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CRO Guide – The Definitive Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization

Most people visit your site once and never return. Worse than that, they leave without buying anything from you or even signing up to your email list. In this CRO guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), we’ll show you how to reduce this number of lost visitors.

In the following paragraphs, we will cover the CRO basics, CRO techniques, conversion rate optimization strategies, things to keep in mind as you conduct tests, and how to implement the results. Below is a quick overview of the step by step CRO guide:

  • What is Conversion Rate Optimization
  • How to Run a CRO Campaign
  • 5 Critical Elements of a CRO Campaign, CRO strategy
  • Conclusion

So now you know what you’re in for in this complete guide on CRO, let’s get started.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization? 

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage of people who take a specific action on your app, website, or eCommerce store. These goals are normally tied in to the business goals of the company. For example, increasing the number of sales, or the number of people on your email list.

There is some technical jargon experts use when it comes to setting goals for testing. You might hear people talk about macro conversions or micro conversions.

A macro conversion is related to the overall aims of your website. For example, filling in and submitting an inquiry form or purchasing a product would be a macro conversion.

macro vs micro conversion

Micro conversions form a part of the macro conversion. For example, filling in an individual field on an inquiry form would be a micro conversion. Filling in the complete form is the macro conversion.

You can try and increase the number of people who complete a goal through testing variables against your control. For example, you might change the color of a button, or the copy or price on the page to increase the number of people who purchase a product.

a b testing control variation

You can check if the variant is better than the control by measuring the conversion rate. The conversion rate is the number of people who visited the page divided by the number who completed the desired action.

conversion rate formula

Whichever version of the page has a better conversion rate is the one you want to use. You can use our CRO program for A/B testing. 

A/B Testing, Split Testing, and Multivariate Testing

There are three standard types of conversion rate optimization tests in CRO strategies. In most basics, CRO tests people use A/B testing. This is where you test one version of a page, or opt-in form, against a single variant.

A/B testing is useful for comparing individual elements of a page. For example, you can check how changing the color of an element, a headline, or the price of a product impacts the conversion rate. You can also run A/B tests to see how a different version of a page will compare to the control.

a b testing more variation

With an A/B test, traffic is split evenly between the two versions of the page.

The second type of CRO test you can run is called multivariate testing. This is where you run multiple versions of a page against each other. For example, you might test five different versions of a page.

With multivariate testing, you test each one version of the page at the same time. Furthermore, you will often test two or more variables alongside each other. The image below illustrates my point.

a b testing variables

Google CRO specialists did one of the most famous examples of multivariate testing. They tested every shade of blue to see which would have the highest Click Through Rate (CTR) on their advertising links. The results of this test boosted company profits by $200 million a year.

Finally, with a split test, you compare two or more completely different versions of a page against each other. It’s called a split test because you split the traffic between different URLs.

How Long Should You Run a CRO Test

There are two different types of statistical models used for CRO tests. They are the Frequentist Statistical Model and the Bayesian Statistical Model.

To declare a winner in a conversion rate optimization test using the Frequentist Statistical Model, you need a 93% degree of statistical significance. Ideally, you should have 5,000 visitors a week to a page to run an A/B test. If you have fewer than this, then the test will take a long time.

A test run using the Frequentist Model is the best type of test.

Of course, most pages don’t get anywhere near 5,000 visitors a week. As a result, many CRO tools use the Bayesian Statistical Model. The benefit of the Bayesian Statistical approach is you can run a test with fewer visitors and get a result faster. The trade-off is that the result of the test does not have the same degree of statistical significance.

A statistician might call the result of a Bayesian CRO test a good guess. If you’re a business owner, an educated guess is good enough.

How to Run A CRO Campaign

Every conversion rate optimization campaign is broken down into a variation of the following five stages. They are; research, hypothesis, prioritization, testing, and analysis.

cro campaign stages

I’m making this sound serious. Yet it doesn’t need to be a formal plan. For example, if you’re looking to run a split test on your sales plan, those five phases could be as simple as:

  1. The conversion rate on this sales page could be improved
  2. Let’s change the headline and see what happens
  3. We’ll run an A/B test with two different headlines. Then we can test the button color
  4. One headline did better than the other. Ok, let’s change the headline

On the other hand, if you’re running a CRO campaign across a website with dozens or hundreds of sales pages, then the plan will be more complicated. In the sections below, I’ll quickly take a look at how you’d prepare a complex CRO campaign.

