The three words, “conversion rate optimization,” represent hundreds of hours of time, countless days of work, numerous theories, differing methodologies, uncounted heated arguments, and thousands of pages of analysis.
Conversions are often viewed as the holy grail of marketing because they represent tangible proof that marketing works. It’s not just smoke and mirrors; we’re actually bringing value to the organization, and here are the conversions to prove it.
This high level of importance, along with the fact that much of what drives human behavior seems like guesswork, has created a swirl of debate about conversion rate optimization (CRO) and how to do it best.
But before getting into all that, let’s clarify the general concept of conversion rate optimization.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?
At its core, the conversion rate is simply the percentage of a group that performs the desired action (a.k.a. a conversion). We calculate conversion rate by taking the number of people who performed the action and dividing that by the number of people who could have done so.
For example, if there is a call to action on your landing page for visitors to sign up for a weekly email, and it receives 50,000 unique visitors a month and you receive 1,000 signups a month, then the conversion rate is 2% (1,000 signups/ 50,000 hits x 100).
Webster defines optimization, “as an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”
So conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is simply determining how to get more people to perform the desired action.
Unfortunately, the definition of conversion rate optimization is the only simple part of this topic, as there are many ways to measure conversion rate and practically unlimited ways to move towards a perfect method of achieving the desired outcome.
Drive CRO With Data
Any enterprise is rife with different ways to improve and grow. Before making strategic decisions on where to pursue an opportunity, there must be an understanding of where the organization is now. That understanding should be rooted in facts and data.
The most common way to gauge performance is through key performance indicators, or KPI’s. These are the most important metrics that a company has identified as related to its strategic goals.
No company or department can (or should) track everything.
KPIs allow us to hone in on only the most essential data, so we can improve and adjust the things that have the most impact on vital areas of the organization.
For some that might be acquiring new customers, while others may focus on retention or upgrades. Still, others may only be concerned with growing their audience on social media.
Whatever the KPI or bottom line, strategic decisions shouldn’t take the form of hunches, gut feelings, or whims prioritized by seniority and pay grade alone.
KPIs consisting of unbiased and accurate data must provide the basis for conversion rate optimization strategy.
Some of the most common KPIs that inform conversion rate optimization on a landing page are bounce rate, exit rate, and average time on site. There are much more and they vary depending on what your desired behavior, or call to action, is.
Keep in mind that until you know what your baseline is, you won’t know whether or not you’ve really optimized anything. So before starting a CRO project, get some hard data in place.
Once you have collected data on your KPIs it is time to experiment with ways to improve them!
Potential CRO Candidates
It can be easy to get lost on your pages and become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things you could optimize.
To help get you started, consider this list of elements whose changes can have the biggest impact on your conversion rate:
- Call-to-action (CTA) buttons: From color to position to wording, you can (and should) test all types of buttons. Getting these right can have a huge effect on your conversions.
- Headlines and sub-headlines: Let’s face it, most people don’t read all the text on a page. Headlines allow them to get the idea quickly, and creating more effective ways to do this can only help your CRO efforts.
- Landing page layout: No need to reinvent the wheel on this one. Snag templates from sites like Unbounce and test different variations.
- Home page design: For most websites, the home page is the most heavily trafficked page on the site. Any incremental improvement to this page can make a big difference to your overall conversion numbers.
Testing: The Lifeblood of Conversion Rate Optimization
After you determine a baseline for your KPIs it is time to move those numbers in the right direction by testing out new and different ways of driving visitors to convert.
The two most popular methods of testing landing pages are A/B split testing(sometimes known simply as split testing or A/B testing) and multivariate testing.
Split Tests for Optimizing Conversions
During an A/B split, you create a new version of your landing page and change one element only. Half of your traffic will see the original version, the other half gets the one with the change. For example, maybe you suspect your logo is not contributing to a feeling of trust in your visitors, so you want to test out a new one.
You would create a new version of the page that was identical except for the logo. Then you’d show the old logo page to 50% of your traffic, and the new logo page to the other 50%.
Multivariate Testing and CRO
Multivariate testing (as you can guess by the name) involves testing numerous differences (multiple variants) at the same time. This could include (but is not limited to) testing different logos, images, designs, and marketing copy on a landing page all at the same time.
Both of these methods have their strengths and weaknesses.
A/B testing might be too slow if you want to try out lots of different options, but multivariate testing may give false positives by crediting one successful change with other changes it was combined with.
There may also be hidden areas for improvement in the results of a multivariate test.
Perhaps the images and content are strong, but the layout is weak. By changing all these areas at once and seeing a 23% increase in conversions you may be satisfied and stick with this version of the page.
But if you then went on to test two different versions of the layout you might find you could squeeze another 3-5% increase from the page by changing its design.
Oftentimes a combination of both methods works best. The key to successfully choosing a testing method is to determine which one will provide the best data for the KPI in question.
Improve Conversion Rate Incrementally
Don’t be alarmed or deflated by failing to immediately meet your goals for improving conversion rate. CRO is a long-term process, and you will almost certainly make changes that actually make things worse at some point in your optimization efforts.
The idea of succeeding by “failing faster” isn’t just Silicon Valley sloganeering. It is still used by innovators making exciting and interesting breakthroughs.
Optimization is synonymous with improvement. It’s not, “conversion rate perfection,” after all.
Find out what works.
Improve upon it over time.
Don’t be afraid to try new things, but if they aren’t impacting your KPIs then try something else.
Break up your big goals and cut them into smaller pieces; keep things incremental and constantly improve.
To succeed at a faster pace keep your process in alignment with the Key Principles of Agile Marketing. Through fast and continuous experiments you will succeed in achieving continuous conversion rate optimization.
Check out this helpful infographic with CRO Hacks to help kick-start your efforts:
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