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December 13th, 2016  /  Marketing, Strategy

Conversion Rate Optimization – Explaining the Principles

I’ve always thought of digital marketing in tiers. In Tier I, you see businesses doing some of the digital marketing essentials, like social media or running a company newsletter. In Tier II, you start to see organizations leverage search engine optimization (SEO) and even marketing automation. In Tier III – the most exciting tier, in my humble opinion – focuses even more so on optimization, and specifically, conversion rate optimization.

What is CRO?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a structured and systematic approach to improving the performance of your website. That definition, courtesy of Qualaroo, is a great summation of a very large and often complex type of digital strategy. Here are a few other notes about what CRO is (thanks, Qualaroo):

  • CRO is informed by insights – specifically, analytics and user feedback
  • CRO is defined by your website’s unique objectives and needs (KPIs)
  • CRO is taking the traffic you already have and making the most of it

Before we dig deeper into some of the core elements of CRO, understanding each piece of the term is key.

Conversion is the term used to describe an action a user takes on your website. This could be anything from submitting a form to making a purchase. It can be as micro as clicking a link to a new page, or as macro as registering for a free demo. Whatever the action you are trying to drive users to take, it can be referred to as a conversion.

The conversion rate is simply the percentage of users who converted on a specific action. Say you have 1,000 people visit your free product demo landing page. 100 of those people submit the form. 100 successful form submissions / 1,000 total visits = 10% conversion rate. Optimizers will often look at specific conversion rates – like CR% on a button, for example – but will also analyze the site-wide conversion rate.

Optimization refers to an ongoing commitment to improving your conversion rate. Simple, right?

The Principles of CRO

A prerequisite to successful CRO is committing to the process. Much like SEO, CRO isn’t just based on hunches, it isn’t a set-it-and-forget strategy, and it most definitely is not an instant fix. It is a quantifiable way to improve the performance of your website. It just takes some work.

Here are 3 core principles of conversion rate optimization you need to understand.

1) Trust the Process

If you are a Philadelphia 76ers fan, you’re probably a bit numb to the phrase “trust the process.” But, for the 99% of people reading this post who are not Sixers fans, it’s a phrase to remember when considering CRO.

Effective optimization revolves around creating, executing, and trusting in a single process. For example, this can look like:

  • Analyze your data and users to discover potential conversion issues
  • Hypothesize possible solutions to improve said conversions
  • Create experiments to test these hypotheses
  • Study your findings and adjust your website accordingly
  • Repeat

CRO is nerdy by nature. By that I mean it relies on data and math to be successful, and deviating from that process – even a little bit – can blow the whole thing up.

2) The CRO Stack

Whether you are looking to do CRO in-house or partner with an agency, you’ll hear about the CRO Stack quite a bit, and for good reason. The CRO Stack is a series of tools used for conversion rate optimization, and it goes as follows:

  • Quantitative Tools: software used to measure the “how many” behind your conversions (things like Google Analytics and Kissmetrics)
  • Qualitative Tools: software used to measure the “how” and “why” behind your conversions (things like Crazyegg, UserTesting, and Qualaroo)
  • Testing Tools: software used to conduct your tests (things like Optimizely, Nelio, and Unbounce)
  • Workflow Tools: software used to manage your process (things like Google Drive and Trello).

As an agency, we approach the CRO Stack with the goal of ensuring our entire team is on board with the tools we are using. This is part of building an effective process, too, as the tools you use help shape how you work.

The takeaway? Great CRO calls for great CRO tools.

3) Variety of Tactics

Going from a 1% conversion rate to a 5% conversion rate can be an extraordinary task, with countless ways to get from point A to point B. Many blog posts about CRO seem to try to force all users into a box; “This is what CRO is, this is all you need to do, etc.”

The truth is, CRO is a vast landscape with an ever-growing variety of tactics, ranging from easy to down right difficult. As someone new to conversion rate optimization, you’d probably read about the seemingly too-good-to-be-true case studies of people who simply changed the color of a button and saw A 100% INCREASE IN LEADS!

Come on, man. Sure, there are going to be some instances where changing the color or size of a single item can lead to big gains in conversions – but those are the unicorns. More often that not, each change you make will move the needle a little bit, collectively helping you achieve a better overall CR. Each of these changes will call for different tactics, like:

  • A/B Testing
  • Social Media Optimization
  • Email Marketing Optimization
  • Paid Advertising Optimization
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Content Marketing
  • Marketing Automation
  • and many more

The point here is that the above list all contain key tactics found in traditional digital marketing. It requires a unique combination of all kinds of tactics to transform your website into a lead generation machine, or improve sales on the eCommerce side of things.

Next Steps

A common question asked by in-house marketers – “How do I know if my website needs CRO?” The simple answer to that – every website needs CRO. Just like with search engine optimization, there is always room to improve the performance of your website.

The more specific answer – if you are finding that your website has a healthy amount of traffic but low form submissions / newsletter signups / sales / leads / etc., looking into optimizing your conversion rates makes a lot of sense.

And that is it! If you have any questions about conversion rate optimization and how it can help your website grow, give us a shout – we’d love to chat.


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About Bryce Mikkelson

Bryce Mikkelson

I'm the Digital Strategist here at Regal, which basically means I help cast the vision for all things web and digital marketing. Sometimes, I write about my experiences doing just that.

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Bryce Mikkelson
Bryce Mikkelson

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