The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is an important discipline in online marketing and is not only important for SEO, but also for search engine advertising (SEA).
Directing more traffic to your own website has become routine for many companies. The real challenge is to convert this traffic into customers, and that’s where conversion rate optimization comes in.
In order to convince users to subscribe to the newsletter, book a service, engage in, or purchase a product; website operators have to harmonize crucial elements such as content, design, and usability.
In our detailed guide to conversion rate optimization (CRO), we’ll show what effective optimization looks like, which mistakes you should absolutely avoid and how you can benefit from them.
What is conversion rate optimization?
Conversion rate optimization describes the process of optimizing a website so that visitors take a certain action. This can be filling out a form, downloading a white paper, or ordering a product.
The ultimate goal of optimization is to increase the number of website visitors who take this action. To do this, companies need to learn how users behave on their site and determine what is preventing them from making the desired click.
Why is conversion optimization so important?
Basically, conversion optimization helps to optimize the functionality of a website. Because: It shows why and how users move around a website. Successful optimization brings companies these benefits in particular:
Improvement of the user experience: A CRO improves the user experience on all levels of a website. Companies use tools and analyses to find out where content, design, and technology cause users to falter and why they are leaving the site.
With this knowledge, website operators can optimize every single step of the website visit and thus offer users more pleasant surfing and shopping experience.
A better understanding of the target group: A conversion optimization helps site operators to better understand their target group. Among other things, you will find out which language and message you can use to capture users on your site and which offers best meet your expectations and requirements.
This does not lead directly to more users finding the website. However, the right users come who have a real interest in the offer.
More trust from users: In order for users to leave their credit card details, their e-mail, or their address on a website, they have to trust the provider. This makes the website the most important salesperson in a company.
Like a real sales manager, she has to be professional and helpful. This way you keep users on one page longer and create more conversions. This often does not go unnoticed by Google. The search engine gives such sites a high TrustRank.
Better scalability: Conversion rate optimization enables companies to grow their own business without running out of resources or potential customers.
Because – the target group of companies is not infinitely large.
So if you drive more and more traffic to your website without increasing the conversion rate, you will lose numerous potential customers.
This means the other way around: The more website visitors can convert companies into buyers, the sooner healthy, rapid growth is possible.
Higher return on investment: Every element that companies test and optimize on their side can have an impact on the number of conversions.
In other words: every adjustment converts more visitors into customers and thus generates a higher return on investment. For example, if an online shop optimizes the customer experience using A / B tests so that users can buy products more easily and quickly, the conversion rate increases. That means – the shop generates more sales and profits every day with the same expenditure.
What measures can I use to optimize the conversion rate?
Increasing the conversion rate is a complex process that extends to numerous levels of the website. The web is full of best practices, but companies have to find out for themselves what changes will actually affect the behavior of their users and thus the conversion rate. In principle, conversion optimization is successful when companies collect and evaluate comprehensive data using analysis tools, surveys, and tests.
These two measures have established themselves for conversion optimization, among other things:
1. The analytical method
The analytical method produces numbers of how users behave on their own site. The method thus answers these questions, among others:
- How did users get to the website (social media, Google etc.)?
- Where do users start on the website?
- Where do users spend a lot of time on the site?
- Which devices and browsers do website visitors use?
- What does the demographic data of the users look like?
- Where do users leave the website?
The analytical method gives companies numerous pointers on where to start in order to optimize their conversion rate. For example, you can devote yourself to the pages on which the traffic is particularly high. Because: This is where you can achieve the greatest impact with improvements. This quantitative analysis of your own website is particularly useful for companies that have an extensive website with varied content. This will help you find out where your CRO should focus.
2. The qualitative method
The qualitative method is less dedicated to numbers and more to the reasons why users behave in a certain way on the website. Companies can collect data for this through user tests and surveys. This will give you answers to important questions such as:
- Why do users visit a website?
- What elements on a website did you mention and why?
- What do users think differentiates the website from the competition?
- How would users describe the products offered to friends?
If website operators have the resources to use both the analytical and the qualitative method for conversion rate optimization, they will receive valuable insights to improve the user experience and thus the return on investment.
Which elements can website operators examine in a conversion rate optimization?
Companies can take on entire pages as well as individual details of their web presence for conversion rate optimization:
1. Landing page
A landing page is there to encourage users to take a certain action. Companies should therefore, for example, subject texts, images and forms used to an A / B test. The design of a landing page is also important. Shapes and color choices have a major impact on where users look first, what they click on and whether they feel addressed by the offer.
Above all, a clear, design-related delimitation of important and unimportant elements on the page should be recognizable. For example, if the background of the page in an online shop is white, the “Add to shopping cart” button should be a conspicuous color such as orange. In this way, visitors can move around the page intuitively – without having to think too much about how to take their next step.
2. Front, home, or landing page
Along with the landing page, your own homepage is the most important starting point for users. Here it is important to make a good first impression. A CRO should therefore examine, for example, whether there are sufficiently concise links to important offers, whether the “register button” is easily recognizable and whether it makes sense to integrate a chatbot on the site.
3. Pricing page
On the pricing page, many visitors decide whether to leave the website or make a purchase. The page should therefore show convincingly why something costs how much. As part of a conversion rate optimization, companies can check
- whether customers prefer a monthly or an annual price for a service,
- whether you should mention the most important features of a product in addition to the price, or
- whether giving a phone number or integrating a chat will save undecided customers from bouncing off.
