conversion optimization tips
Project Ignite Podcast by Derek Gehl Conversion Optimization Tips With Justin Christianson
00:00:00 00:00:00
  • Episode  35
  • Justin Christianson


Justin Christianson is a conversion optimization expert. His company, Conversion Fanatics, and his book of the same title, are designed to simplify and streamline A/B testing–and today he is going to be sharing conversion optimization tips you can start applying today. The importance of testing is so underestimated and it can be hard to get started, but Justin has a few tips and strategies to get the ball rolling for you.

Transcript: Conversion Optimization Tips With Justin Christianson

Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast–a podcast designed to skip the hype, skip the BS, and bring you real, actionable tips and strategies to help you grow your business and your income on the Internet. If I’ve done my job, at the end of this podcast, you’ll have a list of actions, tasks, and steps that you can use to start making more money.Today we are diving into a topic I love–conversion optimization. Essentially, that’s getting more visitors at your website to take more action, and buy more stuff. Today’s guest is a conversion fanatic. He’s a thirteen year marketing veteran and best-selling author of the book Conversion Fanatic: How to Double Your Customers, Profit, and Sales with A/B Testing. He’s also the cofounder and president of Conversion Fanatics, which is a full-service conversion optimization company.

This gentleman eats, breathes, and sleeps conversion and today I am going to mine him for his best conversion optimization tips. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Justin Christianson to the show.

Justin, thanks for being here!
Hey Derek, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Awesome. Before we geek out over conversion stuff, could you just take a minute and expand on your introduction here–how did you get online and become this conversion guru?

Actually, I learned a lot from you back in the day. I started in 2002 when this whole interweb thing was really kicking off. I started in MLM, and quickly realized that wasn’t the game for me. I found Internet marketing, and affiliate marketing, failed miserably for a handful of years, then found a bit of success and went full-time in 2005.

I was the number one affiliate for one site, and then became a partner there. We grew the company to millions of dollars in profit, and then I sold my share and went into private consulting. People were hung up on the technical aspects of marketing. Then in the last few years, we’ve formalized it, built a team, and really just took it to a whole new level.

Before we started out recording today, you said you’d been dealing with companies with anywhere from $10m to $200m in profits. So you deal with conversion on a pretty significant level.

For everyone listening, whenever I can get a guest like this that’s dealing across multiple businesses in different industries and at such a significant volume, I just love these interviews because you get to see so much more than someone just working in their own business in their own niche.

So let’s start at the beginning. When we talk about conversion optimization, knowing we have beginners and veterans online listening, how do you define conversions? What’s the biggest thing people need to know about optimization?

Optimization is not all about split testing. Split testing is just the tool we use to prove or disprove a hunch. Optimization is finding what makes your visitors tick, and then leading them down the path of least resistance to your end goal.

You find out what makes them tick, and in all of those incremental steps along their journey with you, you’re giving them more of what they want. It could be changing a button colour, or completely redesigning and rewriting a page. It all comes down to leading them down the path of least resistance, and trying to get more people to take that action at each step.
That’s a good explanation. I’ve been faced with this one: so I have websites, with different opt-ins, different lead captures, different products, multiple entry points from multiple channels, it turns into a behemoth. Where do you start? How do you start?

You have to look at your data. That’s the biggest thing. I saw a statistic recently that 97% of website owners collect data of some sort, but less than 30% actually did something with it.

When’s the last time you logged in to your Analytics account?

I’m kind of a junkie. But most people just don’t look.

You have to look. Your visitors will tell you exactly where they’re having hang ups.

I usually start there. Pick one or two traffic sources. Then, figure out where people are falling out within that path. Based on the analytics, then, we survey our lists to find out what their biggest pain points are. The more information you have on how to best deliver your product, the better off you are.

Then we move to competitive analysis. We look at competitors in the marketplace. We look for the low hanging fruit. You might be getting 2% of your traffic taking up your free trial, but only 5% of that taking your upsell. So your low hanging fruit there would be figuring out how to get more people to take your upsell.
conversion optimization tips
That’s a big friction point. You might have a video sales letter, and your analytics will tell you that 80% of viewers leave at minute three; so you’d want to look at minute three and try to figure out how to push people to minute four.

