What you need to know about conversion rate optimization (CRO)

Conversion rate optimization or CRO is a way to increase your site’s ability to ‘convince’ your visitors to complete a desired action. This action might be making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter or booking a room.

It focuses on helping you get more out of the current traffic you have coming to your website and not on increasing the traffic. You do this by assessing how visitors interact with your site and for how long. With this information you will be able to make changes that make it easier for them to move to the final decision step. These changes may include things as simple as changing the wording, colours or the content on your pages.

How is it calculated?

To determine your conversion rate, take into consideration a given time period, for instance a month. Consider the number of visitors to your website in that month and then divide that by the number of visitors who actually complete the task.

A website that sells books which receives 10,000 visitors a month, with 1000 visitors actually buying books will have conversion rate of 10%. That is, 1000/10,000 (multiplied by 100 to turn it into percentages)

The benefits of conversion rate optimization

Conversion rate optimization carries numerous benefits for websites and is invaluable in e commerce. Key thing to remember is that you have to test your desired changes to see how your audience responds to them and if they lead to conversions (it counts as a conversion if a visitor completes the desired task or action). Once you land on the right combination for your website then you will be able to enjoy some if not all of these benefits;

1. Get better insight into your site visitors

This is why you cannot get results out of conversion rate optimization without testing. You will be able to learn what your site visitors like and what they don’t, learn their habits, times that they interact with your website, content that they respond to best and more. This will help you tailor your message to them perfectly.

2. Get more customers without actually paying for them

One of the biggest benefits of conversion rate optimization is that it works with the current traffic that you already get to your website. Businesses spend a lot of money on getting new customers. But with CRO, you will be able to turn the site visitors you already have into customers. Once they find it easier to navigate your website, find the site appealing, you will have moved them a step closer to making purchases/ completing the desired task.

3. It improves your SEO ranking

Search engines love sites that are easy for visitors to find and use. It is a good sign that visitors complete the task you set the site up to do. When the next person searches for your particular business, your site will be among the first to show up simply because you took conversation rate optimization seriously. And as in point 2 above this will also attract brand new customers and make your site standout from the competition.

4. It will improve your customer lifetime value

Think of this as repeat business to your website. One key benefit of CRO is that it improves the user experience. Visitors should find it easy and safe to buy what you are selling if you are an online store for instance. If you went to a shop and had a great experience there, why not return to the same shop in the future. This is what CRO will do for your site, it makes it easier for you to keep your customers.

5. Leads to an increase in your website’s revenue in the long run

If your website is set up as a business, you need to earn money. CRO directly correlates to more revenue because its major purpose is to get visitors to buy whatever it is you are selling. It is rare that this revenue will explode overnight however. Adding an image to your sign up form may get your 5 more sign ins in the first month but by the end of the year those will be 60 new conversions.

6. Helps you get the most out of your advertising

If you decide to channel some of your new revenue towards advertisement, you will have enough information thanks to Conversion rate optimization to pay for the most effective ads. In addition, with advertising, you pay for traffic to come to your website. If that traffic doesn’t make a purchase/ go through and meet the goal of the site then you will be losing money. CRO ensures that you benefit from any new traffic, leading to more revenue.

7. CRO is great for your brand equity

A great website means that your business is great too. At least visitors will think so. CRO focuses on delivering the best possible customer experience and visitors will feel this too. When they are able to move between pages easily, get the information they want fast, see that you have testimonials ready, are able to plug into your social media pages just as fast and any other techniques you might have implemented to increase your conversion rate, customers will feel that you have an excellent product. Brand equity is after all determined by the perception consumers have of your brand.

8. You will base your decisions on hard data

It is easy to assume what the next best step for your website should be but with CRO, you have a chance to test all your decisions and see how your visitors react before implementing them. In turn, having concrete data allows you to be daring and try new techniques you might have been afraid to. Backed by evidence you will know how your audience will react. This calculated risk taking can be very good for a growing business.

The interesting thing about conversion rate optimization is that the benefits feed into each other. More customers lead to higher brand equity, better SEO ranking, more revenue and so forth. Once you get one, it leads to the next and the next. Well executed CRO techniques could be the final step to hitting the target for your website this year.

Here are 10 simple ways to increase your website’s conversion rate

What is the purpose of your website? If it is to get visitors to take action then you need to keep an eye on your conversion rate. This is the percentage of site visitors who complete a specified task. That task could be anything from, asking for a quote, booking a tour to buying a book. A healthy conversion rate means that visitors are buying into your offering and that your business is headed in the right direction

A conversion is just a term to mean a visitor completing the desired task. If you were a brick and mortar coffee shop for instance, think of the conversion rate as the number of people who walk into your shop, look at the menu and decide to pay for a cup of coffee. While in the real world, you would have waiters and baristas to help your visitors make the final decision to buy, online, all you have is your website. This is why you should set it up in a way that it makes it as easy as possible for people to navigate and make that final decision to complete your desired action.

