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10 Qualities the Best Conversion Optimizers Tend to Have

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Neil Patel
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This year, thousands of businesses will hire a conversion rate optimizer.
Businesses need these people -- and fast. Today, CRO is one of the most effective, quickest, and least expensive ways to ramp up revenue and succeed.
But hiring a conversion optimizer isn't easy. They're not handing out college degrees in "CRO." Furthermore, the best optimizers have been snatched up by other businesses.
In all likelihood, you're going to either become a conversion optimizer yourself, or grow one within. Here are the qualities that define an expert CRO... or at least someone who is on the path to becoming one.
1. A STEM Background
The classic CRO is an analytical and data-driven personality -- someone who loves numbers, and who can't get enough of the data. VWO calls for a "polymath," but I'll lower the bar a bit and suggest that you look for someone with a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) experience/education.
2. Understanding of Marketing
Conversion optimization is one discipline within the overall field of marketing. As such, conversion optimizers should understand how their role integrates with SEO, paid search, landing page design, social media, and other marketing disciplines.
3. Excellent Team Player
Forgive me for using a bland and overused job application term, "team player." For the CRO, being a team player is truly a thing. Here's why. Seldom does a conversion rate optimizer work alone, tinkering with data and running tests. In order to run a robust set of comprehensive tests, the optimizer needs the involvement of designers, copywriters, programmers, marketers, and other analysts. Conversion optimization doesn't happen within a vacuum, and the optimizer needs to be capable of pulling everyone together to do their part.
4. Understands Human/Buyer Psychology
One of the qualities that is easiest to overlook is the understanding of human psychology. Sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? What in the world does human psychology have to do with the data-driven experience of testing, analysis, and engineering higher conversion rates? As it turns out, everything. All that data is a result of human actions -- clicks, curiosity, understanding, motivation, needs, wants, fears, interests, intuition, experience, and whatever it is that makes humans tick. Without an appreciation for and understanding of these dynamics, the conversion rate optimizer will not be able to fully succeed. As Jeremy Smith expressed it, "Conversion optimization is primarily an area of psychology. This runs counter to the prevailing idea that conversion rate optimization is a set of process-driven techniques."
5. Design Sensibility
Design is a massive component of conversion optimization. Better design leads to better conversions. But what does "better design" look like? This is where your optimization expert needs to apply his or her experience of web design. From best practices to current trends, a good optimizer knows what changes generally produce the best results in given situations. Does he need to be an actual designer -- able to hustle up some stunning creative work in Photoshop? Not necessarily, though it wouldn't hurt. Instead, the optimizer should have an awareness of what kind of design works and what doesn't in a conversion context.
6. Unstoppable Tester
There is no arguing with the primacy of testing in conversion rate optimization. In fact, without testing, there is no such thing as conversion rate optimization. Conversion optimizers are always testing something. If they are not testing, they are wasting time. This position demands a constant supply of split testing ideas, and regular changes that result in higher conversion rates.
7. Familiar with Tools
You can't do optimization without the right tools. At a minimum, the optimizer should be highly familiar with Google Analytics and at least one other testing/landing page platform. The more tools and resources he or she is familiar with, the better.
8. An Intuitive Understanding of Good UX
You probably have the idea by now that a conversion optimizer needs to be a cross-disciplinary ninja. Nowhere is the importance of a T-shaped marketer greater. Here is yet another discipline to add to the list: user experience. Conversion optimization is an advanced form of the science of user experience. For that reason, an excellent CRO can read a wireframe, assess cognitive flow, shape information architecture, and work with interface designers.
9. Insatiably Curious
You want an optimizer who is madly curious about, well, everything. Here's why. Conversion rate optimization is the process of endless changes, iterations, tests, varieties, options, and outcomes. What kind of outcomes? You'll never know until you test it. Hire an optimizer whose curiosity will steer your business in the right direction. There are no boundaries on the extent of an optimizer's curiosity. She can be curious about human behavior, customer psychographics, link building, dwell time, or copywriting. The more this curiosity fuels testing and improvement, the better.
10. Focused on Revenue
CRO isn't just about conversions. It's about a greater goal -- more revenue. Make sure that your optimizer understands that there is something at stake in his position, and it's greater than seeing a lift of 40 percent, or improving CTRs on the CTA by 85 percent. At the end of the day, it's about the positive revenue impact on the business as a whole. That's the ultimate pursuit of conversion rate optimization.
Will you find a conversion optimizer who excels at every one of these qualities?
No. But if you look hard enough and long enough, you'll come pretty darn close.
A good conversion optimizer will pay for himself or herself in spades. A few simple changes, a few basic split tests, and you're well on your way to smashing conversion rates, lowering shopping cart abandonment, improving micro-conversions, and earning more revenue from your business.
Have you hired a conversion optimizer? What is your experience?

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