CRO Basics: What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

May 12, 2020

weidert blog author


Posted by Jonathan Stanis

Conversion Rate Optimization Basics

So, your existing inbound marketing program could use some help.

There’s no shame in that. In fact, if you’re not regularly considering ways to improve your program and take advantage of recent insights, you’re likely falling behind.

You may not have drastic needs, such as a completely new website; you just want to get more leads from existing traffic and improve your inbound marketing program’s performance.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) can make your best performing blog posts even better, generating up to 50% more leads without producing a new advanced piece of content.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

It’s the process of optimizing a landing or website page to make it a more effective conversion tool. Depending on your goals, conversions can vary widely, from signing up blog subscribers to buying expensive OEM equipment.

Why is Conversion Rate Optimization Important?

You already know the core belief regarding customers and inbound marketing: Your best customers are your current customers, and it’s easier to keep a good customer than it is to gain a new one.

Well, it’s the same for websites: Your best pages are likely going to continue to be your best pages.

Conversion rate optimization leverages those best pages and makes them perform even better. And it’s not hard! Instead of spending time and resources on a new page that may or may not perform well, you can put effort into a page that’s already performing well to drive dramatic results.

Let’s explore the three primary components of conversion rate optimization:

  1. Discovery
  2. Hypotheses and Experimentation
  3. Reviewing Results

1. Discovery

The first step in conversion rate optimization is creating a baseline of current analytics.

  • What are your most visited pages?
  • What are your current traffic levels?
  • From what channels are your visitors coming (social, organic, direct, etc.)?

To determine your current best pages, use a tool like Google Analytics. To determine the specific parts of those pages that work and don't work, use Lucky Orange heatmap software. Hint: there are eight additional conversion optimization tools in this article that can help you identify opportunities to better convert visitors into leads as well.

You also need to know who your primary buyer personas are and what their objections to purchase might be. This information helps you create hypotheses and experiments (see below) to test.

For example, if you know your primary persona’s main objection is that they perceive your product to be too expensive, you can build content around the cost in use and ROI to refute those perceptions. Lucky Orange’s customizable polling system is a survey tool that helps you uncover visitors’ objections.

Hypotheses and Experimentation

The foundation of conversion rate optimization is experimentation. It’s not difficult to test parts of your website to see how a change affects the number of conversions you get per visit. Yet, before you test anything, start with a hypothesis, or several hypotheses.

A hypothesis can be as simple (and obvious) as, “If we speed up the website’s load time, we’ll get more conversions” (obvious because it’s always true). Or it could be something without an obvious answer such as, “If we increase the amount of information on a webpage to answer every objection to our product, we’ll increase conversions.”

There’s no simple answer to that one. It really depends on the topic and format. For example, short, definition-style blog posts rank well for featured snippets, but longer posts and pillar pages may be needed to help address a persona’s objections and cover a topic fully.

Each hypothesis needs to answer:

1. WHAT are you testing?

What’s the “thing” you’re going to test that you think will improve conversions? Are you going to test if customer objections are overcome with testimonials? Maybe you’re going to test to see how the wording on your CTA changes its clickthrough rate. Or you could test whether adding a video to a landing page leads to an increase in form conversions.

Whatever you’re going to test, make sure you know exactly what success looks like. It’s important to be clear; this will increase the likelihood of getting a clear result.

2. WHO are you testing?

Are you testing all website visitors, or are you testing returning visitors? Maybe you’re testing visitors only from social media or visitors only from organic search. It’s important to understand the specific audience you’re testing because they’ll be interacting with your website with a mindset different from others’ mindsets.

For example, if I visit your site because I found it via an organic search for a longtail keyword, I’m very likely to convert. However, if I arrived on your site because I was bored and browsing social media, I’m much less likely to convert.

3. WHERE are you testing?

“Where” simply means which website, page, or set of pages will you be running the test on.

Conversion rate optimization tests must be run as “A/B” tests. These tests allow you to compare the difference between your control page (“A”) and a variation of that control (“B”) to see which performs better. Without the test and the baseline, you can’t know if the changes are actually having an impact on conversions.

Probably the best known A/B testing software platform is Optimizely, but other platforms can also do the random sampling, including Google Optimize and HubSpot Marketing Pro. Even more robust, HubSpot’s Enterprise tier features adaptive testing, allowing for more than two tests, plus it dynamically and automatically adapts to the winner, on desktop versus mobile, for example.

Reviewing Results

After you’ve performed your testing, it’s time to review results. First, you need to determine if your results were statistically significant; if the A and B results varied by only a small amount, the change could be random and not a result of what you changed.

If, however, you did manage to produce positive, statistically significant results, you still have more work to do. Take those results and expand them to other parts of your website to improve the performance of all pages.

What if your results were not positive? This actually can (and should) happen. If it doesn’t, you’re not taking enough “educated guesses” about what might work to improve conversion rates. Don’t think of a negative result as a failure, but rather a lesson in what doesn’t work.

Once you’ve finished reviewing results and implementing changes to improve conversions, it’s time to move on to another conversion opportunity and another A/B test. This process— discovery, hypothesis, experimentation, and review/implementation—should never stop. 

Similarly, the growth-driven design (GDD) philosophy leverages user data to inform continuous changes to a website. Ideally, it’s how you discover, implement, and track results, by implementing a regular cadence of continuous improvement cycles. If you’re aware of GDD yet not doing it, now is the time to implement it and start boosting conversion rates.

Learn more about GDD by reading our comprehensive pillar page on growth-driven design. And congratulations on considering ways to improve your inbound marketing program by fine-tuning your website’s performance to optimize conversion rates!

Growth Driven Design Websites Pillar Page

This article was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.



Topics: Conversion Rate Optimization



whole brain marketing blog author
Written by Jonathan Stanis

An engineer by training, Jon focuses on the technical delivery of an effective inbound marketing program. He builds client website plans that solve for conversion potential and utilize smart user experiences. He is also responsible for analyzing and monitoring the success of inbound projects. Jon fits the definition of being a "whole brain marketer" because he is both a strong writer-designer and a deeply analytical thinker.

Find me on:

Click here to get your ebook for Growth-Driven Design website development