Sep 1, 2022

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is at the core of any successful digital marketing strategy and is used to increase the percentage of visitors who take a desired action (conversion) on your website. It will, essentially, encourage more of your website visitors to become engaged followers and purchasers.

It can be challenging to start a conversion rate optimization strategy, but the benefits it offers can help you:

  • Understand your customers better
  • Improve customers’ on-site experiences
  • Maximize your PPC spend
  • Maximize sales
  • Increase return on investment

Before we dive into exploring how CRO works (and offer 8 great tactics to guide you), let’s look first at what a conversion is.

What is a conversion in digital marketing?

Many marketers associate a conversion with a sale. However, a conversion is actually any desired action that visitors take on your website. This desired action is very often a sale, but it could also be a smaller action that moves a person further along the sales funnel toward a purchase.

A conversion action might involve a customer doing one of the following:

  • Clicking a banner ad or a text ad
  • Clicking through to a webpage
  • Downloading a report or whitepaper
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Completing an online form
  • Signing up for a webinar

Whatever the desired action may be, it’s valuable to your business and it’s measurable.

Definition of conversion rate

The conversion rate is simply the percentage of visitors to your website who complete a conversion. So, if all visitors complete a conversion, the conversion rate is 100%. If it’s only a quarter of visitors, then the conversion rate is 25%.

What is a good conversion rate? According to Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, the average landing page conversion rate across industries is about 2.35%. However, the top 25% of companies have a conversion rate of 5.31% or higher. And the top 10% are converting at a rate of 11.45% or higher.

You should aim to perform better than the average performers and try to break into the top 10%. You need a conversion rate of 11.45% to do this. A good CRO strategy or program can help you double or even triple your current conversion rate relatively quickly.

To reach your desired conversion rate, you’ll need to monitor and improve your website’s overall performance. Use Google Analytics or other reporting tools to monitor these key areas:

  • Traffic sources.
  • Device type, e.g. tablets, laptops, and smartphones.
  • Location. You can consider localizing your content for audiences in other locations.
  • Exit pages. The last page viewed by a visitor. Knowing this helps you figure out which pages cause people to leave your site, for example abandoning the shopping cart.
  • New visitor conversion rate.
  • Return visitor conversion rate.
  • Interactions per visit.
  • Value per visit. Calculate value per visit by dividing the total revenue by the number of visitors to your site.
  • Cost per conversion. This is one of the key metrics for CRO success. It’s also referred to as lead generation costs or cost per referral. It shows how much you spend to generate a conversion.
  • Bounce rate. The rate at which new visitors visit your site and immediately leave without taking any action.

Understanding conversion rate optimization (CRO)

To reach your desired conversion rate, you’ll need to monitor and improve your website’s overall performance. This involves tracking and measuring your conversion rates and finding ways to improve them.

8 effective CRO tactics

You can use these eight tactics to improve your website performance and increase conversions:

  1. Optimize the user experience (UX)
  2. Optimize your messaging
  3. User buyer personas to understand your customers
  4. Optimize based on hard data
  5. Use SMART goals for CRO
  6. Test your CRO strategies
  7. Conduct competitor research
  8. Conduct user research

1. Optimize the user experience (UX)

According to research from AWS, 88% of online shoppers said they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience – so optimizing UX is key to CRO.

To improve UX, consider using these tactics:

  • Optimize the layout of your webpages to ensure the most compelling and interesting content is visible in priority areas.
  • Be mindful of user device preference for visits and conversions and optimize the page experience to suit mobile and desktop devices as needed.
  • Add site search, and consider a chatbot. Use pop-ups sparingly.
  • Add more (or better) social proof, such as customer reviews and user-generated content, to increase your credibility and trust among consumers.
  • Improve the UX of online forms and improve CTAs.
    • Online forms should be easy to fill out. 
    • You can add personalization to your CTAs to improve conversion rates.
  • Test your site speed and troubleshoot common issues using tools like PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom.
  • On e-commerce pages, make it easy for customers to buy from you. Ensure they don’t need to login to start shopping. Instead, use optional login and sign-up fields to facilitate “guest purchases”. Be sure to follow up on abandoned carts and review the relevant pages for unexpected barriers to purchase and new customer insights.

2. Optimize your messaging

When it comes to optimizing your messaging, the first step is to review your buyer personas (see below). Make sure you know and understand your customers, and are aware of their needs, wants, and intentions.

You can then optimize your messaging for your ideal customers using these tactics:

  • Optimize your website landing pages. Make sure that your landing pages match your messaging – and the copy or ad that brought them to your pages.
  • Use and optimize lead magnets. These are free resources – such as e-books, online guides and checklists, online quizzes, videos, PDFs, and so on – that you give away in exchange for user data, such as email addresses (while being aware of data privacy standards).
  • Optimize your content, title tags, and meta-descriptions to align with top-performing keywords. Ensure your keyword is used several times in your content but avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Target high-intent users and seek insights around what works for them. These users are close to making a conversion and are very valuable. You can target high-intent users by adding high-intent keywords to your landing pages and building content that specifically targets customer pain points.

3. Use buyer personas to understand your customers

To improve your customers’ experience on your website and encourage them to convert, it’s critical that you know who they are and understand what motivates them and what they want your product to do. You can build buyer personas to help you uncover this information and apply it to your content, site layout, and CTAs.

A buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer. To develop a buyer persona:

  • Read customer reviews.
  • Ask customers questions via polls or surveys.
  • Look at your customer data.
  • Engage customers and prospects in conversations

Top Tip: download our Buyer Persona Template to get started with mapping your strategy.

