This Guide Has Everything You Need To Know About Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) – From Tools to Definitions, It’s All Covered…
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is not a new concept; businesses and brands have been doing CRO in one form or another since the dawn of commerce, thousands of years ago.
CRO is about growth, getting more from your customer base and/or audience. And the really cool thing about CRO is that you don’t need to grow your audience/customer base to benefit from it.
Really? Yep: that’s the magic of CRO – it’s about taking what you already have and squeezing out more performance (revenue) from it. This is why the biggest brands in the world collectively spend billions on CRO every single year.
But you don’t need to be a house-hold name to start using Conversion Rate Optimization to improve your business or the performance of your website and/or blog. CRO is for everybody; and, best of all, it’s actually very easy to get started once you know what you’re doing.
Conversion Rate Optimization Meaning (CRO)
Rather than try and explain CRO in words, let me give you an example of CRO in action. Imagine you have a blog and it gets 1000 visitors a day.
Your monthly revenue is $200 which you get via Google Ads. How would you double that figure to $400? If we’re talking about Google Ads, you’d need to get more clicks.
But how do you do this? Simple: you experiment and run tests (A/B tests).
Changing the placement of adverts on your site, making them sticky in the side-bar of your desktop site, for instance, or adding them to the body copy of your mobile site, is one such test you could run in order to improve the performance of your adverts.
Once you apply these changes, you wait a week to see if they made a difference. If they did, and your revenue goes up, congrats, you’ve just run your first, successful CRO campaign.
Another example? If you’re running a really good affiliate offer and you want to maximize your commissions, you could try a few different landing page designs, run them at the same time (A/B test them) and then see which converted the best and why.
Once you have a winning formula for your landing page, that’s the one you run. All the others go in the bin. The next step is to try and improve your winning landing page, using tools like HotJar or CrazyEgg, so you can view heatmaps and recordings of how visitors are interacting with your landing page. Where are people most focussed on the landing page, according to the heat map? If it’s on the left-hand side, make sure your CTA (call to action) is located on the left side. This is a basic example, but it is what CRO is all about – finding what converts best and then using it.
Small changes can have big effects. This is why A/B testing everything from headlines to button placements inside your offers is essential. The difference between a conversion rate of, say, 3% and 7% is huge – it could bring thousands of additional revenue into your business.
OK, So What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
In order to best understand CRO properly, it’s probably easiest to work with an example. In this case, we’ll use an e-commerce store, a theoretical one, that sells iPhone cases.
This iPhone Case Store currently has around 1000 visitors a month. Of these 1000 visitors, they get 500 clicks. And of these 500 clicks, 10% of them convert and actually buy something. In terms of conversion rates, that is a very healthy 10%. Now, this is an example and that conversion rate is very high. But stay with me…
Now, imagine the owners of the iPhone Case Store started using CRO to further improve its conversions. They run a bunch of tests and implement a few changes and, lone behold, they make more sales – 88 iPhone Cases are sold.
If this happened they would have increased their conversion rate to 17.6%. And best of all they did this with EXACTLY the same amount of clicks, 500 in this context. They didn’t increase the number of visitors coming to their site; all they did was redesign things in order to extract more sales.
This can be done in a variety of ways, as you’ll discover below, but the moral of the story here is simple: CRO basically gets you more sales/conversions WITHOUT increasing the number of visitors on or coming to your site. And if you already have hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, you’re in a prime position to make some seriously significant gains with respect to monthly revenue.
Conversion Rate Optimization Tools – What You’ll Need…
We already have a pretty extensive article on the best CRO tools for getting started with Conversion Rate Optimization on your blog, website, and/or e-commerce store, so I won’t go into too much detail here – just a basic overview of each.
- HotJar – Lets you record visitors and generates heat-maps of activity on your site. You can then use this to redesign your pages, move CTAs to more optimal positions. Ideal for blogs and e-commerce, HotJar is a brilliant CRO tool that you should 100% have in your tool kit.
