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Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): Everything You Need to Know

Conversion rate optimization keeps a lot of growth marketers up at night. No doubt about it. 

It’s not one of those things you have a lot of chances to get right. 

You must convert visitors to your website the first time or risk losing them to a competitor. 

It’s especially true for the ultra-competitive B2B SaaS industry.

We’ll share what you need to know about conversion rate optimization and how to maximize yours so you can grow your business — and get back to a solid 7-8 hours.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization 

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action. These desired actions can be anything from signing up for a service, to clicking on a link, to filling out a form, to purchasing a product, and even to simply clicking on “add to cart.”

First, as I mentioned, you must define what constitutes a “conversion” or the desired result when someone visits your website. 

It’s different for every business and it should be a ratio you’re always trying to improve. Some may consider snagging an email address a conversion, while for others, it’s a free 7-day trial or a scheduled meeting. 

These are known as macro conversions or the key objective of your website.

Micro conversions are smaller steps a prospect would take before reaching the ultimate conversion goal. Examples include visiting certain pages, downloading bonus material, viewing a video, etc.  

Both conversion types help move prospects through your sales funnel — and hopefully provide enough value so you don’t lose anyone along the way. 

Why is Conversion Rate Optimization Important 

Some business owners get preoccupied with traffic, always strategizing about how to get more of it. 

But traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into conversions. 

Bestselling author and online marketing pioneer Bryan Eisenberg makes a great analogy.   

Trying to increase sales simply by driving more traffic to a website with a poor customer conversion rate is like trying to keep a leaky bucket full by adding more water instead of plugging the holes.

Here’s why “plugging the holes” should be among your key lead conversion strategies.

1. Expands Your Customer Base

Taking steps to improve your conversion rate creates a better experience for every person who visits your website. 

Better user experiences (UX) translate into better inbound lead conversion. According to a Forrester study, an improved UX design could yield conversion rates up to 400%. 

2. Lowers Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)

Think about it. CRO is improving the experience for potential customers who are already headed your way. 

By converting those folks you can lower your customer acquisition costs dramatically. 

3. Increases Profits Without Adding Marketing Dollars

With CRO your fixed marketing costs remain the same. CRO Marketing is like squeezing every drop of value from what’s already in place. 

You may decide it’s time to abandon underperforming marketing tactics as your optimization efforts pay off. 

Imagine what that can do for your marketing ROI.

4. Provides Opportunities for Growth

So what do you do with all the extra revenue you generate from CRO?

You’ll invest it in growing your company, whether that means hiring more people, expanding your offerings, investing in content marketing, or pursuing more advanced CRO strategies.  

How to Calculate Conversion Rate (CVR)

Here’s how to calculate the percentage of visitors who complete your desired action. 

Kinsta

Take the total number of conversions (desired actions taken), divide that by your total number of unique visitors, and multiply it by 100. That’s your conversion rate.

Let’s say your business provides a sales and marketing intelligence tool, and you had 20,000 unique visitors last month. Two thousand two hundred fifty converted and signed up for a free trial. 

Your conversion rate would be 11.25%. 

Not too shabby. 

What Is a Good Conversion Rate

In fact, as a B2B SaaS provider, an 11.25% conversion rate is among the best in the industry according to Wordstream’s research. 

Wordstream

Still, given what a gain of a percentage or two can do for your business, you should look for areas to improve.

As you can see in the table above, and depending on what you read, the conversion rate benchmark is anywhere between 1% and 4%. 

However, any average rate is sort of meaningless. 

CVRs vary wildly depending on what the goal is — every website is different, every audience is different, and most businesses don’t share their conversion rate anyway.

There is no actual industry figure you can rely on to compare yourself against, so don’t obsess over it. Instead, focus on developing an in-depth understanding of what matters to your users, so you can give it to them, and the conversions will naturally follow.

Conversion Rate Optimization Best Practices

A CRO best practice is a widely-held belief that certain optimizations will guarantee an increase in conversion rate. 

For example:

  • Place all CTAs above the fold
  • Add vibrant colors to CTAs and buttons
  • Urgency drives sales
  • Use forms with few fields
  • Display testimonials

Will all of these improve your conversion rate? 

Doubtful.

Blindly applying those “best practices” puts you in a permanent state of playing catch-up. You don’t want that.

There is, however, one really important principle that is always valid: invest time in understanding your users and your customers.

Fixate on their needs. Fixate on their desired outcomes. Learn as much as you can about their concerns. Then, and only then, deliver solutions that address them. 

In the long term, what leads to growth is investing in understanding and learning from your users and using that knowledge to develop a conversion optimization strategy that continuously improves your business.

Does Mobile Optimization Matter?

Well, mobile traffic makes up more than half of all global internet traffic. 

