CRO Series: What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimization, and it’s the practice of optimizing your website to increase the number of people who take the desired action(s).
These actions can range from filling out a form, downloading an eBook, following a link, signing up for a free trial, adding items to a cart, all down to a customer making a purchase.
But pause for a minute.
Do you know you’ve been at the receiving end of CRO?
At one point or the other in your quiet or busy time, you’ve signed up for a service, added something to your cart online, and then you clicked that “pay” or “buy” option —oh, now you remember!
But what you may not have noticed is that at each point of contact, factors were pushing you to make one decision after the other.
From the moment you landed on that website to your final action, there were multiple tiny optimizations that were guiding you to the purchase - and these subtle changes are the art of Conversion Rate Optimization.
Whether you’re trying to convert customers for 2$ checkouts or $2,000 checkouts, the rate at which you turn anonymous visitors into paying customers can make or break your online business.
Nobody ever stumbled into a website for free; we always pay with either hard dollars (advertising) or soft dollars (content marketing) to get the click - so it’s critical to seize the opportunity.
It sounds simple, the higher the percentage of visitors you convert, the higher your revenue and margins increase.
However, it’s not that easy to do. With only 22% of businesses satisfied with their conversion rates, it begs the question;
What is Conversion and How Does it Work?
Before you can go about CRO —you need first to understand what conversion is all about and its ties to the optimization part of it.
“Conversion is the act or process of changing from one form, state, etc., to another.”
Applying this definition to marketing, you can redefine conversion as the process of changing your leads from one form, stage, etc., to another— while interacting with your website.
Now, this conversion takes many forms depending on the type of business or industry you’re in.
- For a B2B company, a conversion can be a visitor signing up for a newsletter.
- For SaaS companies, a conversion can be a sign-up for a free trial.
- For an eCommerce website, a conversion can be a product purchase.
And the list keeps going on for every industry, but one thing is for sure — for conversion to happen at any point, there needs to be a change from one form or stage to another.
But that’s enough with definitions. Let’s get practical on how conversion works.
Take, for example, you as a visitor who lands on an eCommerce website looking for something to buy.
In this case, let’s use Amazon.
While browsing through, you came across the “computer accessories” section, and you got interested, so you clicked. — 1st stage.
Going through the “computer accessories” section, you found the “monitors” department to pique your interest.
And once again, you clicked —2nd stage.
On getting to this section, you picked the bestseller, which is the “Acer R240HY 23.8-inch IPS HDMI DVI VGA (1920 X 1080) Widescreen Monitor Black.” —3rd stage
This is one of the most crucial stages in an eCommerce business when it comes to conversions.
On getting to this stage, you can either choose to buy on the spot or perhaps add to the cart so you can buy some other time.
But at each point of interaction on the website, the process that keeps you moving to the next stage until you get to the final step is called a conversion.
Contrary to many beliefs, conversion is not a one-stop shop for getting customers —instead, it’s a process.
As stated earlier, the core definition of conversion encompasses moving your leads or visitors all through until they become customers.
It’s all a process!
Now, optimizing this whole process is what brings about “CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization.”
How they do this is through a laid down conversion process.
But what really matters is what exactly big companies like amazon are measuring in their conversion rate - that you aren't.
How do you correctly measure Conversion Rate?
It starts with understanding how to look at data.
To find out whether something you’ve done, from a site redesign to installing Edgemesh, is helping your business — you’d look at the conversion rate.
Using the default Google Analytics dashboard, you’ll see that it shows you all users who visited your site during a period of time.
But here’s the thing; that’s just noise, and you wouldn’t see the impact in your bottom line.
A conversion rate taking all users into account gives you results all over the map, data-wise.
However, when you take those bailed users out, you can see what you’re working with.
What are bailed users?
A bailed user is one whose session duration (in other words, how long they engaged with the site) is less than one second.
If, for example, 61% of your users are bailed-out users, this affects the conversion rate.
What is a conversion rate?
A conversion rate is the number of users who buy things divided by the total number of users.
This is where the first trap happens.
Google Analytics assumes that you have a low bail rate (I mean Google itself does, so should you!).
But these default assumptions are a trap, and these pre-made dashboards are all wrong. Walk with me, talk with me, and I’ll show you how to set yours up step-by-step.
Set up your Google Analytics dashboard
If you run an e-commerce website, you’ll see your dashboard, Users, Revenue, Conversion Rate, Sessions.