So I think a lot of people that are listening probably aren’t even looking at their analytics, like you said. I think a lot of people need to start with defining their end goals. Figuring out what they’re working towards. That brings me to my question: we talk about analytics. Where do we start from a tool perspective?

You’re probably using the Cadillac of analytics. But let’s look at the average tools that most people are probably using.

So I have Google Analytics open. We have a website with traffic from different sources. Where do you go?
I check which pages they’re visiting.
Are we talking landing pages? General pages? Paths?

Yeah–I just want to see where they’re going.

What are they paying attention to the most?

So once we know that, what do we do?

We look at the path that they’re taking, and we analyze those existing pages. So we see maybe that the bounce rate is really high on the page. Anything that shows us what’s holding people back.

You might think that people are going one route, but after taking a look at your high traffic pages, you might find that people are taking an entirely different path.

Okay. So when you’re looking at a page in particular, what are the key things you’re looking at? Bounce rate, time on page, what else?
Those are the big ones. If you have convertibles set up in there, then we’ll want to look at those to make sure we understand everything and where we’re starting from.
Got it. As far as tools go, when someone is getting started, are there any alternatives that you’d recommend instead of Google Analytics? As far as small to medium sized people?

A lot of them are just using Google. Mixpanel has been good. Those are the basics. We don’t try to reinvent the wheel with our analytics. Most people already have Google hooked up and are collecting data, so we just go with that.

Another tool that we leverage is Heat and Click Maps. It couples with the analytics to tell you where on those specific pages people are falling off. We also use Crazy Egg, it’s kind of our favourite.

Okay, here’s where we’re gonna kind of geek out here. This is why I love talking to guys like you, because I have questions too. So for everyone that’s listening, if you’ve never used a Heat Map, it’s basically an overlay of your website that shows you where the most people are clicking.

Taking a step back, one of the challenges I’ve had with Heat Maps is figuring out how much traffic goes to a page before it gets statistically relevant. When it comes to split testing especially, what is enough volume to be statistically relevant? What’s your take on that?

I think you can start seeing some data when you start seeing several thousand unique visitors.

With split testing, we split everything up into three buckets. We have volume of traffic, first–we typically want to run a minimum of 1,000 visitors per variation before we run anything based on that specific data.

But we mostly drive it on the number of conversions. We try to get at least 25 conversions before we start looking at data. Unless, of course, there’s a clear loser right out of the gate, and there’s a landslide difference.

And then we try to run it to 90% significance to account for variation in the platform. But that doesn’t always

That’s the trouble I’ve been dealing when I’m split testing on high traffic on e-commerce websites where we’re seeing hundreds of transactions per day, but we haven’t really been able to see the clear differences. One of the challenges with split testing that I run into is–let’s say we’re measuring conversions. We run it out until we get a 90% or 95% significance, but there’s such a small variance that we see the results swaying back and forth.

That’s kind of a case by case basis. If you’ve got a hundred transactions but equal traffic, every transaction will swing it. So instead of running it longer to try to squeeze out 5% or 10% improvement, we’ll often cut that and go test something else.

You could be doing higher leveraged tests. On huge volumes, that 5% makes a difference, but most companies don’t have that kind of budget.

So if you’re that close and you’re not seeing a 20%+ improvement, cut it and go do something else.

So this is kind of a rabbit hole in split-testing. If we take a step back, here–what are the top elements that people should start split-testing with?

We look at distractions, first. Make sure your page has one specific goal. Typically it’s just with B2B, because in B2C you just have a landing page and ask for an email. You don’t want to have multiple calls to action, and you don’t want to have anything that distracts people from that goal. The leveraging of benefits–nobody cares about the features of the product, but they care that it will solve their problems.

Strong headlines. We’ve seen 35%, 55% improvements just by changing headlines. We look for proof elements, social proof–awards, testimonials, things of that nature. And then a strong call to action–telling visitors what to do instead of assuming they know.

what is conversion optimization

Let’s talk about distractions again. What are the most common distractions you see people plugging in to their page?

You might have a free trial on, but then at the bottom of the page you might have a demo, or the Contact Us button. So then people might get distracted, and consider taking the demo instead, or just contacting you. It’s aside from the main goal that they came to the website for, which was the free trial.

Or just cluttering up the page. If you have a basic lead generation landing page, having a big fat menu bar that’s pulling everyone in fifteen directions. Just emphasize and leave the call to action. It’s the path of least resistance, right, if there’s 5 different paths to take, you’ll lose conversions.

