What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
CRO, in short, Conversion Rate Optimization on its full name, is a relatively new branch of digital marketing that dabbles in the art of transforming traffic on your website into actual cash in your bank accounts.
Well, you see, it’s plain and simply not enough to simply attract hoards of users to your website, you have to convert them as well – and that’s where CRO (in the sense of Conversion Rate Optimization) comes into play.
For the next minutes or as long as it takes you to read this article over a cup of morning coffee, we will introduce you to the marvelous, complex, and fascinating world of conversion optimization, starting with the conversion optimization definition and ending with some of the essential conversion rate optimization tips.
The article at hand is the first piece of a series in which we plan to tackle the issue of CRO – we’d like to say once and for all, but given how rapidly things are changing in digital marketing, it would be unrealistic to say that what we have to say meets an exhaustive list of everything you need to know about CRO.
As such, instead of offering you tips that may or may not be true one or five years from now, we want to help you understand the rationale behind the conversion rate optimization best practices.
Enough with the blabbering, in any case.
Let’s jump right into the ultimate CRO introduction every marketer and entrepreneur should know.
What is a Conversion?
It is difficult to give a proper CRO definition (much less a CRO formula) without explaining, first and foremost, one of the fundamental distinctions lying at the basis of CRO marketing: the difference between micro-conversions and macro-conversions.
Understanding this difference is quintessential to understanding what Conversion Rate Optimization does precisely because many people (including among the marketing ranks) make the mistake of considering that micro conversions are, in fact, conversions.
Let me expand a bit on this.
What happens in the digital world, in general, is that you first record micro-conversions, and, at least in theory, you should “upgrade” those to macro-conversions.
Micro-conversions are usually actions that show the customer has engaged with your business. Likes, follows, newsletter subscribers, and all these digital metrics typically fall in this category.
When someone starts to actually buy from your company, though, you are entering the world of macro-conversions.
What many people get wrong about digital marketing, in general, is that they usually stop at the first stage and don’t track it to the second one. In short, likes, hearts, and peanuts seem to be the fabric of online marketing.
Which is wrong, because you can do SO much more than that – and Conversion Rate Optimization is a massive part of that. What you do in SEO, email marketing, and social media marketing should be naturally picked up by CRO and pushed further down the funnel to convert into actual sales and revenue for your company.
What Does Conversion Rate Optimization Do?
If you’re wondering what conversion optimization is still, don’t worry. It’s pretty tricky to understand precisely what CRO means and what a CRO does, precisely because CRO is, in fact, a cumulus of practices.
To understand what CRO is, you should first understand what is a conversion (which we have already discussed, along with the significant difference between micro-conversions and macro-conversions). As such, CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is the practice by which you boost your conversion rate.
So, if right now, 3,000 people come to your site every day, but only 10 of them end up buying, and 2 of them end up returning, you are the Sysyphus of eCommerce. You keep pushing the ball of traffic generation uphill, but you don’t get much in return – and even worse, you end up having to push it back up over and over and over again.
Conversion Rate Optimization is, basically, a collection of techniques employed to convert traffic into buyers.
What this involves depends on the specificities of each business. There’ no CRO recipe, sadly (and we can dare to say that there’s no SEO recipe either, as much as some might want to sell you that).
The thing (the real one) with CRO is that it relies (quite heavily) on experiments – and those experiments are meant to be based on assumptions based, in their turn, on data.
What areas can you experiment with when you’re optimizing a conversion opportunity?
Well, pretty much everything:
- Landing pages
- Page design
- Page layout
- Call to Actions
- Site UX
… In short, every single element on your site and in your digital strategy can be optimized for better conversions.
Take, for example, your Search Engine Optimization and Content Marketing strategy. If your approach relies on bringing hoards of people to your site and not really providing them with the information they need, you should re-think this through the CRO lens – but only as long as you have the data to support your theory that this is needed and will have a positive effect.
Let’s dig a little deeper!
How Can You Do Conversion Rate Optimization?
If Number One digital marketing mistake is stopping at micro-conversions, the second biggest mistake is making any kind of strategic change based on hunches.
