Companies have two website-related missions in today’s online-centric marketplace. The first is driving traffic to the website. The second is getting visitors to actually do something — to convert — once they land on the site.
As you may well know, generating consistent web traffic is a challenge on its own. It’s an even bigger hurdle to convince someone to convert in some way, whether it’s a simple micro conversion or a bigger macro conversion. And while you could retarget people who leave your website without converting, there’s no guarantee they’ll ever go back to your site.
Your best bet is to get them to convert when they reach your site the first time and put them into your sales funnel. Each visitor that converts is potential revenue gained, while each that bounces without converting is potential revenue lost.
The average conversion rate is 1-4% depending on which source you reference. However, it’s probably best to not get wrapped up in trying to meet or exceed that so-called benchmark. That’s because conversion rates will vary depending on what the ask is. For instance, you can expect a much higher conversion rate on micro conversion goals than on macro conversion goals.
Also, every industry is different. Every audience is different. It’s nearly impossible to compare your business to any other in terms of conversions. Focus inward, and the internal improvements you make will eventually reflect in your bottom line.
In this article, we’ll introduce the concept of conversion rate optimization (CRO) and summarize its major components. Then, we’ll break down the steps of a CRO audit and share some best practices so you can start improving your website and increasing your conversions.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization is the process of updating components of your website or landing page based on visitor behavior to increase the likelihood that they’ll take the desired action (conversion).
CRO is dependent on your ability to understand and act on three things about your ideal site visitors:
- What gets them to visit your site?
- If they abandon your site (bounce) without converting, where are they doing it and why?
- If they converted, what persuaded them to do so?
Conversion rate optimization should be an ongoing process so that you are proactive instead of reactive when consumer behaviors shift. On the surface, this can seem intimidating and burdensome. However, there are numerous benefits to executing a CRO campaign. They include:
- Gaining consumer behavior insights
- Exploring new growth opportunities
- Improving user experience
- Increasing leads and sales
Now, let’s take a look at some of the key elements of CRO.
Major Components of Conversion Rate Optimization
You can optimize many elements of a website or landing page, and there are several possible ways to get it done. As you go through your CRO campaign, you’ll do lots of research and testing to determine the changes that make the biggest impact on your target audience.
The following are some of the major components that can be optimized.
Have you ever bailed on a website visit because the page wasn’t loading fast enough? You don’t want that to happen to you! In that situation, you lose out on a potential conversion before the user even gets a chance to look at your content.
A survey found that 47% of customers expect a website to finish loading within two seconds, and 64% of mobile users expect a website to finish loading within four seconds. A load time delay of a single second can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Finally, 79% of customers who run into any kind of performance issues on a website are less likely to buy from that company again.
The bottom line is that you need a fast website to give yourself a chance. You can test your site speed using a tool like Google’s Test My Site. If your site fails the test, consult with your web developer on the best course of action to speed it up.
Website Page Design
The design of your website page can be the determining factor of whether or not a conversion will take place. For starters, first impressions are 94% design-related. In addition, 75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design.
People are much more likely to interact with a website that has an aesthetically pleasing design. Even if your copy and calls to action (CTAs) are on point, you may not get the results you’re hoping for if your design misses the mark. A well-designed website blends form and function.
Site Structure & Navigation
Regardless of the size of the website, the user should be able to easily find what they are looking for. Poorly designed sites experience a high bounce rate because users can’t find the information they seek and leave.
Website user experience is heavily dependent on the site’s structure and navigation. Structure refers to how the different pages that make up your website interact with each other. Navigation refers to the way a website visitor gets from one page to another.
A sitemap is a way to visualize site structure and navigation. A properly planned sitemap can greatly improve the ease of finding things, decrease bounce rate and increase time on site. All of this helps to increase the conversion rate. Here’s an example of a sitemap and how it was implemented into the website’s navigation:
This is a pretty typical sitemap that is designed with the user in mind. The structure and navigation make logical sense, flowing from homepage to secondary page to applicable product or service page, providing more specific information with each click.
Copy, Images & Videos
It’s important to have a fast-loading, well-designed and easy-to-navigate website. However, none of that will matter if your content — copy, images and videos — don’t resonate.
It starts on the homepage, where much of your traffic will originate. You need to make a positive impression on visitors and help them quickly grasp who you are as a company and what kind of products and services you offer. Concisely start to tell your story, and make it easy for them to navigate to the other pages of your site where they can take in more in-depth content to learn more.
When it comes to content, perfect spelling and grammar are obviously a given, but it takes more than that to accomplish your goals. Your copy must hook the reader, keep them interested and convince them to convert in some way. It needs to be interesting, informative and persuasive.
Images and videos have a role by adding visual interest, reinforcing your messaging and breaking up blocks of text. They should be used strategically and serve a purpose. They can draw the visitor’s eye to a certain part of the web page or explain complex processes or ideas.
