How to Use Session Replays to Increase Website Conversions

Written by on October 9, 2018

Standard website and landing page conversion rates aren’t very good: 2.35%.

And simply testing out the latest and greatest tactics to improve your conversion rates aren’t going to help.

That advice is often generic and not geared toward your personal business needs.

Sure, speed might help a bit, but beyond baseline factors, what elements of your specific website aren’t working for your specific audience?

There are only two ways to find out…

  1. Pick up the phone and start dialing
  2. Use session replays to understand the behavior

…And only one is feasible at scale.

Here’s how to use session replays to increase your website conversions, and more importantly, create better customer experiences that result in loyal clients.

What Is a Session Replay and Why Is It Useful?

When looking to improve your website conversion rates, what’s your first step?

Do you try to look at your page elements? Forms? All of these are merely guesses.

And unless you are watching your customers engage on your site, you have no clue why landing pages aren’t converting.

Sure, you could sit there and run test after test after test to determine what works.

But at scale, that’s a recipe for time-wasting, budget-draining efforts.

And that’s where session replays come in.

Session replays allow you to literally see how customers move on your website. From every point that they click to simple mouse movements and page transitions:

Session replays are a video playback of actual user sessions on your website. They show every interaction and engagement that happens on given landing pages.

So, why is this data useful when you have software like Google Analytics?

Because Google Analytics can’t show you how a visitor engaged.

You can easily misinterpret surface level data on bounce rates and TOS (time on site). For instance, was that ten minute time on site because they were hooked on your content or because your site was slow and finding the right information took them ages?

Was your bounce rate high because the content sucked or because your menu navigation wasn’t working?

While it’s easy to look at surface level metrics in Google Analytics, they don’t paint a clear picture of what really happened.

Session replays also can help you eliminate wasted time on email exchanges with your customers to fix common problems.

When users create support tickets, you can simply go back into your session recording to see where issues began and what elements you need to fix ASAP.

This ensures that future tickets will drop significantly and you can continually monitor sessions for performance improvements.

Ready to improve your website conversion rate and get more customers? Here are a few ways to do just that utilizing session replays.

Avoid Confirmation Bias and Standardize Your Analysis

Picture this:

You’re driving down the highway headed home from work. Stressed as usual and waiting for the moment you can flop on the couch.

When out of nowhere, a BMW driver cuts you off.

Next day, the same thing happens.

Now every time you see a BMW, you instantly think they are a terrible driver.

That’s confirmation bias.

“When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true.” – Psychology Today

In plain English, it’s the idea of interpreting all new evidence in a way that fits your assumptions.

And when it comes to session replays or any CRO work on your website, confirmation bias is the silent killer.

Do you think it’s your forms that are causing bounces? You’ll find a way to make the evidence showcase that.

Do you think it’s your site speed? The data might start to feel like it’s the speed and not your carousel slider.

This bias is a dangerous and ineffective way to analyze session replays as it can distract from real user problems.

Going into an analysis with preconceived ideas of what could be wrong will bias your results.

So, how do you avoid it? How do you standardize the process to be objective?

By laying out some ground rules using a spreadsheet:

For session replay analysis, we like to focus on a few specific factors that will eliminate guesswork and confirmation bias:

  1. URL analyzed: The specific landing page for this session recording.
  2. Audience segment: What buyer persona they represent.
  3. New vs. Returning: Are they first-time visitors or returning? A critical factor in funnel stage analysis.
  4. Source/ Medium: Where the traffic originated from. Different traffic can result in different intent.
  5. Mobile or Desktop: What device they used when the session recorded. Different devices can result in better or worse actions, so it’s vital to distinguish.
  6. Goal Action of the Page: What the landing page is supposed to accomplish.
  7. Positive Observations: Positive observations not just from specific goal action of the page.
  8. Negative Observations: Negative observations not just from specific goal action of the page.
  9. Notes: Any additional notes on how to proceed or what to remember.

Standardizing this process helps keep your bias at bay by noting the desired goal action and then comparing positive and negative interactions in regards to any action on the page.

Now you can start to compare sessions with as much data to explain differences in interactions as possible.

Analyze Specific Landing Pages for Behavioral Trends

Most people fail with session recording software because they try to analyze a thousand sessions from different pages, user groups, audiences, and segments.

That doesn’t work. It takes too much time, and there are too many variables to give a statistically significant result.

But, most of the time it’s not the fault of the user. Instead, their session recording software doesn’t group up data by specific landing pages or give them the ability to set custom filters.

But to get accurate data, you want to narrow your focus:

Analyzing specific landing page sessions from specific audience segments to reveal commonalities.

But before you can analyze behavioral trends on your landing pages, you have to know where to point the recording software.

What landing pages do you focus on first?

This requires some pre-analysis. First, head to Google Analytics and locate the All Pages report in the Behavior section:

The all pages report will showcase all of the links on your site and metrics like pageviews, bounce rate, and even conversion data (if you have goals established in GA).

This is where the dilemma can set in: what pages are most important?

In most cases, you’ll want to focus on two distinct efforts:

  1. Landing pages/ site pages that are converting above your expectations
  2. Landing pages/ site pages that are underperforming

Analyzing both types will show you what’s working and what’s failing miserably, allowing you to avoid mistakes in the future and prioritize efforts that your audience segments enjoy.

When firing up a new session replay analysis, if you’re using FreshMarketer’s session replays, you can easily set the landing page that you want to analyze:

Run session recordings on your best and worst landing pages and compare the results.

