An Interview with Talia Wolf, Conversion Optimization Expert, Taliagw.com
Many people claim to be experts, but those are often just sell-proclaimed descriptions. Talia Wolf’s bio claims that she is a Conversion Optimization Expert – but that assertion is backed up by people in the industry. In 2015, she was rated in an annual survey as one of the top 25 most influential conversion rate optimization experts. Just the other day I noticed that she was also included in a 2016 list of top ecommerce experts. After speaking with Talia on the phone for a while, it became clear to me that those titles are well-deserved. She not only possesses great expertise, but she is able to clearly share her expertise and knowledge with others.
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
I started my company with a few partners about seven years ago. It was a conversion optimization agency focused on emotional targeting and consumer psychology. We helped companies all over the world to optimize their web sites. After a few years, I also started teaching these principles at conferences, workshops, and in-house classes.
Last year I sold my portion of the company, and started my own independent agency.
HostAdvice: Why did you sell your company and start over again?
To make a long story short… we were a few partners and in the course of our business we raised some money and developed a software tool. However, the investors didn’t want us to have two companies – the agency and the startup. I am very much an agency person who enjoys working with people and optimizing websites. I didn’t feel a startup suited me, so I sold my shares.
HostAdvice: How did you get started in conversion optimization?
Before we started our company, I was working at an agency and was doing social media marketing for various clients. I realized, however, that they were more interested in in the number of Likes than the number of conversions – but that is really missing the point. So I began to investigate and implement conversion optimization. I soon noticed that I enjoyed doing this more than anything else and once I became more experienced and skilled at conversion optimization, I decided it was time to start a company focusing just on that.
HostAdvice: Before diving into details, please explain what exactly CRO – Conversion Rate Optimization is.
Sure. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a skill, or a project, where you work to optimize your existing traffic to increase your conversions. IF, for example, you get 1,000 visitors per month to your site which results in 100 sales, you want to make adjustments to the site so that from those same 1,000 visitors per month you can get 200 or 300 sales.
There are a lot of different skills and disciplines involved in CRO, including psychology, numerical data analysis, copywriting, graphic design, UX (User Experience), and UI (User Interface). The idea is to leverage all of these tools, techniques, and knowledge to create a better experience for the user.
Unfortunately, most people just guess – they look for a leak in their sales funnel and try to fix it. But you really need a structured process and methodology to optimize the entire funnel and web site.
HostAdvice: How would you describe the current state of awareness for the need for conversion optimization and the available techniques and tools?
There is more awareness than there used to be - most companies understand the need to optimize and are familiar with the concept of A-B testing. However, you need to know how to use the tools and understand what changes to make. You still need to do the “grunt” work.
HostAdvice: What are the services that you provide?
We offer consulting, and optimization projects based on my flagship course Emotion Sells: The Masterclass. We also offer in-house training, workshops and online courses.
HostAdvice: What are the basic concepts of this course and methodology?
I built and developed the Emotional Targeting Methodology, which is my approach to conversion optimization. I did not want to just put together a bunch of “best practices” – I wanted a methodology that would tell me exactly what to do. I wanted procedures that would enable me to understand who my customers are on an emotional level – who they are, why they are on my site, and what they are looking for.
The reason emotions are the key is because most decisions in life are emotional, even if we don’t think so. Our goal, therefore, is to understand what are a customer’s emotional intents, drivers, and triggers. Once we know that, we can start to understand what the colors, words, images, etc. that we need to use. We often provide conversion improvements of 10x-20x for our customers.
HostAdvice: Can you briefly explain how you can identify a user’s emotional triggers?
We break it down into three steps:
- Research. We do in-depth research on the target audience. This includes surveys, interviewing customer and company staff members, and analyzing competitors . We also do behavioral research - analyzing the current behavior on the site as well as the data and numbers to find the leak.
- Understanding - Combining the results of our research efforts, we identify the emotional triggers that we want to test, for example - trust, joy, fear, or surprise and then determine the calls to action, images, colors, fonts, etc. we want to test.
- A-B Testing. Actually testing and verifying (or denying) our hypotheses.
HostAdvice: Is it generally only larger companies that are willing to invest the money and effort in this type of analysis and optimization (even if it is actually short-sighted)?
Not at all. I am seeing interest among different size companies and across various industries. Of course, medium and large companies have more budget, time, and teams to invest in optimization projects. However, even smaller businesses with low traffic and budgets can optimize their sites successfully using a tested methodology.
HostAdvice: How do you define your target market? Who is your specific target audience within that market?
My target market is primarily e-commerce, travel, and B2B sites, mainly for medium to large companies. I don’t usually take on too many projects at a time, since I am very engaged and invested in each one.
HostAdvice: Where are your clients mainly located?
My clients are located mainly in the US and Europe, with a few of them located in Asia.
HostAdvice: How do you normally acquire new potential clients?
I find that potential clients come to me from several distinct avenues:
- Word of Mouth
- Client recommendations
- Following my blog
- Hearing me speak at conferences
HostAdvice: What are the top three (3) tips or pieces of advice that you would give to a webmaster just starting out with conversion optimization?
I think that the following three principles are the most important things to remember as you get started with conversion optimization:
- Before you get started, have a process – don’t just guess.
- Get to know your customers more deeply, not just as numbers, page views, devices, etc.
- Don’t rush to start doing A-B testing. You first need to know what to test.
HostAdvice: What are your favorite tools for conversion optimization? What tools should beginners to this field start with?
As I explained earlier, our goal is to understand our customers and to then create a better experience for them. The first place to start is with research tools. I start with Google Analytics in order to try to locate leaks in the funnel.
The next tool is a heat map tool, in order to understand how a user actually interacts with the site. I personally use HotJar, but there are many other good tools out there with different levels of pricing and sophistication.
You should also use a survey tool in order to survey your customers with specific questions. I use TypeForm for sending out surveys and HotJar again for on-site surveys. For example, I used Typeform as I was developing my course, in order to better understand what people really wanted to learn.
You should also really learn how to use Google Tag Manager, because it makes it easy for you to add and update conversion tracking, site analytics, and remarketing with just a few clicks, and without having to edit your site’s code.
I’ll end with a few other tools worth mentioning and checking out:
HostAdvice: How do you see the field of conversion optimization unfolding in the next few years?
I’m hoping that it will go in a better direction and be treated as a field of knowledge to better understand your customers and not just as a bunch of tactics to try.
HostAdvice: Last year you were rated as #9 among the top 25 CRO experts. That is really very impressive – especially when you consider that Neil Patel was ranked below you at #12.
It was an incredible honor – there are a lot of amazing people on that list. Webmasters should really be following many of those great people.
HostAdvice: Do you have any employees, or are you a solo consultant?
I currently have several employees including copywriters, web designers, and web analysts. They are located all over the world, but we all work on the projects together.
HostAdvice: What are your business plans for 2017?
My main goals for 2017 are to expand the in-house training that we offer and to optimize the Emotion Sells Master Class.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
I am kind of crazy – I normally work 12-14 hours a day.
When I am not working I am also kind of crazy and I spend most of my leisure skydiving and flying in wind tunnels (basically indoors sky diving). I have already completed more 700 jumps!