The Essential Guide to Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

Why should you be investing in conversion rate optimization (CRO)? 

CRO allows you to optimize the post-click experience in order to improve the conversion rate of your existing site traffic and effectively increase ROI. When Marketers focus solely on investing in traffic-driving initiatives like PPC, they often waste budget on visits to landing pages with low conversion rates – CRO ensures this isn’t the case.

In the example below, increasing on-site conversion rate by just 0.5% leads to an increase of $90,000 in annual revenue. That’s why CRO matters.

This complete guide to CRO will cover the following areas:

  1. Understanding User Behaviour
  2. Making the Most of User Feedback
  3. Starting Testing
  4. Building Landing Pages That Convert

1) Understanding User Behaviour

To be certain you’re creating impactful optimizations and testing with a purpose, you need to be optimizing for your audience. Start by knowing who your audience is and how they’re currently utilizing your site or landing pages. Through the series of analyses listed below, you’ll gather key user behavior information.

Google Analytics

You may have a wide range of landing pages that can be optimized, and you may not know where to begin. Google Analytics can help you narrow your focus to the pages that are visited most frequently and identify the demographics of your audience (i.e. age, gender, device). 

Using an analytics platform will also help you identify red flags like:

  • Are there large drop-offs in your purchase funnel?
  • Do some of your most visited pages have abnormally high bounce rates?

User Behavior Maps

User behavior maps give you information about the activity on a landing page. You’ll learn which components of a page receive the most activity, if the entire page is scrolled through and seen, and which types of users are clicking on which components. These maps become the most helpful when you’re trying to understand the usefulness of elements on a page and how they contribute to the overall user experience. They will help you answer questions like:

  • Where are users spending the majority of their time on the page?
  • Is your call-to-action being seen by most of your users?
  • Are there too many distractions on the page pulling the attention of your users, causing them to miss the main conversion option on the page?

Examples from Left to Right: Heatmap, Scroll Map, Confetti Map

Form Analysis

Form analysis tells you where users are dropping off in the process of filling out your forms. In the example below, the form analysis from Hotjar is telling us that over 50% of users aren’t completing this form. The message field has the highest drop-off rate, and it’s also taking the longest amount of time to complete. Based on this data, we can predict that form optimizations will lead to increased conversions, particularly, removing the message field.

Funnel Analysis

Funnel analysis helps you better understand where your users are dropping off within your funnel. You can set up funnels in many different platforms such as Google Analytics or Hotjar, as seen below. In the first example, we see that over 41% of users drop off within the payment step of the funnel – this is the very last step before purchase so it’s crucial we understand why we’re losing such a large number of users at this stage.

User Recordings

Lastly, user recordings help us identify exactly where friction exists on a landing page in order to isolate pain points. This data should give us answers to the insights we’ve gathered from the heat maps, form, and funnel analysis. For example, in the funnel pictured below we identified that 20% of users were dropping off at the address stage of the purchasing funnel. Using Hotjar user recordings we were able to narrow in on the user experience causing this drop off. Below you’ll see the bright yellow warning intending to inform users their address could be wrong whilst providing the option to “leave my address as-is.” The nature of this warning was clearing deterring users from completing the form.

Utilizing tools that analyze your user’s behaviour is the crucial first step in optimizing your website or landing pages successfully. Without it, you’ll be testing blind with no confidence in what will truly have an impact on performance.

2) Making the Most of User Feedback

User feedback gives us direct insights straight from our target audience. You can analyze verbal or written feedback specifically from your users or testers through the use of surveys, polls, or user testing. 

Polls & Surveys

With on-page polls or surveys, you gain a better understanding of what’s getting in the way of a user converting. Serving a poll to users who are mid-checkout and spending longer than average at this stage might help you understand what’s preventing them from moving forward. For example, you might learn that a promo code is broken and that’s the reason you’re losing many customers at checkout.

In addition to identifying pain points, polls and surveys give you an insight into how your customers speak about your product. This gives you a great opportunity to tweak your brand’s tone of voice to reflect that of your audience and create highly relatable content.

User Testing

User testing is useful for identifying pain points on your landing pages and is conducted through a third-party platform such as Usertesting or TryMyUI. Typically, a series of tasks are completed, and recorded, by a set of testers (not your actual customers). You’re then able to use these recordings, and the accompanying voice overs, to understand what users are actually thinking whilst on your site.

Congruence Analysis

Congruence analysis means taking a look at the entire user journey. This begins with the ads you’re serving all the way through to the post-click experience. Congruence takes a deeper look at the pre- to post-click journey to ensure its seamlessness – users feel more trust in a brand if they’re receiving the same messaging and offers from ad to landing page.

It’s about ensuring the same creatives, themes, and messages are present at every stage of the user experience. Without a CRO program in place or with little emphasis on CRO, it’s very easy to overlook this simple concept.

Competitor Analysis

It is important to understand what your competitors are doing. When it comes to CRO, your primary focus should be understanding the user experience of the brands appearing right next to you on the search engine results page. How do their ads and landing page experiences compare to yours? What have they done better than you and where are you excelling?

