The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization

Posted on October 13th, 2021

This guide is going to be a beginner’s path to understanding and using a little something called “Conversion Rate Optimization.” It will show you all the tools and techniques marketers use to increase the performance of a website! But first, let’s start off with what CRO actually is!

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?


Conversion rate optimization, also known as CRO, is the process of increasing the percentage of users or website visitors to take a desired action. It uses analytics, user feedback and  metrics to increase the performance of your website. These metrics are called “key performance indicators” or KPI's. CRO is most commonly used to acquire new customers, or downloads/registrations. Basically, when someone visits your website, you want to be able to give that potential customer what they’re searching for. CRO turns passive browsers of your site into valuable conversions. Hence, conversion rate optimization.


Conversion rate optimization is very important when it comes to your web strategy. Most likely, you’re paying for that website and the traffic that visits. A higher conversion rate of customers means better ROI. It’s also more cost effective to convert the customers you already have than to go out and find more. 


Optimization, however, is not going at it blindly. It’s more about getting the right kind of customers, instead of using random efforts and guess work. Think about it: it’s not going to do any good if the traffic you’re attracting to your website is a wrong fit pertaining to your product/service. We want customers that are already interested in what you’re selling. 


The Basics of Conversion Rate Optimization


Now that you know what CRO is, let’s get into the basics. Above, we defined CRO as the total number of conversions, divided by the number of visitors to your site.


Here’s an example from Qualaroo to help you get a better perspective:

 

“You operate a brick-and-mortar storefront and a customer comes in to check out one of your products. The clerk does a good job, and she seems pleased with the quality. She gets an important phone call, however, so she goes outside to take it. Or she forgets her wallet in her car. Or she goes to the shop down the street to see how their product compares.

She may eventually come back to your store and each time she does so counts as a single visit. If she stops in three times, she’s made three visits. She is, of course, still the same person–one unique visitor making three visits back to the store.”

This is similar to how people shop online. They look around, go to another store to compare prices, or forget things. For this reason, instead of Total Visitors, try using Unique Visitors. But don’t switch back and forth between the two- consistency is key in CRO.

 

Also,  think about what time period you want to use in determining your conversion rate. We suggest dividing it by a week’s worth of visitors, rather than a day’s worth.

 

Now that you’ve measured your conversion rate, it’s time to look at building and testing a conversion rate plan.


Building and Testing A Conversion Rate Plan

When it comes to making a conversion rate plan, people usually do one of two things: build their own plan, or use popular strategies.

If you’re in it for the long run, you’ll want to build your plan. Using popular strategies is great, but leads to just hoping for the best outcomes. Typically, there’s little attention paid to analyzing customer behavior, and there’s a starting place, but no clear plan of action.

Building your own conversion rate plan is much better. With a DIY plan, you attempt to figure out what numbers mean before trying to fix them, form hypotheses and understand that this is a long, ongoing process. With this, you will get much better, more authentic results than by using a quick fix. 


Step 1: The Beginning


We already know what CRO is, but just so you get it through your head… you have to know what you’re measuring, and trying to optimize. This is the pivotel first step, and without it, all other steps won’t be beneficial. 


For example, you own a consulting business where you want customers to book a free 15-minute consultation with you. That’s the end goal, that’s what we want to convert traffic to, this is what we want to measure and optimize. 


But what drives that conversion? Is it reviews from customers, paid ads, blog posts? You must know how to measure the variable on your own, so that you can best optimize which one is the best at converting.


Step 2: Baseline


As discussed above, knowing your variables and which ones lead to conversions is the first step. Now, we must establish your current performance, so that we know what changes lead to what improvements in the future.


You won’t know if your optimizations actually work until you look at the numbers, but first you need something to compare them to. To get these numbers, you use analytics, user surveys and user testing, such as...


  • Look at the goals you’ve set up for yourself from Step 1. Are you wanting to try increasing testimonials? More paid ads or blogs?

  • What’s your current conversion rate? What are the best sources of traffic for this conversion?

  • Run a user survey to find out what you could do better.

  • Try user testing around these goals to find out how successful your site is meeting them.


Step 3: Create Your Hypotheses


Now it’s time to use your baseline, identify the problems areas (biggest barriers to conversion) and implement the tools we talked about in Step 2. 

Via your analytics tool, you find that the bounce rate for your consulting business site is increasing, so you use the page report feature to isolate it to a popular but obviously under-optimized page. You might decide to implement an on-page survey on that page in particular asking users what they’re looking for and whether they were able to find it. You could also run some user tests to see what people are doing while there. Additionally, you could ask a few of your customers at the store to look at the page and watch them try to navigate through it. 


This is implementing all we learned in Step 2: analytics, user survey and user testing.

Take the information you get from these, and use it to form a hypothesis that explains why everyone is leaving that page so fast.


It’s time to design your test.


Step 4: Time to Test


This is the step where you take everything you’ve learned and create a test based on it. Start by making a list of your largest priorities, such as your site’s biggest issues. Which ones do you need to work on first?


Always double check your numbers and keep a written record of it all.


1. Start small. Don’t change everything yet- you’re new at this, so find something small you want to try and fix that can also increase conversion rates. Begin with a simple test.


2. Think outside the box- don’t give up if something isn’t happening right away, like visitors suddenly clicking “Schedule a Free Consultation.”


3. Get a second opinion on the website.


4. Consider modeling results to see what kind of impact they might have. For example, if you can reduce your bounce rate by 10% at a certain point in the funnel, how many more conversions might that lead to?


5. Double check you have sufficient tracking in place so that you’re sure you can understand the effects of your test.

And there we have it! You’ve started your own conversion rate optimization plan and made a hypothesis and a test. The next step is to make sure you’re always tweaking your strategy and weeding out what works vs what doesn’t. Re-examine the data if you have to and create new tests. Then go back and see what can be improved. You’re a real scientist now.


About Target River


Target River is a target marketing firm, backed by global buying power to deliver cost-efficient campaigns that deliver results. Our team utilizes on point targeting with pinpoint accuracy. We exist to delight our clients with campaigns that effectively target the right audience, reach that audience through the most cost-efficient tactics, and deliver the most relevant message. 

Target River was recently recognized as "Marketing Agency of the Year", "Best Target Marketing Company", and "Best Education Marketing Company"  in the United States. For further information, please contact brian@targetriver.com or call 619.571.7359.
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