5 Steps to Get You Started with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Agata Krzysztofik
Jan 29, 2018 · 6 min read
Photo by www_slon_pics on pixabay

“How can I generate more leads?” — as a marketing professional, you probably ask yourself that question at least once a day. I’m sure you know that you could increase your PPC advertising budget, invest in social media marketing or put more efforts into SEO. All of these would help to drive more traffic to your website and as a result, convert more visitors into leads. But what if you have a budget restriction or if your organic traffic-growth hit a stagnation point? This is when getting more out of your existing traffic and focusing on conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes into play.

What is conversion rate optimization (CRO) and why should you care about it?

Conversion rate optimization, commonly referred to as CRO, is the process focused on increasing the percentage of visitors to a website who complete the desired action that turns them into leads. This desired action, aka conversion, could be signing up for a trial, registering for a webinar, subscribing to a service, and so on.

In a nutshell, CRO is an efficient and scalable way that allows you to get more out of this what you already have — more leads with the existing website traffic levels.

Unfortunately, CRO doesn’t get the sufficient attention that it deserves, and is often overlooked or de-prioritized by many marketing teams. This is a big mistake. For instance, If your marketing team is paying for the traffic to your website (eg. by using AdWords or Facebook ads), then a higher conversion rate will mean a better return on that investment (ROI). On top of that, according to Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz, CRO is the number 1 marketing channel that will help your business drive more sales independent of the available budget.

Chart by Rand Fishkin on moz.com

Now, that you know how much impact CRO could have on marketing results, let’s get you started with testing it at your company.

Step #1: Make sure you have (and use) analytics tools

Before being able to start optimizing for conversions you first need to understand where and what to optimize. Basing your conversion rate optimization strategy on guesses, hunches, personal taste or what everyone else is doing is not the most effective approach.

The best way is to gather the insights from web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics. Once you have conversion tracking set up, check in Google Analytics on which web pages do your visitors land first, which pages have the lowest conversion rates and where your visitors abandon your conversion funnel. The User Flow Report in Google Analytics is a great place to get you started.

Another way to identify conversion blockers on your website is with the help of heatmap tools, such as heatmap.me or luckyorange. Heatmaps allow you to visualize how your visitors interact with your website. To give you an example of how this information could be used, heatmaps helped my team at SimScale understand that our initial website navigation menu required a clean-up. They showed us that, while some of the navigation menu options were never clicked, other navigation elements, which were hidden under the drop-down, were actually the ones that visitors were the most interested in. As a result, we reduced the overall number of navigation menu options and made the ones that visitors were looking for more prominent on the website.

Step #2: Start running A/B tests on your website

Once you have gained a better understanding of how visitors behave on your website and where optimization for conversions could bring the most value, it’s time to create a list of possible solutions that you could test. For example, let’s assume you have identified that your top 3 landing pages are home, pricing, and product. You noticed that the conversion rate on the product page is substantially lower when compared to the other two pages. The heatmap results have also shown you that the click rate on your CTA (call to action) which is placed at the bottom of the product page is very low. Based on the above you could form the following hypotheses:

  1. Moving the CTA above the fold would increase the conversion rate on the product page
  2. Adding an option for visitors to download or schedule a product demo would increase the conversion rate on the product page
  3. Improving the messaging on the page (eg. mapping product features to the benefits) would increase the conversion rate on the product page

You can validate the hypotheses by running experiments on your website with help of an A/B testing tool (eg. Google Optimize, Optimizely or VWO). A/B testing will allow you to test two versions of a page, element or content against each other to determine which is more successful, in terms of the conversion rate result or another goal that you have set. You should let your experiment run for as long as you can reach a statistically significant result required for the proper assessment of your hypothesis. Make sure that you do not run several experiments on one page at the same time since this could skew your results.

With my team, we plan and track our experiments in a spreadsheet which gives us a better overview of the experiments schedule.

Spreadsheet we use at SimScale to plan and track A/B tests

Step #3: Add more ways for your visitors to convert

As you have seen, in the second hypothesis example above, I have mentioned “adding an option for visitors to download or schedule a demo”. This is ultimately an additional way you could enable your visitors to become a lead. Other options could involve adding a chat functionality to your most important pages like pricing or product to start a conversation with your visitors before they leave, optimizing your most-visited blog posts with relevant downloadable collateral or inviting your visitors to register for a webinar. All these would give you more possibilities to encourage people visiting your website to perform an action.

Hubspot is very good at this. See an example of two CTAs that they have added to their blog post about “YouTube vs Vimeo”:

CTAs prompting blog readers to download a free guide on hubspot.com

What you definitely should try to avoid is bombarding your visitors with too many CTAs on one page since it will probably deliver the opposite result (decreasing conversions). A good tip is sticking to the rule of only one primary and one secondary CTA per page.

Step#4: Qualify your leads into MQLs

Once you will start testing additional CTAs, you might notice that some actions that your visitors take tend to generate more customers than the other ones. For example, a visitor submitting a “request pricing” form has a higher probability of becoming a customer than a visitor signing up for a free trial. You can run a series of experiments for different sales-focused CTAs to define which generates more customers for your business and then focus on optimizing that process. This will help you to qualify your leads into MQLs smarter and faster.

Step #5: Move important information above the fold

The last step is to make sure that the “above the fold” area of your website is not filled with clutter and provides a clear explanation of what your page offers and what type of actions your users can take. This is especially important knowing that visitors spend 80% of their time looking at information placed above the fold (Source: NNGroup Research). It might be worth to test ditching your “hero image” and replacing it with a more relevant content that will encourage the visitor to scroll down the page.

A good example to visualize what I mean is the above the fold from ahrefs.com:

Above the fold area on ahrefs.com

As you can see they made sure that their above the fold consists of a clear description of their product, benefits for the users, compelling CTA and a social proof.

Hopefully, the above steps will help you to get started with CRO. You can achieve some impressive results and it really isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as it might seem. So what are you waiting for?


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Agata Krzysztofik

Written by

Marketing & community growth-hacker. Passionate about startups, data-driven marketing, tech, interior design and people.

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