- CrazyEgg – Like HotJar, CrazyEgg is another tool that lets you record user activity on your site. You can view results either in video recording formats or heatmaps. CrazyEgg can also be used to access landing pages and your sales funnels too. If you’re serious about CRO, you need to be doing this kind of stuff on a weekly basis.
- Google Optimize – Google Optimize is a free tool made by Google that lets you A/B a variety of elements on your site’s pages. Google Optimize is completely free and is a brilliant tool for testing things like different colors on CTAs and button placements. You can do a lot with Google Optimize, and if it wasn’t built by Google you’d likely be paying around $500 a month for access to tools like this. Essential stuff, basically.
- OptinMonster – OptinMonster is a brilliant tool for collecting email leads. You can run Pop-Ups, Sliders, Floating Bars, and Full Screen Drop Downs. If you’re serious about growing your email list, you need OptinMonster in your CRO tool kit. It works on mobile and desktop, comes with a wealth of brilliant templates, and it is stupidly easy to use. For email capture, OptinMonster is the #1 tool on the market right now.
- Instapage – Instapage is ALL about landing pages. Stunningly beautiful landing pages that convert like crazy. With Instapage you can build professional-looking, Fortune 500-grade landing pages without ever even having to look at a designer. You don’t need to know any coding or HTML to use it. And it comes packed with tons of stunning templates to get you started. A near-perfect landing page builder.
- Unbounce – Like Instapage, Unbounce is a landing page builder. But unlike Instapage, Unbounce does more than just landing pages – it can do pop-ups, hello bars, sliders and pretty much everything else in between. I love this software, but it doesn’t integrate with ConvertKit, my preferred email marketing software, which is kind of annoying. If you’re using MailChimp, Constant Contact, Infusion Soft, or Aweber though you’re all good – they’re all supported.
- WP Engine – One of the most overlooked aspects of CRO actually has nothing to do with CRO. I’m talking about site speed. If you’re site loads slow, your conversion rates will drop off, dramatically. And so too will your traffic and positioning inside Google. For this reason, you 100% HAVE to invest in good hosting. And if you’re using WordPress, there is no better hosting than WP Engine. It is #1 for speed, usability, customer service, and it boasts 100% uptime.
This isn’t a definitive list of CRO tools, but it is all you’ll need to get started doing Conversion Rate Optimization on your website. The most important are HotJar and Google Optimize; learn how to use these, become a ninja with them, and you’ll soon be making huge strides with your growth.
Another often overlooked aspect of CRO, which no one talks about, is hosting. Your website, whether it is an e-commerce store or a blog, needs to load fast. If it doesn’t, you’ll lose visitors and, by virtue, untold amounts of revenue.
Therefore, it is INSANELY important that you invest in good hosting. And WP Engine is arguably the best WordPress hosting around right now. For more information on this, check out our Guide To The Best WordPress Hosting.
Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies
#1) The OptinMonster + Affiliate Offer Strategy
Want more clicks on your affiliate offers? Maybe you just want to promote a new piece of content, get more engagement on it. Either way, you can use OptinMonster to push visitors’ on your site over to a new article. And it’s really simple to do as well.
Go to OptinMonster and create a new campaign. Use the Floating Bar form and set it either to the top or bottom of your page. Next, add in your CTA – example: “It’s Amazon Prime Day! Check Out Our List of The #1 Curated Deals” – then for the CTA button, set it to redirect to the page of your site you want visitors to go to.
I like to set the Floating Bar to appear after five seconds or a 50% scroll. This way it’s not too invasive. Once your visitor is five seconds into a post or halfway down, the Floating Bar will appear, encouraging them to check out your latest post.
If it looks good and your CTA is solid, and you have decent amounts of traffic, the floating bar should drive A LOT of visitors to your new page. And lots of visitors means lots of potential conversions. You can A/B test this form too; try different positions, like have it appear at the top, or change the color of the CTA button or the wording of the call to action (CTA).
Run the tests inside OptinMonster and when you have some data, pick a winning form and roll it out across your entire site. This CRO strategy is simple to do and requires no advanced skills whatsoever. All you need is a website and OptinMonster and a decent offer.
