The importance of optimizing websites for search engines is a given, but optimizing for conversion rates is often an afterthought, if it’s considered at all. Many marketing teams still do not prioritize Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) — on average, for every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them (econsultancy.com). CRO is relatively new and often poorly understood, but there’s no excuse for leaving money on the table.
Conversion Rate Optimization is the process of using data about the way people use your website to make changes to your site or page that will increase conversions. Depending on your industry or goals, “conversion” could mean a user filling out a form, purchasing a product, subscribing or performing some other desired action. CRO blends the human user experience with rigorous scientific testing, with astonishingly effective results.
With CRO, you can expect to see:
Rather than sinking time and money into attracting visitors who aren’t ultimately going to convert, CRO focuses your efforts on converting existing visitors. As your conversion rate increases, so does the return on your SEO investment, as each lead becomes more valuable. Remember: Site traffic is only as valuable as the leads or sales it brings. Attracting people is only the first step of the process, and you gain nothing by getting visitors who drop off without converting.
CRO is all about the bottom line. The whole point of optimizing for conversion rates is to move people toward conversion with the ultimate goal of more leads or sales (and therefore more profit). On the whole, these campaigns are successful: 74% of CRO programs increase sales. Your leads also become more valuable and more cost-efficient when you optimize for conversions.
CRO is ultimately about the bottom line, but it also necessarily involves improving the way users experience your site. Smoothing out any hitches that might prevent your visitors from completing and converting means that customers enjoy an easier, more personalized user experience. Happier customizers are not just more likely to make a purchase, but also more likely to come back for more — perhaps bringing friends with them.
CRO isn’t a quick fix and can’t be performed in a single step. Doing it well takes thorough research, careful analysis and constant testing. This means looking both at hard numbers and at subjective user opinions, forming hypotheses that can explain the information you find, and then putting those hypotheses to the test. Here’s what that process might look like:
Marketing decisions should always be based on real-world metrics. The first step of optimizing your conversion process is finding out what the data says about how it is currently functioning. Using a tool like Google Analytics allows you to examine each stage of your conversion goal funnel. Where are you losing people? Which pages have the lowest completion rates? Flag anything unusual for further exploration. These might indicate areas that could use improvement.
It’s easy to develop blind spots about your own page or to make assumptions about how others experience it. On-site or email surveys allow you to go straight to the source — the actual people using your website — for an outside perspective on your site’s usability and function. Use a service like Qualaroo to create your surveys.
Surveys can give you more information about things that numbers can’t tell you, such as why customers add items to their carts without ever completing the checkout process. Warning: Don’t send out a question unless you know exactly what you hope to gain from the answer. Like any other resource, audience attention should be deployed with intention, lest it run out.
There are other powerful ways to track user behavior on your site, including using heat and scroll maps. With the right tool, you can find out where you’re losing people’s attention on your site or where visitors are making the most conversions. You can even put yourself in the shoes of your website visitors by live recording their sessions on your site. This allows you to get even more granular in understanding visitor engagement.
Analyzing resources like heat maps and session recordings will allow you to figure out where website visitors might be getting stuck, make changes, and ultimately increase the quality and amount of leads you’re gaining.
The technical analysis and user surveys you have completed should have given you some ideas about possible bottlenecks in your conversion funnel. Now it’s time to test those ideas. The classic medium is A/B testing, which allows you to compare user responses. This could be a change as minimal as a background color or a different CTA, depending on what your site objectives are.
This step will give you the most practical information about how to optimize your site, but it’s very important not to skip straight to testing. To give you the most valuable and accurate insights, your tests should be directly informed by the observations you gleaned from your data collection.
CRO is not simple, but it is not optional, either. There is simply no reason to bother with search rankings and site traffic if you are not going to retain and convert the visitors you attract. If a proper CRO campaign is outside the scope of your current capabilities, consider hiring an outside expert, like Belo + Company. Whatever you do, don’t skip conversion rate optimization. Your hard work deserves to be seen through to completion.