Right. How do you balance this? When you walk into a website with organic traffic–because you have to balance conversions against distractions. People will have blog posts, socials, a lot of that stuff can’t go. How do you balance it?

If you want to get someone into a trial, we emphasize that trial and then supplement a bit if we need to.

If you have a homepage, and you want to pack it with information, that leads to a ton of distractions. So we’d want to use page elements that lead people to the goal–the trial. We use consistency in button colour and calls to action to guide people.

Can you dig into that?

It goes into a multi-step process too. You might go to an e-commerce site and notice that the add to cart button is black, because the rest of the scheme is black. This is part of a test that we ran recently.

So the colour scheme of this site was black, and the shopping cart button was also black, and the next page was black. There was consistency. But we actually tested away from black, and we tried an orange shade. It increased clickthroughs and add to cart by 35%.

Then on that next step, we led them down the path using the same colour button. We want them to add to cart, to go to the checkout, and to actually click submit. All of those buttons are the same colour.

We kind of subconsciously led them down the path with those buttons.

Speaking of buttons and colours and calls to action. Whenever I test, the big red buttons get clicked on the most. What’s your experience?
It’s really market to market, but it’s about contrast. So it could really be any colour, as long as you’re providing contrast. If you have a red headline, you should use a different coloured button. It just comes down to testing.
Couple more questions here. What’s your experience using video versus non video in your testing?
Again, it comes down to the market. We’ve seen dramatic improvements in finance markets with video. But we’ve seen a decrease in conversions using video in the fitness market.

It’s weird, because that’s usually a highly visual market. So it comes down to market, but it also comes down to things like having controls on the video, autoplay or not, placement–all of it factors in.

Majority of the time, a perfectly placed video, we see a 300%+ improvement.

Can you explain what an explainer video is?
It’s a short commercial video, basically.
Animated videos? A person explaining something?
Could be either. Lately we’ve been doing fully animated videos with lots of movement. We just tested and saw a 25% improvement.
And autoplay or not?
Autoplay works better.

Gotcha. So for everyone listening, quit giving me heck for using autoplay, because it works!

So many people complain about autoplay videos. But numbers don’t lie!

The ongoing debate: where are the trends going in results in terms of long form sales letters, short form sales letters, or VSLs?

It’s actually been going to shorter copy. In the markets we’re in.
Supplemented with video?
Sometimes, but oftentimes it’s just a short sales message.
What does that pertain to in terms of products and price points?
This is everything from $200 supplement offers to an $18,000 software as a service offer.
And I assume with the software, they’re capturing leads first?
Gotcha. So with supplements, people are landing on a page–what does short mean to you? Just so we’re on the same page?

Some of the largest benefits in the supplement market are going to questions and a survey type process. It’s short and direct, leads strongly with the benefits, and then goes into an image heavy, benefit driven landing page, or it goes straight into a VSL that’s 15 to 18 minutes long.

It’s a bit skewed. It really depends on what is being sold.

That’s a point for everyone listening here. I want to share as many tips and ideas to take away here, and that’s the thing with split-testing and conversions. Every market is different. What works in one space might not work in another.

In Internet marketing, it’s easy to get caught up with the next big strategy, but what works in one place might not work in another. So what I’m trying to do with Justin here is give you a big picture of what could work. You always need to test.

And it also varies from business to business within each market. Don’t just take it that because Derek is using it, it should work for me. Prove that it’s going to work instead of just assuming that it’s going to.
Even different traffic sources behave differently.
Even ads send a different kind of traffic. Adwords versus Facebook. It’s direct search versus interruption.

Yeah. I think that really confused people for awhile, because Facebook ads didn’t work like Adwords did.

Can you walk me through what a survey process looks like from a landing page to a conversion perspective?

It’s typically–Ryan Levesque is the person to talk to about this lately. Start with small questions. Are you a man or a woman? Those are all micro commitments. Then at the end, you ask for an email. Then that takes them into the video process.

A weird example here, is we recently tested it on our own lead generation. We were running pay per click traffic, to a long form survey, and we just weren’t getting the numbers we wanted.

So as a test, we put it into SurveyMonkey, and we got a 1000% increase.

