Guide To Using Session Recordings To Discover Conversion Opportunities

The way that many of us try to "improve" our websites to get more trials, signups, or purchases is actually fundamentally flawed when you stop to think about it.

Just for the sake of discusion, this process might typically look something like this:

  1. Get disappointed by our numbers. We often look at our analytics tools, our customer lists, or our Stripe accounts and become disappointed by the results we see there.
  2. Get disappointed by our website. Disappointed by our numbers, we look at our website and get disappointed with it. If it was somehow better, we would get better results, right?
  3. Dream up new website changes. We then cook up a bunch of changes we can make to our website. Maybe a new design? Maybe a new logo? Maybe more content? Maybe a pricing change? Maybe we should "borrow" some of those cool ideas we saw on that other website? Whatever we think might help, we're down with trying.
  4. Build and deploy. We then go off and start enthusiastically building out our "new website". Even though we thought it would only take a few days (at most), it winds up taking weeks (or even months). Eventually, we decide we just need to launch this thing and so we push it out and cross our fingers.
  5. Repeat. Over the next couple of weeks, we anxiously watch our analytics, our signup numbers, and our Stripe accounts. Despite our awesome new website we just spent months redesigning, we're not seeing the results we thought it would generate. And so we start the whole process over again.

The problem with this approach (and why it doesn't usually work) is that we're always guessing about what's not working and then we're guessing again what the solution to that first guess might be: At no point in time are we working with actual information about what visitors are or aren't doing on our website.

A better way: Make changes based on visitor behavior.

Instead, imagine if you could see what visitors were really doing on your website: Wouldn't that completely change the things you'd think you need to "fix"?

And that's exactly what session recordings can help you uncover:

Session recordings can be used to help increase conversion rates.

Session recordings are essentially screen recordings of your website visitors using your website. With them, you can see everything your visitors saw and did on your website during their visit. It's the closest thing to being able to look over their shoulder as they use your website.

When it comes to knowing which changes you should make to your website, session recordings are the tool you're going to want to have at your disposal.

So how do you use session recordings to uncover conversion optimization opportunities on your website?

It's simple, really.

The first thing you'll need to do is make sure you have Tamboo installed and running on your website and that session recordings are being captured for your visits. Once you have that in place, you'll want to capture about a day's worth of visits to your website to start.

Start with a site audit.

Once you have collected at least a day's worth of recordings, you'll want to start out by performing a site audit.

A site audit helps you to get a baseline understanding of how visitors use your website overall.

This approach helps you:

  • Get a feel for behavior patterns. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of performing a site audit is to get a feel for the kinds of behaviors your visitors exhibit. You'll be able to understand if your visitors are deeply engaging with your website, or if they're simply skimming and bouncing.
  • Identify macro-level UX (user experience) issues. Another benefit to performing a site audit is that you'll be able to uncover any overarching UX issues your visitors may be running into. Just because you think something is "obvious" doesn't always mean your visitors think it is.
  • Organically uncover pages with problems. Finally, site audits help you find pages on your website which need immediate attention. This top-down (visit-first) approach can often help you find pages where you can make impactful changes faster than taking a bottom-up (page-first) approach.

Review your recordings.

So how exactly do you go about carrying out a site audit to start uncovering all of these awesome benefits?

It's actually easier than you might imagine:

  1. Make sure that you've queued up at least one day's worth of recordings.
  2. Grab a notebook and a pen or pencil (or, if you're more of the digital pursuasion, feel free to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word to track your notes).
  3. Open your session recordings list in Tamboo.
  4. Sort your session recordings by Traffic Source. This will help you group and observe visitor behavior patterns based on the traffic source they're coming from.
  5. Start playing recordings in order down the list. We recommend that you play recordings at a 1x playback speed to start. If you find that your recordings have a lot of visitor inactivity in them (pauses), you can always turn on the Skip Pauses option to step over those inactive stretches.
  6. In your notebook, make sure to create a heading for each traffic source you see as you work your way through your recordings. Group your notes about recordings from that traffic source underneath this heading.
  7. For each recording you watch, make a note of the Session Number in your notebook and make notes of what the visitor appears to be doing and how their behavior feels to you. Do they seem to be engaged with your site? What kind of pages are they looking at? What happens when they're presented with a call to action? Be sure to also make notes of anything unusual or noteable that stands out to you.

Analyze your recordings.

Once you've completed reviewing and making notes from your recordings, the next step is to analyze your findings. What we're really looking for here is how frequently different patterns come up across the different sources of traffic your website receives:

  1. Start a new page in your notebook (or again, if you're more digitally inclined, Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel are good tools for this exercise).
  2. Start a new heading for each traffic source you reviewed recordings for.
  3. Review your notes for that traffic source and look for common themes or behaviors. Then, in your notebook, list out each behavior, one per line. The result should be that you have a list of common themes and behaviors for that traffic source.
  4. Now, go through each recording in your notes again. This time, when you see that a recording exhibited a behavior that you have a line item in your list for, add a tally mark next to that item.
  5. Do this for each of the traffic sources and recordings you've gathered notes for.
  6. Once you're done, count up your tallies and make a note of how many recordings exhibited each behavior.
  7. For each traffic source, sort the list of behaviors you've found based on your tally count from highest to lowest.

Identify the opportunities.

