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What is CRO? Beginner’s guide to conversion rate optimisation

In this guide, we'll take you through all the basics of conversion rate optimisation. We'll look at some important conversion rate optimisation definitions, strategies and best practices to help improve your website conversion rate.

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Conversion rate optimisation is an important part of website strategy, often working hand-in-hand with SEO. Understanding what your website conversion rate is, what it means and how to improve it can transform the performance of your website.

In SEO, our primary target is to generate traffic. But that's not our ultimate goal.

Our ultimate goal is to win more business.

We want visitors who buy, get in touch, sign up or become a member.

To achieve that you may need to look beyond measuring the number of people coming to the website. You need to look at the number of website conversions. 

That's why your website conversion rate is one of the most important website metrics you should be tracking.

In this guide, we'll take you through all the basics of conversion rate optimisation. We'll discuss:

 

CRO guide: the basics

CRO Guide - the basics

Before we get too deep into the strategies and principles of good conversion rate optimisation, we need to know the basics.

What is CRO? Why does it matter? And do I need it?

What is CRO?

Conversion rate optimisation, or CRO, is how you improve your website so that more visitors become customers. 

Businesses may use a whole host of CRO strategies, taking into consideration user experience, website design and funnel optimisation. 

But, however you go about it, the aim is to ensure that your website traffic converts your website visitors into customers.

What are conversions?

There are several different types of "conversion" and the first step in conversion rate optimisation is finding out what type of conversions your website needs.

If you're selling products then your ideal conversion might be a purchase. 

But if you're promoting a service, your goal might be for someone to get in touch with you.

There are lots of different conversion types, including:

  • Product purchase
  • Quote request
  • Enquiry
  • Site or software subscription

What's a conversion rate?

Your conversion rate is the number of people who complete your desired action on your website.

When you optimise or improve your conversion rate, it means you're getting a higher percentage of users to complete that desired action. So, you'll get more conversions for the same amount of web traffic - it's a win-win!


How can I calculate my website conversion rate?

Conversion rates are usually expressed as a percentage. You can calculate it using the following formula:

Calculate conversion rate formula

So if your goal is to sell products on your website, and you have 100 people visit, with 5 of them making a purchase, that's a 5% conversion rate.

Depending on your product offering, this can sometimes be more difficult to quantify. Lots of websites need to use tools to help them analyse their conversion rate and how people are interacting with their site.

The popular tool to measure your conversion rate is Google Analytics. You can set up conversions in Analytics which count success pages as conversions - so a conversion is counted if someone successfully makes a payment, fills out a form, or signs up to a newsletter.

For more complex sales funnels, you might want to consider a tool like Hubspot, which combines elements of analytics, SEO and CRM for an in-depth look at your sales process and conversion rate.

What is a good conversion rate?

This is an important question - and a difficult one. Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends.

It depends on what your conversion goal is to start with. Purchases are easy to quantify and track, but enquiries are more complex - and don't always necessarily lead to a sale.

It also depends on your sales funnel, and how many visits it usually takes before a customer is willing to take the plunge.

And on top of that it depends on the industry you're in, your position in the market and a whole host of other variables - including your users' motivations and desires.

So for some websites, a conversion rate of 3% might be considered good, but for another it might be low.

What should my conversion target be?

Identifying what you should be aiming for as a conversion is the first step in CRO. Essentially you want to identify what your ultimate goal is for a visitor on the website.

Now for some websites, that might be a single step. A user comes to the website, purchases, and you've got a win!

But, for some people, the sales process might be longer and have several micro conversion targets along the way.

For example, your ultimate goal might be for someone to contact you. But to get to that stage of confidence, they may need several visits to your website. In these cases, it can help to create a "sales funnel" as a way of understanding the sales process. 

This identifies the stages a user goes through before deciding to sign up or buy from you.

sales funnel

The online sales funnel

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel shows the different steps a user can take on their journey with you. The 4 steps in the stage funnel are:

  1. Awareness
    Awareness is simply when someone knows about you, your product or service. So someone who's just navigated to your website has awareness.
  2. Interest
    Interest is when a user shows a genuine interest in your service, product or company. For example, if they sign up for email updates.
  3. Decision
    Decision is a stage that doesn't always exist on site, but it shows when someone has decided to use your service. For example, maybe they engage in a chat discussion with your sales team or email you a question about the service.
  4. Action
    Action is when the user "converts", by buying your product, asking for a quote or whatever your desired outcome might be.
Sales funnel visualisation
The four stages of the sales funnel

How can a sales funnel help CRO?

Having a sales or conversion funnel for your website is great for CRO, as it helps you establish all the different stages a user might go through before becoming a customer.

Some of these stages might also have "micro conversions", which are smaller goals that build towards your "macro conversion" goal.

So signing up for email updates might be a micro conversion, with purchasing a product being the macro conversion.
 

Why do I need CRO?

Why do I need CRO?

People put a lot of time and effort into getting more people on their websites, it's what search engine optimisation is all about.

But once those people arrive on your site, you need to convert them into a customer, subscriber or client.

Let's say your site's conversion rate is 1%, and you average around 100 users on your site every day.

That means you make one sale each day.

If you want to boost sales to 3 a day there are two options. You either need to generate three times as many users, and get 300 visits per day on your website.

