Conversion rate optimization: the ultimate guide

Marketers are heavily focused on driving traffic towards websites with SEO efforts and social media, but what happens once visitors start landing on your website? How does this traffic convert to leads, and exactly what can you as a marketer do to continuously improve on conversions? 

You’ve to work on conversion rate optimization (CRO), and here’s a comprehensive guide to help you understand it.

What is conversion rate optimization?

Conversion rate optimization is the data-driven process of modifying your website and its elements to improve conversion rate. A conversion is an action that you want your visitors to take, like - signing up, making a purchase, clicking on a link, subscribing for a newsletter, etc. 

CRO helps you drive more conversions from your existing website traffic by optimizing the website experience. Let’s assume 10 out of 100 website visitors sign up for a free trial. After improving your website, it could increase to 20 sign-ups for 100 visitors. 

CRO is user-centric

The most critical element of the entire process is the visitor. Your website conversions are the outcomes of the experience you offer to your visitors. If your website has a clear value proposition, the content is meaningful, and it navigates the user to the call-to-action correctly, there’re high chances of them taking the action you want them to. If this doesn’t happen as expected, you might be doing something wrong. Identifying what’s wrong and running experiments to see what works better is what CRO is. 

What is a conversion?

A website conversion refers to completing a site goal. Site goals are essentially website actions that align with the overall webpage objective. Different businesses set different kinds of site goals. 

Website conversions or site goals fall into two categories:

Macro conversions

These are the primary goal of the web page. To optimize for macro conversions, you need to track and refine micro conversions. 

Some examples: 

  • Revenue conversions - checkouts, purchases. 

  • Prospect/Customer acquisition - demo request, sign-ups. 

  • Content subscriptions - signing up for a newsletter, etc.

Micro conversions

These are intermediary small goals that lead to a macro conversion. They show the visitors intent towards a potential macro conversion in the future. 

Some examples: 

  • Interest-based conversions - downloads.

  • Navigational conversions - scroll, clicks. 

  • Interaction-based conversions - watched a video, adding to cart.

What is conversion rate, and how to calculate it?

Your website conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who complete a site goal successfully.

 

 

Here, conversions can be anything. You ought to know precisely what you’re working towards, and what constitutes as your micro or macro conversion. Calculating the conversion rate varies from business to business, and page to page.

Let’s take an example of an eCommerce website. Your micro-conversions here would be the visitor staying on-page, clicking on the products, browsing through your catalog, and adding products in the wish list or shopping cart. These tiny conversions guide your visitor towards a macro conversion -  making a purchase (the final transaction). Out of 20,000 visitors, 2000 purchased something.  Following the above formula, your conversion rate would be 20%. 

Unfortunately, that’s not enough information. A conversion of someone buying something in this example doesn’t account for revenue since it categorizes visitors who bought something for $1 or $100 together. You need to put in other metrics in place, gather a lot of data, and start with conversion optimization.

Getting started with conversion optimization

The success of your CRO program rides on how detailed you get with your data collection and analysis. Understanding the existing data is crucial for improving the conversion rate. It lets you make a more objective decision on what to optimize and the best ways to do it. 

If you're not using data to guide you through the process, you’re only validating whims and biases. Here are critical methods of CRO:

The quantitative method

This method uses an objective approach to measure actionable user behavior on the website. You need to collect data using web analytics tools and get to the nitty-gritty by adding a custom tracking code on your web pages. With this method, you can find information like: 

  • Which are the most and least visited pages on your website?

  • What's the entrance path of visitors to your website? 

  • How much time do visitors spend on specific pages?

  • What's the bounce rate of the site and particular pages?

  • How many visitors convert?

  • What's the visitor profile (demographics and interests)? 

  • What devices and browsers do they use? 

  • Which pages do they exit from? 

  • What channels brought them to the site?

 This information will let you identify your most valuable users and help prioritize pages that need optimization.

The qualitative method

This method helps you prioritize the areas of focus with the data it offers. It is a subjective approach to understand user experience, pain points, and hesitations. Start with identifying your ideal customer and keep their needs in mind for framing questions to collect data. 

The data can be collected using customer surveys, interviews, user testing, NPS, customer support tickets, session replays, chat logs, polls and feedback. Using this analysis, you will find answers to questions such as, 

  • What're the most common reasons they visit your website? 

  • What are the pain points they're trying to address using your product or services? 

  • What do they think about your product or services compared to competitors? Is there anything specific (features, pricing, support,etc.) that made their experience better?

  • How was their experience like after they bought your product or services? 

  • Would they recommend you to a friend? If yes, how would they describe your product? 

While quantitative data provides you information about what's working and what's not on your website, the picture is still incomplete. This is where qualitative analysis fills in. It helps you understand why users are not converting on your website and how they perceive your brand.