4. Optimize based on hard data

Optimize your website based on high-quality data, not on feelings, emotions, or instincts. You can use an analytics tool like Google Analytics to generate hard data on your bounce rate, exit pages, cost per conversion, and other key metrics and then take concrete actions to optimize these areas.

  • Bounce rate. A high bounce rate is generally accepted as being anything above 56%. If your bounce rate falls into this category, address it immediately. Focus on your main pages and try to improve the content.
  • Exit pages. Use an analytics tool to identify your exit pages, then try to figure out why people are leaving your site on those pages and address those issues. You can do this by analyzing the content on your exit pages, and improving it to make it more relevant to visitors.
  • Cost per conversion. If you’ve set up conversion tracking in your analytics tool, you can track how much each conversion on your website costs. You can use this metric to decide if you’re getting value for money from your marketing spend.

Top Tip: Download our Funnel Conversion Toolkit to help visualize your conversion data.

5. Use SMART goals for CRO

Always set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals to help you improve CRO performance.

For example:

  • Don’t say: “My goal is to increase conversions.”
  • Do say: “My goal is to increase conversions by 10% in the next 3 months by implementing a targeted email campaign.”

6. Test your CRO strategies

You can use both A/B and multivariate testing to test your CRO strategies. For best results, you can use both test types together.

  • An A/B test is also known as a split test. It allows you to directly compare different elements on two web pages. This test is particularly useful for testing headlines, calls-to-action, images, or copy.
  • A multivariate test tests multiple variations of multiple elements on a webpage. The goal of this test is to determine which combination of variations performs best.

Tip: Check out our A/B Testing Toolkit and tutorial to get a better understanding of this key activity.

Remember: Like anything else in digital marketing, CRO testing isn’t a one-off activity. It’s an iterative process that requires time to demonstrate results.

You can use a variety of tools to help you conduct your tests. Three popular tools for testing changes to your site include:

  • Google Optimize
  • VWO Testing
  • Instapage

Here are some best practices for CRO testing:

  • Conduct an A/B test: You can use an A/B or split test to test your changes. This enables us to see how changing one variable alters the test result. For example, do you get more conversions if you change the CTA button from blue to green?
  • Save time with Tampermonkey: This is a free browser extension that you can use to run user scripts on websites, which are small computer programs that change the layout of a page and add or remove new functionality and content.
  • Preserve query parameters: When people visit your site, the parameters in their URLs contain useful information, such as where they arrived from. When conducting tests and experiments, try to preserve your query parameters.
  • Test on multiple devices: Run your tests on multiple devices, operating systems, and browsers. Ensure they work correctly on each one.
  • Ensure statistical significance: When a result is significant, you can feel confident that it’s real, and it’s not simply a case of getting lucky or unlucky with your sample. Be sure that your sample is big enough to generate a meaningful result.

7. Conduct competitor research

Assess your competitors on a continuous basis and find out what tactics are working for them. Your goal is not to copy their high-performing strategies and techniques, but to get inspiration from them and put a new twist in your own activities. 

To assess your competitors, you can carry out three types of audit:

  • Content audit: A content audit helps you find out what kind of content your competitors are sharing with their audiences. You can then compare their content strategy to your own.
  • SEO audit: An SEO audit involves investigating the keywords your competitors are using and examining their overall SEO strategy. You can use many tools, including Ubersuggest, to perform an SEO audit.
  • Social media audit: To conduct a social media audit of your competitors, simply follow them on their social sites and monitor the posts, content, and social activities that appear to perform well and resonate with their audiences. Download our Competitor Analysis Tracker to get started with following your competitors on social media today.

8. Conduct user research

Your goal with this type of research is to find out exactly how visitors interact with your website. You also want to know how they got to your site. In addition, it’s essential to find out if they encounter any obstacles while using your website, particularly any that prevent them from converting; and conversely, which aspects of their visit run smoothly.

During your user research, you’re also going to analyze:

  • Technical problems with your website, such as broken links
  • User interface (UI) issues that impact the user experience, such as poor navigation
  • How users perceive your website generally

Best tools for user research for CRO

You can use different tools for user research, including:

  • SEO tools, like Screaming Frog, to help you analyze technical issues with your site
  • Analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to find out what visitors do on your site
  • Heat-mapping and mouse-tracking tools, such as Hotjar, to help you visualize how users interact with your website and to track mouse movements and clicks
  • Form-tracking tools, like Zuko, to reveal patterns of behavior in your online forms

Top tip: Check out our full list of digital marketing tools.

Best practices for user research for CRO

Here are some best practices for conducting user research:

  • Avoid rabbit holes: Be clear about the scope of your research and make sure you plan and organize it properly.
  • Look for overlap between sources: Approach overlaps between the various data sources with a critical eye.
  • Analyze your competitors’ approach: Discover which elements of your competitors’ websites are working well.
  • Document your findings: This helps you find relevant insights when you need them, answer specific questions, keep track of changing trends, and analyze historical data.

When you’ve completed your user research, you can use the data you’ve uncovered to identify CRO testing opportunities and objectively prioritize them. The optimizations you focus on should align with your business goals and make the biggest impact on your business.

You can think big and take an ambitious approach but pay attention to the fundamentals when considering CRO changes. Remember, well-designed web pages, engaging content, and intuitive navigation build trust with customers and should always be your main priorities.

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