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Ihor Sokolov A New Path to Conversion Rate Optimization
The Agents

Are your marketing campaigns yielding the conversions you desire? If not, it’s time to assess whether your CRO strategies are holding you back. Ihor Sokolov specializes in helping businesses boost their funnel conversion rates and he’s eager to share his valuable research findings, shed light on common mistakes you may be making, and provide tips to skyrocket your conversation rates. Get ready to take your marketing game to the next level!

Interview Summary

  • Ihor Sokolov, CRO/UXO professional at ConversionRate.Store, discusses how traditional conversion rate optimization focuses on optimizing existing flows, but his agency takes a different approach by creating new conversion flows based on user intent. By introducing a dedicated conversion flow for users looking for pricing information, they were able to increase conversion volume by 20-21%. 
  • Ihor explains their methodology for customer research, which involves qualitative and quantitative analytics, data gathering, and analysis to understand user behavior and find ways to influence it. 
  • Ihor discusses the methodology he uses to personalize content based on user intent, including creating different flows and adapting the website based on user goals in order to optimize conversions and engagement. 
  • Discussion around various strategies for conversion rate optimization, including creating multiple landing pages, analyzing search queries, and using language that resonates with users, as well as discussion about optimizing forms through engagement to increase conversion rates. 
  • Ihor discusses two methodologies for optimizing forms: categorizing queries and using a dropdown menu to increase user engagement and increasing user motivation by introducing stages in the form that educate users about the goals and features of the software – both of which resulted in a significant increase in form completion rates.

Full Conversion Rate Optimization Episode Transcript

Rich: My guest today is a CRO/UXO professional who has been in the CRO/UXO space for nearly a decade. He co-founded a performance based CRO agency, ConversionRate.Store. This is the first CRO agency to commit to delivering a specific increase in key business metrics for every project it takes on.  

He has led CRO projects for companies such as Microsoft, Komodo, Gaiam, Preply, SamCart, CarID, Ukrainian International Airlines, and Depositphotos. He’s a regular speaker at marketing conferences and podcasts, teaches UX research, quant analytics, and A/B split testing at the CRO Academy.  

Today we’re going to be talking about how to improve your conversion rates with Ihor Sokolov. Ihor, welcome to the show.  

Ihor: Hello, Rich. Thank you for the opportunity to share. 

Rich: All right. I’m looking forward to this. So I know that your CRO agency has a different approach to conversion rate optimization. Why do you think that so many website owners get it wrong when it comes to CRO?  

Ihor: There is a traditional view of CRO of polishing things up. So you just take whatever you have, and then you work with it to make it as effective as possible. 

With us, being in the field for over eight years now, multiple times we’ve reached the stage where we are unable to improve things as they are. We have to create and we have to introduce new conversion flows, new conversion mechanisms, and new ways of motivating users to convert. And in that case, we had to do a lot of research. 

We have a team that researches user behavior and creates this conversion flow, conversion mechanisms, and conversion methodologies, concepts. I can speak a little bit about them later on, give a few examples of them. But if you refer to traditional conversion rate optimization, is about it’s about optimizing specific elements in the funnel and bring them to the level where they perform the best. There’s very little emphasis on creating new flows of enticing users to exert specific behavior and to push users through the funnel with as little effort as possible.  

Rich: So Ihor, if I’m understanding what you’re saying, what traditionally we do is we’ve got a flow and we try and make it the best it can be. But at a certain point, we may have the best version of that particular flow and we stop. And what you’re saying is we may need to create entirely new mechanisms, entirely new paths, to really increase the conversion rate at our website. And that’s what you guys are doing or looking for? 

Ihor: That’s partly right. But just to give you some perspective on this. For one of our clients who was referring to Ciro as squeezing a lemon, he was telling us, we worked for three years, and I don’t understand what else you can do on our side. You’ve optimized everything.  

