There was a time when CRO was where it was at – in fact, it was pretty much the only destination available.  

In 2020, more than ever before, getting those online sales has been, quite literally, life or death for a lot of brands and, unfortunately, many have succumbed to the latter.  Whilst lots of marketing and some clever content are great for driving traffic to your site, it doesn’t mean a thing if those visitors don’t stick around long enough to make a purchase.  This is what we mean by the term ‘conversion’ – converting visitors to buyers who are handing over the folding.  As the digital marketing world storms ahead – particularly in the age of COVID – we’ve been seeing lightning speed evolution.  

Due to this rapid progression, many are now ringing the death toll for CRO and hailing CJO as the new transformative SEO tool.  With this in mind, I’ve decided to put together a comparison of the two to see which is most effective.  First though, let’s take a look at what they are: 


Illustration of the concept of Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimisation was born in the early 2000s and quickly became the buzzword for a digital generation. CRO is essentially the act of using a variety of tools and strategies in order to turn site visitors into customers. CRO involves the examination of a website and marketing strategies in order to figure out why some visitors to a site do not subsequently go on to make a purchase or even an enquiry. Tools used for CRO can include landing pages, website audits and other SEO focussed tools


Customer Journey Optimisation is a modern approach to SEO and is a little more complex.  CJO is all about the customer journey analysis in order to map interactions across several touchpoints to figure out what’s working and what’s not and, to ultimately make changes which result in more purchases.  

As you can see, the main difference is that CRO focuses on the actual site whilst CJO focuses on the customer – so which is best?  Let’s dive in. 

CRO – The Good Bits

Supersizing profit, not just revenue

“With CRO, you’re focusing entirely on ramping up the performance of your site and figuring out ways of sending customers all the way to the checkout”, says international marketing consultant Craig Campbell.  This means that you shouldn’t generally have any extra costs such as staffing, marketing or office rent and sundries.  In turn, this means that, as well as an increase in revenue, you should also be seeing an increase in straight profits. 

Maximising marketing spend

When you spend money on marketing, the main – if not only – goal is to make more sales and, therefore, more cash.  CRO helps you to filter the traffic being sent to your site in terms of those who are likely to make purchases.  It also allows you to review marketing campaigns to see which are most effective.  In short, this helps you to save money on your marketing spend by not wasting it in the wrong place. 

Getting to know your customers

By examining your website and, in particular, the points at which customers turn away, you then start to understand what it is that turns your customers on and off.  By forming a better understanding of your customers, you can streamline your marketing and focus more on those things that are keeping customers on your site. 

Data driven

Although CRO involves an extent of insight and customer examination, CRO is largely about data.  The great thing about any data driven process is that its based on rationale, probability and fact – which makes for greater accuracy when working toward increased traffic. 

Brand equity

The more successful your website and the more sales you make, the better your brand’s reputation.  This important factor speaks to the customer experience which is the pivotal factor for increased sales. 

Search performance

One of the main purposes of CRO – and SEO in general – is to point customers in the direction of your website.  This is very effectively achieved by CRO which, by its very nature,  is created to perform this function.  CRO helps to drive good quality, organic traffic to your site and then helps to convert those visitors to buyers. 

Cutting down development time and costs

Putting into place a CRO strategy very much has testing at its core.  By trying and testing different things, you can pave the way to greater conversions.  This process of testing has a dual purpose – making sure that you get it right and, cutting down on the amount of time and money you need to spend on your development. 

Increased profits, increased marketing 

As we’ve said, CRO helps to increase profits – which gives you more in the kitty to spend on marketing.  Which leads to more traffic, which leads to even more profit. 

CRO – The Bad Bits

Big conversion doesn’t always mean big performance

As CRO is solely about converting visitors to purchasers, it may not necessarily give you the whole story.  The number of visits and the number of sales don’t automatically give a clear picture of how well your brand and your product are performing.  For this reason, CRO shouldn’t be the only measurement of your brand’s success. 

You can’t convert everyone

CRO works on the basis that every site visitor is a potential purchaser.  In reality, this isn’t true – not every visitor has the potential for conversion.  This is particularly true if you have some really good, engaging content on your site which may mean that visitors are landing on your site, reading your blogs and then moving on. 

CJO – The Good Bits

Whilst CRO is all about the site, CJO is all about the customer.  This has a number of benefits, including: 

Improves understanding

By plotting and mapping the way that a customer makes his or her way around your site, you can, in effect, get to know them (in a virtual kind of way).  It goes without saying that figuring out how your customers tick is absolutely vital if you want them to hang around. 

