The ultimate step-by-step guide to CRO (conversion rate optimization)
The best part? It’s all low-hanging fruit that you can start implementing today.
It’s no secret that e-commerce is the present and future of business. It already accounts for more than 20% of global retail sales and is on track to grow to $6.5 trillion by 2023.
If you’re a big business, with millions of monthly website visitors and steady sales, you may think that as long as you’re meeting your business goals, then all is well.
But the truth is, you’re likely leaving huge amounts of money on the table, without even realizing it. And as competition in the e-commerce space grows more fierce, it’s not enough to just have a website that looks good. It needs to be effective and run like the high-performance revenue generation tool it is meant to be.
The good news is you don’t have to undertake an expensive, lengthy overhaul of your website. Small changes can have a huge impact. Not just any changes, of course. Strategic, data-informed changes that are optimized to drive conversions.
Yes, we’re talking about CRO, also known as conversion rate optimization. Let’s look at an example to see just how simple it is for high-traffic websites to unlock major profits with just a few optimizations.
How one optimization can generate over a million dollars of value
To really put this into perspective, let's crunch some numbers.
Let's say your website gets 500 daily orders. The average initial order is $65.
But let's say you also offer an upsell, worth $55.
Your current conversion rate for the upsell is 5%. Not bad. But not great. Your total daily upsell revenue is $1,375.
Now, if you bump up your conversion rate to 15% (which is totally doable), how much of an impact does that have on your daily revenue?
Well, it would triple your daily total upsells from 25 to 75. Pretty good. But what does that mean in terms of dollars and cents?
Your daily upsell revenue goes from $1,375 to $4,125 — a difference of $2,750 per day.
Over the course of a year, that’s over a million dollars of additional revenue. $1,003,750, to be exact. From one tweak to your website. All without spending a single advertising dollar.
Do you see why we call CRO a force multiplier, and why we’re so amped about it? When you understand the principles at work, and the potential it has to truly launch your venture to the next level, with so little effort, choosing to invest in CRO is really a no-brainer.
The basics of conversion rate optimization
Before we show you our step-by-step process for improving your website’s CRO, let’s back up and cover some basics. To start off with, we’ll offer some plain-language answers to common questions like “What is CRO?” and “What does CRO include?”
What is CRO?
Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is the process of improving your website’s ability to generate leads and get your visitors to take a desired action, whether it’s making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, scheduling a demo, or something else. All of these actions are the conversions you’re looking to optimize.
What is the purpose of CRO?
The purpose of CRO is simple: to maximize your website’s efficiency at doing what it was built to do. For most businesses, that means attracting quality leads, increasing revenue, and establishing and deepening relationships with prospects, all while minimizing costs.
What does CRO include?
CRO is more than just web design or user experience. It’s a process that involves a variety of purpose-driven enhancements. These can range from strategic copywriting and content creation to adding and moving web design elements to speeding up page load times. The impact of these enhancements are then tested and measured through data analytics to get concrete information about what works and what doesn’t.
Some of the most basic forms of CRO include:
- Enhancing page load times
Three seconds or less. That’s how much time you have before most of your site visitors will give up waiting for your web page to load and click away. So your site has to be a lean, clean, fast-loading machine to maximize conversions.
- Highlighting the benefits
After that, you only have another few seconds to make a big impression. Which means your website copy has to be all killer, no filler about how you solve pain points and improve life for your target audience.
- Building trust
Trust is huge in e-commerce, and the onus is on you to prove that your business is legit. A well-designed, professional-looking website with top-notch writing, curated fonts, and a snazzy color palette do a lot to inspire trust. So does social proof in the form of positive reviews and video testimonials.
- Having a clear call to action
It’s astounding how many websites focus on stunning visuals, but forget to tell visitors what they want them to do! Whether you want them to sign up for a newsletter, download a resource, register for a webinar, or some other next step, make it clear what you want them to do, with a prominent, can’t-miss-it call to action.
