Of all the myriad acronyms in the PPC world, CRO (or conversion rate optimization) may be the most important. It’s always rewarding to see your traffic increase as a result of success with your PPC ads. But an increase in traffic doesn’t guarantee the growth in revenue or ROAS that you’re looking for.
Especially in PPC, which is a “pay-to-play” environment, you want to make sure you’re making the most of the traffic you’re paying to generate. This is where CRO comes in. Conversion rate optimization focuses on increase the percentage of your traffic that actually converts.
“Convert” here means takes the goal action that you’ve designated as the most valuable on your page (for example, get proposal, call, sign up for service, download app, etc…).
CRO tactics work to increase the likelihood of your traffic converting on your site, the total conversion volume, and the percentage of incoming users that convert. CRO can include a wide array of strategies, so let’s get into the basics first — walking before we take off sprinting and all.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?
As a general practice, CRO is the practice of taking the traffic your paid ads generate and converting a higher percentage. This is usually done by improving the actual user experience on the landing page in question.
But keep in mind that you’re improving the user experience of the page in order to guide your visitors towards a single action. CRO is meant to improve the ROAS of your ad campaigns as a whole. So you the end goal is transform your “visitors” into “customers.”
The basic process for CRO – image source
Most blog posts and online guides for CRO best practices will tell you that focusing your user experience on a singular goal is a high priority. What this goal is, however, can vary quite a bit depending on the business you’re running.
Regardless of what your primary conversion goal is (purchase product, schedule a proposal, download app, etc…), CRO improves the actual percentage of traffic that successfully converts. With CRO, you can generate more conversions and revenue without increasing your ad spend. And that’s how you start to boost your ROAS.
Different Types Of Optimization (SEO VS CRO)
There’s quite a few acronyms to keep track of in the digital marketing world. And, to be honest, quite a few of them have the “O” for optimization in there. So it’s important to distinguish between the most popular ones (SEO and CRO).
In its simplest form, SEO is still a strategy brands employ to increase the traffic their site generates. It’s simply an organic (free of ad spend) alternative to PPC. But in the end CRO is still a vital practice for any digital marketer looking to improve ROAS.
SEO could be replaced with PPC in this chart easily – image source
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, while CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimization. The former focuses on improving your website in hopes of impressing Google search engine crawlers. The latter focuses on improving your landing pages to impress actual users. With CRO you aren’t just working to improve metrics for computers, but the experiences of real people with your brand.
What “Conversion” Can Mean
Like I said earlier, conversions can come in all shapes and sizes. For the most part, however, they fall into one of two categories. The first are macro-conversions (the primary conversion goals you want your user to hit). The second are micro-conversions (the smaller conversions that can lead a user towards your macro-conversions).
Moz has a great breakdown of macro-conversions and micro-conversions that looks like the list below:
Examples of Macro-conversions:
- Purchasing a product from the site
- Requesting a quote
- Subscribing to a service
Examples of Micro-conversions:
- Signing up for email lists
- Creating an account
- Adding a product to the cart
When implementing CRO, make sure that you’re considering the user psychology on your page and within your conversion form (regardless of macro versus micro).
This is where we developed our Breadcrumb Technique from, after all, in hopes of employing the “foot-through-the-door” strategy on our landing pages. At the heart of all CRO strategies lies the basic goal of improving the user’s experience and making it easier for them to “slide down the conversion funnel.” So let’s start examining how exactly the pros perform CRO.
When you’re dealing with random waves of traffic coming from disparate computer screens, it’s hard to imagine what exactly will increase these users’ chances of converting.
Intimidating much? – image source
Thankfully, there’s some common practices that make CRO easier than it sounds. What’s important to remember is that CRO is a unique mixture of creativity and data analysis.
It takes a creative mind to imagine new changes to your pages that may improve conversions. But these tests must be run with scientific diligence to make sure you know what changes really work and when. Otherwise you can fall victim to blind optimization.
A/B Testing (Split Testing)
The most classic form of CRO is A/B Testing. This is also known as split testing, because the methodology of the testing model focuses on isolating a single variable and creating A and B (split) variants to compare.