The right combination of copy, images and videos can be the difference in whether or not a visitor remains on the page and converts.
Calls to Action (CTAs)
When it comes to conversions on your website, don’t just cross your fingers and hope visitors do what you want. Come right out and tell them what you want them to do with calls to action (CTAs). As the name implies, a call to action is an instruction that evokes an immediate response — “Click Here,” “Call Now,” “Email Us,” etc.
CTAs can come in a variety of forms: plain text, hyperlinked text, buttons, icons and images. You have plenty of options you can try. Conversion rate optimization in this area involves adding CTAs if there currently are none or improving the existing CTAs that aren’t generating conversions.
Forms & Chat Tools
Phone and email aren’t the only options prospects or returning customers have to reach out to companies anymore. Many websites now feature forms or chat tools that make it easy for site visitors to make contact. Does yours?
Forms to contact your company, subscribe to your newsletter or access gated contact are valuable because they provide contact information about the site visitors who have a strong interest in something you offer. It puts them into your sales funnel and enables you to remain in touch with them.
Forms can vary in format and design. The look of the form, the number of fields and the information requested on the form are some of the key areas that impact conversion rate.
A chat tool, whether it’s a Facebook Messenger plugin or another type of chatbox, is valuable because it enables website visitors to communicate directly with you. If someone from your company is manning the chat tool, they can have a conversation with an interested party in real-time. And even if your chat tool isn’t being manned because everyone is busy or because it’s after hours, most chat applications can be automated to still assist in some way.
The key with chat tools is to make them easy to find and use. Visitors should be able to quickly see them, know what they are and be able to use them to get the answers they are seeking. The placement, functionality and automation of a chat tool can make or break the conversion.
How to Perform a CRO Audit
Now that you’re familiar with some of the major components of conversion rate optimization, let’s take a look at how to perform a CRO audit. We break it down into four steps: Research, Hypothesize, Test and Learn.
Step 1: Research
A CRO audit starts with research. You need to establish a baseline that you can reference and identify areas that could be improved. There are two kinds of data to collect:
- Quantitative data (Numerical) – What do users do?
- Qualitative data (Behavioral) – Why do users do it?
Quantitative research provides facts and figures that tell you precisely what actions visitors take after they land on your website. The insights it yields include:
- Pages that are visited most & least
- Amount of time spent on each page
- Source of web traffic
- Pages from which users exit
- Bounce rate
- Links that are clicked most & least
Quantitative data can be gathered from many sources:
- Google Analytics – A tool that collects data about your website’s performance, including visitor activities, engagement, traffic sources, etc.
- Heat map – Color-coded representations of website elements that get the highest (hot) and lowest (cold) interaction
- Click map – A tool that provides page data of where users click the most
- Scroll map – A form of a heatmap that analyzes where users scroll on the pages of the website
- Form analysis tool – A tool that analyzes users’ interactions with website forms
- Funnel tool – A tool that maps the flow of website visitors to a set of specific funnel steps that lead to conversions
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) – A tool that measures the likelihood that someone will recommend your website/company to someone else
Qualitative research provides psychographic insights that tell you why visitors take the actions they do after they land on your website. It’s descriptive rather than measurable data, meaning you’ll use it to draw generalizations rather than crunch and compare numbers. The insights it yields include:
- Buyer’s journey data
- Attitudes and perceptions about your company, products & services
- Reason(s) for site abandonment
- After-the-sale feedback
Qualitative data can be collected via:
- Surveys – On-page or external link surveys where visitors can share their thoughts about their experience on the site: what they liked or didn’t like, why they converted or didn’t convert, etc.
- Interviews – In-person or phone/video conference interviews with current customers or known website visitors to discuss website quality and user experience
- Website Session Recording Tool – A tool that records how individual users navigate through the site
- Usability Test – The practice of observing a user as they attempt to complete tasks on a website.
Once you complete your research, you’ll have a good idea of the aspects of your website that are working well and getting the conversions you seek and which ones are lacking and need to be optimized to generate better results.
Step 2: Hypothesize
Just like in science class, you need to formulate hypotheses before you start to experiment. Referring to the information you gathered during the research phase, you can make an educated guess about which changes will create positive impacts on your conversion rate.
When you generate a hypothesis, state what the proposed change is, what the effect will be and why the change will result in the effect. For example, a hypothesis could be “I believe reducing the number of fields on our lead magnet download form will result in a 10% increase in downloads because it will make the download process faster and reduce the amount of personal information the user will need to give up.”
As you develop more and more hypotheses, start to think about how you want to prioritize them. You won’t be able to test all of them at once, so think about which ones you want to try first. Maybe it’s the pages or page elements that will be easiest to optimize. Or perhaps, it’s the ones that are most important to the goals you want to achieve. Maybe, it’s the ones that have the greatest potential to show vast improvement.