In fact, according to Forrester’s 2018 Retail Wave, smartphones were involved in more than $1 trillion (USD) in retail purchases in the United States alone!

It’s also known that consumers use their phones at least once through their customer journey — even for the simplest things like product research, cost comparisons, and reviews. 

Bottom line: you can’t afford to focus only on desktop traffic. 

There is one more thing worth mentioning. Because desktop users are more likely to convert than mobile users, increasing traffic solely to send more visitors from mobile to your site is unlikely to have the same effect as increasing desktop traffic. 

This is where mobile conversion optimization comes in. 

With the right strategy, marketers can increase mobile traffic while also ensuring it converts more effectively.

Understanding the Components of Conversion Rate Optimization

There are lots of moving parts in conversion rate optimization. 

Here's what each one means:

  • A/B Testing: Verifying changes in conversion is a standard process. In A/B testing, visitors are shown two (or more) versions of your website. The conversion rates of each variant are compared to find which is the most effective.
  • Call to action (CTA): Tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do.
  • Analytics: Tools for measuring visitors and users. Measurement is key for improving conversion rates.
  • User recordings: A program that tracks users as they navigate your website. They provide extensive input on where people stop, find roadblocks, or where they truly want to go. It's a fantastic resource for conversion-boosting suggestions.
  • Usability: The process and set of best practices for making your site more user-friendly. Improving usability often removes friction and increases conversions.
  • Heatmaps: A handy report that shows where site visitors click on a page using “hot” and “cold” colors. 
  • Multivariate testing (MVT): Similar to A/B testing but MVT tests multiple variables at the same time. 
  • Customer development: Tools and processes for better understanding your customers. It’s much easier to design websites that convert a higher percentage of your visitors when you have a deep understanding of your customers.

Who Can Benefit From Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization benefits businesses of all shapes and sizes, regardless of industry. 

Here are a few examples of interesting businesses that demonstrate the pervasiveness of conversion rate optimization.

Conversion Rate Optimization for B2B/SaaS Companies

As you know, lead generation is the process of capturing your customers' attention by engaging them on your website, gathering their information through various means (forms, sign-ups, surveys, etc.), and contacting them to convert them into loyal, recurring customers. 

For B2B/SaaS companies, CRO is essential. It’s the one process that will help you better support your customers to find what they are looking for, pique their interest, and support their buying decision.

Conversion Rate Optimization for E-commerce Companies

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the most significant challenges e-commerce businesses face, squandering billions of dollars in sales revenue each year. 

According to a Baymard Institute analysis, over half of all e-commerce visitors abandon their carts.

The top 3 reasons visitors leave an e-commerce site are:

  • Distractions: This usually happens when there are too many pop-ups. It’s just too distracting.
  • Checkout difficulty: If the check-out process isn’t user-friendly you’ll risk complicating the purchasing effort for first-time buyers.
  • Hidden costs: This is easy, no one likes hidden costs. Right? 

Running a CRO campaign will help identify and address these bottleneck issues and significantly improve your site’s conversion rate. 

Conversion Rate Optimization for Media/Publishing Houses

For businesses like media agencies or publishing houses, reaching a larger audience (and keeping them engaged) on their site is critical for their growth. 

This is where CRO can serve as a guide to help test different on-page elements like email sign-ups, forms, recommended content, social sharing icons, and other similar promotions to capture more attention. 

Conversion Rate Optimization for Online Travel Agencies

Travel companies typically face greater difficulties, as compared to other industries, in getting conversions. 

Think about it. When you’re looking to travel you probably browse through several sites, compare deals, mull it over, and then act on it. The purchasing decision is much longer.

Plus, booking itself is also complex, so that also adds to the challenge. 

An effective CRO audit can massively help travel agencies to uncover their potentials and drawbacks and ultimately, increase conversions. 

Conversion Rate Optimization for Other Agencies

One of the most obvious sectors that benefit from CRO is perhaps agencies in digital marketing, web development, or even dedicated CRO agencies. 

Running conversion rate optimization campaigns substantially increases conversions (and revenue), which leads to better ROI and better client retention. 

CRO can also help agencies indirectly. 

If agencies offer clients services like social media promotion, web development, brand building, and so on, can pitch CRO services as a way to get more out of their existing traffic. 

This not only helps agencies pitch more clients by providing additional services but also increases their overall business impact. 

It’s a win-win. 

5 Elements of Conversion Rate Optimization: What You Need for Kick-A$$ Rates 

Here are the elements you need to achieve killer conversion rates. 

1. Visually Appealing Landing Page

First impressions matter. There are plenty of landing page optimization strategies to ensure you make a great one.  

And not all of them are complicated. Adding a picture of a human being and experimenting with the color scheme can dramatically impact conversions. 