And when we started, they only had one. It’s a lead gen, it’s a big Israelian software company SaaS, that it’s basically a lead gen website that gets users to convert to one specific conversion, book a demo. Now, after a number of years of working, they have six different conversion flows, very well optimized, and we created them. 

So I’ll give you just a perspective of this. We analyzed user behavior and user perceptions and what kind of behavior users are exerting on the website. What we found is that there are a list of topics users are looking to pick up from a site. So they’re looking for specific information. One this piece of information is the price. But because the software is so complicated and has so many different layers of feature and functionality, it’s very difficult to compose a price based or some standard price. It’s very customized, custom based pricing. 

But we said, okay, if they’re looking for this this information, if we break down their conversion cycle and their decision-making funnel, we find that some users are at the top of the funnel. They’re looking for price before they will commit to booking a demo. So what we did is we introduced a conversion flow – get a quote. It sounds very easy, but for a client, it was an icebreaker. They thought, wow, this is interesting, why haven’t thought of this? 

And why do you think people will click there, if they can go click on ‘book a demo’ and get all the information there? I said, because this is something that they’re looking for. Give them information that looking for and they will convert. And just this additional flow introduced about 20%-21% of conversion volume and the site wide conversion rate. 

So this is just an example of creating new conversion flows. We call this methodology, by the way, dedicated conversion flow based on user intent. So the intent was to find a price for a service. We introduced the conversion flow that is specifically focused on that task.  

Rich: I love this. So basically, not just are you maybe optimizing through some maybe split testing some things that have already been there, but you’re doing some research and you’re creating new pathways that match up with what the customer’s desires are. And so that’s actually opening up new doorways for them to do business with, in this case, this SaaS company. 

Ihor: Exactly.  

Rich: I’m curious to know, what’s the methodology for you doing the customer research so that you have a better idea of, hey, some people won’t move forward without knowing the price, so let’s create a flow there? What kind of things are you seeing in the analytics or with tools that you have where you’re like, this is something worth exploring? 

Ihor: Quantitative and qualitative analytics data gathering, data analysis and data insights, that data interpretation is our core competence. It’s basically what we are. We are exceptionally good in understanding user behavior and finding reasons for particular user behavior, and then finding ways of influencing user behavior to behave the way we want them to exert the behavior. Basically working towards a specific behavior through various UX, UI, and copywriting methodologies and solutions.  

So the methodologies in quantum analytics, there are tens of them that we use, including the final performance analysis, the traffic analysis, the user behavior within the specific stages of the funnel. So we analyze basically every single user interaction, every single movement of the mouse, we analyze.  

We’re currently also exploring the eye tracking. This is something, unfortunately based on what we’ve seen, this part of research is still quite underdeveloped and still not very accurate. I just had a talk today with my head of use research. And he told me that they looked through most of the tools online and they even had some contacts with the company in Kyiv, Ukraine – that’s where our office is based – and they were exploring this opportunity to use this methodology to track user’s attention, and it wasn’t very accurate based on what we’ve seen.  

But returning to analytics, we gather user information on every single user movement on the side, every single switch of attention, every single progression from stage to stage, outside of stage. And then we look for reasons for that. And for reasons we have a big UX research team that works on finding reasons behind specific behaviors, specific perceptions, specific user ambiguities, user concerns, frictions, and so on. And we do this primarily with the quality of what’s traditional quality of data collecting methodologies like email service, on-site service, in interviews, user testing. And more recently we started to do quantitative user testing. 

Traditionally, quality user testing is where you give some kind of scenario and what is the user progresses from action to action. He describes his experience, he describes how he’s feeling right now, if there’s anything he’s looking for he can’t find, basically he describes his experience as he goes. 

With quantitative user testing, we do tens of different user tests, and we quantify their behavior. So how much time it took to find the specific product that was in the scenario, how much time it took to convince a user that he has the right product, the right size, the right color in his cart, how much time it took to fill out the payment section of the checkout. So we quantify all that. This is the next step, this is something we just took on recently, and it’s working really well for us.  