#2) The White Stripes Method
I said earlier that little changes make BIG differences when it comes to CRO. And in this method, which I’m calling The White Stripes Method, we’re talking about one very little change that has MASSIVE effects on conversions.
Not so long ago, HubSpot ran some tests on a few of its landing pages. It wanted to see if the color of the CTA buttons actually affected conversion rates. They ran some A/B tests on two forms, one with a green and white CTA, the other with a red and white CTA. And the results?
The red and white CTA button converted 21% more of the people landing on it – that is an enormous figure, especially when you’re dealing with higher levels of traffic. If you had 1000 visitors, it’d be like adding in an additional 200 people!
And why do I call this The White Stripes Method? Simple: Jack White said he used red and white for album art and his attire in the early days because red and white is the most powerful color combination known to man. This is why Coke Cola uses it!
Bottom line? Small changes have big effects – make sure you test ALL elements of your campaigns, not just the copy and general design. Colors matter too, as this example proves.
#3) The HotJar Homepage Shuffle CRO Hack
HotJar is software that lets you see how your site’s visitors interact with your content. You can view heat maps (clicks and where users’ spent the most time) as well as actual recordings of their behavior. As a CRO tool, HotJar is invaluable because it tells you what no designer ever could – what your users actually want/like.
The scale of A/B testing and CRO that can be done with HotJar is monumental; you can test pretty much every element on your site with it. But to get started, one of the simplest CRO hacks you can perform is a good ol’ homepage redesign.
To do this, take some recordings to user activity on your homepage – you’ll want a good thousand or so. Once you have these, view the heatmaps first. What are they clicking on most? Where are they looking first? If it’s all focussed on the left side of your page, that’s where you need to put all your most important stuff – the things you want people to click on.
After this, you can then start seeing how people interact with your pages’ CTAs. Are they positioned right? Should you move them? Would The White Stripes Method work better here? You can do all of these things and more with HotJar, and the resultant changes, based on the data you gathered, will make a huge difference to your site’s conversion rates.
#4) The “Embrace A Human” Trick
What about landing pages? Here’s a quick CRO trick you can try: add a human being to your landing pages. Preferably one that is smiling. Why? Simple: using photos of people in landing pages has been shown to increase conversions by a whopping 102%, according to Basecamp.
Why does this work? Using pictures of actual people – not crappy stock photos – in your landing pages makes your brand more appealing, it puts the lead’s mind at ease. It communicates directly with their subconscious mind, which is driven by the reptilian part of the mind that craves familiarity and makes them feel more confident about the offer.
Sound crazy? It is – but psychology is a HUGE part of CRO. The better your understanding of how the human mind works, the better your campaigns and landing pages will convert. And you don’t need to be a mind reader either; rather, you just need to know a few things about what makes a person’s mind tick.
How CRO Affects Sales & Revenue (Case Study)
Can you imagine making an extra $21,000 a month? It’d be awesome, right? Well, that’s exactly what CrazyEgg did by using one of the simplest and most effective CRO tricks in the book.
CrazyEgg, like HotJar, is a tool that lets you record your visitors’ activity on your site. It also does Heatmaps too. And not so long ago, one of CrazyEgg’s CRO tests produced some pretty crazy results, increasing its conversion rates by a massive 64%!
What did CrazyEgg do? Simple: they added a simple video to the CTA page (above) that explained, in layman terms, exactly what CrazyEgg does and why people should be using it for CRO. By doing this, CrazyEgg solved its biggest problem: explaining what it actually does. And best of all? It did it without making people read.
Why did this work so well? Again, pretty simple: think about how people consume information nowadays – YouTube, Instagram, memes. We’re visual creatures and a large portion of us will avoid reading at all costs. This is why the video worked so well. Plus, the positioning of the video (it’s right above the CTA button) keeps visitors’ focussed on the exact spot where conversions are most likely to take place.
