12 Steps to Guide Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Strategy
12 Steps to Guide Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Strategy
Greg Walthour, CO-CEO • Intero Digital • December 25, 2021
Conversion rate optimization is one of the most essential things you can do to convert your online visitors and increase ROI for your business. Yet you often don’t hear much about it.
If you want to expand your business rapidly, you need to give your conversion rate optimization as much attention as it deserves, and the simplest way to start is by following this 12-step CRO action plan to guide your strategy.
But before diving in, let’s better understand precisely what conversion rate optimization is and why it’s essential to your business’s success.
When should you perform CRO?
Are people visiting your site but just lurking around doing nothing — like a group of bored teenagers on a quiet Friday night? You spent all that time and money creating engaging Facebook ads, designing the world’s best landing pages, “SEOing” your content, and ordering Starbucks. (Lots and lots of Starbucks.) Still, no one’s taking action. No one’s hitting that big colorful button, sharing their email address, or buying your novelty “Baby Yoda” dolls. You have terrific click-through rates, but you need something to show for it.
So what more can you do as a digital marketer? Order more coffee at Starbucks?
Stop what you’re doing right now. Put the coffee down. And start boosting your conversion rates.
CRO marketing is so lucrative that many teams bring in conversion optimization specialists to clean house. However, we’ll share some conversion rate optimization best practices you can do in-house.
Whether you’re a specialist or not, you should at least be familiar with CRO best practices. So that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about next.
What is a conversion?
A conversion is when someone visits a website or app and performs the desired action or goal. That could be purchasing a product, signing up to your newsletter, completing a web form, or making a purchase. How successful your website is at converting visitors is shown through your conversion rate — the percentage of your total visitors who take the desired action. This is why conversions are at the lowest point of the sales funnel — they’re at the end of the process.
There are two types of conversions:
- Macro conversions (the primary goal).
- Micro conversions (more minor engagements).
Some examples of conversions for both categories are listed below.
- Service subscription.
- App install.
- Form submission.
- Button click.
- Form submission.
- Link click.
- Email signup.
- Landing page view.
- Account creation.
- Adding an item to the cart.
Offline conversions also happen and could be directly related to your online activities. The most common are in-store visits (micro), phone calls (micro), and in-store purchases (macro).
A micro conversion usually precedes a macro conversion. For example, a micro conversion, like a newsletter signup, can lead to a macro conversion, such as someone making a purchase. Another example would be someone clicking a signup button (micro) and then filling out a form (in this instance, macro). (A form can be considered a macro or micro conversion depending on your goals.)
How do you calculate the conversion rate?
The conversion rate is the number of times a visitor completes a conversion divided by website traffic.
Conversion Rate = Conversions ÷ Traffic
For example, let’s say your website has a landing page that 1,000 people have visited. Of those, 50 clicked on your call to action (a micro conversion). Your conversion rate is 5% (50 ÷ 1,000 = 0.05).
You can further optimize your conversion rate by dividing total conversions by a wide range of site statistics and indicators, such as the total number of user sessions, the number of all sessions, and the number of sessions based on traffic source. You can also break total conversions down a lot further across CTAs.
What is a good conversion rate?
The latest studies show that the average landing page conversion rate is 2.35%. However, what constitutes a reasonable conversion rate depends on your industry, your business model, and other factors. For example, e-commerce has a lower average conversion rate compared to finance. So while a 2% conversion rate can be considered poor for several businesses, it could be favorable for others. A reasonable conversion rate is required to expand your business and edge out your competitors.
That said, you don’t want an OK conversion rate — you want an incredible conversion rate. Right?
So you’ll want to weigh conversion rate data against your organization’s relevant industry to know what a great conversion rate is for your business. And if you want to be the best in your CRO game, shoot for a conversion rate that’s three to five times higher than your industry’s average.
What is CRO?
Conversion rate optimization is a methodology to increase conversion rates by enhancing the user experience. CRO seeks the best ways to compel visitors to take the desired actions.
From a statistical standpoint, conversion rate optimization:
- Lowers acquisition costs.
- Increases the amount of revenue per visitor.
In other words, it helps you profit more from your overall traffic.
The difference between CRO and SEO
Search engine optimization seeks to increase the number of qualified visits to your site by people who are actively searching for a similar product or service. CRO aims to convert that organic traffic. Together, they deliver a one-two punch.
They are, however, two different beasts. Many digital marketers prefer to target SEO first because they’re interested in bringing more prospective customers to their website. But SEO efforts will only be effective if that traffic is actually converting. So you should take a balanced approach. Employing them both in your strategy can increase the chances you’ll achieve your desired results.
One piece of PIE at a time…
CRO might seem impossible when you begin going through your site, especially if you have a large one. So before we jump into best practices, let’s touch on a quick project management tip. This simple method can prevent you from going too far.