So based on all this, we’ll put this together and we understand what they do and why they do this. And then another team comes in and says, we will find a way to change user behavior or to optimize the experience in order to help users do what they are here to do. To buy a product or to convert in a lead gen form.  

Rich: So you mentioned earlier that this company, the SaaS company that you were working with, you discovered that knowing the price was a sticking point. And so to create a flow that addressed that earlier on was successful. With eight years and all these experiences behind you, have you found that there are certain types of flows that are common that you add to different websites, or is it every single website is a brand-new exploration?  

Ihor: That’s a great question. I had this conversation with a potential employee just recently. And I was explaining, he was asking me, “So are you just deploying the things that you’re deploying to everyone? So you found a methodology and you’re just sticking this methodology to every single client? So for example, an exit intent pop up, and you stick it to everyone.” I said, no, that’s not the case. We create methodologies. Methodology, like I explained to you for example, the segmenting of a user based on user intent, and personalizing content based on that intent. This is a methodology and it’s applicable to many different websites, including ecomm online stores, including lead gen marketplace, and many others. 

But adapting this methodology to specific models of monetization and specific sites is a big job. And it’s something that requires proficiency knowledge and the process, and of course, creative aspect of it UI/UX and copywriting therefore, methodologies is something that we create. 

We create it internally and we use it for our clients, but sometimes the words, sometimes they don’t it’s not a universal rule. It’s just something that we know works. If you trigger the right it’s not emotions. If you triggered the in a way, by using specific the right combination of UI, UX and copywriting solutions. 

I’ll give you a very simple example of this this methodology. We have a client who is one of the leaders in DNA sequencing in US. And what we found is that… Basically, there are a number of questions that we ask our clients, or we want to find out about our clients before we start optimizing website. First is, what information they’re looking? Two, what factors influence their decision making? Three, what other products they compare this product to? So what are the substitutes, or they could be competitors or could be other substitute from other product lines. And four, what are the barriers to conversion? What stops them or what makes them hesitate to convert?  

Now, one of the aspects of this is related to factors is what goals users want to achieve as a result of using this product. And you will find that almost any product has so many different goals. Like, how many goals do you think there are that users can achieve while the main ones with DNA sequencing that we found? Just give me a number. 

Rich: A dozen. I really have no idea as this is not my area of expertise.  

Ihor: Okay. It’s nine. There are nine.  

Rich: Let me regress and we’ll say five. Nine, I can’t believe it! No, I’m just kidding.  

Ihor: All right. So there it’s nine. And it’s quite obvious, but finding the exact what they’re looking to achieve, what users are looking to achieve as a result of this DNA testing, and phrasing it in their language, is what makes this creative work and this research worthwhile. 

Now for example, some users said that they want DNA sequencing to find their relatives. Some users want to find their genetic mutations or their predispositions to specific illnesses. Or their compatibility, or they want to understand what kind of diets are more effective to them, or diets that will make them grow as a result, instead of making them in a better shape. So there are many different aspects of DNA sequencing that that users are looking to use.  

Now what we did is we’ve offered this segmentation to users on the website on a very visible real estate of the website where we ask, what are the goals you’re looking to achieve. And they will be finding my relatives, identify my family tree, find predispositions, find mutations, and so on. Users would click and they will fall into a specific flow related to that specific problem or that goal they want to achieve.  

So that’s a methodology. And we create this methodology, but you have to adapt based on the user goals, user aspirations,, user information that they’re looking for. You have to adapt and create it, and create an effective and optimal UX/UI, and copywriting combination in order for it to work.  

Rich: So all right, I think I understand. So there may be different ways to get them to get to the website. But once they’re there, if they happen to show up on the homepage, say you’ve asked them these questions, maybe it’s nine, or maybe it’s less, maybe it’s more. But whatever it is, and each one then enters them into a self-selected flow with the appropriate copywriting, the appropriate images, the appropriate offer, whatever it is, always to a similar end goal is for them to buy or engage with the company. 

