Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a fundamental component of any digital marketing strategy. In fact, marketing expert Neil Patel suggests it is often the best possible option for increasing sales.
While possibilities like broadening your product range, investing in paid ads, or focusing on your SEO might boost your bottom line, as Patel points out, they are all “more options”:
“They take more time, more money and more resources, while leaving the results completely unpredictable.”
CRO, by contrast, involves taking the processes, platforms, and traffic you already have, and making straightforward adjustments to generate more income.
How Do You Optimize Conversion Rates?
While optimizing your conversion rates can be complicated, the concept itself is simple. You take a look at how people are interacting with your marketing touchpoints (like your website, blog, or social media presence), posit hypotheses about how you could make more of those interactions into conversions, and then test out those hypotheses and put the results into action.
At its simplest, a conversion is a sale – the moment when a lead converts into a paying customer. However, not every marketing offer is aimed at getting people to buy – in some cases, you want to convert a visitor into a blog subscriber, or a blog reader into a webinar attendee. These are sometimes called micro-conversions.
Your conversion rate can be calculated as the number of times a website, page, or other marketing asset achieved its goal, divided by the number of visitors to that site.
Conversion rate optimization might mean making your pricing page easier to understand or adding more payment options. It might mean adding a sign-up CTA button in the middle of your blog posts or polishing up your web design.
Tackling your conversion rate can have major benefits for your business, including:
- Greater return on your marketing investment, as every marketing tool in your arsenal works harder for your business;
- Increased retention of existing customers by making repeat purchases quick and easy;
- Better performance on search engines, which reward content that prompts user action.
Without a clear strategy, however, CRO can seem like an overwhelming prospect. So, where should you start? Let’s break down the process of CRO into five steps that can make a significant difference to your bottom-line results:
Step 1: Understand Your Customers
To convert more leads into customers, you need a clear understanding of your target market, reasons they might buy from you, and why they might not. To begin, review your buyer personas, ensuring that they are current, detailed, and based on real customer data.
Next, consider what stage of the customer journey your potential buyer is on when they arrive at the page you are trying to optimize. Are they conducting initial research, or ready to put their hand in their pocket? How did they hear about you? What information are they bringing with them to this interaction with your business?
Then, move on to the value you offer your customers. Figure out your customer value proposition – not just what you do, but why people should buy from you, what they get from you, what makes your offer unique.
Step 2: Define Your Priorities
Once you’ve built a solid foundation of customer awareness, you need to figure out which areas you should prioritize for CRO. It can be difficult to know where to start – after all, until you start making changes, how do you know which optimizations will have the most impact?
One approach, recommended by James Flory, a Senior Experimentation Strategist at WiderFunnel, is the PIE method:
- Potential – How much improvement could be made if you optimized a given page?
- Importance – How much impact would it make to your business to improve the page?
- Ease – How easy will it be to make changes to the page?
Of course, you will usually see the most impact from optimizing pages that directly drive sales. For instance, optimizing your buy page, shopping cart, or main product landing page will likely get a higher PIE score than optimizing your blog for email subscription conversions.
Step 3: Establish Your Current Baseline
Once you’ve decided on your highest priorities for conversion optimization, you need to get a clear picture of how those pages are currently performing. In addition to finding your current conversion rate, you may want to build a larger picture with additional quantitative data (how long people spend on your page, your bounce rate, etc.) and qualitative data (user feedback, the customer purchase journey, and so on). Some tools you can use to gather data on your website’s current performance include:
- Google Analytics – The most widely used web analytics tool, Google Analytics, can give you a detailed breakdown of your visitor activities, engagement, and e-commerce sales.
- User Interviews and Customer Surveys – Asking your customers and visitors directly why they choose to buy your product or what they don’t like about your website can give you some beneficial insights into your current web performance.
- Usability Testing – Usability tests give you data on the behavior of visitors to your site and help you spot potential issues. Tools like Hotjar enable you to record people using your website, to gain a clear understanding of the potential problems and how people are interacting with your content.
Heat Maps, Click Maps, and Scroll Maps – User mapping tools provide data on user interaction with your website, either showing up as “hot spots” that reflect time spent on particular content, counts of click frequencies, or maps of how visitors scroll through your site.
Step 4: Build Your Hypothesis
Now that you’ve put together a picture of how your webpage is currently doing, you can start to think of ideas for how you could increase the number of conversions. You might want to consider website best practices, alongside the user data you gathered. If user feedback suggests that the page is confusing, you could look at how you could simplify the information. Is it a design issue or a wording issue? Is your CTA button not prominent enough? Are people leaving your website because it doesn’t look very secure? HubSpot suggests that you move from brainstorming to forming testable hypotheses using a statement framework:
By making change X, the conversion rate will increase because it fixes problem Y.
Step 5: Test, Test, Test
Finally, you’ll need to test your hypotheses to see if you’re right. The most common way of doing this is to run A/B split testing.
In A/B testing, you split your web visitors into two groups – Group A sees one version of your website, and Group B sees another. The two versions must be identical except for one change. You then gather your data and see if your conversion rates increase with the change. If they do, you’ll know your hypothesis was correct – and you might want to see if you can apply it elsewhere.
For instance, if you changed a description on a product or service page, and more people inquire about it, then you might want to reword your home page with the new description as well.
Conversion rate optimization can be a time-consuming and complex process, but it is undeniably worth it. The ultimate goal of conversion optimization is to convert the right visitors to leads, which will boost your sales results and increase your return on marketing investment.
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