The PIE framework can help you focus on conversion rate optimization by showing which tests and tasks should get the most attention. It does so by considering three components:
- Potential: How much probability does the task contribute to improving the bottom line?
- Importance: Is the task essential for your business?
- Ease: How quickly will the task be finished relative to the time needed to perform it and its complexity?
Using PIE, begin your CRO strategy by focusing on pages that you can improve, that have the most helpful traffic to leverage, and that can be easily optimized now.
The PIE framework helps sort your tasks based on priority. Rank an individual job as it relates to PIE on a scale from 1 to 5. Add them together. The average is your PIE score for a single task. You also need to do this for all your CRO tasks. After that, start with an essential task, and go down the list until you finish them.
CRO marketing best practices
Start your CRO by answering these two straightforward questions:
- Why do people go to my page?
- What action do I want people to perform while they’re there?
The answers to these questions will be the basis of your CRO strategy and should be simple, short, and straightforward. The first shows a pain point that’s affecting your business. The second provides a solution. And you’ll want to answer these questions separately for each page, noting which micro conversions lead to macro conversions.
Once you can confidently say you can do that, it’s time to learn about 12 of the best conversion rate optimization tips:
1. Make data-driven decisions.
Don’t perform CRO without the proper knowledge. Data should drive all your CRO strategies.
It can be tempting to take action based on a hunch, assumptions, or guesswork. Or to look at competitors and decide that because they’re doing something, you should follow suit without really knowing the “why.” But those are bad strategies.
A good strategy starts by adequately tracking all traffic and conversions. From this data, you’ll be able to determine entry points, exit points, demographics, bottlenecks, user actions, and user behavior. To gain greater insight into behavior, support your quantitative data analysis with qualitative methods like user testing and surveys.
Once you have enough data about your prospective customers, quantify your goals. For example, if you want to turn leads into actual customers, the following equations can help you calculate your progress toward the goal:
- Lead Value = Total Sales Value ÷ Total Leads
- Conversions Needed = Revenue Goal ÷ Lead Value
- Customers Needed = Revenue Goal ÷ Average Sales Price
- CRO Goal = Customers Needed ÷ Conversions Needed
2. A/B-test strategically.
The best tactic is to A/B-test and change only one thing in every test. Try testing a distinct page heading, image, or CTA text, but not all three at once.
If you’re A/B-testing a landing page, try several variations of your main heading. After a given period, whichever version saw the most conversions is your winner. Use this winner as your main heading. Then, test another element and repeat this testing process as needed. A great CRO strategist should test everything and never settle for only one winner.
But it’s best to be careful about how you test. You’ll need an ample size, so make sure you have the right amount of traffic and are testing for a long enough time frame. Otherwise, your results could be misleading.
3. Eliminate bottlenecks.
Bottlenecks are found almost anywhere in the user journey where prospective leads consistently need to progress to the next stage. High abandonment and bounce rates are often the results of bottlenecks.
You might require people to create an account before purchasing but no one is doing so. That’s a bottleneck.
Perhaps your landing page has too many CTAs and people need to be more confident to pick one. That’s a bottleneck.
Maybe your Facebook ads have an excellent CTR but lead to no conversions on your landing page. That’s because there’s likely a decoupling between your ads’ messaging and the site’s. That, too, is a significant bottleneck.
One of the easiest methods for looking for bottlenecks is by reviewing funnels on Google Analytics. Consider multichannel funnel reports your new best friend in CRO.
4. Prioritize macro conversions.
Keep your eye on the prize.
It would help if you remembered that the end goal here is to boost revenue. So don’t focus solely on conversions that won’t likely contribute to that goal. Getting many people to give you their email address is excellent, but those leads are most precious once they become customers.
High conversion rates should also not be your sole (or main) goal here. Most important is getting high-quality leads that convert at both macro and micro levels. Ensure your micro conversions are constantly optimized to funnel into your macro conversions because a macro conversion is where your success lies.
5. Tell a story (and keep it simple).
One of the top ways to focus on macro conversions is to handle your digital marketing efforts like you’re telling a story. For instance, a campaign to sell a product should have a start (Facebook ad), a midpoint (landing page), and an end (buying the product or the checkout page).
Your sales funnel typifies the story of your user journey. Branding and messaging should also be consistent, and a singular theme should be running throughout that ends with your macro conversion. The other steps in the process are just a buildup to achieve that end.
And be sure there’s an ending. Don’t tell some open-ended story that’s up for interpretation. Funnel your visitors toward your macro conversion, and only provide a few opportunities for them to stray. Also, don’t go overboard with your CTAs. When faced with too many options, people usually don’t make a decision at all.
6. Redefine your CTA strategy.
Have you ever heard of banner blindness? It’s what happens when we have become accustomed to disregarding banner-like information on websites. It’s why some people immediately skip over the first few ad links of every search result. And it’s why some buttons often must be addressed, especially when a page has too many.