The wrong method (do not follow) 

CRO is all about following a process. Certain practices may take you off the track in this process, such as,

  • Ignoring data and executing on your assumptions, guesses, and gut feelings 

  • Doing something because your competition has done it.

  • Taking others' words, opinions, and biases

CRO is data-driven and research-oriented. You shouldn't leave room for guesswork and random decisions.

Benefits of conversion rate optimization

Marketers report an average return on investment of 223% on CRO tools. It indicates that a right CRO strategy can set you up for big wins not only for the website but also for the entire marketing funnel. Here are some of them. 
 

Better experience for your visitors

Improving your website conversion rate starts with researching the current visitor behavior, identifying what they're looking for and how well does your website match up to it. When you fix the issues they face, your visitors find your site more relevant. The engagement improves, and so do their chances of converting. So, what you are improving with CRO is the visitor's experience. The increase in conversion rate is an outcome.


Better customer insights

The CRO process is like ongoing customer research. You learn about their behavior and the messaging that appeals to them. These learnings help you understand the ideal customer persona for your business and ensure you acquire the right kind of customers.


Better ROI from existing traffic

CRO enables you to make the most of your website traffic. Higher conversion rates mean that you are faining more leads, subscribers, or customers from the same number of visitors.

Common CRO techniques to try

With CRO increasingly becoming a focus area, newer learnings and findings continue to surface. Don’t jump into applying those on your website. Any corrective action should be based on data and visitor feedback.  However, here are some basic techniques that you can try to optimize website conversion rates.

Use lead magnets

A lead magnet is any kind of incentive for website visitors in exchange for their email address or other contact details. They usually offer a content piece - an ebook, whitepaper, checklist, and so on - as a free download. Relevant and carefully thought lead magnets help you convert more of your regular readers into leads and customers.  You can place lead magnets within blog posts or use pop-ups, slide-in boxes, dropdowns.

Offer live chat 

You can improve conversions by adding a chat functionality on your top converting or critical pages like pricing and checkout. It lets you engage with visitors in real-time to nudge them into conversion and provide more value. It increases the likelihood of them taking action instead of staying inactive on the page or leaving. 

Re-engage your website drop-offs

Even with your best optimization efforts, there will always be visitors who exit your website without converting. With a little advertising budget, you can use retargeting to bring them back to your site. You can run campaigns based on cookie settings, and bring back website visitors with retargeting ads.

Leverage your high-performing blog posts

You'll always have a set of blog posts consistently outperforming the others. You could use these posts, improve the call-to-actions, or add page banners within these pages. These blogs can be used to drive more traffic to other pages.

Set up heatmaps

Heatmaps help you see how all your visitors interact with your website. You can look into how a visitor has scrolled through your page, where they clicked, and how deep in the page they went. With this information, you can optimize your pages for more clicks and higher scroll depth.

Run A/B tests

One of the most tried and recommended CRO techniques is A/B testing. Nothing drives more incremental changes in conversion rate than A/B testing. You can create different versions of the same page, and experiment on which page works better for your audience. This will help you understand your audience better. We need a whole another section to talk about A/B testing and its essentials.

Essentials of A/B testing

A/B testing lets you compare two or more variants of a page by showing them to a similar audience. The one with the better conversion rate wins and gets implemented. 

CRO is an objective process, that means, you need to think through all the details of your testing beforehand. Start with a well-formed hypothesis to prioritize testing opportunities.

Running a test

Ending your test too soon or too late might produce inconclusive results. To ensure your tests for an optimum duration, keep in mind your traffic and the statistical significance. A statistical significance of 95% is usually recommended as an excellent point to end the test. 

Components to test

You can test every element on your website, which guides the visitor through the conversion funnel. You can optimize all aspects like - website copy, images, videos, headlines, CTAs, links, web forms, and more. More advanced tests may include content length, depth, placement, pricing, navigation, etc.

You obviously can’t test everything, though. So, you prioritize the components. Combined with SEO efforts, you can drive more traffic and test and optimize conversion rates. But some people are confused about the difference between SEO and CRO purpose, so let’s discuss that.

CRO and SEO

They are not the same and have very different purposes. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is increasing relevant traffic to the website by improving your organic search ranking. It has a direct impact on who comes on your page. CRO, on the other hand, focuses on increasing conversion from your existing traffic, and directly impacts who enters your conversion funnel

Working on SEO and CRO together often leads to instances where they impact each other. For example, when you improve your page copy after A/B testing around a particular keyword, it might impact SEO rankings. It betters engagement and improves the chances of conversion. Both CRO and SEO are techniques to improve your marketing funnel. Combining the powers of both brings higher returns.