But that’s basically some of the methodology that you’re using. Creating additional flows to address all the common themes that potential customers are looking for when they come to a website, correct?  

Ihor: That’s very well summarized.  

Rich: Okay, good. Excellent. No, it really it makes a lot of sense. 

How much, so that’s if they get to the website, but I’m also guessing that maybe some SEO comes into play where you optimize some of these flows. Or is the only way to get to these flows is by entering the website and then choosing one? Do you understand what I’m saying? If somebody’s looking for, I want to find my relatives across the world, do you create a bunch of content that might be SEO optimized around that is one way of bringing that particular type of customer into the website? Or are you focused mostly on when they’re there, let’s create that flow to get them to the conversion point?  

Ihor: Traditionally, this was one of the methodologies for conversion rate optimization is creating a multitude of different landing pages and different initial flows for users to come through SEO. With us, with many of our clients this is already done. So they have a number of different PPC landing pages or SEO pages that drive a lot of traffic. But we do help them out in breaking this and creating a list of goals that users want to achieve, or a list of interests that users want to read about or consume content, and create this multitude of landing pages for users to come in.  

But this is not our primary goal. Our primary goal is to get users to convert once they’re there. So once they’re on your page, once they’re on your website or your homepage or any other part of your site, we will grab their attention and help them to progress from stage to make a decision and to work with their decision cycle at every stage of the funnel, in order to for them to seamlessly progress and make the final ultimate action. 

Rich: We’ve touched on the idea of copywriting being important and the flow being important once you’ve identified what these different pathways are going to be. Do you have any general advice or tips around what are the elements of copywriting that are most effective, or what are the type of images, graphs, or other data on the page that helps with conversion? Or are there anything you’ve seen that will always kill the deal? There’s something when you’ve tried it out, it’s like people just don’t move past this point and they get away. What are some of the best practices once we’ve identified these pathways?  

Ihor: One, I’ll give you a few tips. The ones that come to my mind, one way we learn how users are referring to our product or how they’re finding our product is by analyzing search queries. So we want to understand how they are looking for our product and how they come up with this necessity to find.  

The other thing that we are looking at is we are interviewing a whole lot of different clients, or in our case, users, to see what language they’re using to refer to characteristics, to refer to features of the product, in order to use that language in our copywriting.  So we always try to understand how they are speaking so we don’t overcomplicate the messages. So basically we want to speak their language. We want them to understand us very easily. And that works not only for the comprehension that works for SEO, for finding the pages of the website, and the website itself. Because this is how they find your website. This is how they use the kind of search queries they use in Google or Bing or any other search engine to find the website.  

So these are the two points. What else can I suggest? Another tip is to be very certain in what you do and very concise. Don’t over complicate, don’t overthink, and don’t expand your copywriting unless this is the content consumption. If you’re talking about conversion mechanisms, and this is what we’re concentrated on, conversion flows. You have to be very to the point about what you want to say without any additional words that are irrelevant there. So only very specific messages in the language that users are using to find your product and to characterize your product.  

Rich: When it comes to forms, which a lot of sites will use if their lead gen sites, are there any specific recommendations you have around optimizing the forms to increase conversion rates? 

Ihor: Yes, of course. This is our focus, and our core expertise is in optimizing forms, optimizing conversion flow. So with forms, there are two methodologies that I want to share with the audience.  

One is called conversion through engagement. So if you look at a very traditional and the most common form, ‘contact us’ form, you will most likely see fields like your name, your email, your telephone number, maybe your company name or your company size and a call to action. 

What we basically found is that users don’t express any emotions towards this form. They don’t like it. They know that they have to give away the information. And what we found is that they don’t know what kind of answer, when they will receive the answer, what kind of answer, or if they will receive the answer at all. 

What we did is we said, how can we engage users at this very simple form so they know that they will get an answer. They know that the answer will be relevant. And also just by engaging with the form, users by clicking this interactive engagement, they exert some kind of action that we know correlates with conversion rate.  

