First things first — what is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a set of methods used to increase the percentage of users on your website who convert and become customers, or take the next step toward becoming customers (by requesting a demo, for example.)
You may have heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which focuses on driving traffic to your site. CRO focuses on taking traffic your site already has, and making it more profitable.
A conversion is any action you want your user to take, moving them down the marketing funnel. Examples of conversions clicking a “buy now” button, requesting a demo, joining a mailing list, or even downloading a whitepaper. You can read more about Conversion Rate Optimization here.
In my “What is CRO?” article, I shared an example illustrating how CRO can impacts sales and leads. It went something like this:
Let’s say your website gets 10,000 visitors per month and your conversion rate is 4%. This means your site currently brings in 400 conversions each month. Now, let’s say our goal is to double that number.
Remember Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is focused on driving visitors to your site and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is focused on helping those users convert and conversion rate = the number of conversions (clicks, purchases, sign-ups etc.) divided by the number of visitors to your website.
If you rely on SEO alone, we will have to increase your monthly visitors from 10,000 to 20,000 to achieve our goal. But if we also use CRO to increase the percentage of visitors who convert, it’s much more feasible to double our sales. Increasing your conversion rate and monthly visitors each by 33% will lead to the same doubled conversions, and leave room for even further optimization.
Enough math. The point is, you can make the most of the traffic you already have while creating space for even further growth. Perfect for helping you reach aggressive sales goals in the startup space.
Does CRO matter for startups?
We all know certain things are true about startups. Long hours. Little sleep. Lots of coffee. An office culture so laid back and fun all your friends are jealous. You’re not a regular office. You’re, like, a cool office.
Sorry, couldn’t resist.
A fun office and long hours aren’t the only things that define startup culture. Shoestring marketing budgets and a need for quick growth are also part of the deal.
This is where CRO comes in. If you’re deciding where to allocated limited funds, you should know that CRO is extremely cost effective. Because it takes traffic you already have and makes it more profitable, CRO efforts tend to have large ROIs. It’s easier to convert people who are already on your site into customers.
I like to think of a brick-and-mortar analogy. Investing in CRO is akin to setting up your store in a beautiful way and providing excellent sales associates to help shoppers find what they need. Other types of digital marketing like SEO or paid search could be likened to making your storefront beautiful or advertising around town in this analogy.
So, when should you invest in CRO to get the most bang for your buck? We recommend starting a CRO program 3-6 months prior to product launch. In the months leading up to the launch, the program should focus on making sure UX best practices and low-hanging fruit have been implemented across your site. Tracking of various conversion metrics and a deep analysis of your target audience should also be conducted during this time.
Then, once your product is launched, your CRO team (whether outsourced to an agency or in-house) should focus on scrutinizing your audience’s behavior through heatmaps, click maps, Google analytics data and goal tracking. The insights from the data scrutinization phase will inform which AB or ABn tests you launch first.
If your startup is following a growth hacking strategy, CRO will fit seamlessly into your efforts, as conversion optimization is cost effective and experimental by nature. If you’re into growth hacking, you may favor multivariate tests over traditional AB or ABn tests. Multivariate tests involve changing multiple variables at once instead of isolating each variable in its own test. While the results are not as precise (for example, if you see a lift in conversions, you won’t be able to pinpoint which change to attribute the lift to), they tend to run a lot faster than AB tests.
Note: Because it’s a buzzword and buzzwords are often misunderstood, I want to be explicit that when I say growth hacking, I’m talking about rapid experimentation across lots of marketing channels. In general, growth hacking includes experimentation across the marketing funnel, sales funnel and product development. In this context, I’m focusing on the marketing funnel, and more specifically the digital marketing funnel, where growth hacking can involve testing across many channels: social media, influencer marketing campaigns, email, paid search, website, etc.
CRO optimizations you can do yourself
Before working with an agency, there are certain CRO optimizations you can make for yourself, if you’d like. I’ll walk you through some UX best practices and some questions we ask at Brain Bytes Creative to help uncover “low-hanging fruit.” Finally, I’ll share a few metrics you should be tracking.
Before we jump into these, I want to point out the distinction between UX and CRO. it’s important to remember CRO and UX Optimization are interrelated, but not quite the same.
Because CRO is experimental by nature, there are no “CRO best practices.” There are, however, UX best practices that will improve your user experience and will almost always lift conversions.