On their own blog, companies can not only provide users with content with added value but also use calls-to-action (CTA) that refer them to other articles or offers. At a CRO, for example, they can test whether CTA placed at the end of blog posts or CTA integrated into the text work better.
5. Website texts
While the design of a page lets users get the right clicks quickly, it is words that convince users of the important, final clicks that lead to a conversion. Companies should therefore create relevant and easily readable content. This often alone decides how long users actually stay on a page.
The first glance of the user usually falls on the headline of a page. It gives them a first impression of what to expect. At a CRO, for example, companies can check
- which font, font size, and font color appeals to the user,
- whether the headline is understandable, and
- whether the headline is too long.
The second glance of the user falls on the running text. Website operators can check here whether
- the text answers the users’ essential questions,
- whether he communicates the offer to the point,
- whether the brand behind it is clearly recognizable,
- whether the content is clearly structured (paragraphs, bullet points, subheadings), and
- whether the content hits the right note.
A conversion rate optimization should check whether a CTA has a convincing and crisp title. Website operators can check different formulations, shapes and colors of CTAs using an A / B test or a multivariable test. This does not only apply to the classic “buy button”. Companies should also test CTA for subscribing to a newsletter, booking a webinar, or downloading a white paper.
7. Page structure and navigation
An optimized website lets users intuitively click through the various pages without having to think about how to get from A to B. Basically, the user’s journey begins on the homepage. From there they click through the various categories and from there in turn through the various subcategories – until they find what they are looking for.
Users should be able to see a clear and comprehensible structure at first glance. In this way, you can quickly find a product page, not just from the home page.
You can also jump back and forth between important pages.
A conversion rate optimization uses heat maps, for example, to show where and why users get stuck and leave the page.
For many companies, forms are an important part of the sales funnel. A CRO can, for example, check the maximum number of questions users want to answer.
Basically, the fewer questions a form has, the higher the conversion rate. Companies should experiment with which questions to ask first.
As a rule, a CRO shows that users want to answer the important questions first and then the less important questions.
9. Page speed
The loading speed of a website influences the user experience, the conversion rate and the ranking on Google. The software-as-a-service company SEMrush found that a load time of 1.7 seconds is faster than 75 percent of all pages on the web.
One second more, however, can cause the conversion rate to drop rapidly.
A regular check of the page speed as part of a conversion rate optimization is therefore essential for website operators.
What are the most common mistakes?
Despite numerous guides, tips and warnings online, many companies approach conversion optimization without an actual plan.
The result: You don’t get any useful results or – even worse – you lower the conversion rate. Companies should avoid these three mistakes:
1. Carry out optimizations without a data basis
Just because a website looks clearer and more modern in a new look doesn’t mean that it has a better conversion rate. Again and again, companies rely on their gut instinct or the success model of the competition to change important elements of their site. In practice, however, this is rarely successful. Instead, website operators should collect sufficient statistical data and draw their conclusions for optimization.
2. Do small tests instead of big ones
Many companies want to keep the effort for conversion optimization low. You therefore only carry out individual, small tests on your site in order to optimize the conversion rate. However, the results of small tests only have a marginal effect on the conversion rate. Companies should therefore rely on large, comprehensive tests that allow them to check and optimize two or more elements. This can, for example, be the test of various navigation menus, headings or even the entire start page.
You should run A / B tests and multivariable tests long enough. Only when they have a statistically significant result that reaches the 95 percent mark can they use the data obtained for their optimization. Because: Only then can you be sure that the data was not created by accident.
3. Too many tests at once on the same page
If companies run too many tests at the same time on one page, the accuracy of the results of each test can suffer. Because: Every single new element can influence the results of the other tests. This also applies to too many pop-ups and page designs in a user session. This can confuse and annoy users, causing them to leave the site.
How do I correctly measure conversion success
Conversion optimization is not a one-time affair. Rather, it is a cycle that companies should repeat on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, it is important to observe the optimizations that you have made on your side over a longer period of time. It is often only after a few weeks or even months whether the results and conclusions from the analysis tools, surveys, and tests are confirmed in practice and the conversion rate actually increases.
If a new element on a page turns out to be a stumbling block for users, companies must either repeat the test or bring the old element back – depending on how important the element is for the conversion rate.
In addition to the conversion rate, website operators can also use these key figures to check the success of their conversion optimization:
1. Cost per acquisition (CPA)
The cost per acquisition shows which costs companies invest until a new customer has carried out a conversion. This includes the costs per click and the costs per lead. If companies have been able to reduce costs here, the CRO shows its effects.
2. Conversion delay
Conversion delay indicates the time span that elapses between the click of a user on a website and the actual conversion. When visitors come to a deal faster after a CRO, companies can consider that a success.
3. New registrations
At the CRO, the main focus is on acquiring new customers.
The number of new registrations, therefore, provides information on how successful the optimization measures were.
4. Unique visits
Conversion optimization always has indirect effects on search engine optimization. The frequency of access in the form of unique visits says little about the conversion rate and the increase in sales. However, it does provide an indication of whether more new users are interested in your own offer.
5. Dwell time & bounce rate
If users stay longer on the website after a CRO, the optimization shows its effect. The website then offers a better user experience. In addition, the bounce rate reveals whether companies have adapted the content, structure, and design of their website so that users can find what they are looking for more quickly.