Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is one of the most important marketing strategies for modern brands. If you’re looking to make the most of your traffic and maximize ROI, then optimize conversion rate is the obvious place to start.
It also sounds like a good deal. Run a few tests and watch the conversion rate rise, magically transforming your business into a more profitable venture without paying for additional traffic - at least, that's how CRO is typically sold.
Follow the tried and tested CRO best practices and everything will be fine.
Except that best practices don't always work, and there are numerous examples of how widely accepted CRO principles can actually harm your conversion rate and other KPIs.
I. Conversion Rate Optimization And Why It Matters
CRO stands for conversion rate optimization, and it refers to the enhancement of actions on your website that should result in—you guessed it—more conversions.
While a financial transaction is the most obvious conversion, the simple act of moving a visitor to the next step of the sales funnel or acquiring visitor contact information also qualifies as a site's conversion rate. The true definition is based on what you consider to be a worthwhile action.
In a nutshell, conversion rate optimization refers to increasing the likelihood that your target audience will take any action you want them to take.
The Importance of CRO Best Practices
You can assess your current conversion rates to gain a better understanding of performance, whether you want more get-to-know-you form fills or more purchases from your store.
From there, you can optimize these optimization efforts to ensure that your site visitors are ready to take the next step.
II. CRO Best Practices
1. Make Changes Based on Data, Not Gut Feelings
While it may be tempting to simply evaluate site performance through your own internal lens, you'll want to leave it to the experts to identify what isn't working. Furthermore, ensure that your data is of high quality—according to Gartner, poor-quality data costs businesses $15 million a year.
To find high-quality data, rely on insights from services like Google Analytics, which provide an actionable, real-time view of site behavior.
Let's take a look at a few metrics you can track in Google Analytics (and how to find them in your account) to identify conversion optimization opportunities.
The bounce rate of your website can reveal a lot about it. By identifying when, where, and why website visitors leave your site, you can optimize existing content and assets to persuade them to stay rather than leave.
A high bounce rate, defined as more than 56%, indicates that you should investigate further. According to Semrush, a good bounce rate is between 26 and 40%.
You can determine whether a specific conversion funnel was ever successful by gaining a historical view of your conversions, allowing you to recreate it immediately.
Simply go to your Google Analytics console and select Behavior > Site Content > All Pages to see your overall and per-page bounce rate.
What will you do with this information? Examine the top pages and strive to improve the content by:
- answering the main question right away
- testing new headlines
- adding new keywords
- including more images
- covering more points to make it longer
- adding step-by-step instructions
- adding videos
Exit pages are the last pages that website visitors see before leaving. By identifying these pages, you can determine whether there is a broken experience or another factor influencing a visitor's decision to leave.
To find out which pages are your exit pages, go to your Google Analytics console and navigate to Behavior > Site Pages > Exit Pages.
Once you have that information, aim to improve the content on those pages by following the steps outlined in the previous section. To keep them on your website, consider adding more internal links and a CTA.
Cost Per Conversion
According to WordStream, the average cost per conversion for search ads is 4.4 percent and 0.57 percent for display ads. Do your conversions meet the standard?
If you have conversion tracking enabled in your Google Analytics account, you can see how much each conversion costs.
You can use this metric to determine whether your paid marketing efforts are worthwhile. If they aren't, you can adjust your goals to reflect what this metric indicates.
If you've enabled conversion tracking, you'll find this metric in the conversions column.
If your conversion rate is high, you should examine your traffic sources and whether you're covering the entire marketing funnel.
2. Reduce Friction to Increase Conversion Rate
This is most likely the most prevalent misconception about CRO strategy, as well as one of the most widely accepted "best practices." Essentially, the theory is that the easier it is for people to convert, the more likely they are to do so. While this is generally a good principle to follow in UX design, there are some situations where friction is actually beneficial to conversions.
Consider this: landing pages themselves add friction between visiting a website and completing a conversion. All of that text, images, scrolling, CTAs, and button clicking adds to the amount of work users must do in order to complete an action.
Remove all friction from any page, and you're left with a blank screen with only a form on it - but that's not going to convert.
The trick is to understand when and how to use friction to your advantage. Exit-intent pop-ups, for example, have been shown to increase conversion rates from traffic that would otherwise leave. Live chat widgets also disrupt the user experience, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing if they help users find what they're looking for. Similarly, requiring users to sign up for your newsletter or create an account adds friction but allows you to follow up with leads with more relevant messages.