Once you’ve got a list of competitors to focus on. It’s always a great idea to look at your top performing keywords and do a quick Google search (tip: use your browser’s incognito mode if you’re having trouble getting competitor ads to show up). This may provide some of the information you need to move forward. However, if you’re not in the target location of the ads, you won’t have much luck. Utilize tools such as SEMrush to find competitor ads and landing pages.

There are a few ways to use SEMrush as a competitive analysis tool. The first and most basic way is to do a domain search of your competitor’s domain. Once you’ve inputted your competitor’s domain, you can find sample ads from your competitors as well as landing pages connected to the ads. This is a great way to quickly gauge the congruence of the competitor’s ads and landing pages while also analyzing where their traffic is actually being sent.

The next area you can check for competitor ads is under the “Display Advertising” tab. This tab will show you competitor display ads as well as when they were first and last seen to make sure they are still relevant.

Questions to ask yourself when looking at the competitor’s ads include:

  • Are users being delivered a very specific ad and then taken to the homepage?
  • Are users seeing the keyword searched in the ad copy and on the landing page?
  • Do the colors and imagery of the display ads match the landing page?
  • Do the call-to-actions in the ads match the call-to-action on the landing page both in visuals and copy?

Take advantage of the information you can find about your competitors. Understanding the experiences they’re delivering will further help you stand out against the competition.

3) Starting Testing

Testing is ultimately where you’re going to apply and learn from all of the insights you’ve gathered. Testing allows you to address the areas of friction and pain points you find through your analysis, and determine if your solutions are successful. So with that said, how do you decide what to test?

Start with the pain points and areas of friction you uncovered within the user behavior research. You’ve likely uncovered a lot of information through the use of analytics, user behavior, congruence and competitor analysis. Now it’s time to develop the solutions and test. 

When you’re determining what to test, it’s important to pay attention to how your customers are using and interacting with your website or landing page in relation to: functionality, accessibility, usability, content, processes, and layouts.

Functionality, accessibility, and usability are three of the fundamental aspects of an online experience – check out the “Persuasion Pyramid” below. If a site isn’t functional, accessible, or usable, finer details like messaging and imagery suddenly become much less important. When users are scrolling through a page or interacting with different elements on your site, everything should work as intended and be easily accessible—regardless of device or browser. Because these concepts seem fairly straightforward, they’re often overlooked.

Content, processes, and layouts play a large role in motivation and usability. The messaging should be clear and consistent. It should also meet users’ expectations. In one real-life scenario, we saw an increase of 170% in conversion rate for demo requests simply by cleaning up the CTA language and unifying the messaging across the site.

If content, or the order of content, doesn’t make sense, users won’t be motivated to continue scrolling through a page—or the rest of a site for that matter. Likewise, if a page layout or process (like filling out a form or checking out) is confusing or overwhelming, users will lack the motivation to continue. It’s important to make every aspect of your site clear, concise, and intuitive so that users have to think as little as possible. Although long forms can be intimidating, clients are typically leery about removing form fields because they feel they need all of the information they’re asking for. So in this case, we broke the form into two steps, lowering the barrier to entry so users were more likely to complete the final step. 

Lastly, when it comes to deciding what to test, we’re commonly asked if it’s better to focus on bigger tests or smaller changes. Some clients prefer to move fast and test larger, more significant changes, while other clients would rather move at a less-risky pace. Some people believe you’ll never learn anything or you’ll never see an impact from testing small. However, we’ve seen that this isn’t the case. While there may be steadfast rules surrounding testing, whether you should “go big or go home” should be based on a myriad of factors. Two things to consider are:

  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • How much traffic are you working with?

Typically radical problems may require big solutions. For example, if you see significant drop-off throughout your entire checkout process, test a new checkout flow and process all together.

However, minor pain points may be solved with just a small tweak. For example, if you notice that the bulk of users are clicking on an element with no correlating action, you should implement an action that speaks to that element.

Most importantly, a high traffic volume provides you with a large testing sample size and a greater likelihood of gathering statistical significance results. Low volume traffic has a higher chance of delivering inconclusive test results because the sample size does not have the power to reveal subtle variations in behaviour. This, in turn, means that you may have to consistently perform bigger, more impactful tests to produce clear results and clear key takeaways.

4) Building Landing Pages That Convert

Running a successful CRO program may mean that you have to build new pages in order to see desired performance. There are a number of reasons why you might build new pages, and a few are listed below. If you do build new pages, know that it’s incredibly important to test them prior to implementation. And as mentioned previously with testing, there should be a specific purpose or goal behind creating a new landing page to ensure the desired outcome is achieved:

  • You’re sending paid traffic to your home page
  • You’ve had the same landing pages for years
  • There’s a lack of engagement or very high bounce rates
  • Users are indicating frustration or confusion

Have you learned one or two new things about CRO? We hope so! Get in touch if you’d like to partner with our experts.