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The Basics of Conversion Rate Optimization

The Basics of Conversion Rate Optimization

July 13, 2018

By Carrie Hopkins

As marketers, we know our work is important. But I want more than that. I want a seat at the big table. I want my voice to be heard. If you want the same, one way to make it happen is to understand and be able to articulate how you and your team are tying marketing initiatives to ROI. Sure, it’s fun to report a huge increase in web traffic to your company’s site. But what if all your visitors get to your site and do nothing? Conversion rate optimization (CRO) gives you the opportunity to attach a dollar sign to each visitor.

You can use the concept of CRO in many ways. I use it in my marriage all the time—more on that later.

Let’s start by quickly defining the components of CRO.

CRO Is ...


A conversion happens when your website visitor accomplishes the goal you’ve set for them. Website goals can be anything that you deem important to your business. For example, it could be for your visitors to fill out a form, subscribe to your blog, complete a purchase, or engage with content on your site.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of your website visitors that successfully complete the goal you set for them. Generally, this is measured for a specific amount of time. Conversion rate is calculated by dividing the number of visitors who completed the goal by the total number of visitors to that page.

For example, say you have a landing page with a form that encourages visitors to download your latest e-book. If 100 people visit your landing page and 10 of them fill out the form, your conversion rate for that page is 10 percent.


Optimization is the process of improving your resources to achieve the desired result in the most efficient way possible.

So conversion rate optimization is the process of increasing the rate at which your website visitors accomplish the goal you have set for them in a specific amount of time.

CRO Is Not ...

I want to quickly note what CRO is not. The process and outcome of CRO is not to be confused with that of search engine optimization (SEO). Whereas SEO is focused on increasing the likelihood of pushing organic traffic to your site, CRO focuses on convincing those organic visitors to act. In a perfect world of marketing, you’ll have a stellar plan for both! Need helpful resources for SEO? Check out this blog article on 10 essential ranking factors to include in your SEO strategy.

In simple terms, the process of CRO includes the following steps:

  1. Determine your goal.
  2. Set your hypothesis.
  3. Conduct A/B testing.
  4. Analyze your results.

I generally have a goal of getting my way without my husband realizing it. So I use the CRO method to help me determine how to best reach that goal. Here's an example.

1. Determine my goal.

Every Saturday in the fall, my husband and I get dolled up in Tennessee orange to watch our Volunteers play football. My goal is for my husband to get over a loss so we can move on with our lives as quickly as possible. Let’s face it: Tennessee loses a lot, so I have a decent amount of historical data here.

2. Set my hypothesis.

If I change my reaction to my husband’s unfavorable behavior after a loss, he will get over it faster.

3. Conduct A/B testing.

  • Scenario A: Football team loses. Wife tells husband to calm down; it’s just a football game.
  • Scenario B: Football team loses. Wife says something clever about Peyton Manning and then immediately leaves the room.

4. Analyze the data.

I may not be able to say with statistical significance that Scenario B has a higher conversion rate of us moving on from being upset and toward my happiness ... but I’d still put my money on it.

Now, this is not an exact representation of CRO, but you get the idea.

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How Do I Get Started with CRO?

There are several small things you can do to dip your toes into CRO. Here is a list of quick and easy things that you can try out on your website:

  1. Add explainer text to your forms. Set the expectation for the user as to what they will get if they fill out the form.
  2. Test your calls to action (CTAs). Try different contrast colors; manipulate the text on the CTA ("Submit" versus "Download Now!"); try links versus buttons.
  3. Reduce form fields. Only require users to fill in necessary fields before submitting the form.
  4. Change the location of your form. Test if your form performs better above the fold, as a part of the hero image, as a sticky form, and so on.
  5. Use images. Try different images: stock versus real, people versus buildings/scenery.
  6. Adjust copy. Test multiple versions of headline copy as well as supporting copy. One word in a headline could make all the difference!

It is important to keep in mind that you only want to test one of the above suggestions at a time. If you make multiple adjustments at once, it will be difficult to determine what exactly is impacting your conversion rates.

CRO is a never-ending process. The people who are visiting your site are always changing, and your site should be, too! Getting started with CRO can be a fun learning experience, so give it a try and you’ll be geeking out about your data before you know it!

One final note: Please don’t forward this blog post to my husband. My tests will no longer be valid if he knows about them.


Tired of blowing your budget on a website only to find it doesn't deliver? Download:

What is Growth Driven Design?

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Website Design, Conversion Rate Optimization, Growth-Driven Design