Alternatively, as demonstrated in this VWO case study, adding a page and increasing the number of clicks required to complete an action can actually increase conversions by 60%.
So, rather than trying to reduce friction everywhere you see it, learn how to use it. It's actually a powerful tool for not only increasing conversions in specific situations, but also for improving conversions' quality - something that far too many CRO strategies overlook.
3. Make Use of Shopify Themes and Shopify Apps
The best Shopify themes help you create a store that doesn’t just look nice, but is also effective in helping you convert more visitors into customers and meet your business goals.
It’s really important to make a great impression on your customers whenever they visit your website. Indeed, businesses always try to create a dazzling design that can improve the user experience for creating eCommerce conversions. Choosing the best Shopify themes for the website contributes to success.
Being one of the most prominent eCommerce platforms, Shopify offers its users 76 nicely-designed themes on the Shopify Theme Store. And one of the top Shopify themes that must be mentioned is Be Yours, the first OS 2.0 theme approved on the Shopify Themes Store, which creates super fast responsive websites with an adaptable layout, site-wide cross-selling sections, and media-optimized product pages.
Shopify provides store owners with over 3800 apps to help them improve their performance. They all claim to increase sales and help businesses grow, but not all of them work. So, how do you know which apps to avoid and which will increase your Shopify conversion rate?
Most conversion rate apps can be grouped into a few categories. Here we have chosen one best performing Shopify app from each category below:
1. Page Features: these plugins add a widget or button to your product pages Recommended app: Fast Checkout is a page feature plugin that lets you remove a step from the conversion funnel.
2. Pop-ups: these apps create sales notifications, cross-selling links or email pop-ups Recommended app: Candy Rack, an effective tool to increase the average order value of your customers using cross-selling and up-selling techniques.
3. Social Proof Apps: by showing recent views or sales, these apps increase customer engagement
Recommended app: Nudgify, a Social Proof App that shows your customers things that are usually invisible when shopping online.
4. Landing Page builders: drag-and-drop builders to create high-converting pages Recommended app: PageFly is the most popular landing page builder on Shopify. With a simple design interface, anyone can create high-converting landing pages for their Shopify store. And don’t forget to apply this discount coupon to get the best deal.
5. Email Marketing: email automation to improve customer retention and reduce abandonment Recommended app: Campaign Monitor presents itself as an email marketing platform, but it also provides features you would expect from an all-in-one conversion rate app.
6. Customer Loyalty Apps: point-based gamification to increase customer engagement Recommended app: Smile creates rewards and loyalty schemes that are tailored to your industry, size and business model.
4. Make Your Web Forms Shorter
Unfortunately, numerous tests have shown that shorter forms reduce conversion rates and lead quality in a variety of situations, and making every form as short as possible is a bad idea.
The conversion rates were increased up to 743% at Venture Harbour by using multi-step forms that can ask more questions, collect more data, and improve lead quality without negatively impacting the user experience.
More importantly, these multi-step forms are at the heart of some of our most effective lead generation strategies. For example, in order to score and segment leads, we ask users more questions about what they demand from us. This process helps to determine which of these users are the most valuable to us as potential customers.
5. Place your CTA above the fold
This is another classic "best practice" that dates back to the days before mobile, when pages were primarily designed for desktop screens. People are accustomed to scrolling in the mobile age, and the notion that every page should have a CTA above the fold is outmoded.
Nowadays, almost every landing page includes a hero section with a background image, a tag line/slogan, and a CTA button.
Sure, this is a tried-and-true formula that works in many cases, but is your offer truly so compelling that one sentence and a background image will persuade people to click that button?
As seen above, Conga, a productivity tool, does not include a CTA in the main body of the page until well below the fold. This gives the company more room to explain its offer and differentiate its products in a crowded market before hitting users with a CTA button - if a "Explore all products" button can even be called a CTA.
Users reach the bottom of the page before being asked to fill out a form for their demo, despite the fact that the "Get a demo" CTA button is always present in the header for desktop users (this is hidden in the off-screen menu for mobile).
So, if you need more space to convey your message, don't be afraid to place CTAs below the fold. It all comes down to how much intent people have when they arrive on your page and how clear your offer's message is. Experiment with CTAs above and below the fold; you might be surprised by the results.
6. Check Out Your Competition, but Don’t Copy
While your competitors may appear to be your worst enemies at times, they can also be an incredible resource.
Investigate the websites of your top competitors to learn what is convincing your industry audience to convert.
While you don't want to copy their exact strategy, you do want to understand why they're so successful.