The Research Phase

The first stage of a CRO campaign involves researching what people are doing on your site. You should use a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods to gather data about user behavior.

Tools you might use during this research phase include:

  • Google Analytics: measure things like conversion rates
  • Heatmap Software: see where people are clicking on a page
  • Visitor Recording Tools: review how people are interacting with your site
  • Customer Surveys: get information from website visitors

All of these tools help you collect data. 

Hypothesis Phase

The hypothesis phase is rather self-explanatory. You analyze the data you collected during the research phase and use this information to come up with a plan. As you devise your plan you should:

  • List the changes you plan to make and what you hope to achieve
  • List what elements on a page you want to change

It’s essential to set out the objectives before you start your CRO campaign. This will enable you to evaluate the results at the end of the campaign.

The Prioritization Phase

Once you’ve decided what you want to achieve, you need to establish an order for the conversion rate optimization tests you want to run. You can use the Pie Framework to do this 

The Pie Framework is a method for prioritizing tasks you need to accomplish based on three criteria; potential, importance, and ease.

  • Potential: if you made a change, how much impact would it have on your site? For example, you might decide that making changes to a sales page could result in a 5% increase in sales
  • Importance: you assess the value that a change would have on your site. For example, a 5% increase in sales on your most visited page is more valuable to your business than a 5% increase in sales on a page few people visit
  • Ease: you assess the technical difficulty of running the test, and how easy it would be to implement the change on your website

You should rate each of the tests that you want to run on your site on a scale of 1-10. Your PIE score will provide you with an order in which to run the tests.

cro test rate

You’ll find the PIE Framework useful for all types of testing.

The Testing Phase

As I mentioned previously, there are three types of CRO tests; A/B tests, split tests, and multivariate tests:

  • Multivariate testing: the best option if you are testing multiple variables at the same time. However, you need a lot of traffic to the page to get results from the test
  • A/B testing: good for testing one variable against another. This is a better option for pages with a lower volume of traffic
  • Split testing: when you are comparing two or more completely different designs against each other

You should choose the one that’s the best fit for your needs.

The Analysis Phase

At the end of your conversion rate optimization testing, you’ll hopefully get a clear winner. You can use the winning variant on your site.

As you analyze the results of the campaign, ask yourself why one variant won over the other. This approach could open up new things you can test to improve your conversion rate further.

5 Critical Elements of a CRO Campaign – CRO Strategy

Conversion rate optimization campaigns usually focus on issues like landing page design, copy, website navigation, and the purchase and checkout experience. In the following section, I’ll cover these five common elements of a CRO campaign.

1. Design: The importance of your page layout

The purpose of a sales page or a squeeze page is to convince a website visitor to convert into a customer or warm lead by taking a specific action or series of actions. The design of the page plays a significant role in the probability of a conversion occurring. 

There are several effective website layouts, which work. These layouts often follow scanning behavior patterns. An excellent example of this is the F Layout.

heatmaps
Image Source: Neuromarketing

If you plan to run CRO tests, you need to be aware of things like user behavior and design principles. If you need a resource, here is an excellent guide to landing page design. You can find the ultimate guide to how to incorporate visual design in your sales page in this post.

2. Copy: How to Write Engaging Content

Well written copy helps convince the reader of the value of your product or service. Your copy should provide the visitor with the necessary information, assurance, and desire to complete your goal. 

Small tweaks to your copy, or even a complete rewrite, can have a significant impact on the conversion rate. 

When testing content for a blog, it’s important to consider where your content would fit in a sales funnel. You want funnel-specific content that’s tailored to customers at different stages of the customer journey. Writing copy for a sales page requires a different approach. You can find a comprehensive guide to writing sales copy here.

To write great copy, you need to understand where in the customer journey your visitor sits. For example, if a company has not heard of your company or product before, you need to spend a lot more time explaining who you are and why they should trust you. As a result, you need a longer sales page to establish that credibility.

Some of the key elements to focus on include if you’re running a CRO campaign on a sales page include:

  • The headline
  • Subheadings and cross headings
  • Benefits and unique selling points
  • Testimonials
  • Call to action

You also need to convey your unique selling point to the reader. You do this by focusing on product features, outcomes, and things like cost. You can also utilize emotions, like curiosity, to get people to engage with your content.

engaging content example
netflix content example

There are a lot of times where sales page design overlaps with sales copy. One example of this is your call to action. How to design and test your call to action could be a blog post in itself. Safe to say, changes in color and the text can have a big impact on the conversion rate.