Improves efficiency

CJO can be thought of as a kind of GPS for your customers in that it helps you to follow their journey and pinpoint the areas in which they lose interest.  This is super important as it allows you to then revisit these parts of your site in order to fix any problems or inefficiencies such as an overly complex interface or a fiddly checkout process.  By finding out what’s turning off your customers, you can then turn this around by making the appropriate changes. 

Emotional connection

For many consumers, making a purchase is considered to be an ‘emotional’ thing.  Whether that emotion is delight, anger or indifference, it can have a huge impact on your business.  A robust customer mapping strategy will highlight the type of content which produces strong emotion in your site visitors – which is invaluable as this can then help to mould your tone of voice and future content.

Identifying gaps

Effective customer mapping can help to identify any gaps on your site which may be either turning customers off or simply resulting in missed opportunities.  By figuring out how customers move around your site and why they perform certain actions and not others, you’re creating a map of your site which will identify hot spots and gaping holes. 

Better predictions

Knowing where your customer has been or why they went there is a great way of setting up future predictions for customer behaviour – which, in turn, allows you to modify and perfect your best practices – which means keeping those customers happier for longer. 

Connecting the dots

Customer journey optimization forms a bridge between your sales, operations and marketing teams.  What this means in real life is that each of these departments receives more customer data and, is therefore, better equipped to deliver the right kind of product, service and content to satisfy consumers. 

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CJO – The Bad Bits

Tunnel vision

When using a CJO strategy, brands can often become so focussed on the customer’s journey around the site that they may miss other vital information.  While it’s fine to assume that a better customer journey will lead to more sales, there are often other factors to bear in mind.  For this reason, using only CJO won’t give you the full picture in most cases. 

Skillset gaps

Whilst CJO can be hugely effective, it does require a certain amount of skill and experience.  Without this, customer journey mapping is unlikely to be massively successful – in fact, 36% of businesses said, in a recent survey, that this was the sticking point which stopped them getting on board with this. 

Revision and updates

Starting out with CJO is a marathon, not a sprint and, is most certainly not a one time thing.  For this to work for you, you will need to be regularly validating and updating in order to stay relevant and keep up with consumers’ changing wants, needs and behaviours as well as changes in technology. 

The Verdict

So, now we’ve taken a look at what CRO and CJO are, how they work and, the good bits and bad bits, it’s time for the moment of truth – which is best?

As you were probably expecting, there’s no neat and easy answer to this.  When summing up the two principles, we can take a look at an overview: 


  • Performance is not guaranteed
  • Results may be skewed as CRO assumes that every visitor has the potential for conversion


  • Helps to form strong customer relationships
  • Improves customer understanding
  • Improves efficiency
  • Identifies gaps in the customer journey
  • Requires regular updates
  • Requires some skill and experience

When deciding which marketing strategy is right for you, it’s important to examine the kind of business you have, future plans and the results that you hope / expect to gain from your strategy. 


If your business is reasonably established and doing OK but sales could be better, then CRO may be for you.  Although CRO can be considered a quick, short-term fix, that is certainly not a reason to discount it.  If your business is ticking over and, your only sticking point is that, for some reason, your site isn’t converting visitors to buyers then a quick fix may be what you need. The good news here is that it is possible to perform CRO yourself with the help of a handy tool such as Optinmonster or UsabilityHub.  If, however, you feel that your site needs a bit more work, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a professional agency to get the job done for you. 


If your business is fairly new or you’re looking for long term growth then customer journey optimisation is probably your best bet.  CJO will actually help with your conversion when performed properly however, it’s much more than that.  CJO is designed to help you to increase new customer acquisition and then to grow customer relationships for greater retention.   Because of this, CJO is a long term strategy for growth so you shouldn’t go into it expecting fast results.  Additionally, this strategy does involve a degree of know-how in order to be successful and, so, unlike CRO, it’s always advised to hire a professional to put this strategy in place for you.  CJO is the way forward for brands who want to grow their business and increase sales – but also care about the customer experience. 

Having said all of this, it really doesn’t have to be ‘either/or’ for your brand.  In fact, forward-thinking, proactive brands have a tendency to employ both strategies either simultaneously or back to back – and there’s really nothing wrong with that.  Rather than picking one or another, improving your conversions AND growing strong customer relationships is a win-win, whatever industry you may be working in.