So basically what we did, we took all the queries, all the requests to this form for three months, and categorize it on a number of topics. Say for example, one is rated do you work in my country, what is your price, and so on. Basically just breaking them down into a number of categories, say eight categories. And what we did is one of the first thing you would do in this form, there will be a drop down that says, “pick the topic you want to answer”.  

So users would click, they will see the drop down, and they will see the topics that are most common and most likely their topic will be there. So they know that users are asking, they’re sending their requests about this topic. And by just clicking, looking through different types of requests and categories of requests, picking one of them, the propensity to complete this form has increased dramatically. So users who would engage with the form that prevents to complete and send off, was about 35%. Which is a lot more than any other user who would just come to and look at this form. 

So conversion through engagement is one thing that works really well. And once again, this is a methodology, a CRM methodology that we created internally. Not a mechanism, not some tactic or your UI use trick. This is a methodology that is adaptable to various different sites, various different pages, and various different stages of the funnel. That’s methodology number one.  

Methodology number two is very counterintuitive. And if you would ask most of CRO/UXO pros to give you the number one tip of optimizing the forms, they’ll say to remove all the fields, just leave the call to action. Basically remove as much of the cognitive load as possible. Just leave something very small, like an email, your name and email. Remove telephone number, everything else is irrelevant or everything else just creates an excessive cognitive load and users would churn.  

With us, we looked at it a different way. We looked at in the way of how can we motivate users to complete the form given that there are a lot of fields? So once again, it’s a big software company, and there are a lot of fields that you need to fill in, your name, your email, your telephone number, your company size, company name, and a few other fields, and a few tick boxes. So basically a lot of things. So we know that users by just looking at this, they have no intention or no wish to complete this form because it’s just too much.  

What we did is we said, we need to increase user motivation to complete this form. What do we need to do?  We need to convince the user that he will get all the answers from this contact, and he should know that this specific software will allow him to achieve his goal and have the collection of features and functionality that will allow him to achieve those goals.  

So instead of breaking down and removing fields, or traditionally breaking down in number of digestible parts on the form, we introduce more stages to this form. So once a user would click on call to action ‘get a demo’ or ‘book a demo’, we will ask him a question, we’ll get them into funnel into quiz flow. So what goals you want to achieve with this software, and we will list all the main goals. By reading through, that user would educate himself, what other goals can be achieved. He will find his goal because we list all the most important goals, and we’ll learn about other goals that can be achieved that are relevant to him. 

Then the user will click on ‘continue’. He’ll go, what features are most important to you? And we’ll list say 10 features. User would read, would pick a few of them, but he would read through all of them or the majority of them. And he will find a lot of different features relevant to him or her. 

Then he would go to another stage. We’ll ask what is the price that you expect to pay? And we’ll give a few price ranges, creating a perception that users can control the price. And then we’ll give a form. The users who reached the form, the conversion rate was 90%. So we would lose some users in the beginning, of course. But as they progress, if they start the flow, the progression rate was fairly high within 80%, 85% from stage to stage. And by the time they reached the final stage of the flow where they have this form with many fields, the conversion rate of that form would be about 90%. 

Rich: Wow. Impressive numbers. 

Ihor: And this conversion, this conversion methodology, CRO methodology, is called “conversion through education”. This is another methodology I wanted to share.  

Rich: Ihor, this has been great. For people who want to learn more about you, for people who want to learn more about your company, where can we send them online? 

Ihor: My website, this is the website of my agency, my IT consulting company, conversionrate.store, or send me a message in LinkedIn, @Ihor Sokolov. 

Rich: And we will have all of those links in the show notes. Ihor, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.  

Ihor: Thank you, Rich. It was amazing. Thank you. Speak soon. 

Show Notes:  

Ihor Sokolov and his team have done the hard work and testing so they know exactly what strategies work to help boost sales funnel conversions. Check out his website to see case studies, their conversion optimization process, and more! And be sure to connect with Ihor in LinkedIn.   

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.