Unbounce landing page

Unbounce

2. Sizzling Website Copy

Of course you need more than visual appeal to keep visitors on your page.

You must communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds to hold their attention.

io integration

You need compelling website copy that demonstrates how you can solve their pressing problem. You know, the one that keeps them up at night — like how to reclaim lost revenue. (See above example.)

Here’s what your copy should include.

  • Catchy, clickable headlines

  • Engaging, informative writing style

  • Meaningful visuals

  • Compelling social proof

  • Clear call-to-action

3. Direct-Hit Structure and Navigation

Users get frustrated, give up, and leave if they can’t find the information they need easily. 

That’s why it’s critical to create a logical, easy-to-navigate website. Not only will your visitors stay put, but it builds your reputation and brand authority.

HireLevel

4. Lightning-Fast Page Load Time

Your web pages must load quickly if you want to keep your visitors engaged — and on a path to conversion.

Portent’s study found that a 0-2 second load time produces the best conversion rates. 

There’s a lot that factors into achieving that speed. Google PageSpeed Insights can help identify changes you can make to your site. 

Portent

5. Forms Formatted for a Fabulous UX

Forms are an important part of the customer journey. They often determine whether or not a visitor converts.

Forms should be as concise as possible. Too many fields or requests for unnecessary information and your visitor might abandon the effort.  

Chili Piper

Chili Piper shows how to use forms effectively for their desired conversion — a scheduled meeting. 

How Do You Optimize Conversion Rates 

There are best practices and quick tricks to optimize the elements above for better conversion rates. Things like changing colors and moving buttons around can certainly give yours a boost. 

But to achieve the best possible conversion rates there’s something more important you must do first. 

And that’s really getting to know your target customer. It means stepping into their shoes and understanding their pains and motivations so you can target your message accordingly.

You’re probably familiar with empathy maps. 

SmartKarrot

Use one as the basis for developing the best user experience for your target customers, one that’s most likely to convert for your business.

Once you know your customer, using tools for conversion rate optimization is much more productive. Here’s the types of tools to explore. 

1. Tools That Determine What’s Happening: The Quantitative Approach

It is important to track what is actually happening on your website. Here are the tools that help collect that data.

Heat map tools: Provide a visual representation of how users are interacting with each page so you know what’s attracting attention and what’s being ignored

Analytics tools: Track and analyze website traffic such as page views, traffic source, user place of origin, etc.

Funnel tools: Identify where and when you’re losing visitors within your sales funnel 

Customer satisfaction tools (CSAT): Measure satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10. Tools that incorporate the Net Promoter System measure the likelihood they’d recommend your solution on that same scale 

Forms analytics: Help you understand how visitors are interacting with your forms

        Reactflow's funnel analysis tool

2. Tools That Determine Why It’s Happening: The Qualitative Approach

It is equally important to figure out why users are interacting with your website in a certain way. Here are the tools that help you make sense of their behavior. 

Session recording tools: Provide real (recorded) examples of customers navigating your website 

User testing tools: Observe people interacting with your site in real-time

Feedback tools: Gather experiences from your customers, both on-page and through external links. 

Lucky Orange's website feedback tool

Lucky Orange's website feedback tool

3. Tools That Test Changes and Measure Results 

Once you’ve gathered data and feedback, it’s time to start testing. You’ve likely identified a number of opportunities to create a better user experience that will compel more conversions. 

A/B testing tools: Determine which variations or changes to pages perform best

Conversion tracking tools: Measure the results of your optimization tactics

Optimizely’s A/B testing offering

Optimizely’s A/B testing offering

Take Things to the Next Level With Advanced CRO Tools 

We’ve all had to adjust to the changing business landscape.

Companies have gone fully remote. Face-to-face meetings could become a thing of the past for many of them. 

B2B buyers, in particular, have embraced these changes.

Check out how much they’re willing to spend without leaving their computer screens.  

McKinsey & Company

It gives optimizing your website to maximize conversions a whole new level of importance, right? 

If you want to close more business than your competitors you should consider more advanced CRO tools.    

Introducing Chili Piper Concierge

To get your conversion rates into the stratosphere, you need to capitalize on that moment when prospects realize what your solution can do for their business.

You know, when they’re like... 

Yep, he just saw Chili Piper Concierge in action.

It’s a scheduling app used by top-performing B2B revenue teams that doubles their conversion rates and increases productivity. And it happens to delight the customer too. 

Want to see how Chili Piper works?

Request a demo

 

About the Author

Amy is an experienced professional writer specializing in blog content related to digital marketing and B2B SaaS. When she isn't writing, she's exploring Colorado's mountains or amusing herself by finding new ways to embarrass her teenage daughters.

Profile Photo of Amy Geist