Here’s an example of a classic single-variable A/B Test – image source
In classic split testing CRO, marketers implement changes that they think will improve conversion rates one at a time. This way you can test the original landing page design against your new variant with split traffic to see which converts higher.
And, because you’re isolating the single change in your landing page (such as button color, hero shot, etc…), you can know with confidence that this is the change that caused the increase in conversions.
Your winning variant then begins the new control for you to test new CRO implementations on in future A/B tests.
Multi-variable testing takes the same logic as split testing and expands it to the landing page as a whole. So, while in split testing you may just change the button color on a single test, in multi-variable testing you’d change the button color, button text, hero image, and possibly even more.
Often times these are considered entirely new landing page variants.
Above are two examples of actual landing page variants – image source
What’s nice about multi-variable testing, beyond the fact that it takes less time than a long list of singular split tests, is that it allows you to test the interactive effects of the different conversion components of your landing pages.
Just keep in mind that it will probably take a bit longer to reach statistical significance of you’re running multi-variable testing.
Data Versus Human-Driven Testing
Now, we’ve addressed how the basis of most or all CRO strategies is testing. This means that clear tracking and accurate evaluation of data is going to be important when it comes to deciding what CRO tests are winners and losers. But just because you’re dealing with a large amount of quantitative data, doesn’t mean you can ignore the qualitative side of things.
Make sure you aren’t getting lost in the metrics and forgetting to consider the human side of your landing page. After all, your ad campaigns are trying to reach real humans in the end. So you want to make sure your landing page is approachable, casual, and personal.
In their CTA master guide, Moz calls this quantitative-qualitative distinction the difference between the “what” and the “why.”
Some examples of “what” or quantitative data:
- what page users converted on
- what page users came from
- what ad users clicked on to reach landing page
- what device was used to convert
- what demographic was the user, interests, etc…
Some examples of “why” or qualitative data:
- why was the user looking for your service/product
- did the user original decide to visit your site
- why did the user engage with your content
- why did the user choose your brand specifically
Keep in mind that a real CRO expert will blend both these types of data to think of new implementation ideas. You want to make sure you can trust the results of the tests you run. But in the end you’ll need a humanized and creative approach to think of new tests to run that will engage your user base and increase conversions.
Measuring CRO Success
When measuring the success of your CRO efforts, regardless of tracing wins or losses, it’s vital that you establish a baseline before launching your test. It’s also very important that you identify which metrics and KPIs you’ll be tracking beforehand.
This will help you avoid blind optimization. Blind optimization is when you’re optimizing your landing page and search campaigns for the wrong metrics (or worse, no metrics at all).
Getting distracted and taken off course optimization-wise because you were chasing vanity metrics the whole time can cost time, money, and resources.
That’s the risk of blind optimization…
So take your time to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row before you dive into any CRO test. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast, after all.
Pro Tip: Take Care Of Low Hanging Fruit First
Here’s a little Pro Tip we like to follow at KlientBoost:
Tackle the low hanging fruit first.
Why is that? Simple. CRO is all about optimizing the performance of your campaigns to generate more revenue. The sooner you can increase that revenue generation, the sooner you’re growing your ROAS.
So instead of going hunting for the most difficult CRO fixes you can, take the easy layups first. These easy wins will stack up and as you continue to accrue a higher and higher ROAS, you can begin to focus on the more advanced, time-consuming CRO implementations you want to test.
I think Dwight was one to something, you guys… – image source
Focus on the tests that are most likely to move the needle first. Then work your way down to the more nuanced and impressive tests to start scraping the barrel for every conversion you can get.
Why You Can’t Ignore Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
In the end a single reason alone proves why you can’t afford to ignore conversion rate optimization (CRO). And that fact is that if you do ignore it, you’re paying for traffic that is simply clicking on your ads and failing to convert.
You’re paying for users that won’t generate value to your company; traffic that is only increasing your bounce rates.
If you want to start moving past vanity metrics and simple PPC performance, it’s time you take a look at CRO. It truly and simply is where you take the traffic you’ve paid for, and start to make your money back.
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