Yesterday evening, Nick Andrews and myself popped down to Distilled‘s Live event at the Minster Exchange, Mincing Lane, London to listen to 3 talks on Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).

Having previously attended Distilled’s successful event on the Psychology of Link Building on leap day, I was eagerly-anticipating picking up a number of useful hints.

Distilled made a good choice with their selection of venue, although it did feel like being sat on church pews and a little too formal with the chairs closely aligned.

Stephen Pavlovich: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Conversion Optimisers

Stephen PavlovichAfter a brief welcome from Tom Anthony (SEO Consultant, Distilled), Stephen Pavlovich from the Conversion Factory kicked off the evening with his Seven Habits of Highly Effective Conversion Optimisers. In truth, this presentation felt a bit rushed, and the seven dwarves didn’t match up too well with Stephen’s seven bullet points. But there were some good takeaways from this:

  1. Use a programme called Evernote to record and capture everything your competitors are doing and use what ideas you have picked up from them as appropriate.
  2. Watch more TV. TV advertising has worked for years and continues to work, so learn the structure and key lines in these adverts.
  3. Use Microsoft Excel to track every test.
  4. Don’t rely hard data – setup soft data streams to cover the “why?” as well as the “what?”
  5. Learn more. Stephen explained as optimisers, we’re expected to be experts on everything; design, usability, copywriting, data analysis, the lot. Mr Pavlovich did recommend reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (although only having read 30-40 pages himself).
  6. Optimise. If possible, run A/B tests constantly, 3-4 at a time.
  7. Think differently.

Jeremy Swinfen-Green: Making Websites Work (Retail is Detail)

Jeremy Swinfen-GreenAfter a quick Q+A, Jeremy Swinfen-Green of Amberlight was up next to give us his talk on Making Websites Work (Retail is Detail).

Jeremy comically introduced himself as being “older than most of your fathers”, and made a few people chuckle throughout his presentation.

Usability was high on the agenda, as were call to actions and text copy. Some of the points throughout this talk were really obvious, some even questionable, but there were a number of things worth taking away from this talk.

For example, the key points made on the text copy were to write easy-to-understand text, broken down into lots of paragraphs, headings, bullet points and bold text. Specifically he recommended writing copy at the reading level of “The Sun”. Whilst one thing that I did learn from Jeremy was “secure checkout” had a 20% increase in conversions over “checkout” in a test he had previously run.

Jeremy’s following slide showing the eye tracking of visitors on this page being substantially different when the girl in the advert is looking at the viewer and when she’s looking at the product was interesting, although not greatly surprising. Highlighting how important small details can be in some scenarios.

Eye tracking example

Towards the end of his presentation, Jeremy highlighted the importance of keeping forms short and only asking for the important information. Asking for needless details such as one’s date of birth is just making the process longer for the user and giving them an extra reason to exit the page before they’ve placed their order.

Mr Swinfen-Green appeared to be impressed with Amazon’s order page, highlighting the lack of distractions on their page that could discourage the user from processing their order. Although, they layout of the Amazon page does seem crushed and a bit over the place in my personal opinion.

Jeremy rightfully pointed out at the end that none of his speech was rocket science and a lot of it was common sense. Although worth reiterating a number of these points to members in the audience I’m sure.

Rob Millard: 15 Free CRO Tools

Rob MillardRob Millard from Distilled conducted the final talk of the evening. There were certainly a few good things picked up from this as he went through a list of 15 Free CRO Tools.

Amazingly, Rob was recommending a few tools that he hadn’t even tested himself during this session. Perhaps he’s just too busy in his day job. The tools he did recommend, and for their purpose were as follows:

  • Project Management: Trello, Teuxdeux & Todokyo
  • Analytics: Google Analytics (highlighted the importance of setting up Goals, Funnel Visualisation and Custom Variables, as well as checking your Bounce Rate & New vs Returning vistors etc.) & ClickHeat (for eye tracking).
  • Feedback: KISSInsights, Uservoice, 4Q Survey & Twitter
  • Usability Testing: Gumtree & Twitter (for recruiting), Silverback, Quicktime, Jing, Scripts, Usabilityhub & The Click Test
  • Wireframing: Cacoo, Google Docs Drawing & Pen and Paper
  • Testing: Google Website Optimiser, Google Analytics Experiments, BT Buckets

I don’t have a degree in Maths, but I counted more than 15. Perhaps some were thrown in that aren’t free (I haven’t used them all myself either).

Rob made a good point at the end that free tools aren’t a substitute for the paid equivalent. Although, disappointingly we didn’t get a list of paid equivalents for those who have a budget. Perhaps that will be Rob’s next presentation?


The Distilled evening concluded with a networking session with the remainder of the audience that stayed behind to mop up the last few beers and bites (cheese and parma ham anyone?) and both Nick and I continued CRO discussions with the guys from Mode Digital (former Steak employees) for the duration which certainly offered us a good bit of networking.

After a good evening at Search London on Tuesday, both Nick and I were in agreement on the hour long train ride back to Receptional HQ in Bedfordshire that we left feeling a bit underwhelmed by this Distilled event. Perhaps we had set our expectations too high following the Fresh Egg and Verve Search Tuesday event however we certainly didn’t pick up as much as we were hoping to and the presentations felt rushed, and even underprepared at times. But perhaps we’re being too critical of a free event…

Distilled’s CRO and the User Experience rated 2.5 stars by Barrie Smith.


Stephen’s presentation:

Jeremy’s presentation:

Rob’s presentation:

The event’s Meetup page: