CRO Marketing: what is Conversion Rate Optimization

You will have heard on many occasions what CRO is, what its definition is and what CRO best practices are, how CRO is linked to SEO and ROI, and even what the translation of Conversion Rate Optimization is. In this article, I will explain all this in a simple way and enrich it with practical examples.

What is CRO: definition and strategy

If you are fairly well-versed in digital marketing, you will have come across CRO and probably already know what it means.

If, on the other hand, you have never done any digital business, CRO specifically stands for Conversion Rate Optimization, a technique somewhere between science and art that aims to optimize the conversion rate, typically associated with a goal or action you want users to perform on a page of your website or even your app.

benefits of conversion rate optimization

To give a precise definition, we can say that CRO is the obtaining of as many revenue-generating actions as possible from the same share of traffic as we achieve, i.e. from the same number of our visitors; in short, it is about maximizing the conversions of our visitors, on a par with incoming traffic.

Conversion Rate Optimization is the organic set of techniques, both diagnostic and experimental, aimed at achieving measurable improvements in the conversion rate of websites.

On the analytical/diagnostic level, the techniques and tools used may be website access statistics, market analysis, sales force interviews, surveys, heatmaps, click maps, usage videos, direct use of the product/service, usability tests, etc. On an experimental level, the most common techniques are A/B Test and simple or multivariate Split Test.

The best thing is never to stop with testing. Once you have reached a goal, you can continue testing new aspects, creating a virtuous process that generates improvements over time. Never be satiated with the salient data obtained and never feel you have arrived at reaching the first goals.

All companies should embrace this modus operandi and start questioning what they publish on a daily basis, thinking about both what and how they tell the story. Thinking about a typical checkout process – so the classic shopping cart of an e-commerce store – this becomes strategic.

It is increasingly important for companies to start thinking along these lines for the pages that represent the focus of their business. Users, site utilization, and even time cannot be categorized and schematized according to fixed, a priori definitions.

Doing CRO Marketing helps companies in this sense, subverting acquired knowledge and providing new insights for improvement and optimization.

new ideas for improvement

Where CRO comes from

CRO, or conversion optimization, was born out of the need to encourage lead generation, or lead generation, in online e-commerce and to improve the results of a website. As competition grew on the web during the early 2000s, Internet marketers had to create tools and techniques for their marketing tactics.

They thus began to experiment with variable content on a site to determine which layouts, texts, offers, and images could improve the conversion rate.

effective online campaign

This phenomenon can be traced back to the difficulty the human mind has in separating random events from real effects. By using a technical data procedure, they have limited themselves to examining and drawing conclusions from small samples of data, thus explaining why purchasers’ decisions occurred. Statistical methodologies can only be exploited for the study of large samples.

These methods, or “conversion optimization” methods, are then taken further for execution in a real-time environment. Real-time data and messaging accordingly increase the reach and effectiveness of the online campaign.

What CRO is not: unscientifically tested methods

If you are involved in interaction design and usability you will be very familiar with methods and tools such as:

  • SEO
  • Usability testing
  • Pre-Post testing
  • Best Practices
  • Online Surveys
  • Click Tracking (monitoring where users click)
  • Eye tracking (monitoring of the user’s eyes on the site)
  • Heatmaps

It is good to establish that all this is not part of the world of Conversion Rate Optimization, simply because they are all methods that help you develop hypotheses for conversion optimization, but they are not based on a scientifically tested method like those typically used for CRO, such as A/B/N testing or multivariate testing.

Furthermore, all these methods do not take into account the statistical representativeness of the sample and the significance of the test performed. Also, here is what in short is not identified as Conversion Rate Optimization:

  • Changing the button or text color of a Call To Action
  • Follow best practices or invent conjecture
  • Relying on incorrect metrics

In the CRO the modified color is worthless

The more we talk about CRO, the more bizarre recommendations are invented about the color of CTAs and titles, text alignment, and so on. But it is not the single element that changes conversion. Let’s take an example.

A sentence such as “Colour the title red: this will increase your conversions by 30%” can be translated into “I think your visitors are not converting because your title is black instead of red”. Very implausible.

You should ask yourself why visitors do not convert, and then change the obstacles they find on your site. But don’t think that all phrases like “green CTAs convert more than blue ones” become best practices for your site because every site is unique and on yours, some things may not work.

In CRO Marketing best practices do not count

It may sound strange to you, but it is better not to follow every trick you find online with your eyes closed. If these tips worked for someone else, they may not work for you.

Of course, it is much easier to look for easy tips, and fixed rules to follow to modify your pages and hopes for faster success, but this method does not really suit a marketing strategy, especially a Conversion Rate Optimization strategy. Much better instead is to test everything you modify on your pages, even using A/B testing tools such as HubSpot.

In CRO, don’t rely on the wrong metrics

Focus on what and how much you can earn, not on micro-conversions or other statistics. If you find data from someone who has increased the number of people “adding products to their shopping cart”, know that they are the ones who cannot boast that they have also increased total customer conversion.

So focus on your own personal gain and all statistics that are directly linked to an increase in turnover. 

The expert in conversion rate analysis is the Web Analytics Specialist. Take the test and find out if you have the aptitude for this profession

analysing competitors socials

 

Conversion Rate Optimization: how it Works

But how does Conversion Rate Optimization work? Based essentially on experiments.

In experiments, the audience of your website is divided into random samples. Different samples are shown in different versions of the website. For each sample, the conversion rate is recorded. Once a statistically relevant number of conversions is reached, the version with the highest Conversion Rate is the winner and is used as the only public version.

There are several professional online services on the market, now also free of charge, for many of the diagnostic/analytical techniques as well as for the experimental phase.

To explain this better, let us take an example. The controlled testing phase requires you to consider:

  • A page/control group;
  • A variation page (also referred to as a challenger).

It is essential that the 2 pages you are going to test must be tested at the same time. The control group is the user segment that sees your original, unaltered page on your site. This approach is called Champion-Challenger and is the basis of typical direct marketing strategies.

champion challenger

In the A/B or split test, visitors are shown a single page among the challengers (A, B…). The visitor is randomly assigned the control page or a variation thereof. This also allows a fair evaluation between the sampled users.

Summing up:

  • Visiting users will always see the same page even on subsequent visits
  • When visitors make a conversion, it will be assigned to the specific variation that visited
  • The testing tool will calculate which variation generated the best conversion rate and whether the data is statistically significant

Data are collected until they are significant; the new sample can replace the old page and become the new control. This procedure will allow you to obtain, gradually at first but then overall, extremely precise and reliable results with respect to your website and app projects, to be reused and evaluated very carefully in your subsequent choices in the direction of where to focus your business.

Conversion rate optimization process: what does it consist of?

Optimization is the process of increasing site leads and sales without investing more capital, in order to attract more visitors. A conversion rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who complete a goal, as set by the site owner.

Some testing methods, such as split testing or A/B testing, allow images and content to be monitored to help convert visitors into customers. There are several approaches to conversion optimization, with two main schools of thought prevailing in recent years.

complete a goal process

One school is more focused on experimentation as an approach to discovering the best way to increase the popularity of a website, campaign, or landing page. The other school focuses more on the optimization process.

In this second approach, the web marketing manager will invest a considerable amount of time in optimization in understanding the “sentiment” of the audience and then creating a targeted message that appeals to that particular audience”.

In order to do a good job, you need concentrated evidence and a focused approach to conversion optimization.

How to calculate the conversion rate in CRO: Conversion Rate Formula

Let us assume that 1000 people access your site every month. Of these, 10 purchase a product (perform an action).

To calculate the conversion rate of your site, you have to divide the actions (transactions) by the visits (unique) and then multiply by 100.

So the formula in this example is (10/1000)*100 = 1% Conversion rate of our site.

calculation of conversion formula

The values for which one can certify that a website (especially an e-commerce site) is functioning properly are somewhat subjective, having an e-commerce site that converts above 1% is already a very good result.

Should it happen that this conversion rate remains stable with the increase of visits and visitors to the site, it could mean in most cases that the purchasing process or the steps leading up to the fulfillment of the action to be measured have received a good conversion optimization process.

The increase in conversions, in itself, is obviously achieved by increasing the number of visitors to the site, but the conversion rate (the conversion rate) being a ratio, will remain the key evaluation factor in understanding the health of your website.

Together with other objective factors, such as visits, the average length of stay on the page, amount of pages visited per visit, and many other important data, it is possible to read the behavior of your users and imagine alternative solutions for the paths they have to take to get to the goal you, the site manager, set.

More effective optimization platforms: 6 key elements to consider

To be effective, conversion optimization platforms must include the following elements:

  • Data collection and processing
  • The platform has to process hundreds of variables and automatically find out which subsets have the greatest predictive power. A combination of pre-and post-screening methods is employed, omitting irrelevant or redundant data as appropriate.
  • Data can be numeric or textual, nominal or ordinal. Negative or missing values are handled with care.
  • Data can be geographical, contextual, frequency, demographic, behavioral, customer-based, etc.
  • Hypothesis
  • After data collection, it is necessary to form a hypothesis. This process forms the basis of why changes are made. Hypotheses are made on the basis of observation and deduction. It is important that each hypothetical situation must be measurable. Without these, conclusions cannot be drawn.

most effective optimization platforms

Starting a proper CRO: 4 steps you must not give up

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is a novel and successful approach to web marketing strategies. You have to work on every detail of your website or e-commerce to bring you rich and qualified conversions. A perspective that has already enabled many marketers who have already put it into practice to dramatically increase their conversion rates.

You need to equip yourself with functional web projects and then optimize their performance, study the site heuristically, and implement marketing automation. Work on performance, with innovative marketing automation tools, and take your online tools in directions you never thought of.

correct cro steps

1. Start with the heuristic analysis of how well you are performing

The fundamental starting point for a CRO Marketing strategy is the heuristic analysis of your website or e-commerce performance. Collect data from your monitoring tools (such as Google Analytics and CRM data) and try to produce a detailed report.

To the “state of the art” of your performance, you need to add innovative marketing data analysis tools, such as heat maps, user registrations, and visitor surveys. At this point, produce a comprehensive, integrated data report that will allow you to study and evaluate opportunities for conversion rate optimization.

2. Focus on identifying the most important objectives

The next step after producing a detailed performance report on your web project is the identification of objectives. Thanks to your knowledge of the business and your professionalism in CRO, you will be able to analyze the possibilities of optimizing your performance.

The choice of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will give you a perfect understanding of what you can achieve with your CRO Marketing strategy. These will measure the volume, quality, time, and cost of your web project goals with precision and detail. Check the monitoring dashboards very frequently, they will check your progress and the achievement of the KPIs on a daily basis.

3. Do Marketing Automation and increase the yield of results

Every web project on which you want to increase performance will be different. Therefore, strategies can be extremely diverse, starting from the starting situation. It is an analysis that will guide you; it is your courage and professionalism that will lead you to success.

Among the tools mainly used in CRO Marketing strategies, you will need to know how to use Marketing Automation software that will allow you to customize your website experience to each specific user, with dynamic content, personal coupons, and one-to-one e-mail marketing.

4. Constant practice Testing Automation

A/B testing and MVT are tools you will need to know how to evaluate the behavior of visitors to your website or banner ad. By offering different versions of the message to different test groups, you can measure the reaction of users and direct the budget to the best version, to get you the best possible results.

In this sense, website development goes towards continuous optimization, evolving in practice, and testing all new features and their impact on end users. Through tests conducted with statistical significance and differentiated data, it is mathematics that ensures the correct direction.

Conversion Rate Optimization: where to start

Of course, as you will have realized, this is a complex task overall, but not impossible. Specifically, here is what you will have to contend with:

  • analyzing traffic data
  • identify pages that welcome the visitor (produce effective landing pages)
  • getting to know the consumer: their needs and behavior (through the use of online surveys and questionnaires – as well as the study of knowledge and experience gathered by the company over the years)
  • evaluate the current site (also in terms of user experience with usability tests) with a view to turning a visit into a business contact (conversion)
  • defining and carrying out various tests (A/B tests, multivariate tests, split tests) redesigning pages and navigation flows (the conversion funnel)
  • identify those indicators that best describe the performance of the test
  • collect and analyze the data that will be collected from the tests you will carry out using special tools that focus, for instance, on the effectiveness of buttons or call-to-actions (CTAs, calls to action)
  • completely redesign the site according to the data collected

It is a recursive process: knowing that any detail will generate an increase in results, it might make sense to keep questioning – guided by the data you have collected – the entire system.

Why Conversion Rate Optimization

You have to think that CRO Marketing can be justified even more in all those scenarios where you have reached the maximum limit of your advertising investment, thus where you mistakenly believe that you have already done everything you can, whereas from now on your goal is to achieve more results all things being equal (also economically of course!).

There are indeed many digital marketing activities on the marketing manager’s agenda, but why should Conversion Rate Optimization be a priority over other web marketing actions or other optimization activities you might put in place (e.g. Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Optimization)?

create business case

If you think about it, by creating a business case you can demonstrate how a percentage increase in the conversion rate has a greater impact than optimizing the CTR (Click To Rate) of a Google AdWords campaign.

Furthermore, the optimization you perform downstream, for instance during the final steps of an online buying process, can bring you greater benefits than optimization upstream (think about optimizing traffic channels for your site).

Consider a well-known, high-performing e-commerce site and calculate the relative impact of increasing the conversion rate of a landing page.

paid search optimization

Let’s try three hypotheses: 10, 20, or 30 % increase in conversion rate. Now let us compare the impact in terms of conversions generated by:

  • CTR increase for an AdWords campaign
  • CR increase of a landing page

A 10% increase in the CTR (see scenario 1) increased the number of conversions (from 40 to 44) but did not reduce the conversion cost. In scenario 2 we consider the optimization of the landing page and a 10% increase in the conversion rate (from 2% to 2.2%). You can see how the impact, in this case, is twofold compared to the original situation:

  • Conversions increase (from 40 to 44)
  • Decreased cost per conversion (from $150 to $136)

The comparison of the 2 example scenarios allows you to state that it is preferable to optimize the conversion of the landing page than to optimize the CTR of the AdWords campaign. As is logical, the combined optimization of the 2 steps (see scenario 3) is the one that produces the best results.

When and why CRO must be a priority

They probably seem like obvious and obvious methodologies, but often we don’t set out to put them into practice properly. Here are the main reasons to impress your users with Conversion Rate Optimization:

  • If you already have a high-traffic site
  • Whether your goal is to sell online, acquire leads or generate affiliates or revenue from online advertising
  • If you want to generate more revenue
  • If you want to push your company towards a scientific and data-driven marketing culture (very detailed Big Data)

cro must be priority

Your website if you think about it contains within it numerous objectives:

  • collect the curiosity of your users
  • understand their needs and align on the language to most effectively describe your solution
  • transmit your company’s values
  • convincing the goodness of your offer in relation to the potential customer’s need (lead generation)
  • generate new business opportunities
  • raise the ROI of advertising campaigns and thus increase the return on investment

These last two points in particular are the ones that in the presence of a contact form generate optins, i.e. the first points of contact with your potential customers; all too often it happens that these first indications of interest on the part of your users are not taken into account, thus missing valuable opportunities.

Conversion Rate Optimization focuses on this aspect: improving the effectiveness of your website, thus turning a visit into a business opportunity (in practice, you will optimize the conversion rate).