Users, in the way Google is using it here, is a loaded word. This conversion rate is useless when you look at it with this default setting.
You want to go to Customization and create a New Custom Report using a Flat Table.
We want to measure:
- The # of sessions
- E-commerce conversion rate
- Per session value
We are then going to apply these two Segments (click to add to your Google Analytics):
1. Multi-page view users:
2. Sessions that lasted more than 1 second (non-bailed users)
3. Sessions that lasted less than 1 second (bailed users)
For this client, with 809k sessions, only 336k visited more than one page.
Even worse, only 360k visitors interacted with the site for more than a second!
Had you simply used the default conversion rate (All Users), you would see a conversion rate of 5.5%.
However, the actual conversion rate is closer to 12%!
When you look at it, there are two main problems with conversion
- Are you bringing the right people to your website?
- Are you giving them content that’s engaging them?
Addressing the right people and engaging them with the right content gives you a boost in how much of your visitors you can convert —and for how long before drop-off.
Typically, most web visitors don’t make a purchase just by looking at one page. Instead, it takes an average of 9 visits to a website before making a purchase.
With this, you can create a baseline for your conversion and know that people who engage with more than one-page express buyer intent.
So, in this case, whatever this company is doing to bring people to this website, 63% of them are not getting more than a one-page view.
The reasons could be errors, spam, people window shopping, or, most likely, performance. If your first-page load is slow, people will give up and bailout.
Conversion rate optimization is about asking the right questions to get the correct answers.
The first thing to do is throw away any user who doesn’t visit more than one page. But at a minimum — throw away users who didn’t touch the page for more than one second.
We’re now looking at users who were there one second or more. In this case, 61% of the users are coming and leaving — not waiting for the site to load.
Think of it like this. If there are 8 million people in New York City, and my hypothetical ice cream shop only sold seven ice cream, is my conversion rate 7/8,000,000,000 ?
Of course not!
You want to measure real people who engage with your brand. But you need to understand this;
Quite surprising, right? Let’s break it down.
Acquiring vs. converting: What is the difference?
Marketers, especially third-party ones, will come in, and they’ll raise the amount of traffic that comes to the site using social media and other tools.
But their job is to acquire traffic, not convert it.
Unless you understand how to separate the BS, you’ll just have to say —” you’re right; you brought more people.”
We’re now having a conversion rate optimization problem because your real traffic isn’t up. And that’s when these customers come to Edgemesh.
A lot of marketing is on the artist side and not the data side.
Consider bailed-out users, i.e., users who only stay on the site for less than one second.
The default Google Analytics dashboard has none of the critical data like that of the bailed-out users. Meanwhile, you can do what we did earlier and add these segments.
A segment will carry forward in all the default views you look at. So, when you’re looking at conversion rates, you can separate the BS.
You won’t see bailed-out users anywhere if you look at acquisition. And that’s because Google charges you per click.
For instance, if you paid for 300k people and only 100k interacted with the site, you’re wasting a lot of money.
The difference between the ad you paid for and the ad you got value for is what the bail ratio is all about.
The more you dig into these data, you’re confused and wondering —” Are these real people?”.
And this is a prevalent trap that affects your conversions. As a result, different factors play a role in influencing how optimized your conversions will be for your audience.
What Factors Influence CRO?
The concept of CRO stems from how many of your website visitors can persuade you to take any action on your website or landing page.
Your old marketing playbook and business instinct will likely tell you to bring in more traffic to your website so you can convert better —but it doesn’t work that way.
Instead, CRO focuses on converting existing leads (or traffic) to customers to ensure your business’s long-term success and sustainable growth.
These are determined by three different factors that work together in prioritizing “user experience” as its sole purpose.
These factors include:
- Landing Page
- Website Copy
- Page Speed
1. Landing Page
The deal-breaker for all CRO strategies in all industries is the landing page.
Look at your landing page as the first impression you give a stranger the first time you meet. If there’s a bond in the first meeting, the friendship will go further —and if not, it collapses.
That’s exactly how the landing page works.
Starting from what catches the attention in a landing page, let’s talk about;
Your Landing Page Design
Your aesthetics matters and says a lot about what type of business you are. It goes even further in determining your site’s usability and perception for a new visitor.
The type of color you use and how you blend them allows certain information to be passed to your targeted audience.
In a website design industry statistics study done by TechJury, a whopping 70% of online users have abandoned their shopping cart due to poor web design.
