Practical Conversion Tips For Selling Software

Today after reading a thread or three and watching a Google-produced movie about landing page optimization (over an hour long and worth your time) I was inspired to make some changes to my site.  Recently I have been doing far more development than A/B testing, and truth be known I don’t really, um, know how my funnel is working these days.  So I went back into the archives of my CrazyEgg tests and looked around to see if there was anything that jumped out at me. The fresh look caused me to pick up on a few things:

Plug Your Leaking Funnel

If you’ve ever read anything about conversion optimization you’ve heard the funnel metaphor : the steps towards buying can be thought of as a funnel, where a lot of people come in at the top and as they move forward you see less and less people until a mere trickle actually succeed in giving you money.  You want your funnel to avoid leakage, to the maximum extent possible.

Bingo Card Creator has a fairly typical funnel:

Prospect sees me in search engine or ad -> Prospect clicks to homepage -> Prospect downloads trial (or signs up for online trial) -> Prospect plays around with trial -> Prospect likes what they see -> Prospect clicks on purchasing page -> Prospect interacts with shopping cart -> Prospect gets redirected to Paypal or Google Checkout -> Prospect fills out form -> I get money.

Yikes, saying it like that makes it sound even longer than it actually is.  Anyhow, every step is crucial because the effects are multiplicative: a 5% improvement anywhere essentially results in 5% straight to the bottom line.  (Hat tip to Steve Pavlina for this insight, which is probably one of the three most important things I know about selling software.)

Anyhow, I picked a step in the funnel where I see a lot of dieoff, the purchasing page, and took a gander to see if there were any obvious ways to improve it.  Looking at several experiments in CrazyEgg, which I collected over the course of the last few years, something jumped out at me.  See if you can spot it in these heat maps:

Early 2007:

Early 2008:

Early 2009:

Did you spot it?

Far too many users interact with the main navigation bar to go backwards in the funnel.  Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of people on this page are here because they are satisfied users of the free trial and are seriously considering giving me money, the Free Trial and Printable Bingo Cards buttons capture almost as many clicks as any other element on the page.

I love giving users free things that make them happy, but there is a time and place for it, and that time and place is not right in the middle of me asking them for money.  So I eliminated the distracting free options (and, while I was at it, the redundant purchasing option):

(You’ll note, by the way, that a lot of online retailers take a weedwacker to their entire navigation system when you’re getting into the purchase funnel.  Check out how much cruft Amazon cuts out next time you checkout there.)

Don’t Violate User Expectations

As an engineer I love elegance… probably to a fault.  For example, I always wanted to have exactly the same top-level navigation on all my pages.  This resulted in having a button to the home page actually on the home page.  OK, perhaps that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — except in a fit of stupidity way back in 2006 I titled that button “Information”, and despite four people telling me “You know, people seeing a button titled Information will click it thinking that it offers Information and will get upset when it just causes their screen to blink”, I never got around to changing that.

Sell What You Sell

Recently I released an online version of Bingo Card Creator, which I strongly hope will increase my sales substantially by decreasing the funnel dropout associated with downloading and installing BCC.  However, my site is still largely written to promote the downloadable version… to an almost painful degree sometimes.  For example, if you were to click on the purchasing link from within the upsell in the free trial of the online version, you’d find:

(Incidentally, that phrasing used to be “Purchase a single copy for only $24.95″.  I changed it at the suggestion of Aaron Wall, to emphasize the benefit — you get what you want instantly — over the action.  I think that sentence has been worth over a thousand bucks.)

However, when you’re selling something which is specifically designed to avoid the hassles associated with being downloaded, offering instant download is perhaps not the best idea!  So I rewrote it again to be a bit more neutral among my products:

If I had an absolutely infinite development budget I’d code up one version of the site to only sell the online version, one to sell both, and one to sell only the downloadable version, and then start split testing like a madman.  However, that is just not in the cards in the near future.  If I have some time later I’ll consider rewriting this page for people who are logged into the online version, though.

Optimizing Offsite Payment Processors

If you’re a member of SEOBook and have not yet read leeds’ post “Great conversion tactic for you”, do so now and implement the suggestion it makes immediately. (He asked me not to repeat the advice publicly.  I’m going to respect his wishes on that one.)

However, it did get the creative juices flowing:

Usual Disclaimer

I have confidence that the above examples are good ideas but confidence loses to evidence every day and twice on Sunday.  Conversion optimization is a science, not black magic: test, test, and test again to see what works in your particular market and circumstances.