It is impossible for every single visitor to go through to the final action step but there are ways to encourage more of them to do so and steadily increase your conversion rate:

1. Look at what are you offering your site visitors.

Is your offer worth it? Put yourself in the shoes of the visitor. Is this something that you would sign up for? Make sure that what your offer is desirable and hard to turn down. It should be something that is worth their money and time and one for which they feel that they are getting a good bargain. Even if your site’s goal is for the visitor to sign up for a newsletter, consider that they are sharing their personal information with you. Your newsletter should be informative and sent out at intervals that will not be annoying to your customers.

2. Use action words

Or calls-to-action. A call to action states clearly what you want the site visitor to do. ‘Buy today’, ‘Sign up here’, ‘Make your order here’, ’Request a quote for free’ are some action phrases that can encourage conversion. These are more helpful than ambiguous messages that leave visitors unsure of what to do or why they should do it. Add some punch to your action words by including the element or urgency. Phrases and words like ‘Today’ ‘Now’, ‘Only 4 left’ communicate this.

3. Try and test different things

When it comes to increasing your conversion rate, you must be willing to try and test a number of things. Try and test different colors, different fonts, different button shapes and different tips on this list. Do not assume that because something worked for one site it will automatically work for yours. Test, give it time and see the results. One trusted way is AB testing. With this method you set up two versions of a page and send the same amount of traffic to both and monitor which version receives the most conversions. You then adopt the version with the higher conversions.

4. Do some behind the scenes work

There are useful apps like Lucky Orange which allow you to see which areas of your website visitors frequent. You’ll see which buttons they click, if they are looking at pictures more or checking your FAQ page. Exploit these high traffic areas by placing your calls to Action there.  You should also optimize these areas to make sure your visitors get the best out of their experience.

5. Keep your site free of distractions

In web design, a ‘clean’ site is one of the most important things clients look out for. In a similar way visitors will be distracted if your site and in particular your conversion area is littered with pop ups, offers and other communications. While both pop ups and offers can increase your conversion rate, place them in places where they will not be deterrents.

6. When it comes to getting information, be flexible

You have probably visited a website, made it all the way to the sign up form only to realize that the phone number is a ‘required field’ and have been forced to abandon the action. Some people may not be comfortable parting with some information. Be flexible and include ‘optional fields’ as well.

Another rule about information is; ask for as little as you can. This ensures that your visitor doesn’t lose interest with the process after being asked too many questions.

7. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile

Mobile devices now account for 56% of traffic to top sites according to a report from similarweb. With mobile optimization, your site will adjust to fit the smaller screen of a phone. Your site pages and pictures will still look as appealing as they do on a wider screen. But the optimization should go beyond that. Are visitors able to sign up, book, buy and basically complete actions on their mobile devices? If someone is interested in your offer, don’t risk them having to find a computer to complete it. Mobile also allows for real time sharing to social media platforms like Snapchat or Instagram. A share in the right network can only work to your advantage.

8. Give your visitors an opportunity to share

Social media plugins allow your visitors to share with their own networks so make it easy for them to do this by clearly showing your social icons. This works as free advertising for you and can lead to an increase in your conversion rate.

Your social pages also allow you to appear transparent and let users to interact with you in real time a. They can ask questions, give a compliment or not-which will give you an opportunity to show your other followers how well you deal with a disgruntled website visitor.

9. Include testimonials

Like with social media, testimonials follow the belief that people believe other people. A positive comment sounds so much nicer coming from a customer than from your own very carefully worded message in the About section.

When you do include testimonials, don’t fake them, make sure they are from real people. For instance, conclude the testimonial by including some information about the customer to prove this. ‘John is a student of psychology in his second year at Exeter College.’

10. Use more pictures on your website

But not just any pictures. Visitors on your site can tell the difference between stock and original images. The latter are more appealing because they add a layer of authenticity to your website.

It is a good idea to place images throughout the site but specifically at the Action points. If the pop up that says ‘Sign Up here’ appears with an image of a person, it will only be more appealing to your visitors. 

Increasing your conversion rate is a sure way to up your revenue or grow your site without having to heavily invest in growing your audience. It may take some time and several of these methods to see long term results but it is worth it.

Gerald Ainomugisha is a freelance web content writer and Content Solutions Provider (CSP) focusing on business reporting, HR management, IT and digital marketing.