More stats roll in by Lucy Nixon of Corporate Eye on how color plays a huge role in affecting customers’ purchases.
- 85% of surveyed consumers state that color is the primary influencer of purchase decisions.
- Color increases brand recognition by 80%.
- Impulse shoppers are most influenced by black, royal blue, and red-orange.
- Budget shoppers are most influenced by navy blue and teal.
- Traditional shoppers are most influenced by pink, sky blue, and rose.
With these stats, it’s clear that your landing page design must work together to create a good mental image of your brand to website visitors for you to have your desired conversion.
For instance, you will use a blue background for your landing page; the white text is best to compliment the color and create a balance for that landing page.
Using a different color for your text, such as “sky blue”—in this case, reduces usability and user experience.
A quick look at this Shopify landing page aimed at getting more free trial users.
The design depicts a green background, a white text color, and an alternating CTA color that complements the whole landing page color blending.
If, by any chance, Shopify made the text a red color, it won’t be pleasing to the eye —and will reduce their conversions drastically.
Don’t you think so?
Here’s how it’ll look like.
Not pleasing to the eye, right? I guessed as much.
Your color usage is the primary determinant of how much your landing page converts.
2. Website Copy
If design only could hit the bull’s eye in marketing, 78% of companies won’t be having 1-3 content specialists.
But they do —and this is due to how website copy is an essential piece in the CRO game.
As a web visitor lands on your website, only 8 out of 10 will read your headline, and only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
This means you have less than 2 seconds to give that visitor a reason to stay.
For a start, an engaging headline that displays persuasiveness and credibility is a huge deal-breaker in making visitors stay on your website.
Podia does this best with their headline:
Right there, at first glance, you can see how they assert persuasiveness by letting customers know they have all they want to sell their courses, webinars, downloads, and memberships.
The sub-heading further amplifies the assurance of the primary heading by focusing on fixing the problem of multiple tool integrations.
Taking a cue from this, the content of your page should be to be able to key into the pain point your visitors —and provide a working solution for them.
A beautiful design and engaging content is a step up the ladder —but an important aspect you shouldn’t forget is your page speed.
3. Page Speed
“How fast should my website speed be?”
It is one of the top questions we get —and our responses remain “as fast as it can be”
Ideally, Google recommends you stay within 3-5 seconds page speed.
In research by Potent, the first five seconds of your page load time have the highest impact on conversion rates.
And any additional second after that leads to a 4.42% average decrease in conversion rates.
But here’s the thing, all websites can’t run at the same speed and meet that requirement.
A study by google on the average speed index across different industries shows far off the recommended page speed.
Source: Think With Google
Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean you should run a slow website because you’re in a particular industry, and you stick with the average.
Want to see an example of a real-world impact? Let’s look at our Google Analytics view, but this time let’s segment Edgemesh accelerated (fast loading visitors) vs. Non-accelerated (standard page load times). 14.3% conversion rate vs 5.58% … a nearly 3x increase. #SpeedMatters
You should know that if you aim to utilize CRO as a growth strategy, your website’s speed is directly tied to your CRO in all ways.
A quick overview on the impact of lousy page speed on customer conversion shows that;
- If an eCommerce site loads slower than expected, over 45% of people admit they are less likely to make a purchase —Unbounce
- A 100ms delay in website load time can decrease conversion rates by 7% —Akamai.
- Just a 0.1s change in page load time can impact every step of the user journey — Deloitte.
On the flip side, a good page speed is an all-rounder—it boosts your user experience, conversion rate, and SEO.
A study conducted by Deloitte on the impact of page speed in a brand’s bottom line showed that —even as little as a 0.1s increase in page speed can make an impact on your CRO.
Taking a look at how much a 0.1s difference in page speed can impact your bottom line tells you it’s a factor you shouldn’t ignore.
Now that you know the factors that influence your CRO, your next step should be identifying ways to improve it.
How to Improve the CRO of Your Business
It’s hassling enough building a team, setting up a website, writing copy, improve page speed, get enough traffic —only for the traffic not to convert.
All efforts made, wasted!
And in turn, it impacts your revenue negatively as your customer acquisition cost outweighs all other areas of your business.
This is when you know you have a CRO problem —and below are five ways you can improve them;
1. Identify the Unique Value Proposition of Your Product or Service
The best CRO practices, growth hacks, and techniques will never work for your business if you’ve not taken time out to identify what value you provide to your audience.
Your ideal customers are at different stages in the customer acquisition funnel —some at the bottom, some at the top, others in the middle.
