Over the next several weeks, we are going to spend some time going in-depth into the idea of conversion rate optimization (CRO), discussing best practices, important analytics, examples of successful strategies, and more.
But before we investigate these details of CRO, we will have a discussion about what CRO is on a general level, how it became such an important aspect of business, and the kinds of strategies and processes associated with it.
What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?
At the most basic level, CRO is the practice of getting people to take some sort of action once they have landed on your website. The goal of any CRO system is to increase the percentage of visitors to your website who turn into paying customers (a process called conversion), or at least take some other sort of action, such as signing up for a newsletter.
There have been variations of CRO as long as there has been business, but the online version we are specifically referring to arose out of the dot-com boom in the early 2000s. When more businesses started building a presence on the internet and competition began to quickly increase online, there was a need for marketers to figure out more effective ways to reach their customers and create sales. This meant finding measurable ways to improve their marketing tactics and the overall user experience.
By 2007, the introduction of Google’s Website Optimizer had made CRO much more approachable for small business owners, who did not necessarily have the same technological savvy as many of their big-time competitors who could afford tech specialists.
CRO has obviously evolved a great deal over the last decade and a half. Strategies that worked in 2006 may no longer work today (and might in fact actually harm your CRO). But the general principles of CRO are timeless: give your customers the best online experience possible, and get them interested enough in what you have to offer that they will take the action you wish them to.
What are examples of strategies associated with CRO?
Here is a quick overview of some of the most common strategies associated with CRO. In the coming weeks, we will hit on some of these strategies in greater detail:
- Persona research: A “persona” is a sort of characterization or profile of your ideal customer or a potential visitor to your website. Think of the ways you’d describe this customer; perhaps they’re a 40-year-old woman with a couple young kids in the suburbs. Perhaps they’re a hip, single 20-something in the big city.
- Persona journeys: Taking the “persona” you have come up with, consider the type of journey your user will go through to find your website, what they will most likely do once they’ve found your website, the kinds of information they want, the offers that are most likely to them, and other behavioral considerations that could potentially affect how you set up your website.
- Focus groups and surveys: Getting actual customers involved in the marketing process is a key element of CRO used by many businesses. Invite customers in for focus groups, or conduct large-scale surveys to get responses and opinions about your brand’s messaging from actual customers.
- Demographic targeting: CRO is all about finding the people who are most likely to take action on your site and marketing to them. This involves a great deal of demographic analysis and targeting. The persona research phase helps you determine your ideal demographics. The targeting process involves reaching them where they’re most likely to listen (social media, surveys, phone calls, focus groups, etc) to better understand and serve them.
- A/B testing: Test multiple versions of each web page to see which is most effective. Take a page on your site, make a copy of it, and change just one or two things. Direct half the traffic that goes to your standard A web page to your B web page, and keep going until you’ve created a good sample size. In doing so, you’ll be able to analyze which copy is more effective, and keep the copy that performs better. Over the course of time, you’ll develop a better understanding of how to speak to your customers.
- User testing: Get a bunch of average people to try out your website and have them tell you what they do and do not like about it. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from a group of people who are coming at your site with fresh eyes.
- Analytics: Google Analytics has a wealth of data that can influence your CRO. You can track conversions, the data leading to those conversions, and even the data that does not lead to conversions.
As a small business, you must commit to a steadfast focus on conversion rate optimization to get the most out of your online sales. Come back next week for more information about CRO and its best practices.
Thomas von Ahn
Chief Elephant Slayer for Viral Solutions LLC
“Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful
men and women keep moving. They make mistakes but they
don’t quit.” — Conrad Hilton