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TL;DR:

Definition:

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the practice of increasing the number of website visitors who completes a desired action, such as becoming a paying customer or subscriber.

Guiding principles:

  • Keep things simple. Oftentimes the solution is simply less.
  • Be mindful of design.
  • Tap into your existing customers - testimonials are key.
  • Know who you’re optimizing for, what you’re optimizing, and where to optimize.

Introduction

Your page looks great. The copy is clean, the color scheme is pleasant, and you have dozens of links to more information peppered throughout the copy. So, why isn’t anyone becoming a customer? Why isn't anyone converting? What are you supposed to do now?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) isn't as simple as having a sexy page. Making sure your page runs well on mobile and that your copy is clean is all well and good, but CRO shifts the focus onto one thing: Conversion rates — Plus lots and lots of testing. 

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the practice of testing and tweaking various elements on your site to achieve a desired result. Oftentimes, this is the conversion of a lead into a sale or a visitor into a subscriber.

There are multiple approaches to CRO, each focusing on different elements that can be improved to boost conversions. While each approach is different, the end goal is always the same: Boost conversion rates. This is something every business can get behind, hence why it’s a top priority for retailers.

Why you need CRO

No matter what your company does, whether it’s ecommerce or marketing or legal work, you have a desired action you want your site visitors to take — a conversion you want to take place.

Conversions vary by business. For example, an ecommerce business may hope for sales, while a marketing firm might want someone to fill out a quote request.

They also vary based on where the customer is in the stage funnel. Taking the previous example, consider whether that ecommerce business would push a new site visitor to immediately make a purchase. It probably wouldn't — Not if it's smart, anyway.

Instead of converting a visitor to a customer, which is a pretty big leap in the sales funnel, the business would probably be better off asking for an email signup. Both a purchase and an email signup are considered conversions, but they work at different stages of the funnel.

Here's a great example of conversion type by funnel stage, courtesy of Smart Insights:

No matter what your business is, there are numerous reasons you need CRO. These are just a few:

Your site can always be better

Even if you like your site, it can always be better. In fact, 62% of businesses think a more effective version of their site would improve their sales.

It’s easy to focus on making sure your site looks good and stays modern, but CRO ensures your site is always performing well through extensive and continuous testing of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs are measurable outcomes that your business uses to gauge how well it's meeting its objectives.

Rather than polish up your site and celebrate over one good month, the CRO approach involves continuous monitoring of your site to ensure this performance stays.

It’s cost-effective

Acquiring new leads can be expensive. In fact, it can cost anywhere from $24 to $47 per lead in the B2B world, depending on the industry. On the other hand, some companies are spending as much as $2,000 per month on CRO.

This might sound like a lot, but CRO on average has an ROI of 223%. Furthermore, CRO involves converting existing traffic that already has exposure to your brand, whereas lead acquisition can be a bigger risk, as the traffic is new and less familiar.

It improves other marketing strategies

The testing and analysis portions of CRO offer a look at your website through the eyes of the customer. Which paid search ads take them to your site? What blog post topics do they like the most? 

CRO works hand-in-hand with all your digital marketing tools, from UX and content marketing to link-building and organic search.

For example, let's say your goal for a particular page is to get visitors to fill out a form for a free ebook. Previous tests have shown that users respond well to your email promoting the ebook, but bounce when they get to the landing page. Your heatmap tells you they're leaving when they get to the halfway point on the page — AKA below-the-fold — at which point they see even more forms to fill out. Cutting down on these forms the following month boosts your conversion rate tenfold.

CRO best practices

There are countless ways you can test and analyze every aspect of your site. While this can help narrow down exactly what’s killing your conversion rate, there are still numerous common fixes that can help just about any page.

Cut down on the number of forms

It’s easy to be greedy when it comes to wanting information from your customers or visitors. The more the better, right? Well, usually. But overwhelming your visitors with tons of forms isn’t doing either of you any favors. While some people willingly fill out lengthy forms, studies have found conversion rates are highest when there are only three fields.

