Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a bit of a misnomer. When we analyze our websites and make changes, we should look at the conversion rate percentage as a success indicator – not as an end in itself. Yes, a higher conversion rate is the optimizer’s desired outcome, but there is only one way to reach that goal:

Optimizing For The User Experience 

There are plenty of conversion tactics that can help ‘game’ the system, but don’t provide a particularly useful user experience. Low hanging fruit tests, such as button color tests, are a perfect example. Sure, there will always be a conversion variance between particular button colors. There is such a variation, one great tactic is to load several different button colors into a multi-armed bandit algorithm to squeeze the most money as you can out of the page.

This tactic will bring you some marginal gains, but you begin to see the real gains when you stop using conversion ‘hacks’ and start doing some good old fashioned research.

When we optimize our sites we are not optimizing the conversions rate, but we are bettering the user experience in order to increase the likelihood of a converting action. The optimizer has become too focused on the what, e.g., increasing conversions, and is forgetting about the how, e.g., improving the user experience. 

An interesting concept has been born recently: ux consulting, or in other words, “user experience consulting”. Although it may sound confusing at first, it has come to life with the rise of product design and development methodologies. User experience deals with more than web design and the user interface; it adds value to the layout, the content and the flow of your website as a whole.

A team of ux consultants will help you gain a new perspective on your product, market, business and brand strategy. It all starts with a well-crafted audit! The whole process is based on your specific challenge and request that will eventually determine what service will be included in the project.

Back To Basics – What Is CRO?

By now we are all familiar with the CRO or website optimization. Despite some of the many misconceptions around CRO, I think it is something marketers have finally started to take seriously in 2014.

For those of you who are not familiar with the CRO, it is the method by which marketers analyze and optimize their websites and campaigns through various means including but not limited to:

A/B Testing
When you split traffic between two or more page variations to see which performs better.

User Surveys
When you load a client satisfaction survey, either open ended or with pre selected choices, for a web user to complete. Great source of data, though pre-selected choices may add your own bias.

When you dynamically change the content based on different user segments, e.g., geolocation, visitor type, etc…

A report that shows where visitors on your site click. Very useful to make sure your CTA is getting attention and that other elements of your page aren’t confusing visitors, e.g., they click on an image that isn’t clickable.

What’s Wrong With CRO Today

Unfortunately, CRO has been too focused on the quantitative data sets. I am all for split testing and data analysis, but most CRO professionals miss the crucial step of humanizing the numbers, i.e., applying the numbers and statistics to their visitor set.

What’s even worse is many optimizers actually shun qualitative data sources and believe they are at odds with quantitative data sets. This is a terrible way to approach CRO! In order to have any chance of increasing your conversion rates you have to learn as much as you can about your target audience! 

What CRO Needs To Become

Traditionally CRO has been about optimizing the conversion rate on sites. The simple problem with this terminology is that it is focused on increasing percentages and is inherently inhuman. If you really want to move the needle you need to focus your efforts on optimizing the user experience.

Qualitative analysis is still the least used data source for split test hypothesis construction. There has been year-over-year growth, but it is still at the bottom! I completely understand that these types of surveying tools might be out of your reach. Perhaps they cost too much or you can’t get on your IT department’s roadmap to add new code to your site.

Good news! You already have a lot of data at your disposal. Here are three tips to glean qualitative data that don’t require any tech purchases:

  1. Ask Customer Service
    If you have a customer service department, talk to a representative about the main questions/complaints that come in regularly.
  2. Use What You Already Have
    Look in Google Analytics for pages where people began an internal site search. Use the secondary dimension ‘search term’ to find a pattern. If you notice a search pattern on a page that is often starts an internal search query – you’ve found a disparity between the page content provided and your user’s needs.
  3. Go Oldschool
    Pick up the phone (gasp) and call some of your best customers. Find out what really worked for them, and try to highlight their suggestions.

CRO is intimately connected to user experience. Remember hearing in elementary school science class that form follows function? This motto should become every web developer’s and optimizer’s mantra.