Or, you can try and improve your conversion rate so that more of your visitors actually become customers. If you could boost your conversion rate to 3%, you wouldn't need any additional users to hit your target.

So, do you try to triple your number of users, or put some time and effort into converting the ones you're already getting?

Of course in the real world you want a balance between these two so you can reap the benefits of both. But it's pretty easy to see that SEO without CRO is going to require a lot of work, and still only bring limited results.

It's not uncommon for CRO work to offer more immediate results than an SEO campaign, and it's often a good place to start.

When you know all the different steps along your online sales funnel, and the micro conversions that can lead to a macro conversion, then you can start looking at how to optimise that conversion rate.

Why is my conversion rate low?

Why is my conversion rate low?

If you think your conversion rate is low, it could be for a whole host of reasons. 

UX

User experience is extremely important to CRO. If your website isn't easy to use, looks dated or isn't secure, that can be a big turnoff for clients. 

The user journey to a conversion should be as straightforward for the user as possible, with clear signposting and compelling calls to action and microcopy helping to guide them.

Content

Sometimes website content just isn't compelling enough to generate any enthusiasm. Sometimes there's too much information. A lot of the time the information is there, but it's not easy to find. 

Landing pages are a great way to harness the power of content to improve CRO. You can set them up for people using a specific set of keywords, and create a hyper-targeted page with a clear user journey without any distractions. 

SEO

It might be weird for SEO to be a problem for your conversion rate, but if you are ranking for irrelevant keywords, then this can be a big reason users lose interest. 

SEO and CRO have to work hand in hand for the best outcomes.

Marketing

When users do exit the website, that shouldn't necessarily be the end of their journey with you. A failure to re-engage with users can often lead to a poor conversion rate - especially for websites with a longer onboarding process.

Market position

There might also be real-world issues that are causing problems. For example, your product might be much more expensive than others in the market, or maybe people don't have a lot of awareness about your brand.

As always, your website is just one part of your customer's experience with you, so it's always good to look at your business offering as a whole, not just what's happening online.
 

How to improve your CRO

How do I improve my conversion rate?

So now we know what a conversion rate is and why it's so important, it's time to start thinking about conversion rate optimisation.

Optimising your website conversion rate isn't a quick fix or a one-shot deal. Just like SEO, it's something that you want to regularly look at and keep on top of.

But the biggest challenge is always getting started. Once you've established a CRO process, it gets much easier to review and refresh what you're doing.

The CRO process

Creating a process for conversion rate optimisation is always going to be unique to your own business, but the main stages of that process will be similar for most people.

Here are the basic steps that will help you establish a good CRO process.

  1. Research
    1. What are your conversion goals?
    2. What is the value of each one of those conversions?
    3. Who are your users?
      1. What are their motivators and barriers to conversion?
    4. What does your sales funnel look like?
  2. Audit
    1. What is currently happening on your website?
      1. Which pages have high bounce rates?
      2. Where do users exit the site?
    2. Where do customers exit your sales funnel?
  3. Analysis
    1. Why are users leaving the site at these points?
    2. Why are customers not continuing through the sales funnel?
    3. What could be done to reassure, encourage or facilitate customers moving on instead of exiting?
  4. Evaluate
    1. Evaluate the work required and the potential improvement for each of your points from step 3.3
    2. Make a plan for which points you should address first, looking at:
      1. How easy the change is to implement
      2. The likely increase in conversions
      3. The value of each conversion
  5. Act
    1. Start working through your list, focusing on the easy, impactful changes first.

These steps help you set out what your goals for CRO should be, why you're not achieving them at the moment and the best next steps to take to improve your conversion rate. 


CRO Improvements and Best Practices

Conversion rate optimisation can come in many forms, but here are some common improvements that a lot of businesses overlook.

  • Ensuring your website is responsive. There's no excuse anymore to have a website without a perfect mobile experience.
  • Optimising your site for page speed. A slow loading site is likely to put users off before they even hit the home page.
  • Clear CTAs. You'd be surprised how often people forget to include CTAs on their pages. And if customers don't know where to go next, chances are they'll just give up entirely.
  • Focus on UX. If your website is difficult to navigate or use, people won't want to spend time and effort working out where to go or what to do. Regular user testing can help you gain an understanding of how users interact with your site. 
  • Social proof. You can tell people your business is the best until the cows come home, but people prefer to hear it from actual customers. Case studies, testimonials or, best of all, genuine reviews can all help to show users that your products and services are actually brilliant.
  • Accessibility. How many customers might you have lost because your website isn't accessible to people with disabilities, colour blindness or visual impairments?
  • The right visuals. Sure, you might have a dancing elephant as your brand mascot, but if you're selling electrical services you might want to consider images of circuit boards - not circuses. People won't stick around to find out WHY there are elephants on the page, they'll just assume this site isn't for them.

Implementing your CRO strategy

Implementing your CRO strategy

Now you've got a good understanding of why CRO is so important for improving your website's performance, it's time to start thinking about putting it into practice.

Always remember that conversion rate optimisation isn't a hit it and quit kind of deal. Your first round of CRO is likely to give you lots of lovely data, which will then inform the next round of CRO.

Don't be surprised if it also gives you insights that affect other areas of your business too, including your SEO, social media strategy, content marketing or even your in-person sales process.

And, if you're looking for conversion rate optimisation services, you can always have a chat with us - we'd love to help! 

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Sam Orchard

Creative Director