Recommended books for conversion rate optimization

12 Awesome Books To Help You Optimize Your Website

12 Must Read Books For Website Optimization – Updated 3rd July 2016.

 

Here are twelve  brilliant books that will give you a good grounding in the process of optimisation, design basics, usability and human psychology behind visitor behaviour. These are excellent for helping you defining your strategy and identify insights to develop hypothesis for website and landing page optimization.

The first three books are specifically on website optimization. You might think that I would suggest just one of these books to read, but I can honestly say that each brings a different perspective to the  subject and I would highly recommend that you read all three.

1. Website Optimization – An hour A Day – Rich Page.

When I received this book in the post I thought it looked a bit dry and basic for my needs. It sat on my shelf for a few months and when I got around to reading it I decided to dip into it for specific topics of
interest. However, the more I dipped into it and read whole chapters I realised that this is a gold mine for anyone wanting to really appreciate how to optimize a website.

It is crammed full of ideas on what you should be testing, but more importantly it is especially good for outlining a systematic process
for optimization
. This is essential for your success as without a consistent and data driven approach to optimization you will struggle to maintain focus and you will certainly not achieve an optimal return on investment (RIO) from your A/B and Multivariate Testing (MVT) tools.

Rich explains everything from investigating your analytics, and choosing tools, to putting together a testing plan for a page or journey. As well as being great for understanding the process of optimization there is a lot of detail on the specifics of what to test. You can tell that Rich has a massive amount of experience on the subject of testing and he holds nothing back to help you identify areas and approaches to testing. I found this book particularly good for developing check lists of how and what to test.

 

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2. You Should Test That! Conversion Optimization for more leads, sales & profit or the Art and Science of improving websites – Chris Goward.

Chris Goward founded the website optimization specialists Widerfunnel and he shares their approach to optimization in this highly readable and fascinating book.  Despite it being a fairly thick book I found I struggled to stop reading it. You can tell Chris is well read as he brings insights from a wide range of sources and has a more holistic approach to the process than many of his peers.

This is probably the most strategic book on website optimization that I have read. It has a brilliant chapter on persuasion and models of human behaviour that is a must read. The Lift Model that  Widerfunnel employ has been widely adopted as best practice in the industry and is fully explained in the book with great examples of how to use it in practice.

Chris’ book is also brilliant for dealing with objections to testing and how to engage people in the process of optimization. There are also
a huge number of examples of tests and many vivid images to  illustrate the nature of these experiments. I found Chris is particularly good at advising how to develop strong hypothesis before you go ahead with an experiment. A weak hypothesis is often the cause of many unsuccessful tests. Although we learn from our failures you do need a regular stream of successful tests to convince
your stakeholders to maintain their support.

 

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3. Landing Page Optimization – The Definitive Guide To Testing and Tuning for Conversions – Tim Ash, Rich Page and Maura Ginty.

For the digital marketers among us this is an essential read. Landing pages are the bread and butter of our trade and this book is a  comprehensive guide on how to optimize the beginning of your funnel. However, as Tim points out in his book, visitors can land on a multitude of pages and it is important to seek to optimize all pages, including your homepage, where user first arrive on your site.

Many people think that landing pages are simple to design and optimize. When you read the book though you will get a better appreciation of how complex this process is and the importance of understanding how such pages fit into the overall customer journey. Tim and his co-authors take you thorough and systematic process of optimization.

This book is much more than landing page optimization. Sure,
it covers the seven deadly sins of landing page design, but it also outlines Tim’s conversion Ninja toolbox to help you diagnose problems, identifying psychological mismatches with your visitors and fixing site problems. Other chapters include the strategy of what to test and the mechanics of testing. The book gives you a broad understanding of optimization and testing, but it also has many practical examples and ideas for your testing roadmap.

 

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4. Brainfluence – 100 Ways To Persuade and Convince Consumers With Neuromarketing – Roger Dooley.

It is estimated that 95% of our thoughts, emotions and learning occur in our subconscious mind.  Research suggests that our  subconscious mind has often made a decision well before we become consciously aware of our intentions and factors such as our emotional state, the environment, what we perceive other people are doing or thinking and social norms are much more powerful
drivers of our behaviour than we appreciate.

Roger uses a broad definition of neuromarketing to include behavioural science and behavioural-based strategies to help us understand how our brain works and how to translate this into improving our marketing and our products. Roger has carefully extracted and summarised the insights from hundreds of interesting pieces of research to provide a stream of practical  recommendations on how to influence people using key behavioural drivers.

Each of the fourteen chapters is broken up into lots of short sub-sections which makes the book very easy to digest and allows you to
find specific topics of interest very quickly. This is a great book for
marketers who want a short-cut to understanding what can influence our brain and how this can be translated into marketing strategies.

 

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5. How to Get People to Do Stuff – Susan Weinschenk.  Recommended by Roger Dooley.

Roger recommended this book to me over Twitter and I must
say this is one of my most referred to books on persuasion and motivation.  The book is structured around seven drivers of
behaviour:

  1. The need to belong

2. Habits

3. The power of stories

4. Carrots and sticks

5. Instincts

6. The desire for mastery

7. Tricks of the mind

It’s one of those books that you find difficult to put down as it’s packed full of interesting and useful insights. It’s also easy to dip
into to find a particular topic as each chapter is divided up into short sub-sections using informative headings. In addition, after each insight has been explained there is short summary of the related strategy. This assists you in digesting the important learning from each sub-section and makes it easy for you to pinpoint relevant content if you want to return at a later date. It total Susan outlines 114 helpful persuasive strategies.

