Graham King

Solvitas perambulum

Notes from O'Reilly's Website Optimization

These are my notes from O’Reilly’s Website Optimization. It is a strange book, that will appeal to the one-renaissance-person web business: someone who optimizes Javascript for performance and tracks Google Ads conversion goals. You’re bound to find a useful chapter in here, but I doubt you will find more than one relevant to you. Here are my notes:

Website Optimization. Conversion Rate Optimization

The art and science of persuading your site visitors to take actions that benefit you.


Site must appear credible: Often a gut reaction. Source credibility theory: Perceived expertise and trustworthiness.

  • Professional web design
  • Intuitive navigation (good usability)
  • Clear unique selling point
  • Loads fast
  • Use ‘trigger words’ that users are scanning for
  • Benefit-oriented content, that focuses on visitors needs and goals

Reassure users with:

  • privacy policy link
  • trust logos: Verisgn / Better Business Bureau / etc

Six psychological principles of persuasion, use them:

  • social proof: Testimonials of people like you. Popularity (best selling xyz).
  • reciprocity: Give first, initiate.
  • consistency / commitement: Foot-in-the-door
  • liking / similarity: develop user personas, speak their language
  • authority
  • scarcity: list how many products left, how long till sale is over

These come from Robert Cialdini’s Influence


Brand is: Company name, logo, and tagline. Make them good.

Hero shot: Include one high quality prominent picture of your product, or of someone enjoying it. Put image on left and text on right for easier reading. Make it relevant. Make image clickable for larger view. Give it a strong caption – headlines and captions are most read part of page.

Interactivity increases conversions: Video, animation, live chat, something the user can interact with. Be subtle and tasteful.


  • Demographics: Age, gender, income, education
  • Psychographics: Personality type
  • Geographic: Local, national, international?
  • Customer pain points and goals: What is the problem they are trying to solve? What is the single most important factor to them?
  • Value proposition / unique selling points: Why you and not the competition?
  • Benefit hierarchy: What benefits / features of your product are important to the customer? Order them by importance.
  • Key frustrations and objections: What is their biggest frustration with companies in your industry and/or products like yours?
  • Buying criteria: What factors do they weight when making the buying decision?
  • Risk reversal: What risks are your customers taking when buying your product, and can you avoid those? 100% money back guarantee, free trial, free return shipping, etc.
  • Keyword phrases: How do your customers refer to your product, what words do they use to search for it?

Unique Selling Proposition: “Oh I’ve heard of you, you’re the company that …”

Write for the web:

  • Brief. Bold. Inject personality.
  • Active voice, start with a verb.
  • Front load with keywords, users scan the first one or two words of each title / link / bullet.
  • Think newspaper headline.
  • Use sub-headings.
  • Write for scanning: Half the words. One idea per paragraph. Bullet lists. Highlight keywords.

Develop primary and secondary responses:

  1. Primary response is your main call to action, typically ‘Buy Now’.
  2. Secondary response is something for people who are not quite ready to buy now. Don’t lose them. Instead get them to sign up for newsletter, or download a PDF brochure, etc.

Show don’t tell. Encourage customer’s emotional mental imaging.

Links get highest clickthrough at 7 – 12 words. Repeat keywords that brought users to your site (ad words) in the links.

Avoid jargon, hype, and wimpy could should may might. Be positive – this will absolutely happen as soon as they give their credit card number!

Always be closing: Actually ask them to buy. Ask them to perform the call to action.


Conversion metrics

What are your objectives – what does a ‘conversion’ mean?

  • Sell product: Count completed orders, count additions to shopping basket.
  • Ad clicks: For ad-supported site.
  • Distribution / Downloads: PDF, software, etc.
  • Informational: Read a page, view a video.
  • Comments: A blog could make getting a user to comment a conversion.
  • Sign-ups: Joining the site. Registering for the newsletter or for a beta invite, etc.

What to track, what to care about:

  • Unique visitors.
  • Average time on site. Pages per visit. These measure how engaged the user was in your site.
  • Bounce rate: % of users who left within a short period of time, and without browsing to a different page on your site. High bounce rate pages need some work, or the campaign that lead them there incorrectly needs some work (wrong adwords being targetted for example)
  • Conversion rates: Whatever you define a conversion to be.
  • Entry points: Which pages do your users first land on? Also called ‘primary content consumption’.
  • Exit points: Where do users stop browsing and leave? If it’s the ‘payment complete’ page, fine. If not, needs looking into.
  • ROI (return on investment) by keyword and campaign, an cost per conversion: Track your advertising spend’s effectivness.

Business metrics you should be tracking anyway:

  • Revenue per order
  • Profit per order

Performance metrics:

  • Number of HTTP requests
  • Total size of data needed to view page
  • Load times with empty cache and with full cache:
    • Server processing time
    • Start render – until then page is blank
    • Onload / document ready – JS starts
    • Fully loaded and executed.

Test in several browsers, as load times will vary. Test from several worldwide locations.