What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and Why Does it Matter?

Today, a huge part of a business’ marketing strategy is driving people to your website. Why? Because — thanks to the inbound marketing methodology — if you can drive traffic to your website, you can convert those visitors into leads, then turn those leads into customers.

In order to drive people to your website, most businesses utilize SEO. And if you’ve heard of SEO, or search engine optimization, then chances are you’ve also heard the term conversion rate optimization (CRO). While SEO focuses on generating traffic, CRO takes that traffic and turns it into leads and sales, or conversions.

To help you understand exactly how this process works, we’ll outline what exactly conversion rate optimization is, how it works, and why it matters.

So, what is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

It might be beneficial to cover what a conversion and conversion rate is before delving deeper into CRO. A conversion is the term used to describe when a visitor to your website completes a goal. Goals can range from subscribing to receive emails, downloading an ebook, or purchasing a product or service.

A conversion rate is determined by the number of times a user completes a goal divided by your total site traffic. For example, if you have 500 unique orders and a total of 5,000 sessions, you’ll only have a 10% conversion rate. The higher the conversion rate, the more leads and business you’ll generate. (If you want to read more information on conversion rates, you can do so here.)

Conversion rate optimization, then, is making improvements to (i.e. optimizing) your website to get as many quality conversions per session/visit as possible.

Moz, an SEO consulting business, defines CRO as “the systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action…” A desired action could be filling out a form, downloading an ebook, becoming a customer, or taking a step that you deem is crucial in converting a visitor into a lead. Essentially, the process of CRO helps you understand how visitors get to your site, what actions they take once there, and what is stopping them from (or encouraging them to) complete a goal.

As important as knowing what CRO is, it’s equally important to understand what it is not. While CRO can be described as a structured approach to improving your website, influenced by analytics and feedback, and defined by your website’s needs (or key performance indicators), it is not:

  • Based on guesses or what everyone else is doing
  • About getting as many users as possible (regardless of quality)
  • Making changes based on the highest paid or most influential person’s opinion

To gauge your current conversion rate, define what’s stopping conversions from happening and determine a way (or ways) to remedy it.

How does CRO work?

To identify the troubled areas of your website, you can use data collected from Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, or another analytics tool you prefer. CRO is knowing what your visitors want and giving it to them — with the use of the aforementioned analytics and user feedback, you can take the necessary steps to improve the performance of your website.

CRO will take the form based on the key performance indicators (or KPIs) you want to improve. For example, if your analytics determine that people aren’t clicking on your “Subscribe Now” button, then you’ll want to change the color or placement of the call-to-action to increase its chance of visitors clicking on it. On the contrary, optimizing can mean removing steps (such as unnecessary fields on a form) to remove roadblocks that might be preventing conversions.

As we mentioned previously, successful CRO is not a guessing game about getting as many conversions as possible. To implement CRO effectively, you need to know where needs optimization, and who and what you’re optimizing for.

Here’s a more specific list of the different information you should collect for improving your CRO:

  • Where users were referred to your site
  • Which page people enter your site on (landing page)
  • What users engage with (where on a page they spend their time)
  • Where users bounce (where or what causes visitors to leave)
  • Customer demographics (age, interests, etc.)
  • What devices and browsers visitors use

Other, quantitative data you can collect via on-site and satisfaction surveys and user testing:

  • Why did people engage?
  • What about the page appealed to them?
  • What makes your site different/better than competitors?
  • What words describe your products? Services?
  • What did they take away most from visiting a certain page (or whole site)?
  • What changes would better their UX for next time?

Even if you can’t get all of this data right away, gather as much as you can and start analyzing ways you can optimize your conversion rate. The better you understand your users and how they interact with your site, the more you can optimize to give them what they want and need — but that’s not the only benefit of CRO.

Why does CRO matter?

In addition to improved customer insight, conversion rate optimization has a lot to offer, including better ROI, user experience, and increased credibility. Let’s discuss these benefits a little further.

Better ROI
Whether it’s PPC campaigns, Google AdWords, etc., you’re already spending enough money on getting traffic to your site. Producing a higher conversion rate can result in a much better return on those investments.

Improved Customer Insight
As previously stated, the more you understand your users and how they move through your site, the easier you can optimize your site to give users what they want. Rather than aiming for getting as many conversions as possible, CRO allows you to find the quality conversions.

Better User Experience
With all this customer insight comes the opportunity to create a better user experience. A/B testing and other user testing methods are a great way to optimize for conversion rates. This post by HubSpot has a handy list of other CRO strategies you can try out.

Increased Credibility
Web design and user experience play a huge role in whether or not a user will find your site credible. If they have any reservations about whether or not to trust your site, they’ll be much less likely to input their personal information to purchase a product, or even subscribe to your emails or newsletters. CRO can help you know what users are looking for and meet (or exceed) their expectations.

Recap

Despite the recent popularity surge of SEO and UX (user experience), CRO is often overlooked by many businesses. CRO is a huge opportunity to impact your marketing strategy. It can help you understand how visitors get to your site, what actions they take once there, and what is stopping them from (or encouraging them to) complete a goal.

Using analytics and user feedback is a surefire way to optimize your website for not just anyone, but for quality leads that can generate business and revenue.

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