How to Assess Your Competitors’ Success
After you've identified a few factors that are influencing your competition's results, examine those metrics through your brand lens and apply your own filter.
From there, you can make changes to your own site that are consistent with your brand.
To learn more about your competitors' success, conduct an audit in three areas: content, SEO, and social media.
1. Content Audit
Content marketing accounts for 25 to 30 percent of the average company's budget. Are your efforts bearing fruit? The most effective way to find out is to conduct a content audit on your competitors.
Begin by conducting a content audit on their blog to determine what information they are providing to their audience. You can then compare their content strategy to your own, replicating successes and identifying areas where content gaps exist.
Here's how to conduct a content audit:
- Make a list of all of your assets and enter them into a spreadsheet.
- Examine your spreadsheet for duplicate or out-of-date information.
- Make a list of the content on your competitors' websites.
- Contrast the two. Do you have any gaps? Are you overlooking important topics?
2. SEO Audit
If you aren't seeing that ROI, it's time to investigate what your competitors are doing.
There are numerous tools available to help you research your competitors' keywords and strategies. Look to tools like Ubersuggest to help you plan your own reactive strategy to gain a more informed view of how their SEO strategy is performing.
The free version of this tool is an excellent way to get started with your SEO audit.
7. Get to Know Your Users
According to HubSpot, 42% of businesses do not listen to their customers. Do you?
Understanding your user behavior is more valuable than learning about their behavior.
If you only have a hazy idea of who visits your website, it's time to delve deeper. By creating buyer personas that correspond to your various visitors, you can better optimize your content and on-site experience to better meet the needs of your specific audience.
How to Build Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are profiles of your customers. While there are numerous methods for developing these identities, some simple strategies include:
- investigating customer feedback
- conducting polls or surveys through your various channels of outreach
- examining existing consumer data
- interviewing and conversing with customers and prospects
You can create a profile for your customers and gain a better understanding of their needs, wants, hopes, and desires for your product by collecting data from these four strategies.
8. Track CRO Strategies With Both A/B and Multivariate Testing
Don't limit yourself to one type of test when testing site elements. In fact, both A/B and multivariate tests can assist you in making data-driven decisions, but they serve very different purposes. When used together, you can test a variety of different elements on your site.
A/B testing is used on more than 77 percent of businesses' websites. If you are not one of them, you may be passing up conversions.
A/B testing, also known as a split test, allows you to directly compare different elements on two pages. This test is excellent for CTAs, headlines, copy, and images, and it can produce incredibly useful on-page results.
This test can be used to see how variations across multiple page sections or elements perform when combined. Multivariate testing identifies which elements have the greatest impact on audience engagement and can assist you in optimizing one-time page elements.
You can gain a better understanding of which optimization efforts will be successful by using both testing methods.
9. Add testimonials, social proof
Social proof, testimonials, and other trust factors are common components of modern landing pages designed to foster user-brand trust. Although almost every landing page guide will advise you to use these, they do not always result in higher conversion rates.
10. Have well-defined goals and specific hypotheses
Your experiment's goals and hypotheses should be supported by data from your qualitative and quantitative research. While experimenting, avoid the 'obvious improvements' and 'no brainer' assumption traps. You wouldn't know what you were testing, why you were testing, or how to interpret the results if you didn't have a clearly defined hypothesis. Your goals should pave the way for your conversion rate optimization journey to improve with each experiment.
11. Prioritize your CRO roadmap
Shoot-from-the-hip guesswork leads to random testing, which leads to low conversion rates. Without a proper roadmap, you will end up testing every other page every month, yielding inconclusive results. These results neither have a clear conclusion on the behavior of your visitors nor contribute to conversions.
For your experimentation efforts to be fruitful, you must plan ahead of time a prioritized CRO roadmap.
- Choose the more daring, impactful, and targeted tests first to reap the greatest rewards in the shortest amount of time.
- Prioritize simple-to-implement tests with a high financial impact.
Some best practices should always be followed, such as using high-contrast elements because the human eye struggles to see low-contrast elements. However, most of the "best practices" discussed in CRO discussions are anecdotal tactics that have worked in the past - not always, but often enough to gain traction.
Even if you've just finished optimizing certain areas of your site, making long-term improvements is a continuous process.
Keep an eye on how those optimizations progress. As your audience grows, you'll almost always need to update your conversion rate optimizations. You should also be cautious not to over-optimize your site.
As you continue to run tests, look for lessons other than winners and losers. One version of a landing page may convert far fewer visitors, but those visitors may have a higher lifetime value.