How do people interact with your forms? Your page elements? Which ones are causing conversion roadblocks and which are driving significant engagement?

Put the results into action back on your landing pages and monitor results again until your conversion rates increase.

Categorize Traffic into Different Visitor Segments

When running session replays on your website with the goal of increased conversions, you’ll have to do more than just analyze specific landing pages.

Analyzing specific landing pages is an amazing start, but more data can get uncovered when you segment.

For example, let’s say that your landing page is converting at just 5%. Why is that? What features or CTAs or engagement factors are missing or are not received well?

It depends on the segment! One customer group could love your CTA while the other hates it.

Or maybe it’s not your CTA, but instead, the value proposition used. Or the lack of details when they scroll down.

The bottom line is: different segments of your audience will react in different ways. To cater to each, you’ll need to understand how each one functions separately.

In Freshmarketer’s session replay, you can drill down traffic and replays by using filters:

To start, you can customize your filter with two overarching conditions:

And/ Or.

And  = when all conditions match.

Or = when one condition matches.

For instance, let’s say you just ran an advertising campaign to drive traffic from Facebook to your website. You can go into your session replays and segment traffic by the specific date range to analyze how Facebook traffic reacted:

Dial in your visitor segment by filtering for source/ medium and selecting social:

Now you have an audience that visited during your campaign dates from that specific medium. You can take it another step further and filter the data by device type to see differences in mobile, desktop, and tablet traffic:

To increase website conversions, you need specificity. Plain old recordings won’t tell you much of anything. Every audience segment is different, and filtering is the name of the game.

Find Conversion Roadblocks Sabotaging Your Onboarding and Sales

When a website or landing page is conversion optimized, conversion momentum picks up steam fast.

Users are engaging with your content pieces and converting on every CTA they see.

As you can imagine, the opposite isn’t good.

Conversion roadblocks are elements on your website (including anything from page elements and copywriting) that can halt conversion momentum, aka, stop someone in their tracks from converting.

For instance, in e-commerce, shipping is a conversion roadblock accounting for the majority of cart abandonment.

(Image Source)

Speaking of ecommerce, Freshmarketer client LeadsMarket, an online marketplace for affiliate marketing, was struggling with poor website conversions.

With sinking website form conversion rates and high cart abandonment, they weren’t sure what was going on.

Analytics data didn’t suffice. Bounce rates told them nothing. Time on site was great, but conversions were low. Why?

Previously using Hotjar and considering Optimizely, LeadsMarket still couldn’t improve their conversion rates. Marco Ponce, Senior Marketing Manager at LeadsMarket, said:

“With HotJar, only the first level of analysis was possible for us with their static heatmaps…Unless you’re a very big Saas company, it is not possible to use tools like Optimizely that cost around $45000 a year.”

Immediately upon using Freshmarketer’s Session Replays, they found some profound results:

Users were stuck on the forms.

It wasn’t that they weren’t filling out the form or weren’t interested in the product.

Instead, the form requirements asked for data that just took too long to gather.

Information like banking, driver’s license info, and more.

Visitors didn’t have this information on-hand, leading to massive roadblocks that most didn’t bother to complete.

Combining those session replays with a funnel analysis, they noticed massive drop-off rates as the fields became more intensive.

The results?

A 25% increase in conversion rates on new visitor traffic and a 12% drop in bounce rate.

Running over 20 experiments and countless session replays, they got to look right into the POV of their customers and fix their pain points fast.

Conversion roadblocks will differ between every site. But unless you’re converting at 100%, they undoubtedly exist.

Discover Different User Journeys with Segmentation and Analysis

User journeys are critical to optimizing the user experience. But you already know that.

The problem with user journeys is that they are often difficult to assess. You need to know:

  1. What pages a common audience segment visits for the first time
  2. What pages they visit on a second or third touch
  3. Common pages visited on the same trip
  4. Pages that drive engagement and conversions
  5. Indications of funnel stage based on page visits
  6. Pages that they didn’t like or visited and bounced from

All of these are huge in genuinely understanding what your customers want.

But it’s almost impossible to gather all of that data without seeing it with a session replay or dialing the phone.

With session replay software, you can easily analyze user journeys with segmentation and page visits.

Like we discussed earlier, you can start by categorizing your traffic into different visitor cohorts based on various actions:

You can either target based on these audience factors or create custom audiences with custom JavaScript.

For instance, using the “Uploaded Audience” selection, segmenting your different cohorts is easy.

Once you’ve narrowed the focus to specific groups, you can analyze their session replays. Within the session replays, focus on what pages they visited during a session:

Take it one step further and add more variables to your audience.

Next, adjust your audience to visitors who have been to your site more than once or twice. This will refine your cohort to show return visitors who are likely lower in your funnel than the top of the funnel visits.

Note what pages they visited and you will start to see trends of what pages engage users at each stage of their buying journey.

This information is critical for structuring future campaigns as you know what content interests these segments.


Typical conversion rates on a given landing page aren’t anything to brag about.

Small adjustments to your pages can result in small increases in your conversion rates.

But those small increases aren’t going to move the needle to see massive changes in your revenue.

Instead, you should go straight to the source: analyze session replays to uncover huge roadblocks that are destroying your conversion potential.

Be sure to avoid confirmation bias and standardize your reporting. Analyze specific landing pages from best to worst to get the full story.

Categorize your traffic into different cohorts to limit any outside variables and compare similar user journeys.

Session replays are a hidden treasure trove of data that can unlock amazing CRO insights for your business.