Disclaimer: I am a moderator at SEOBook, but am not compensated for plugging it.  That said, it costs about $100 a month and I made that back on the first bit of advice I got.  It gets my two thumbs up.  CrazyEgg would require minimally an extra seven thumbs to express how awesome it is for visualizing user behavior — see the above heat maps.

If you found this post interesting, you may like my other posts about web design, conversion optimization, and the like.  (I don’t mean design in the sense of pretty things: I have all the artistic skill of a blind mole rat.)  Also, try searching the blog for “conversion rate” and the like, there have probably been a few posts which escaped my uneven categorization efforts.

No Responses to “Practical Conversion Tips For Selling Software”

  1. Mike Stokes July 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    Hi Patrick,

    Awesome data – CrazyEgg is indeed a must have… the number of times we’ve put the visuals together from CrazyEgg and the analytics of GA to form actionable improvements makes it indespensible.

    I’m very interested in your SEOBook quotes above and was wondering what you think about the benefit of having an SEOBook membership versus outsourcing the SEO process.

    On one hand as a small ISV, we don’t want to try to “do everything” ourselves, which is a common trap of small business.

    However, we’ve been outsourcing the SEO process for coming up on 6 years now and to us it seems a little of a black box – we put money in one evd and get results out the other. But as a small business, we also like to know we’re getting the best bang for our buck…

    So, would you go for SEOBook and start bringing the SEO process in house? Is it easy for someone who is capable to pick up the SEOBook membership and learn to be effective at SEO in a time period that returns well?


  2. Matthew July 26, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    In the “Early 2009″ heat map, no one seems to be clicking the non-CD Buy Now button. Is this correct or is it a bug with CrazyEgg? In the other heat maps it seems to be the most clicked button (as you would expect).

  3. Matthew July 27, 2009 at 6:20 am #

    Could people interacting with the main navigation not just be because people are looking through your website before they have even downloaded the trial? I will often look at a purchasing page before downloading a trial – I want to know that purchasing is affordable and straightforward enough before I commit time to trying a program. I am obviously not in the market for bingo cards so maybe my behaviour is not the same as your visitors.

    If your main navigation gave a visual clue to the user about which page they are currently on the effect of the “Information” link problem might have been lessened. Because your “Use Online” link in your main navigation section is purple and not green it looks a little like it is the currently selected page.

    I would be a little more concerned with people who click on the big green buy now button when they are already on the purchasing page.

  4. Patrick July 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    Could people interacting with the main navigation not just be because people are looking through your website before they have even downloaded the trial?

    Possible but, looking at my stats, unlikely — the overwhelming majority of visitors to the page are coming from the link in my program that pops up when they hit a trial limitation.

    I would be a little more concerned with people who click on the big green buy now button when they are already on the purchasing page.

    I fixed that to actually work as expected years ago, though — it opens the shopping cart with the item they probably want pre-loaded into it.

    In the “Early 2009″ heat map, no one seems to be clicking the non-CD Buy Now button. Is this correct or is it a bug with CrazyEgg?

    This isn’t so much a bug as a quirk of the data — right before the test ended, when CrazyEgg finalizes their snapshot, I changed that button’s alt text to reflect a change in the price. Since it doesn’t have an ID attached to it, CrazyEgg figures different alt text means a different image, and they don’t show the clicks on the old one.

    Mike, I’ll get back to you some other day.

  5. Duncan July 28, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    I’ll second the plug for seobook. I joined some months ago and it is worth every penny. Even if you don’t do all your own SEO, you will end up with a much better idea of who you are employing and what they are doing (and how effectively).

  6. DanH August 6, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    I clicked your purchase button just to see your call to action on your PayPal payment page. Seems to me that once they reach that point they have essentially pulled out their wallet and have their cc in hand. Not sure how much of a difference having a call to action there makes. Have you seen a significant improvement since implementing it?

    The concern I DO have with your PayPal checkout page is it throws a “Security Warning” window stating “This webpage contains content that will not be delivered using a secure HTTPS connection…” Might not some visitors think your product “will not be delivered securely”? Moving your branding graphic to an SSL directory will fix that.

  7. Patrick August 7, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    E-freaking-gads how did that get past me. I bought an SSL certificate and thought I had copy/pasted Paypal the https:// URL, but apparently not. Blaaaaaaah. Fixed now. I’m sincerely grateful you took the time to tell me that, it might have been months before I noticed.