Obviously, you’ll have to come up with a great video that actually works first, but this simple hack shows the power of video when used in conjunction with CRO. It is also why we’re seeing more and more of those super-annoying, “if you give me 45 seconds of your time…” adverts on YouTube. Got an e-commerce site or an offer you’re promoting? Try using a video on your landing pages – 64% is a big number, even if you only manage to get half of it!
CRO vs SEO – What’s The Difference?
CRO and SEO often get lumped in together, but they’re entirely different disciplines. One (SEO) is about manipulating search engines like Google to get more traffic through to your site, and the other (CRO) is about making traffic that is already on your site convert at higher rates. Obviously, you can’t do one without the other but in terms of applications and skills, CRO and SEO are two very different tools.
SEO is about content, keywords, and the make-up of your site – things like schema. SEO is also about backlinks and authority. A proper SEO strategy contains all of these elements. And done right, it will help your site grow and grow over time. But despite what people will tell you online, SEO takes time – there are no quick wins.
Example: if you’re starting your first blog or e-commerce store today, it could take anywhere from three months to six months for Google to start indexing your site. In this context, you need to work on content – good content that answers questions and serves a purpose. Be super-specific here; every page on your blog should serve a purpose – the less fluff the better.
As you progress, things will pick up. Google will start indexing your content and you’ll start getting traffic. But if you’re smart when you start your new venture, you will have applied CRO to ALL your site’s content and landing pages, ready for testing. This way, as soon as you start getting traffic you can begin seeing what it is doing and how you can improve it.
And if you don’t want to wait for Google to catch up, you can leverage paid-traffic sources like Facebook Ads and Google Ads. Doing this costs money, but if you’re confident in your CRO strategy, the traffic should convert and cover your costs of acquisition. Personally, I prefer the organic approach (using Google) because it’s free. The only downside is that it takes longer.
With good CRO, you don’t need millions of visitors to make a living from your blog. In fact, if you had just 1000 visitors a day and rock-solid CRO, you could easily make anywhere from $1000 to $10000 a month, though the higher figure is perhaps more appropriate for e-commerce stores.
Either way, the role of CRO is paramount: know what your goals are before your visitors get to the page. If you want them to click on A, make sure A is placed appropriately. Want them to sign-up for your email list? Make sure your CTA is appropriate and positioned optimally. Test its placement. Test the colors you use. And test different incentives.
How To Get Started With Conversion Rate Optimization
As you might have gathered from the examples used throughout this article, Conversion Rate Optimization isn’t difficult to do. Nor does it require a wealth of specialist knowledge. All you need is some creativity and some basic CRO tools to get started. It does cost a little bit of money to acquire these tools, but once you start making changes they will more than pay for themselves.
The most important thing about CRO, however, is creativity – you need to give yourself the freedom the experiment and trust your gut. The process of CRO is never-ending too; you A/B test to find a winner, then A/B test that result with something new. You can always do better unless you’re achieving 100% conversion rates (and no one has ever done this).
A lot of what we’ve discussed might seem a little overwhelming at first, but trust me, once you start doing small, focussed CRO tests, you will quickly gain confidence and start implementing larger, more far-reaching efforts. And make no mistake: even the smallest changes can yield truly significant results – just look at The White Stripes Method or The Embrace a Human hack. Anyone can do these.
I got interested in CRO a few years ago. In order to bolster my understanding of the subject matter, I read a bunch of books and took a few courses. One of which sticks out particularly to me; it’s called The Complete Conversion Optimization Course and it covers everything (and more) that you need to know about getting started with Conversion Rate Optimization. You don’t need to do a course, of course, but if you want to get better at CRO faster, it is 100% worth it.
The main thing I want you to take away from this article is threefold:
- CRO is a powerful tool you should be using
- Anybody can learn CRO
- CRO can and WILL make you more money
You also don’t need any additional traffic; CRO is all about working with what you currently have and optimizing it for maximum results. And if you do get an increase in traffic over time, guess what? Your CRO efforts compound, meaning significant increases in conversions across your site ad infinitum.
So make sure you get started today. And check out our Guide To The Best CRO Tools to get started.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.