Irrespective of what level they are in the funnel, one thing that ties them together is the value you provide—either through your product or services.
You need to constantly reiterate that value in every stage of interaction with your audience.
However, resist the urge to talk only about how good your products or services are —instead, talk more about how you can help solve a problem or get a particular result.
Your primary approach to your audience should be a “problem-solving approach,” not a company-focused one.
This approach allows you to maintain credibility while also improving the perception of your brand and creating awareness to an even newer audience.
2. Personalize your Call-to-Actions (CTAs)
In the study done by the Delhi School of Internet Marketing on the effectiveness of CTAs, —it was discovered that personalized CTAs convert 42% more visitors into leads than untargeted CTAs.
The power of personalized CTAs in every aspect of interaction with your audience cannot be over-emphasized.
As a web visitor scrolls through your website, his aim to interact with content that aligns and interacts with him.
Minor changes in your CTA copy can make as much as a 78.5% increase in conversions like iMPACT did.
From using the generic CTA— “free download.”
To a more personalized one, “show me how to attract more customers.”
In getting more conversion for your business, you need to pay close attention to your audience and make sure their experiences are personalized enough to help them take your desired action(s).
3. Make it Real with Social Proof.
Before the advent of social media and technology as a whole, word-of-mouth has helped build brands from the dawn of time.
It helped companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Disney, and the likes become who they are today. And even up till now, it hasn’t stopped.
So, what does this tell you?
Utilize your present customer’s stories in attracting new customers. Creating things such as a case study on how your product or services helped a client achieve a result goes a long way.
If you run a SaaS business, for example, apart from utilizing case studies as social proof, companies such as Trust Pilot, Capterra, and G2 are places your customer will go to for reviews on your software.
Make sure to give the best services to your customers to create a good perception of what your company is all about.
Nutshell, for example, utilizes this on their landing page;
They understand that offering social proof in the form of awards gotten from review sites to their customers will not only increase their credibility, but it also helps with their CRO.
4. Consistently A/B Test Your Landing Page
It feels good having a landing page convert a reasonable amount, and it sometimes gives you the idea;
“Yeah, this is perfect, and we shouldn’t change anything.”
Newsflash, it’s a wrong move!
If you keep your landing page stagnant and avoid optimizing for anything, as time goes by, web visitors get used to your landing page and are no more motivated in taking intended actions.
It doesn’t necessarily mean your landing page is now wrong. Instead, it means changing one or two elements every once in a while can make it better.
Consider implementing two variants of the same landing page.
Landing Page A will be shown to a particular audience with some aspects of the website.
Landing Page B will be shown to another audience, this time with different sets of elements not present in landing page A.
To best understand this, you can use heatmaps to identify drop-offs in your landing page over a particular period.
This will help you know what elements to add, remove or improve on.
5. Speak Your Audience’s Language
When you’re trying to search for something on Google, and you type in “best microphones for remote teams,” the type of content and the tone at which it’s written will be completely different from searching for “best microphones for video game streamers.”
What’s the difference? Audience!
To improve your CRO, you need to communicate with your audience in a language that they understand —and one only meant for them.
Avoid making the context of your content unnecessary, complex, and unrelatable.
Instead, the tone and formality in your content should be the same as your proposed audience.
Doing this allows your audience to relate to you quickly because they feel you understand their pain points, and as such, you’d be the best in solving it for them.
AND.CO, for example, makes the best use of focusing on their primary audience —Freelancers.
With this, they’re able to tailor their headline perfectly in a way that their audience will easily understand and relate to.
Putting it all Together
CRO sets up a part for continuous growth in a business. By optimizing your conversions, you reduce customer acquisition costs while cutting costs in retaining your present one.
It’s the number one secret weapon of a majority of businesses in the industry.
And it’s an investment that has total returns, which is why as time goes by, the demand continues increasing.
Now that you’ve gained a superpower go into the world and use it to optimize your conversions.
Before you go, we’d like to know — What’s the biggest challenge you face in optimizing your conversions?
If customer experience, good conversions, low bounce rates and overall, speed matters to you, then you’d love the Enterprise Grade Web Acceleration Edgemesh offers.
With our intelligent, automated, and next-generation client-side caching, your website is ready to move at full speed —with just a single line of code.
Plus, it takes less than 5 minutes to set up, so what do you say?
Feel free to start a 14-day trial here to get a feel of what speed means to your business.