And since it is your users who have to take this action, it is crucial to start with the consumers: if you understand their behavior within the site, you will improve their browsing experience.

Conversion Rate Optimization and Remarketing: Commonalities and Synergies

CRO Marketing strategies are often aimed at improving two fundamental aspects of one’s business:

  • the acquisition of new traffic (mainly through content marketing, content distribution, email marketing, advertising, and SEO)
  • facilitating the descent down the conversion funnel for already acquired visitors (improving the user experience of your website)

The problem with acquisition activity, however, lies in the lack of synergy between the tools used for this purpose. Often content marketing, social media, SEO, and advertising do not work together, but – even when they are all integrated – tend to develop in an autonomous and unconnected manner, without any strategy to unite them into a single project.

When this happens, take remarketing activities, and you develop integration activities in a mass manner, without the attention to detail that is the main soul of digital marketing.

common point and synergies

But what is remarketing? It is a technique that essentially consists of distributing marketing campaigns targeting a group of users characterized by the fact that they have already come into contact with you, e.g. by visiting your website.

The typical remarketing cycle works like this: the potential customer comes across our website thanks to one entry point among many possible (organic search, advertising, social, etc.), navigates to our pages, and leaves without having made a conversion.

At this point, the remarketing activity will ensure that that same user will be hit, in certain channels and for a set time, with an extremely targeted advertising action on the product or service that had aroused his or her interest during the first visit.

By doing so, the likelihood of a subsequent conversion will be significantly increased.

What are testing tools used for Conversion Rate Optimization?

The process and actions typically performed by these sophisticated tools are based on:

  • Separating incoming traffic randomly between different variations
  • Set cookies to ensure that the same test visitor always sees the same page if they return to the site
  • Tracking conversion rates for each variation page
  • Provide reports for each variation page
  • Show the statistical significance for each test result, so that you know if and when the test is completed

Optimization objectives: maximization of results and revenues in the strongest sectors

The accurate definition of “optimization” is the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help in making better decisions. In this context, business objectives are explicitly defined and then decisions are calibrated to optimize these objectives.

The methodologies have a long history of success in a wide range of sectors, such as airline planning, supply chain management, financial planning, military logistics, and telecommunications routing. Goals should include maximizing conversions, revenues, profits, or a combination thereof.

What tools do you need to know how to do CRO?

Here are some of the main A/B testing platforms that one needs to master in order to do good Conversion Rate Optimization:

  • Optimizely: is a professional platform and one of the most reputable. Prices range from 14$ to about 400$ per month. It also allows you to analyze the Mobile Web and Mobile Apps
  • Visual Website Optimizer: this tool promises to create a series of variation pages without writing a line of code, but using a wizard and a visual wizard.

There are also plugins for WordPress for this purpose:

  • Nelio A/B testing: this is a paid plugin (costs $19 per month) and also includes HeatMaps.
  • Marketing Optimizer for WordPress: enables automatic tracking of all pages of a site developed with WordPress. It is a free plugin with excellent reviews.
  • Convert Experiments by Yoast: this completes the series of excellent plugins for SEO and analytics. You need to register at Convert.com to make it work.
  • WordPress call to action: to be used in combination with WordPress Leads or WordPress Landing Pages.

To be more precise, the Conversion Rate Optimization tools (which include heatmaps, click maps and eye tracking) and web analytics that are used in most cases can be found in this updated list that you can consider in order to achieve the most effective CRO:

  • Google Website Optimizer
  • Visual Website Optimizer
  • Google Analytics
  • Hotjar
  • Formisimo
  • Crazy egg
  • Typeform
  • Google Docs Survey
  • BrowserStack
  • WhatUsersDo
  • UserTesting.com
  • Usable
  • TryMyUI
  • Olark

And now it’s your turn! Are you ready to rethink all your digital projects, the site first and foremost, to get even more loyal users and a higher return on investment?

Get ready to do some excellent Conversion Rate Optimization and you will soon see your business grow exponentially. Happy CRO!

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