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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Sep 13, 2017 13 min read

Conversion Rate Optimization 101: How To Start A CRO Project

Driving Leads, Sales Opportunities And Revenue Is An Outcome You Should Expect

Conversion Rate Optimization ResultsYou’re getting nice increases in visitors to your website, but your website is only producing a steady 1% site-wide conversion rate. That’s not horrible, but it’s definitely on the low side of average. Average site-wide conversion rates run between 1% and 3%, with top-performing sites doing upward of 8% to 9% across all pages.

If leads, sales opportunities and revenue are goals of your program (and they should be), ratcheting up your website conversion rate with a conversion rate optimization (CRO) project should be at the top of your to-do list. In essence, you’re taking a company asset (your website) and the visitors coming to your website, and you’re optimizing the performance to produce more revenue.

However, CRO projects are tricky, and if you go into one without experience, a plan and a solid strategy, you could find yourself spinning your wheels and wasting both time and money.

Here’s what you need to consider when ramping up a CRO project at your company.

Watch Best Practices Carefully

Marketers are always looking for the shortcut, fast start and easy button. People who sell products and services to marketers are aware of this, so be on the lookout for templates, designs and preconfigured stuff that allegedly include best practices. As this article from the Optimizely blog states, beware of best practices. There aren’t many consistently similar elements that work for every site page every time.

While best practices might seem great on the surface, you’d be better off knowing what works well for your site, with your visitors, in your industry and with your content, instead of trying to steal what others say works well out of context to your specific situation. There is no magic. The lift occurs when you create structured testing environments to evaluate changes to your pages and then take advantage of upgrades as they prove to be valuable in your site environment.

Use An Optimization Methodology

You can build your own optimization methodology or borrow one from the experts. This is different than page design best practices. Methodologies also tend to be adjusted over time to fit your specific needs, so while it might start as a launching point, it should evolve over time.

ConversionXL has an article that shares the lift model, which has become the industry’s most popular conversion optimization framework, and is the central point for understanding and categorizing all of the data you’ve gathered. It shows the six conversion factors that are influencing your ability to convert right now: value proposition, clarity, relevance, anxiety, distraction and urgency. If you evaluate each of these factors properly, you’ll come away with a bunch of insights that can then be validated.

New Call-to-actionValue proposition is more about the copy on the site and its ability to clearly and quickly get the story across to a visitor around how you’re going to help them. What are you going to do for them? This is a marketing exercise, a messaging deliverable and usually a copy design project.

Clarity has to do with the time it takes to get your point across. You might have only 10 seconds, so if you’re not clear on the page, expect no conversion.

Relevance has to do with the relationship between what visitors want and what youre offering them on the page. The better the match, the higher the conversion, the more leads and the more sales opportunities.

Anxiety impacts someone’s desire to share their contact info with your company. If they’re nervous that you’ll spam them, sell their info or start an aggressive sales campaign, expect no conversion. If the site page is poorly designed and the visitor feels like the company might not be as professional as they’d like, expect no conversion. There is a lot of psychological impact in this area. They key is to remove as much anxiety as possible from the page experiences.

Distraction means you might have too much going on. Too much copy, copy that is too long, too many fields on your form or too many images. Headers and social media icons are usually highly distracting, and both work against your goal for the page by giving visitors the opportunity to leave instead of convert. Limit the distractions and watch conversions increase.

Finally, urgency deals with the availability of the offers. If it’s a limited-time offer, if the event has only limited seats, if the office is changing soon or if there’s an element of scarcity, this almost always causes people to make moves to make sure they don’t get left out. Again, the psychology of the visitor should be front and center in your CRO action plan.

Build A Backlog Of Upgrades

Conversion rate optimization ideasAt Square 2 Marketing, one of the ways we handle ideation and planning for optimization work is with a tactic backlog, or in the case of a CRO program, we build a backlog of optimization tasks and optimization experiments.

The idea of a backlog comes from our experience with Agile marketing and how we deliver services to clients. In short, we’re never finished marketing for clients, so our backlog is constantly replenished with new ideas, ideas that work and other items that need our attention. We groom the backlog monthly and pull down work monthly, too.

You want to apply the same thinking to your optimization backlog. Add ideas, tests, experiments and suggestions to the backlog on an ongoing basis. As you execute, pull these tests out and replace them with new ideas or variations on ideas that worked. Some of your experiments will produce lift, while others will fail. Regardless, as you groom your backlog you might eliminate ideas that don’t seem great today but made sense when you added them, and as you groom the backlog you can also add new ideas for consideration.

Prioritize Based On Expected Lift

With all of these ideas, tests and experiments in the backlog, how do you decide what to work on and what to wait on? Quite simply, grab the prioritization methodology from Agile. We use a “what’s going to drive the biggest impact for the least amount of effort?” approach. Again, we use the same approach with client deliverables, and it also works on an optimization program.

Some of your ideas won’t require much work at all. For example, we’ve found that sometimes swapping the sub-headline on a landing page with the main headline produces a nice lift. This takes minutes, but it can have a 20% to 30% impact on page conversion rate. You can get a lot of little tests like this into your plan for the next 30 days and make a big impact.

As a comparison, let’s say one of your ideas is to rebuild the overall template design. This is going to take a bigger effort and the results are a little unknown. This might get prioritized but not before some of those ideas that produce a big lift for little effort. Usually, you end up with a nice mix of easy-to-implement big-lift ideas and a handful of harder-to-implement big-lift ideas. Together, you get a good mix of improvements that drive results up month over month.

Set Goals, Track Weekly And Expect Results

CRO projects are really all about testing, experiments, setting goals and then working to see if you can hit or exceed those goals. This all starts with knowing your numbers. Besides the site-wide conversion rate, you need to know which pages are highly trafficked pages and you need to know the conversion rates for those pages. These pages are always great pages to start your CRO project with because they’ll produce big results early.

Tracking and testing is pretty straightforward, but you also have to set goals. You won’t know if you’re making progress if you don’t know where you want to be. Do you need your site-wide conversion rate to be 10%? Do you need it to be 5%? It’s going to depend. If you have pages that are converting at 20%, do you need them to be at 50% or 70%? More is not always better, and sometimes your page metrics on conversion might top out. In that case, putting more effort into the page won’t produce better results, and you’ll be neglecting other pages as opportunities. Look at all of your pages as a portfolio and invest time wisely.

Conversion rate optimization and inbound marketing optimization in general is one of those areas that most people ignore. Instead, they opt to create more content, more pages, more offers, more posts and more assets. Optimizing the assets you currently have is almost always smarter, produces better results and produces them much quicker.

Most of our engagements include conversion rate optimization as an ongoing component, and if you’re looking for an agency to help you generate new revenue, make sure you ask about this, whether you told them you wanted it or not. The better agencies will offer it because they know it’s the right advice.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.