 

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6. Don’t Make Me Think – A common Sense Approach to Web Usability – Steve Krug

The title in itself is a great way of framing website usability and how we should set out to design user journeys. This is a must read for anyone involved in optimizing or designing websites as it is one of
the most practical books you will come across. It is short book on purpose to make it easily digestible and more likely to be used by the people who build websites.  Steve’s mantra is about keeping it simple and focus on a few key things that everyone involved in designing or evaluating websites should know.

The book begins by setting out a few guiding principles of web usability, including “Don’t make me think” which is as simple as; “it
should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory”.  This might appear basic advice, but it is amazing how often such simple principles are forgotten in the heat of discussions about new web designs. Importantly much of the advice is based upon an excellent understanding of how people browse the web and how they interact
with content and navigation elements.

An important aim of the book to make the reader understand that usability testing does not need to be complicated and that you can do it yourself with a little bit of preparation. Steve is a great believer is doing-it-yourself and that one usability test is 100% better than none. He also makes a critical point that “Focus groups are not usability tests”.  Focus groups are a potentially misleading
method of research at the best of times, but they are totally inappropriate for evaluating the usability of a web page or user journey.

If you are time poor, and struggle to read books, this is one book that I would definitely invest in today.

 

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7. Designing with the Mind in Mind – Simple guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules – Jeff Johnson

I’m no designer, and have no intention of becoming one
either, but this is an excellent book for you to grasp they key principles of how and why people interact with user interfaces the way they do.  The book has been well researched as it is packed
full of useful statistics and insights that support the design rules outlined.

The first chapter is appropriately entitled “We Perceive What We Expect” and begins with how perception is biased by experience, current context and goals.  Jeff explains how our brain filters our perceptions accordingly and the importance of considering
mental processing when designing a user interface.

Other topics covered in the book include how our vision is optimized to see structure, reading is unnatural, peripheral vision is poor,
limits on attention shape our thoughts and actions, learning from experience and performing learned actions are easy, but problem solving and calculations are hard. Insights such as people focus on goals and pay little attention to their tools, reminds us about what matters in designing new experiences for our visitors and to stop putting barriers in place that prevent customers achieving their goals.

 

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8. Drunk Tank Pink – The Subconscious Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel And Behave – Adam Alter.

If you are interested in understanding the psychology of how human decision making is subconsciously influenced by such factors as our
names, labels, symbols, culture, colours and our environment this is a brilliant book to read. You will be shocked by how our behaviour and perceptions are affected in obscure and surprising ways.

However, Adam provides some fascinating and useful insights
that can be used to challenge design thinking and develop hypothesis for A/B testing new customer experiences. All too often we assume that most people view the world in the same way that we do, but this book explodes that myth and shows how even subtle changes to the design of images and messages can drive different behaviours.

 

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9. Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini

The 6 principles of persuasion are now widely adopted by many  marketers and there are a constant flow of articles based upon these psychological weapons.  Reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity have
become synonymous with Cialdini and persuasion.

However, the book is still worth reading as Cialdini uses compelling narrative and detailed research to explain some ordinary and some
extraordinary cases of persuasion.  Each individual principle is a complex construct that Cialdini carefully unwraps and provides great insights into the different approaches used by people seeking to persuade.

You will be shocked by the nature of some of the behaviour Cialdini uncovers as being influenced by common psychological weaknesses.  Many famous and infamous events are dissected and explained using Cialdini’s deep understanding of human psychology. However,
the book is useful for both generating ideas on how to make content more persuasive, but also how to avoid falling foul of people who are trying to manipulate you for their own personal gain.

 

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10. – How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

I’ve noticed this book on almost every reading list I have come across on social media and decided they can’t all be wrong. Given this book was written over 70 years ago, although it has been revised, I was amazed how informative and useful a guide to human behaviour it is.

This book is a brilliant and practical guide to human behaviour and how to get the most out of people, whether you are trying to persuade or just motivate them. It  is highly applicable to website optimization as the principles are the same however you communicate or interact with people. Why should you treat people any different when they come to your site than you would if they turned up at the door to your office. I highly recommend this book to to improve all aspects of your life and I’m sure it will also help generate some powerful ideas for improving your website and how you communicate with your customers online.

 

11. Decoded – The Science Behind Why We Buy – Phil Barden

Phil Barden is a highly experienced and knowledgeable marketer who brings together the latest psychological and neuroscience research and combines it with his marketing expertise. This is a fascinating and highly practical review of what we now know about what drives people to buy products and brands.

Image of implicit goals
Source: Decode Marketing

From a marketing perspective his research into the 6 key implicit (psychological) goals that drive brand purchase is invaluable. Based upon experience and empirical research the psychological goals outlined in the book offer an essential framework for positioning a brand and evaluating the relevance of proposed marketing communications. It challenges a lot of the myths created by listening to what consumers say are important to them. This gives you a reality check so that you can be better informed and avoid some of the traps many marketers have fall into.

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12. Herd – How To Change Mass Behaviour By Harnessing Our True Nature – By Mark Earls

 

An excellent book for understanding our ‘herd’ instincts and how far reaching and ingrained the influence of others is in driving much of our behaviour. This book explodes many myths about economics, word of mouth marketing, market research and human nature in general. A must read for all marketers and anyone interested in human behaviour. Mark is an experienced advertising executive and so is able to put his research into context by offering practical advice on how to apply herd theory in a competitive business environment.

 

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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.