Why is CRO important?
If the million-dollar example above wasn’t enough to convince you of the importance of CRO, consider this: ALL of your digital marketing efforts and dollars hinge on CRO.
How so? Everything else — your blog strategy, your social media presence, your paid ads, your search engine ranking — is designed to drive traffic to your website. But if your website loads slowly, doesn’t highlight the benefits, lacks a clear call to action, and doesn’t build trust? Then a great many of those hard-won visitors will simply click away and never return. All of that effort, wasted.
Put another way, advertising, SEO, and all the rest is gathering hay. Bad CRO torches it. Good CRO alchemizes it into gold.
How to improve your website’s CRO: A step-by-step guide
Now, onto the good stuff. Your step-by-step action plan for using CRO to grab every single conversion you can.
It’s simple, really. And just like with any strategy, it begins with defining your goal.
1. Define your goal
What do you want your website visitors to do? It’s a basic question, and the answer will influence every decision in your CRO strategy. Common ones include:
- Increasing registrations or account creations
- Increasing payment transactions
- Increasing newsletter signups
- Increasing app downloads
2. Audit your website
With your goal in mind, it’s time to evaluate how well your website is set up to achieve this goal and whether an opportunity to do some CRO work exists.
Start by looking at the high-impact areas of your website, like the hero section and other above-the-fold content. Use your knowledge of good web design (as well as your gut instinct) to identify anything that doesn’t look right or function well. Navigate the website as an average user would, using your eyes and fingers to identify glaring issues. You’d be surprised at how many missed opportunities will become apparent now that you’re looking for them. For example, you might consider:
- Is the newsletter visible?
- Is the headline benefit-focused?
- Is the call to action clear and easy to see?
- Do the font and color choices align with the brand standards?
It also helps to review the competition and see how they have their website set up. This is not an invitation to copy or imitate their approach, but rather a way to explore new ideas and gather inspiration.
Use the information you’ve collected in this initial audit to devise a short list of high-impact items you can improve with CRO.
3. Look at your data
Remember that while CRO is something of an art, it’s actually much more of a science.
Every decision is backed by data, so it’s crucial that you have your analytics set up properly. Take the time to review your Google Analytics to ensure that it’s configured correctly (very often, it’s not). Your analytics should allow you to establish a baseline conversion rate and provide insight into what point in the funnel your customers are dropping off. If paid advertising is part of your strategy, it’s a good idea to assess your conversion rate by channel.
Then, look at what the data says. This is your source for understanding your website users and what motivates them as well as identifying the high-impact areas of your website, such as:
- Top converting pages
- High traffic but low converting pages (e.g., homepage, login pages, landing pages)
- High converting pages with low traffic
- Any pages or assets serving as common assisted conversion touchpoints
With accurate data, you should be able to answer the following questions without breaking a sweat:
- What are the drivers that bring people to the website? Are most users arriving by way of mobile, tablet, or desktop? Are users arriving through search, social media, direct, or other websites?
- What are the barriers that might stop them or make them leave?
- What are the hooks that persuade them to convert?
- How does the behavior of new users differ from repeat visitors?
- Is there demographic data that might be impacting conversions?
If you can’t answer these questions clearly, it’s a clear sign that you need more information. Consider creating a campaign to gather feedback about what brought users to the website, what hesitations they had during the customer journey, and what ultimately caused them to make a purchase or not. It’s also good to solicit feedback on how satisfied the user is with the product.
A few simple ideas for feedback gathering include:
- Running an email campaign targeted at users who made a purchase in the last 90 days
- Creating a form and posting it on your social media channels
- Writing a blog post to elicit feedback
- Including a survey in the customer welcome email
4. Design and test
With your data insights driving the way forward, now you can start the “test and learn” phase of CRO. Once you’ve decided which website elements you’d like to experiment with, the next step is to set up A/B testing.