Examine your current landing pages and see how many fields each of your forms have. If you have numerous forms, think about how you can move some of them to different stages of the sales funnel. Or, try consolidating several fields into one where it makes sense. Remember that a page chock-full of forms will load slower than a single-form page, and even a one-second delay can strip 7% of your conversions.

Furthermore, ask yourself if the content even needs to be gated behind forms. 96% of site visitors aren't ready to buy, so putting unnecessary forms on a page can be yet another deterrent to them buying. 

Clear and concise headlines are the best headlines

Even if it pains you to cover up that nice background with additional text, a descriptive headline that spells out the article's main point is almost always better than a subtle, artsy headline. In one study, having a more descriptive headline increased conversions by almost 90%.  

Ask someone removed from the project if a headline makes sense to them. If it doesn’t, it’s time to add in an additional word or change up the language a bit.

Add a video into the mix

Copy and images are both great, but videos can often seal the deal. In one study from Eyeview Digital, a video on a landing page increased conversion rates by 30%, compared to the same page without a video.

Why? People love videos, with 55% of people watching videos online every day. And, according to eMarketer, it’s only getting more popular.

Add testimonials from your customers

Customer testimonials are an incredibly effective way to drive conversions and sales. In fact, testimonials have an 89% effectiveness rating — the highest of any content marketing. It’s no wonder 89% of B2B marketers identify customer testimonials as the most effective tactic in their arsenal.

CRO expert tips

“There’s probably a reason why your competitors have built their website in a certain way. They’ve probably been working on a CRO strategy themselves and have done multiple tests. If so, you are seeing the results of those tests. What they have learned is most effective for them.

Or you could be slotted into a running test and be seeing a lesser converting variation. While this may get your hopes up, this is worth further investigation.

Every time you go to your competitors and you notice something different, take a screenshot and store it. Simply by looking at the various versions of our competitor’s site will be your great insight into your competitor’s frame of mind as they improved their own conversion rates.”

Rob Carpenter, CEO & Co-founder at Hitshop HQ

9 Uncommon Conversion Rate Optimization Tips You Can Use Today

evergage

“Once you’ve identified the pain areas of your website, your next step should be to seek ways through which you can optimize the website. This involves finding areas or elements on your web pages that obstruct visitors in completing a conversion.

Thanks to visitor behavior analysis tools, this task becomes convenient.

By employing heatmaps, scrollmaps, form analyzer and other such tools on your website, you can identify exactly where visitors are losing interest.”

Nitin Deshdeep, Demand Generation Manager at Boomtrain

7 Freshly Brewed Conversion Rate Optimization Tips for 2016

Visual Website Optimizer

“NSAMCWADLP: Never. Start. A. Marketing. Campaign. Without. A. Dedicated. Landing. Page.

Copy informs design, not the other way around. Write your campaign copy first, then design an experience to communicate it visually. When you work hard on a design without copy, you are blind to its meaning. When the copy comes along and doesn't fit/work, the designer is left feeling like they didn't do a good enough job -- which is not fair and not true.”

Oli Gardner, Co-founder of Unbounce

10 Brilliant Tips From Conversion Rate Optimization Experts

Hubspot

Conclusion

Whether you're selling organic socks or dealing with enterprise software, you have conversions you want your customers to take. A one-and-done approach might result in a page that looks nice, but you can miss out on long-term gains. Even a single month of testing can yield some great results, but failure to continue testing and optimizing past this can make it a moot point.

CRO is the only way you can find the results you want and maintain them. It's also a great way to make sure your website stands out from the 1.2 billion websites currently online. And with 52% of companies continuously testing landing pages to determine their conversion rate, getting onboard CRO now gives you an edge. 

Besides, for every $92 spent hunting down new customers, only a dollar is spent to convert them. Who can argue with a return like that?