Anyone who’s had their head out from under a rock recently will know that the age of user privacy when it comes to the internet is long gone. Whether it’s Facebook selling your data to the highest bidder or spambots hacking your email, it happens. This is obviously awful, but a little bit of tracking can actually do wonders for your online business endeavours.

I might have run ahead of myself a little bit here, so I’ll just give you a few quick definitions before we move on:

• Conversion rate: This is the percentage of people that have viewed your site and have ‘converted’ from a visitor into a customer.
• Conversion rate optimisation: This is the process by which a clever person can help you improve your conversion rate by identifying areas of your site which aren’t performing quite as well as they could. The ultimate goal of any conversion rate optimisation campaign is to make your site more encouraging for your users so that they do what it is you want them to do – convert from a visitor into a customer.
• Privacy – that thing that your mum told you about. Yeah, it’s a myth. Also, the Easter Bunny’s dead; I turned him into a pie.

One of the main focal points of conversion rate optimisation is to identify where your current site is falling down. Is it that there are no calls to action on the page? Is it that the buttons you want people to click just don’t stand out? Is your checkout completely broken? Things like that. Now there are an awful lot of ways that a conversion rate optimisation consultant can identify and fix areas that your site might be falling short, but what’s the quickest and easiest way to do that? By watching someone use the site.

User Tracking Software

Of course, this isn’t like the old days of the mystery shopper where you could go in and see how people in the shop behaved. Very few people are going to let you sit over their shoulder and watch you use a website, and if they do, they’ll probably be using it very differently to how they normally would. User tracking software like Mouseflow or Clicktale is the perfect way to see exactly how people use your site – it records them while they’re on it.

When I first heard about tools like this, I was actually a little reticent. On the one hand, sure, the data you can pick up is absolutely invaluable. On the other hand, it all sounded VERY Big Brother and I wasn’t sure that it was something I wanted to be involved with. I was happy enough spending time going through Analytics and playing around with heatmaps, I didn’t need to actually watch people use a site. And then I looked into it a little bit further and found out just how useful user tracking software could be.

Watching You Click

If you’re worried, don’t be. You’re not being watched right now, I don’t have installed on this site yet, but I trialled it on my other one MakeSenseOfThis and it certainly did give me some useful information that I probably wouldn’t have garnered otherwise. Having used the tool on a few more sites, I can genuinely say that I find this kind of software invaluable. Aside from getting hundreds of videos of users on the site which is very useful for identifying patterns of failure (ie, if and where things just aren’t being clicked or if something isn’t working) and also aggregating user behaviour.

Most of these on-site analytics platforms also provide heatmaps and clickcounts, letting you know exactly where a user has put their mouse and how they’ve clicked which really can be invaluable data when it comes to figuring out where to start when you’re looking to improve your conversion rate.

One thing that’s worth mentioning as it was one of my biggest concerns is that no personally-identifiable information is collected with any of the user tracking software I’ve played with. I was genuinely worried that some unscrupulous person could use this to take my credit card, but thankfully, that’s not on the agenda.

If you’re serious about improving your site’s conversion rate, it really does start with figuring out how your users are behaving on your site and then working out the whys. There are a lot of ways to do it and although some people (myself included when I first heard of it) may baulk and play the ‘invasion of privacy’ card, I really think that this is one of the quickest and most effective ways to help you when it comes to guiding your visitors to the page that counts – the “Thank you for your purchase” page.

What do you think? Is this too much, or is it the next logical step for an effective business?