A/B testing is the bread and butter of the CRO world and a critical part of evaluating its effectiveness. It allows you to split your audience and test multiple versions of the same web page. This way, you can test changes to copy, images, object placement, and other factors to pinpoint which ones drive conversions and which ones deter them.
In general, once your test goes live, you’ll want to evaluate the results of day one, just to make sure everything is tracking properly. After that, check in at the one-week mark to gather your initial results and then again at two weeks. This should be enough time to establish statistically significant results and get a sense of what optimizations are succeeding and which ones need further testing.
Winning CRO Strategies: Blogs
Now that we’ve covered the basic step-by-step process for improving CRO, let’s drill down into some of the areas of your website that can benefit the most from it. Like your blog.
An optimized blog section with a strong article template is one of the most powerful ways to affect your organic ranking and lead interested users further down the funnel. Putting effort in here will yield major dividends in terms of driving traffic, building authority and topical relevance, and making your business accessible to users at different digital touchpoints along the path to conversion.
But not just any old blog format will produce these kinds of outcomes. You’ll want to create clusters of category pages that have relevant schema markup, which will help search engines better understand the page content so they can rank it accordingly.
Then there’s the matter of content. Consider including the following conversion-driven elements to increase the impact of your blog posts:
- Calls-to-action (CTAs)
CTAs are a must in your blog articles, and placement matters. End-of-article CTAs benefit from user intent being stronger at the end of the article. However, mid-article CTAs have a higher exposure rate. Sticky-nav CTAs offer the best of both worlds, since they sit right at the sweet spot of high exposure rate and user intent.
- Quiz flows
Everyone loves a good quiz, so these types of blog articles are a great way to get users into the checkout flow when user intent is high. Just make sure to build a quiz flow that’s relevant to the article topic to ensure maximum impact.
- Play buttons on videos
That little play button is a perfect example of how one small detail has a huge impact on user behavior. When it’s there, a much higher percentage of users will start watching the video than if it were absent.
Weaving your products into your blog posts so visitors can add them directly to their cart is a simple and effective way to improve conversions.
Winning CRO Strategies: Listicles
You know what’s even better than blogs in terms of CRO? Listicle pages. These list-based articles feature a collection of products and reliably outperform both the browse function and articles in terms of traffic and conversions.
Much like category pages, listicle pages present a higher level of purchase intent. Which means they are prime territory for turning website visitors into paying customers. But they do function better in certain contexts than others. To be specific, listicles work best for established e-commerce businesses with a large amount of inventory and where the listicle items can be internal links that direct traffic back into other pages on the website.
There are also some best practices to keep in mind when crafting listicle pages to ensure they get the most bang for their buck:
- Choose the right products to include
Highly rated products, top-selling products, and featured products are best for listicles, since they’ve already got social proof and sufficient stock working in their favor. For the same reason, seasonal or temporary products, poorly reviewed products, and out-of-stock products are no-gos for listicles.
- Use an effective page template
A good listicle reads well and is structured strategically. It should open with well-crafted intro copy, include anchor links to each product, provide full information on the products (such as image, name, description, price, and rating), have unique URL structure, and include a number in the title tag.
And that’s really it! With these time-tested processes, you can start unlocking the full potential of your website to maximize conversions and skyrocket your revenue. Remember, small changes can produce big results, so with a discerning eye and a good grasp of data, the sky’s the limit.
Get expert help with your conversion rate optimization
If you’ve read through our ultimate guide to CRO and decided that you’d rather leave your website in the hands of experts, we’re here to help. With hundreds of website projects under our belts, Ebda Agency has perfected our process and can deliver fast, effective CRO results that have the potential to transform your business.
Get in touch to explore our packages or plan a custom project.
Mustafa is a creative director specializing in UI, UX, Product, and Webflow Design. He has experience designing for Fortune 500 Companies, Silicon Valley tech, small startups, multi-billion dollar organizations, and everyone in between. Mustafa believes a good design can be so invisible and yet revolutionary to the world.