By Jennifer Lux

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Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is much like the scientific method. Successful CRO methodology includes testing a hypothesis with a number of isolated variables. The goal of CRO efforts should be to learn more about the variables at hand and get subjects to take more of a specific action, such as making a purchase, completing a form, or requesting to speak to a sales team member.

The origins of CRO are linked to the dot-com bubble and the competition that resulted from the rapid growth (and subsequent failure) of many internet businesses. It was during this time that online marketers and entrepreneurs began to recognize the importance of making a website more usable. They also recognized their ability to control and isolate variables, which was much easier in the online world than in traditional brick-and-mortar establishments.

CRO has become more sophisticated and widespread, with the 2016 Conversion Rate Optimization Report from Econsultantcy and RedEye citing CRO as “crucial” to overall digital marketing strategies for 55 percent of the companies surveyed. It’s no doubt that CRO is valuable when done right. Here are seven CRO mistakes to avoid if you truly want to maximize your business potential:

1. Not using a methodology

If you think way back to middle school science classes, you might recognize the five essential steps of the scientific method, which we use in CRO efforts as well:

  1. Observations
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Experiment
  4. Analysis
  5. Conclusion.

Every CRO effort should follow a similar structure and take into account statistical significance using an A/B split test calculator. Just updating some copy on a page or changing the color of a button is not CRO if it doesn’t include a clear hypothesis and proper analysis.

As reported in the 2016 Conversion Rate Optimization Report, 84 percent of companies saw CRO success following a structured approach versus the 64 percent that saw a lift without a structured approach. Use a methodology, period.

2. Investing money in acquisition efforts vs. CRO

Many times, a client company that has a respectable amount of a traffic to its site wants to continue investing money in paid media or social media promotion when the real value would come from investing in CRO. At SmartBug Media, we report monthly on the visitor-to-lead ratio, which is a far better indicator than website traffic or leads, as it correlates to your website’s performance or its ability to motivate and inspire visitors to take some sort of action. Spending resources improving conversion can yield true ROI for your business.

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3. Testing is based on assumptions vs. data

I’ve been guilty of this one myself. If a website graphic seems too busy or the text color doesn’t make clicking intuitive, I might make a snap decision to change something on a website without really digging into important data such as heat maps or time on page. Perhaps it’s not the obstacles that I’ve identified personally that are slowing conversion at all. Maybe visitors aren’t even getting to that section on the page or another section is pulling their attention away from the desired action on the page. Only test based on qualitative, quantitative, and observational data, never on gut feeling or a hunch. 


4. Thinking CRO is just A/B testing

CRO has unfortunately become synonymous with A/B testing in some marketing circles. This limiting thought will only impede your potential results. CRO is a very broad marketing strategy that includes:

  • A/B testing tactics
  • Usability testing
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Content optimization
  • Personalization/segmentation tools
  • Event-triggered emails
  • And more ...
Don’t limit the possibilities of your website by focusing on A/B testing alone.

5. Not tracking micro conversions or granular data

Gather as much data as possible. If you want to track the macro conversion of new customer acquisition, start small. Let’s take the example of a demo landing page. Your observation might be that the landing page form conversion rate is below industry benchmarks and is therefore negatively affecting your customer pipeline. The overall goal of your CRO efforts might be to improve the conversion rate on the demo landing page form. And your hypothesis could be that if you shorten the form by two fields, you can improve the conversion rate by 10 percent.

If you update the form and don’t get these results during your experiment, it might feel like you have to go “back to the drawing board.” However, by looking at the more granular data of this website experience, you might uncover very rich insights during your analysis phase of the scientific method. Consider measuring specifics on the site, including:

  • Which channel the lead came from
  • Time on page
  • Scroll (if applicable)
  • Heat maps (to isolate page activity)
  • Any field completion (even if the person abandoned the form ultimately)
  • Bounce rate versus navigating back to the site
  • Percentage of new visitors versus returning visitors who completed the form
  • What personas or job titles are completing the form (and from which industries)
  • What times of day resulted in the most form completions
Dig deep to understand the micro conversions on the path to purchase and associated granular data or you could miss the real bottleneck on your webpage. You can’t perform CRO well without fully understanding the customer journey and attribution dynamics, so dig in. 

6. Only optimizing what isn’t performing well

Only optimizing what isn't performing well is a very common mistake. As marketers and salespeople, we want to elevate what isn't performing. Although this is important, it’s much easier to take something from good to great when it already has some momentum. Don’t be afraid to use CRO tactics on high-performing pages and learn just how much you can push the envelope.

 

7. Trying to optimize on a bad website

Sometimes clients believe that CRO and inbound marketing will fix their customer acquisition problem. Although that is a possibility, conducting CRO on a poorly designed or non-intuitive site will never generate the results a business wants. Likewise, marketing is only as good as the sales team, and without a skilled, experienced sales department, CRO and marketing efforts can be a waste of resources. Ensure you have the right foundation in place—including a website with good usability, navigation, and design, as well as a skilled sales team—to ensure ROI for your CRO efforts.

Make CRO work for you by preventing these common mistakes. Make sure to first invest in CRO, then follow a process, track every metric possible, test beyond the A/B norm, optimize what is already performing well, and ensure you’ve got a solid foundation to build upon.

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Jennifer Lux

About the author

Jennifer Lux was formerly a Team Leader and Marketing Strategist at SmartBug Media. She has over 15 years of marketing and business development experience – in agency, in-house, and consulting roles. Jennifer has a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. Read more articles by Jennifer Lux.

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