll maps help you see how people scroll down your pages and where most people stop.

cro research tools
Lighter areas indicate where people stopped scrolling  - image source

The lightest (yellow) areas shows the number of times each part of the page was visible through a browser window.

Tools that provide you with this feature:

B) Click Mapping – Click maps allow you to see where people click the most, which helps you know where you should place the most important buttons and links.

click mapping
The dots allow you to see where your visitors are clicking - image source

Tools that provide you with this feature:

C) Confetti – Confetti allows you to distinguish all of the clicks you get on your site segmented by referral sources (social networks, blogs, websites, etc.) and search terms.

cro researching tools
You can segment those clicks even further by using confetti - image source

Tools that provide you with this feature:

D) Session Recording – Session recording allows to see where your visitors are looking and what parts of the site they're reading by visualizing their mouse movements.

cro tool
Track your visitors' mouse while on your site - GIF source

Tools that provide you with this feature:

Resources to dig deeper:

2) Leverage The Magic of Usability Testing

In words of Wikipedia:

“Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a
product by testing it on users.”

But in simpler words usability testing is a practice that consists on watching how real users interact with your site, so you can easily detect and fix usability issues.

And since you’re collecting feedback from real people, this is a great way to come up with a good CRO hypothesis. In fact, many companies have gotten great results by implementing usability testing.  

Hello Sign – An iOS app that allows users to sign and send documents online – went from four to five stars very fast thanks to user testing.

user testing tools
Redesigning the login page made a difference - image source

Another example is Sidelines. Through consistent user testing, they increased landing page conversions from 5% to 55%.

conversion research
Before the revision. Attention + Interest + Desire = Success - image source

The good news is there are plenty of tools you can use to automate almost all the process. All you need to do is sign up to one of them and start watching how real users test your website or product.

Here are some tools I recommend:

1) UserTesting - This tool provides you with videos of real people speaking their thoughts as they use your product or visit your website. This is great because you can get feedback from real people in a very natural way.

2) Five Second Test – First impressions are crucial, right? Well, this tool allows you to hear what people recall about your website after watching it for only five seconds. Five Second Test also provide you with a word cloud of commonly occurred keywords, so you can understand how people feel when visiting your site.

3) Concept Feedback – This free tool allows you to upload screenshots of your website and get them reviewed by real people within minutes. It’s a great and quick way to get valuable feedback to improve.

4) Peek - Before you pay a dime, try using Peek from UserTesting. They’ll give you a free 5 minute visual and audio recorded video of someone giving feedback on your site or landing page.

Resources to dig deeper:

3) Perform Effective Customer Surveys

Customer surveys are one of the most effective ways to gather both qualitative and quantitative data (depending on the type of survey you use). And although they’re very simple, you can get amazing results from them.

PhotoShelter is a web app that lets photographers create effective websites. Through several customer surveys, they found that users were desperate to try the product.

conversion research
Photoshelter doubled their sales with some simple steps - image source

And even though PhotoShelter already had a freemium version, it didn’t allow users to use all the features, so users got disappointed.

conversion research customer surveys
Photoshelter then gave more features to try it for $1 - image source

Based on that information PhotoShelter decided to offer a free trial so users could test the whole product before purchasing. That small tweak allowed PhotoShelter to double sales.

Now the question is:

How can you get similar results?

The key is to follow these 4 principles:

1) Think about your business objectives – Everything you do needs to be aligned with your business goals.

2) Survey the right people – If you want to improve your product, survey your customers and people who have used your product in the past. If you want to improve your sales funnel, survey brand new buyers and the people who didn’t buy. If you want to create a high-ticket product, survey customers who tend to spend a lot of money.

3) Survey the right amount of people -  according to Alex Birkett, somewhere between 100 and 200 is the ideal quantity.

In his own words:

“After 200 responses, the answers tend to get repetitive and don’t add value (and they take longer to analyze, using up more resources).

But if you have less than 100, and there might not be enough data to identify trends or to draw conclusions from.”

4) Ask the right questions – some rules of thumb are:

- avoid “yes or no” kind of questions

- keep your questions as simple as possible  

- ask one question at a time

That said, let’s talk about the most effective types of surveys you can implement:

A) Exit Intent Survey

This kind of survey appears when people try to leave your website.  They are very similar to an exit-intent pop-up, but instead of asking for an email address, you’re asking people to answer some questions.

exit intent survey
You'd be surprised at what people have to say when they leave - image source

Since you’re surveying people right when they your site, you can collect very accurate data.

Many tools allow you to create these kind of surveys. Here are some of the best:

B) Email Survey

Email surveys are very straightforward. All you need to do is create a survey and send it to your email list. Depending on your relationship with your subscribers, a good amount of them will complete your survey.

email survey
Make your email engaging and entertaining to try and get feedback - image source

Here are some tools you can use to use email surveys:

C) Paid Survey

This is my favorite because you don’t need to have a huge list or a big audience to start collecting data.

Basically, this kind of survey consists on exchanging money for survey participants. Many companies are willing to show your survey to their audiences and it’s a great way to start.

conversion optimization research
Yes, you need to spend some money, but it’s totally worth it.

Here are some companies that allow you to implement this kind of survey:

Resources to dig deeper:


How to Pinpoint and Outsmart Your Competitors

Most marketers think competitors are annoying. Me? I think they are a great resource to find what’s already working in your industry.

No, you can’t copy exactly what they are doing, but you can model it – and sometimes that’s all you need to start.

For example, you probably know that certain colors work better than others, right?

cro colors
You definitely can depend on Oreos to make you feel better - image source

Well, you could find well-performing colors in your industry by examining the colors your competitors are using.

You could also find certain words your competitors use over and over again on their landing pages. Those words might work well for you too.

There’s a catch here, though.

What works for your competitors won’t necessarily work for you. However, the information you collect from auditing will give you an educated clue of what you can test to increase conversions.

Marcus Sheridan - founder of - found that all his competitors weren’t delivering any advice to their customers so he came to the conclusion that a blog could increase his conversions, and he started blogging.

outsmart your competitors in marketing
Why not start a blog about swimming pools?

That blog helped Marcus to become the #1 influencer within the pool selling industry.

The good news is you can get very similar results by following the next steps:

Step 1: Create a list of 10 competitors.

If you can’t come up with 10 competitors right away, you can use SimilarSites. This tool allows you to find websites that are similar to yours.

similar sites
You should definitely know who your top competitors are.

Step 2: Analyze their whole strategy.

Subscribe to their newsletters, analyze their colors, sales funnels, and everything they do. Make sure to document their strategy.

Step 3: Develop a hypothesis.

With the information you found, you can start brainstorming hypotheses for your tests. You can’t rely on competitors’ data, though - you need to always complement your findings with your own data.

For instance, if you found that all your competitors use blue colors on their websites, but 86% of your audience consists of women, you shouldn’t use blue colors.

On the other hand, if your competitors have their sidebars placed in the left side, but your heat mapping results tell you that all your visitors are paying more attention to the right side, you shouldn’t model your competitors’ strategy.

You need to use the common sense and complement your findings with the information you collect from competitive auditing.

The bottom line?

Instead of complaint about your competitors, take advantage of them.

Resources to dig deeper:


Are You Ready to Take Your Business to a Whole New Level?

See, homework isn’t so bad. And conversion research homework is much simpler than it seems with these strategies and tools I mentioned above.

So get ready to ace those exams, and by exams we mean your conversion rates, and let me know which of these tools you’re planning on using.

Chapter 7:
CRO Trends and Research

What You’ll Learn: See the conversion rate statistics, benchmarks, and the latest trends so you can easily check if you’re on the right track or not.

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