Try using text-based CTAs inserted strategically into your content or including striking button designs to catch visitors’ attention. Play around with the positioning of your CTAs. Having a button above the fold is not the best solution for your site. Visitors will only take action if they know why they should first. So write a compelling story to funnel visitors to your CTAs.
Finally, don’t rely solely on the usual CTAs like “Buy Now” or “Submit.” A/B-test those compared to more engaging text that resonates with your visitors’ pain points and the solution you can provide. Everything comes down to supply and demand: Your prospective customer has a need, and your CTAs supply it.
7. Play the long game.
A person often makes a slight design tweak, and the next thing they know, the conversion rate has jumped up 6% only to drop back down shortly after. This is likely due to two things:
- Site traffic is slow-moving.
- They don’t have a significant number of conversions, so just one conversion affects the percentage.
If that happens, in the short term, doing any change will seem more significant than it is.
Like SEO, top-performing CROs require patience, data-driven methods, and long-term plans.
One way to ensure your data is reliable is to perform A/B tests for the correct lengths of time and with the largest sample size you can muster.
8. Amp up the urgency.
Procrastination and overthinking are the banes of every conversion. If someone feels like they need a thing instantly or there’s a risk of missing out on that opportunity, they are more likely to convert. It’s the entire business model of home shopping networks. The reason we all feel the urge to grab those deals is psychological. There are two factors at play.
First, urgent situations push us to act, either to prolong positive emotions or to reduce negative ones. That’s just the way we’re wired.
Second, urgency also evokes loss aversion, which marketers call the fear of missing out (FOMO). We don’t want to miss a great opportunity, especially if others are grabbing it. Reduce the gap between interest and follow-through by creating a sense of priority for your conversions. Share limited-time offers. Offer incentives to buy immediately instead of later. If you offer several products, show when you’re low on stock so people are more motivated to buy what stock remains.
But most importantly, make sure you’re telling the truth.
9. Improve site speed.
A one-second lag in page load time can lead to a significant decrease in conversions, so you want to keep your site as fast as possible.
A lot goes into improving the performance of a site. From optimizing images to lessening HTTP requests to boosting server response time, you’ll want to ensure every facet of your site performs at its best. Do that and you will eliminate one of the most significant barriers to getting visitors to buy your product: time.
10. Leverage remarketing.
The majority of people who happen to visit your site will leave without ever turning into a conversion. It’s a sad reality in the digital marketing industry. But luckily, there are some ways for you to convince many of those people of your product’s usefulness.
Remarketing (or retargeting) is a strategy that employs trackers (tracking cookies) to serve targeted ads to visitors who have been on your website or taken action on your site. Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and Google Ads provide an excellent avenue for remarketing.
A learning curve comes with remarketing, but if you learn how to use it effectively, you’ll be a true CRO expert. When deployed correctly, remarketing aims to keep your brand top of mind for customers and reaffirm that you can give what they are looking for.
So why does remarketing work so well? One word: personalization.
11. Be personable (and trustworthy).
Avoiding generic marketing doublespeak is an excellent place to begin. Show that you’re just as human as those who want to buy your products. Make your copy and site experience focus solely on them instead of your business. Don’t be scared to use the word “you.” Focus less on who you are and what you’re doing. Rather, you should talk more about what you can do for customers.
Building trust goes a very long way. You have to earn it, but once you do, you will have reached the highest ranks of CRO — turning your leads and customers into brand advocates. Social posts, personalized emails, chatbots, digital assistants, and on-site copy that resonates will all work toward building trust. So, too, will creating engaging “About” pages that showcase your brand and why your visitors should choose you instead of the competition.
If you want to increase your conversion rate, answer the question, “Why should a customer trust us in the long run?” Use a compelling value proposition to answer this question, and search for supporting elements to gain your visitors’ trust.
12. Test CRO (and then test again).
So you’ve implemented the most incredible CRO process the world has ever seen. What now? It’s time to view your results.
There’s no shortage of tools to see how your CRO strategy is performing, from heat maps to user surveys to click maps to traffic monitors. Some more common analytics tools include:
- Google Analytics.
- A/B Test Sample Size and Duration Calculator.
- A/B Test Performance Calculator.
These tools have overlapping functions, so you’ll probably want only some. Research to find the relevant data you need to improve your conversion rates.
CRO next steps
At the heart of A/B testing is the thinking that you should always seek new ways to boost the user experience. The data you collect using the tools mentioned above will help you find those new opportunities.
From there, focus your efforts according to the PIE framework and continuously concentrate on upgrading:
- Landing page design.
- Website copy.
- Navigation and site structure.
- Page speed.
And most of all, stay true to the CRO proverb: There is always room for improvement.
Mark Kutowy is VP of sales at Intero Digital, a 350-person digital marketing agency that offers comprehensive, results-driven digital marketing solutions.