Get organized, and then get ready to test.
Step 3: Test
We’ve reached the point in the CRO audit process where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to test your hypotheses and optimize your website!
The first decision you’ll need to make when preparing to test is how you’re going to test. There are two primary types of testing:
- A/B testing – Also known as a split test, an A/B test is when you compare one variation (version A) to another (version B)
- Multivariate testing – Multivariate testing is when multiple variations (three or more) are compared against one another simultaneously
There are two approaches you could take with A/B testing. The first is to focus on one element at a time. For example, you could change the color of a button to see if it gets more clicks than the existing button. Then, you could try changing the headline copy to see if it keeps people on the page longer and leads more of them to convert than the existing copy.
A/B testing one element at a time could obviously become time-consuming if there are many elements on a page or website you want to optimize. However, it will provide peace of mind that you know exactly which changes are making a positive difference and to what degree.
An alternative way to A/B test is to compare your existing web page to a variation that features many different elements. Using this approach, you’d analyze the conversion results and determine which version of the page worked best. The tradeoff is that you wouldn’t know if a certain element or two made the difference or if it was the combination of all the changes.
Multivariate testing is essentially mixing and matching different combinations of variables until a winning combination is confirmed. For example, let’s say the elements you want to test are variations of a headline, primary image, form and button. In this hypothetical, you’d create variations of the original web page that include every possible element combination to see which combination works best.
Multivariate testing requires high traffic volume to get conclusive results. It takes many visitors to be able to funnel them to the numerous variations of a web page and have a large enough sample size to be confident the results you get aren’t anomalies.
Step 4: Learn
Once your tests have concluded, it’s time to analyze the results and learn from them. You now have the data to decide whether the variables you tested should remain in place. If they had a positive impact on your conversion rate, keep them. If they had no effect or a negative effect, revert to what was in place originally until you can find a better alternative.
Because conversion rate optimization should be ongoing, it’s important to think about why you got the results you did. Why did a change you made work? Answering this will help you make other positive improvements in the future. Or, why didn’t a change you made work? Considering this will help you formulate a different hypothesis about what may work and lead into another round of testing.
Remember, there’s always room for improvement, so don’t rest on your laurels if things appear to be going well or get discouraged if they don’t. Frequent CRO audits will spur you on to more and better conversions, which will drive company growth.
Conversion Rate Optimization Best Practices
Every industry is unique, and no two companies are the same. With that in mind, there’s no CRO playbook that will guarantee success. An optimization that worked wonders for one company may have no impact when implemented by another company.
Still, there are some widely agreed-upon best practices that are worth trying at your company.
- Place CTAs “above the fold” – Don’t make visitors scroll and hunt to find the CTA
- Use eye-catching colors on CTA buttons – Your CTAs should grab attention
- Limit the number of fields on forms – Users will be more likely to submit a form if the process is quick and doesn’t ask a lot of them
- Utilize testimonials – People put a lot of faith in their peers, and seeing positive feedback about your company, products and services will build trust in your brand
- Create urgency – Take advantage of FOMO (fear of missing out). For example:
- Limited-time offer
- Only 2 remaining
- Spots are filling up fast
- Get it before it’s gone
- Avoid automatic image carousels & sliders – Allow users to explore the site/page at their own pace
- Use “power words” – Exciting language attracts attention and can motivate users to act. Instead of using terms like “Submit” or “Sign up” use language like:
- Book Now!
- Get Your Free Sample
- Let’s Get Started!
- Insights Delivered Straight to Your Inbox
- Tell Me More!
- Ask questions – It’s an effective way to generate interest because people want to learn the answers. For example:
- Want to save money?
- Ready to grow your business?
- Want to learn about a better solution?
- Have you ever seen anything like this?
Need Help With Your CRO Audit?
Conversion rate optimization is key to keeping your sales funnel full and increasing revenue. A CRO audit will ensure your website is built for maximum effectiveness. However, it is a time-consuming and technical process. There are many tools you can utilize to aid during the process, but of course, they come at a cost and with a learning curve.
If you need help performing your CRO audit, we can help. We are a full-service marketing agency that can provide everything you need.
Our CRO audit package includes:
- Technical Review
- Review of technical issues including site speed, images & site structure
- User Experience Review
- Form, chat & communication
- Website structure & voice
- Mobile experience
- Design Review
- Page flow
- Content Review
- Google knowledge box
- Virtual Meeting to Present Findings
Have additional questions about conversion rate optimization, want to learn even more or ready for us to assist with your CRO audit? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us.
To learn even more, read our article 18 Hacks To Transform Your B2B Website Into Your Best Sales Tool and visit the Web Design & Development section of our blog.