In general, we can define CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) as a set of methods used to in digital marketing to increase the percentage of users on your website who convert.
UX (User Experience) Optimization, on the other hand, is a set of methods used in digital marketing to improve a user’s perception of their online experience, including ease of use and efficiency.
UX best practices
Here are a few UX best practices to help you get started:
- The conversion you’re designing for (a purchase, demo request, etc.) should be the most obvious call-to-action (CTA) on the page.
- Revenue-driving CTA’s should be designed as buttons (as opposed to links or clickable images) and should contrast against the background color.
- CTA copy should be clear and action-oriented.
- Typography should be easy to read and hyperlinks should be a different color and underlined.
- Forms should be optimized for conversions by removing any extraneous fields or any fields that cause users to pause before filling them out.
- Trust points (industry awards, reviews, etc.) should be displayed prominently.
- Read more on UX best practices…
Questions to uncover low-hanging fruit
Aside from implementing UX best practices, there are some questions you can ask yourself to uncover simple changes to improve your conversions. Keep in mind that each website has different users who behave differently. This is why CRO is experimental and allows you to optimize for your unique audience.
Low hanging fruit are optimizations which fix something on your site that is broken or very poorly designed. A low hanging fruit optimization will almost certainly lift conversions and can be implemented without AB testing. You may find that this list also sparks some ideas for AB, ABn or multivariate tests.
A good rule of thumb to follow if you’re wondering whether to AB test something first, or to simply go ahead and implement it is to ask yourself these questions: Is the change fixing something broken? Am I looking to gain insights into my audience based on how they respond to this change? A low hanging fruit optimization will fix something broken and does not really provide any unique insights into your audience. An example is a button that doesn’t work. A testing idea isn’t fixing something broken, but rather aims to uncover insights about your audience’s response to a variation. An example is changing the color of a button.
Here are some questions to help you uncover low hanging fruit:
- Will a user understand your value prop as soon as they land on a page?
- Is your copy clear, easy to read and optimized for the target reader?
- Does the design guide the eye to areas we hope to emphasize?
- Does the call-to-action stand out?
- Look at how engagement metrics have changed over time. What can we learn?
- Imagine you are the user. Would you choose us or a competitor? Why?
- Read more on CRO low hanging fruit…
Metrics you should be tracking
These are the basics. If you don’t have these set up, stop and go do it now. Thank me later. There are all kinds of metrics to track, but be sure that at the bare minimum, you’re tracking these:
- Goals in Google Analytics for revenue-driving conversions
- Bounce rate
- Exit rate
- New vs. returning users
- Traffic and where it’s coming from (referral traffic)
When to hire an agency
I would never try to oversell CRO just to generate another lead. Many of us at Brain Bytes Creative are entrepreneurs ourselves. From food trucks (waffles! Fancy mac + cheese!) to video production companies , what can we say? We’re passion project people.
We’re transparent and we know what it’s like to build something from the ground up. So instead a CRO sales pitch, I’m going to share some “warning signs” that indicate you could heavily benefit from CRO, along with some tips for choosing an agency if you decide that’s the right decision for you.
I mentioned earlier that we typically recommend starting a CRO program 3-6 months prior to product launch.
Ok, we know launching really looks more like this:
But what if you’re a more established startup?
While almost every site can benefit from CRO, there are some metrics that indicate you are a key candidate.
- You are an ecommerce company (in this case, we always recommend having a CRO program).
- You’ve recently seen sales or leads plateau.
- Your site has high traffic but a relatively low conversion rate.
- Your website has high cart abandonment rates.
- Your site was designed more than a year or two ago and/or wasn’t designed with mobile and tablet users in mind.
If you decide to work with an agency, we’ve compiled some of our tips for choosing which agency to hire. You can read our full list here, but I’ve pulled out some that are most important for this context.
- You should choose an agency that is credible and can provide case studies and testimonials.
- Also, they should be data-driven, looking to data to inform each part of their strategy. You don’t want to work with an agency that relies on blind hunches.
- Another thing that’s especially important for CRO is to find an agency that openly shares failures, takes risks, and knows how to fail well.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Thanks for reading, and happy CROing!
Ready to give your conversions a lift? Brain Bytes Creative offers specialized conversion rate optimization services using funnel analysis, user flow optimization, heatmapping, session replays, form analytics, and optimization, and of course, A/B testing. Read more about our CRO services or contact us!