Wow. That’s pretty statistically relevant.
Yeah! Couldn’t argue with that.

Those micro commitments have really taken off lately, too. In tests I’ve seen, just asking for one simple thing and getting people engaged–when we start something, we want to finish it. I always recognize something as effective when something hooks me.

I just saw that with Kijabi, and during that launch process, at one point before they released the Beta, they brought us into a survey, and by the end of it, I was ready to hand over my credit card.

There’s so many creative ways to do that. Especially with SurveyMonkey.

And it’s $26 per month for all of their features.

It’s not insane. It’s pretty cost effective. So starting with that micro commitment is a fantastic strategy.

Let’s talk about traffic sources for a second. How do you approach traffic within your conversion optimization? So we have a website with a few different sources of traffic, and as websites grow, you don’t always have control over where traffic comes from. It kind of goes where it wants to sometimes. How do you optimize for different channels?

We start with the ones we can control first. You’re not going to want to drive Adwords and Facebook to the same landing page. We separate them out. We see this with larger companies as well, just lumping everything together. So our first step is to separate them out.
When you’re doing optimization, how often do you look at the creators out there that are drawing the traffic in?
Because it starts with the traffic. The biggest thing is congruence in the message. If you have a great ad, you want to carry that message to the landing page.
That’s where I see so many campaigns falling apart. Can you talk about what congruence looks like between ads and landing pages?

Well if you claim one thing in an ad, you need to deliver that on the landing page. I saw an ad recently, for an embroidery company with a 50% off offer. Click on the ad, get to the landing page, and it says nothing about 50% off whatsoever. On the page, it actually said something about 35% off.

Immediately I didn’t know how to claim the offer, so I bounced. It’s so important to carry over that message. You could use the same images, headlines, bullets–make it as close to the ad as possible.

That’s absolutely key. One more area I want to go into here–imagery.

Back in the day, we had long form sales letters with no images at all. How do you use imagery on landing pages to increase conversion?

For one, use them. People are very visual. The images are to break it up. We also use imagery to back up the benefits as much as possible. Instead of having a picture of somebody on the beach with a laptop, have an image that’s directly related to the product.

We ran a test recently for the software market, one image was a woman smiling on a laptop, and the other was a more technical image that highlighted the benefits of that exact solution. We saw a 67% improvement just by highlighting the benefits within that image.

Everything matters in the image, whether you’re using a picture or a photo of something. Test them. Say you’re testing a person, test whether or not they’re smiling. All of those little things matter in the images.

But you need to surround it around your solutions, and use them to drive the benefits of your product.

I don’t think that a lot of thought goes into a lot of the imagery up on websites right now. Your images should support and communicate the benefit.

Everyone listening, hopefully we’ve given you a lot of ideas for testing, and you’ve taken a lot of notes. If I was staring at my website after listening to this podcast, I would decide what I want my goal to be. Then, I want to figure out which pages people are on, and then I want to manipulate those pages to get people to our end goal by testing.

Any final thoughts Justin?

Every day that you’re not testing is a day you’re losing money. The only way to keep a competitive edge in any market is to constantly be trying to beat your high score.

Always be testing. That’s a good mantra.

Thank you for being here, Justin. Where can people find more of you?

Everything can be found on I break it down into the simplest strategies to apply to A/B testing in business. I talk about specific steps to start optimizing, and how to make it a part of your company’s DNA.
It’s practical. It’s not really theoretical.
I didn’t want to fluff it up at all. It’s 151 pages and it’s really straightforward information.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us today and giving our listeners so many optimization strategies.
Thank you for having me.

Alright everyone, that was conversion expert Justin Christianson. As always, the transcript and show notes will be up at If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe on iTunes–just look up Project Ignite, Derek Gehl, or Internet Marketing and I’ll show up! If you’re an Android user, just get us on Soundcloud!

Also, if you like what you hear–leave a review, tell us what you think. I love to hear what you think. Your feedback is what gives me the momentum and motivation to keep creating this podcast for you.

Now it’s time to take the tips, tools, and strategies that we’ve learned from Matt here today, and apply the final essential ingredient to make this all work for you: that ingredient is action. Go forth, take action, and stay tuned for more info-packed episodes of the Project Ignite podcast–a podcast designed to make this whole internet business thing easier and more profitable.

This is Derek Gehl, signing off.

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