No, hunches and random thoughts don’t count as eligible grounds for any kind of change. In principle, you shouldn’t even change the font on your pages without making sure that there is solid reasoning behind that.
Ok, but how do I know that something is worth investing in before it even happens?
Typically, there are a few steps to Conversion Rate Optimization:
There are various types of data you can collect, manage, and analyze. In principle, you can categorize it into two main groups:
- Quantitative data collection (such as data obtained from your website or from using various tools, which we will discuss further on). This type of data can give you raw information about what your users think of your website, their experience on it, and so on.
- Qualitative data collection (such as customer interviews, customer experiments, or open-ended survey questions). This type of data can help you go more in-depth and understand the real motivations behind your customers’ decisions.
Some of the metrics you might want to look at when collecting and analyzing when doing CRO include the Bounce Rate, the Time Spent on Page, the Scroll Depth, where users spent most time on a page, what is their opinion about certain features, products, and services your business offers, and so on.
2. Coming up with hypotheses
Any hypothesis you built for your CRO strategy should be well-rooted in data because otherwise, you risk investing time and money in something that’s not necessarily worth it.
3. Running experiments to test said hypotheses
Once you have a theory, it’s time to test it out! There are three main ideas you need to keep in mind here:
- You should run an A/B or multivariate testing to determine which option is best
- How long should you let your conversion optimization experiments run (on average)? There is no given recipe or formula for this. You should run the experiment for long enough (as a general rule of thumb, approximately one month or until you have reached statistical significance).
- You should make sure you understand the statistical significance and how it translates into actual numbers in your case. This article on Harvard Business Review is quite useful when it comes to understanding the concept, whereas this piece gives more detail on how to calculate statistical significance.
4. Analyze experiment results
There’s not much to say here: simply analyze the information provided by your experiments and see if they confirm or infirm your thesis.
5. Repeat if necessary
Everything that we said here is not meant to discourage you, but sometimes, you might have to repeat the entire cycle all over again: find new data, look at it through a different perspective, come up with an original thesis, testing it, and then analyzing the results.
All in all, these are the main steps to take when it comes to Conversion Rate Optimization, regardless of what type of business you may run. Conversion Rate Optimization on Shopify and Conversion Rate Optimization on Wix are, mostly, based on the same pattern.
So, how do you make all of this happen?
Simply put, by using a variety of Conversion Rate Optimization tools – which we will discuss in the next (and last) section of this article.
Conversion Rate Optimization Tools
There’s like a million and one CRO tools out there, so it’s natural to feel a little confused. If we have to narrow the propensity of the CRO software out there down to a handful few, they will fall into these categories:
- Website Analytics (such as Google Analytics)
- Heatmap Analytics (such as Hotjar)
- A/B Testing (such as Unbounce)
- Surveys (such as 123 Form Builder)
- Pop-ups and Overlays(such as HubSpot)
- Landing Page creators (such as Instapage)
- User Testing Tools: (such as Five Second Test)
Keep in mind that some of these tools’ features may overlap. For instance, you can use 123 Form Builder for exit-intent surveys as well (and you can trigger them in different ways). Likewise, Hotjar offers both the features of a heatmap and those of a user testing tool, and a similar thing can be said about Unbounce as well (which offers both A/B testing capabilities and landing page creation options).
As you can see, CRO is a pretty vast subject – so we will expand on it in future articles as well. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you have understood, at least in broad terms, what CRO deals with. We cannot aim for a full Conversion Rate Optimization course rolled into one page – but we aimed for a comprehensive piece to help you understand the fundamentals of CRO
Even more, you have hopefully understood why Conversion Rate Optimization is important: because without it, your business won’t be making the most out of all the traffic coming into it. Some say you can’t have SEO without CRO these days – and they might as well be right. Hoards of people stomping on your site to never buy anything that doesn’t pay the bills, it doesn’t pay your employees’ salaries, and it most definitely doesn’t push your business forward.
Are you ready to transform your digital strategy into a conversion-generating machine?