Larry Kim shares 5 CRO hacks from SMX East, covering why you should kill your landing pages and how to replicate your customers.

5 Conversion hacks from Larry Kim at #SMX EAST

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Larry Kim started his SMX East NYC session by explaining how he’s just like another well-known man who recently visited the Big Apple: “The pope and I are both obsessed with conversions!” The puns and productive tips that followed proved that WordStream‘s CTO and founder is a master of conversion hacks – and his session offered tips any marketer should bear in mind for ads and every lead generation-focused effort.

Kim, who runs one of the largest online advertising platforms, shared his belief that marketers are setting the bar too low in their efforts. His access to data for countless companies’ PPC conversions reveals a disturbing trend in the uneven distribution of success:

  • The average conversion rate is 2.3%
  • The top 25th percentile’s conversion rate is double that at 5.3%
  • The top 10th percentile’s conversion rate is 11.45% – more than 5x the average

Before sharing five CRO tips, Kim explained his epiphanies on some common conspiracies that are “plaguing” every marketing department, and keeping businesses from incredible results.

Epiphany 1:  A/B test are fairy tales. 

Yellow_LightbulbHave you recently changed the font size, the button color, the image and/or the spacing on a page, and saw a 5 percent conversion lift!? It won’t last.

“The landing page CRO test can show results that won’t persist over time.” said Kim.

“Stop mucking around with buttons and colors on landing pages and start focusing on upstream optimization.”

Epiphany 2: Most marketers are delusional about CRO test results. 

Yellow_LightbulbMarketers can see the (minor) results they want to see, and lose sight opportunities for big wins. “Small changes yield small results.” He compared excitement for minimal A/B test wins to getting excited about the way deck chairs are rearranged on the Titanic.

The little tweaks won’t sail the ship.

Epiphany 3: CRO exercises may boost quantity of leads at the expense of quality.

Yellow_LightbulbLeads do not mean sales, and it’s a common trap to focus on increasing lead numbers without focusing on growth in qualified leads – like buying cases of Spam instead of a nice piece of steak.

There’s no value in more, unless it’s more what’s valuable.

Epiphany 4: Marketers set the bar too low.

Yellow_LightbulbSee the above date, re: average conversion rates and 5x higher conversion rates for the leaders (or, as Larry calls them, the unicorns). The gap between unicorns and donkeys is huge, and businesses too often sell themselves short.

“Aim for a 3x-5x increases… not 3%-5% increases,” Kim said.

And without further ado, he went into his five conversion rate optimization hacks.


CRO HACK #1 Skip landing pages

Stop obsessing about the color of the CTA button on your page and remove the landing page from the process. Larry advocated that advertisers implement “Call Now” features in PPC, because mobile has been a game-changer in reducing the time between lead interest and sales opportunity. 

“Calls to businesses are worth over 3x clicks to websites.” 

Even if people fill out a form on a landing page, the longer the span between the moment of interest and the time someone on a sales team contacts them, the less qualified the lead. “Force mobile searchers to call you!” he said.


CRO HACK #2 Use new direct response ad formats

If you’re doing lead gen you should absolutely avoid having people fill things out if you can get their information by other means. Think of Twitter ads that share email information with advertisers after users click to Download (or similar).

He also highlighted the “Submit” and “Subscribe” features on Facebook that allow for direct response. Marketers can then add pertinent information to their CRM without creating a barrier to entry for leads. 


CRO HACK #3 Steal “shopping ad” features & qualify visitorsShoppingFeaturesCROHacks

Why are the “shopping” sections of Google so popular? Because they give people all of the information they’re looking for BEFORE they click – so a click indicates they’ve already decided to purchase.

Kim pointed out multiple ways Google is “stealing conversions” that show this isn’t restricted to ecommerce. There are ample features that can qualify clicks, including:

  • Ratings information
  • Book now (in SERP) features
  • “Call” features
  • “Get directions” features
  • “Compare rates” features (popular in insurance)

“Go nuts with ad customizers.”

He recommended adding language to ad copy to boost qualified traffic, ie:

  • Add “Sale ends” language to create urgency
  • Give clear pricing or product information directly within the ad

CRO HACK #4: Use super remarketing

“How many of you have heard of super remarketing?” Larry asked. “Well, I just made it up 20 minutes ago.” But here’s why you’ll want to get familiar with the phrase: 

Super remarketing allows you to be “choosy.” This casts a narrower net, but increase conversion rates. Instead of marketing to everyone who visits the site, only target the people who have spent money, or visited product pages and map to demographic criteria that suggests they’re in a position to buy. Use the search behavior feature of remarking and layer in “life events.”

SMX East Super Remarketing

Elements_Green_Box5_Large_LineCRO HACK #5 Change the sign up flow

Put “Register” at end, or use an emotional trigger to let users decide path to conversion. “Rethink the typical or standard form to encourage a desired response.”


BONUS CRO HACK: Change your offer

Small changes beget small changes, but big changes beget big changes. Kim described his own personal experience working at WordStream

“I asked myself, ‘How can I make this a multi-million dollar company if I can’t boost my conversion rate?’ I had to change my offer so people wanted it. So I reprogrammed, and changed my offer.” 

When asked a follow up question on Twitter about whether this policy goes against iteration as a pathway to success, Kim said this:


Read more SMX updates from Brafton here.

Katherine Griwert
Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.


  • Jerry Nordstrom

    Larry is a very knowledgeable guy, but I believe any of these general “tactics” are susceptible to context failure.
    A/B testing is very powerful when you’re product lends itself to a very well defined audience and thus conversion behavior. The variations to test and refine are limited. Some products have extremely large variation sets and can be next to impossible to test your way to success. Did they buy the A/C unit because it was hot today, they had been putting it off for 3 years, they got a raise or because my button was blue? Lastly, A/B testing tends to work best in determining usability where your end goal is to simplify the conversion process.

    Call Campaigns
    Have produced millions of leads in the Lead Generation space I can tell you that calls definitely solve the sales chase game. But there is a very large caveat to this. Google Call campaigns use routing numbers, these numbers are not clean – They have been used by other businesses in the past and thus, your pizza shop now gets hang up calls for customers looking for Bubbas keysmith center. Call only campaigns are mobile targeted lending themselves to the pocket dialers and inadvertent “all thumbs” clicks. Call campaigns are also very small ads giving limited opportunity to filter out unqualified targets with specific wording. Google is working these issues, but as it stands right now, CALL ONLY campaigns are not the silver bullet lead generation was hoping for.

    Used only on the display market which is wrought with automated click bots, publisher spam and low quality visitors. Being effective in display means a level of experience and efficiency most businesses cannot handle internally. Many businesses have a re-marketing list too small to have any meaningful impact (under 1k). If you opt for the “related re-marketing audience” you’ve opened yourself up to the junk market. If you have over 10k visits a month and a solid, automated marketing process, then re-marketing can be a huge winner.

    PPC Email Audience Targeting
    This new feature by Google allows you to target an email list that you have uploaded to adwords, similar to Facebook. These audiences can be applied to search and display. You can create multiple email audiences preferably based upon your segmentation. If you have a large and well segmented email list you will have the ability to create ads that target very specific stages of the customer journey. Still new, but we are excited about this opportunity.

    Bottom line – There are no hacks, just nuances