With this list in hand, you'll now be able to uncover some interesting conversion optimization opportunities:

Macro-Level Opportunities

Do you see common behavior themes across your different traffic sources? If you do, this can be a strong indication that these are macro-level conversion optimization opportunities.

Because visitor behavior can vary depending on the traffic source (visitors coming from a search engine can behave much differently than visitors coming from social media for example), when you see consistent behaviors across different traffic sources, you'll want to take note. Finding the root cause of these behaviors - and correcting them - can result in increased conversions across the board from all of your traffic sources.

These macro-level conversion opportunities can lead to huge gains - so be sure to be on the look out for them.

Traffic Segmentation Opportunities

The next set of opportunities to look for from a site audit are traffic segmentation opportunities.

It can be very difficult to have a single webpage that can effectively service the needs of visitors coming to your site with different intentions. Visitors who come to your site from Google may be expecting something very different than visitors who come to your site from Facebook.

By looking at the results of your site audit, you see which behaviors most define the visits coming from different traffic sources:

  1. Start with the traffic sources you receive the most traffic from.
  2. For each traffic source, note what the main behavior is that you're seeing.
  3. Ask yourself - "Why would people coming from this traffic source behave this way? What are they looking for that they're not seeing?" Make notes about possible reasons.
  4. Now ask yourself if you can improve the pages in question to better serve your main traffic segments, or if their needs are too different to do that cleanly. You may need to create dedicated landing pages tailored to better serve the needs and wants of visitors from your different traffic sources. Make a note of which approach you think you should take to properly address the visitor behavior you're seeing.

Put it into action.

Once you have identified your conversion optimization opportunities, it's time to take advantage of those opportunities by executing on them.

But don't go crazy and try to implement everything all at once! That's a huge mistake that too many people make. Instead, you'll want to focus on one set of opportunities at a time that have the potential to make the largest impact. You'll want to execute on each opportunity separately and measure results before moving onto the next one.

An effective framework for determining which opportunities you should tackle - and in which order - is the ICE framework. ICE stands for Impact, Confidence, and Ease. To use the ICE framework, just follow these steps:

  1. Create a table or a spreadsheet that contains the following column headings:
    • Opportunity
    • Impact
    • Confidence
    • Ease
    • ICE Score
  2. List each of your opportunities in the Opportunity column.
  3. For each opportunity, assign a score of 1-10 (1 being lowest, 10 being highest) for each of the following columns:
    • Impact - How big of an impact would making this change have on your conversion rates?
    • Confidence - How confident are you that making this change will improve your conversion rates?
    • Ease - How easy is it to make this change?
  4. Next, add up each opportunity's Impact, Confidence, and Ease scores and record the result in the ICE Score column. This is your ICE score for that opportunity.
  5. Sort your opportunities from the highest ICE Score to the lowest ICE Score. The opportunities with the highest ICE score are the ones that you should execute on first. You should work your way down the opportunities from highest to lowest ICE Score, executing, deploying, and monitoring them one at a time.

Although it can seem involved, a site audit is a great first step towards improving your website's conversion potential, especially if you've never done one before. An initial audit can help you find and correct a number of latent issues and provide an immediate boost in conversions. You should also consider performing a site audit after any global or major changes you make to your website to make sure that those changes are performing as expected and not causing any negative impact. Beyond that, performing quarterly site audits is also something you should consider. As your website acquires new traffic sources over time, a periodic site audit can help you identify new opportunities that visitors from those traffic sources might bring.

Monitor changes.

Whether you make changes to your site as the result of a site audit (as described above), or you make periodic updates or changes to your site, watching recordings of visitors interacting with those changes can help you quickly uncover issues and opportunities.

To take advantage of this approach, simply search for session recordings that include any of the pages you have modified and review them on a regular basis until you are comfortable that they changes you have made lead to the behaviors you want and expect.

Focus on the parts of your website that have a high return on investment.

For websites that have a large number of webpages, doing a regular site audit may be too daunting a task. In these instances, it's best to focus on session recordings that include high value webpages, such as:

  • Your homepage
  • Your product pages
  • Your pricing pages
  • Your checkout/purchase pages
  • Your most important landing pages

These are often the webpages that will have the highest return on any investment that you put into them: Any improvement to these pages can result in an immediate lift in conversions.

To execute this strategy:

  1. Pick one area of your website that you want to focus on for the purpose of increasing conversions: For example, your pricing page.
  2. Grab a notebook and a pen or pencil (or use Google Docs or Microsoft Word to track your notes).
  3. Collect at least a few days worth of session recordings that include visits to that part of your website.
  4. Open your session recordings list in Tamboo.
  5. Search for session recordings that contain visits to the webpage(s) you're interested in optimizing. (Pro tip: You can also tag visits to those pages and search for recordings by that tag.)
  6. Sort your session recordings by Traffic Source.
  7. Start watching.
  8. In your notebook, create a heading for each traffic source you encounter. Group your notes about recordings under the corresponding traffic source.
  9. Make notes about what your visitors look to be doing and how their behavior appears to you. Note how engaged they are (or aren't). Note what happens when they're presented with a call to action. Note if they take the action or path you designed for them to take, or if they hesitate or avoid it. Also make notes about anything unusual or noteable that stands out to you.
  10. Once you've gathered your notes, follow the remaining steps that you would in a typical site audit (as described above), namely:
    1. Analyze your recordings
    2. Identify the opportunities
    3. Put it into action