Optimizing the conversion rate on your sales page is important. The higher your conversions, the more money you will make per customer. Conversion rates on sales pages are also important if you are involved in affiliate marketing. The higher the conversion rate, the more affiliates you are likely to attract.

3. Site Architecture: How to improve navigation on your site

When a person lands on your website, they rarely arrive on the page where you want them to end up. You probably want them to get from the blog post they might be reading, or your homepage, to the sales page where they can purchase your goods or services.

When reviewing navigation, it’s useful to create an outline of your site structure. If the site structure looks organized, you are off to a good start.

website navigation

Most people will navigate your website through the menu. You must optimize this first as it will have the most significant impact on overall user flow. 

Your business goals will help you decide what to include on the menu. If you’re running an eCommerce store with hundreds of products, then you’ll probably need a mega menu. You can see how Amazon achieve this with their menu that follows product hierarchy.

amazon menu

If you only offer a limited number of services, then you’ll want a more straightforward menu. You’ll see these limited menus used by SaaS companies and bloggers.

The menu is far from the only way of getting around your site. Things like breadcrumbs, or banners in the sidebar menu or on the page can improve the user experience flow. These are all things that you can test through a conversion rate optimization campaign.

4. How to Optimize Forms and the Checkout Experience

Almost every website tries to monetize their traffic. Most sites do this by asking a customer to purchase a product or service. This will either involve a person whipping out their credit card to make a payment, or filling in an online submission form.

While cart abandonment rates are generally high, with 7 out of 10 shoppers abandoning their cart, you can improve those rates through a conversion optimization campaign. There are several commonly utilized techniques you can test on an eCommerce checkout to improve the conversion rate. These include:

  • Capturing the email address of a customer straight away, so you can do retargeting
  • Remove or reduce on-screen distractions and undesirable navigation options, like the header and footer
  • Make your check out process as simple as possible. This can often be accomplished by reducing the number of steps in the process
  • Reduce the scope for input errors. This can be achieved through an auto-filling functionality
  • Display trust signals like payment logos, business accreditation, and security logos (McAfee, etc.)
  • Allow for a variety of payment options. For example, various credit and debit cards, Apple Wallet, Paypal, etc.

Optimizing the conversion rate on a form follows many of the same steps as optimizing the checkout experience. The two most common problems that any sites using a submission form to need to address are:

  • The number of fields used on the form
  • Instructions on how to fill out the fields on a form

Instructions on how to fill out a form can be a particular problem. For example, selecting your nationality can be a confusing process for British citizens, because there is no one agreed designation for a British citizen. Options can include the United Kingdom, Britain, and other variants.

It’s essential to track the completion rates of individual fields on your forms. Tracking the field completion rates will help you identify problems that you can fix through testing to improve the conversion rate.

5. Technical Fixes: The importance of optimizing page speed

You’ve probably tried to visit a website in the last week and left because the site took too long to load. You won’t be surprised to learn that websites that take longer to load have a higher bounce rate and a lower conversion rate at the checkout. Page speed is also a ranking factor on Google.

page load time vs bounce rate graphic
Source: Pingdom

You can see the clear correlation between bounce rate and load speed in the graph above.

There are plenty of online tools available for testing page load times. One of the most widely used is PageSpeed Insights. The tool, developed by Google, provides you with an overview of your page load times for desktop and mobile. It also provides recommendations you can follow to improve your page speed. If you’ve followed all of the solutions and page speed is still an issue, then you probably need to choose a new website hosting package.

Conclusion

This CRO guide covered some of the underlying principles of conversion rate optimization, which is an important online business development strategy. We started the CRO guide with a definition of conversion rate optimization and the difference between micro and macro conversions. We then looked at the different types of CRO tests you can run.

In the second section of this guide, we covered the six stages of a conversion rate optimization campaign. This started with the collection of data and ended with selecting the best variant from your tests.

In the final section, we looked at five of the most common elements to focus on in a CRO campaign. This included a review of design principles, how to craft your sales copy, website navigation, the checkout experience, and the importance of page speed.

Hopefully, this guide will have provided you with a framework for running your CRO campaign. Now it’s your turn. You need to take this knowledge and act on it.

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