Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) As We Practice it
Conversion rate optimization (also called CRO) is a massive subject in the field of digital marketing. In some ways, almost everything we do as marketers can be tied back to the goal of improving conversions. That's why it's so challenging to speak about CRO in a practical, relevant way, since the practice can be drastically different from one company to another. What works to improve one organization's conversions may completely fail at moving the needle for another company.
So instead of speaking in high-level generalizations about what you could do with conversion rate optimization, we want to pull back the curtain on our own approach to CRO to talk specifically about how we approach this huge task. Let's dive in.
We Begin By Investigating the Conversion Points Across the Entire Funnel
Before you can optimize your conversion rate, determine where conversions are happening. After all, you can't optimize something if you don't understand what it is. We typically see three broad categories of conversion points, though there may be more:
How Effectively Are We Converting Anonymous Website Visits into Identified Contacts or Qualified Leads
One of the most difficult tasks in all of marketing is converting a complete stranger who visits your website into an identified contact, and hopefully, a qualified lead. The companies and marketers who can do this well are typically the ones who enjoy the most success in digital marketing. Conversely, this is also where we usually see companies struggle the most.
How Effectively Are We Converting Contacts into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL’s)
When we speak about converting a stranger to a contact, and a contact to a Marketing Qualified Lead, we typically mean the process of getting unidentified website visitors to identify themselves, and identified contacts to provide us with a bit more qualifying information. The top of your funnel contains strangers who are just coming across your site; once they agree to give you their contact information, they take a step deeper into the funnel.
How Effectively Are We Converting MQL’s into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL’s)
The difference between an MQL and an SQL is a subtle but important one. MQL stands for a marketing qualified lead. This is a lead that has shown an interest in your products or services, but has not been vetted as they relate to becoming a qualified opportunity for sales. An example here is someone who has filled out a contact form on your site to give you their name, email address and phone number. You know they have some interest in what you have to offer, because they have willingly given you their information - but there's no way to tell if they are a qualified prospect. They might be someone who is interested in your offering but doesn't have the budget or authority to make a purchase.
Now, if that same person who filled out a contact form speaks to a sales rep and gives them a budget and timeline for a purchase that fits your ideal buyer persona, they become an SQL. They've now been qualified by sales and are at least qualified to buy when the time is right.
Progression from MOFU to BOFU
This progression is sometimes referred to as movement from the middle of the funnel (MOFU) to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU). An MQL is said to be in the middle of the funnel (MOFU). Once it's been determined that they are a qualified prospect with the budget, authority, need, and timeline (sometimes referred to with the acronym BANT), they move down to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).
Once a Baseline is Set - Identify the Areas to Impact Most Easily
Even small companies engaging in digital marketing efforts tend to have many different conversion points. Even after identifying all of them in the steps above, it's difficult to know where to start. That's why we spend time picking which point makes sense to start focusing on.
The Importance Of Finding The Best Opportunities First
It's easy to want to improve every conversion point all at once. But launching a CRO initiative to improve every single conversion point at the same time is a little like trying to push a hole in a piece of paper using all ten fingers - not very effective. Instead, it's best to focus your finite resources on one specific point - like creating a hole in a sheet of paper by putting all your strength into your index finger. The key to this step is finding easy wins. You want to look for the conversion points that can be improved the quickest, with the least amount of effort.
Examine the Data for the First Set of Opportunities to Address
After we identify the specific points of conversion that need to be improved, the next step is to look into the data. Information is power when it comes to marketing, and interpreting data is one of the best ways for marketers to glean information about prospect behavior.
We Utilise Existing Analytics While Also Setting Up Additional Analytics
Most companies are already using a common tool for data like Google Analytics. We help our clients dig a bit deeper into the information they are already collecting by understanding current user flow with Google's existing categories and functionality.
Understanding Current User Flow Using Google Analytics
Google Analytics can tell us where visitors are entering the site, where they are leaving the site and the content they consume and the paths taken during their visits. By understanding these metrics we can strategically place conversion points, aligned with each buyer persona’s buyer’s journey stages.
Digging Deeper Into The User Journey By Using Attribution Software
Attribution software allows you to take data analysis to the next level. With these tools, you can determine exactly where a user comes from, down to the specific ad, link, or social media profile they visited you from.
Introduction Of Heat Mapping, Scroll Mapping And Other User Data
The most sophisticated level of analytics not only tells you where a user came from, it can actually determine what actions a user took on a specific page. These tools can map the parts of your landing page or homepage that get the most clicks, how long users stay on the page, and even how far down the page an average user scrolls.
The Next Step Is For Us To Assess The Available Data We Have Been Collecting
Now that all the data is in place, we have to determine what it all means. We typically divide this part up into 3 areas:
We Look For Areas Within The Conversion Path That Appear To Be ‘Blocking’
This defines the sticking points in your conversion path, or places that are "blocked." There is something stopping people from continuing on to the next step in conversion.
We Look For Areas Within The Conversion Path That Appear To Be ‘Assisting’
This is the opposite of blocking - here we identify the places in your conversion path that are frequently helping visitors to your website continue on to converting.
We Look For Areas Where The Website Appears To Be Not Well Optimized
Some parts of your site may be able to turn into assist points with some slight tweaking. We run into these more frequently than any others. Here are a few examples.
Inconsistent Page Loading Appearance
Something as simple as a visual element that doesn't load properly is enough to throw people off and make them leave your site.
Form Fields Which Stop People In Their Tracks
If there is a form field that contains a confusing question or one that is worded in a strange way, it may throw people off and cause them to leave.
Conversion Paths That Require Too Many Individual Actions
Everyone wants to take the path of least resistance, especially when it comes to giving marketers their information. If you are asking for too much information, or your conversion path has too many steps, people will get tired and simply bounce from the page.
After Understanding All Areas That Should Be Adjusted - The Real Work Begins
This is when the real work of conversion rate optimization begins. You probably noticed how much time is spent gathering information - it's because we want to make sure that every minute spent improving your marketing is not wasted, and is actually effective at helping your conversions.
Assessment Leads Towards A Strategy For How We Can Alter The Conversion Path
Once we have completed our assessment, we'll come up with a hypothesis for how we can improve your conversion rates. This typically stems from our experience - even across industries and company sizes, digital marketers tend to experience problems in the same few places.
We Create A Hypothesis Of How We May Adjust This For The Better
Based on the data we’ve collected, the performance we realistically should desire and the delta between the two, we will examine those changes we are prepared to make and hypothesize as to the increase in conversion rate we would expect to see from these changes. This becomes our SMART Goal. A specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goal.
We Execute The Changes And Make An Annotation Of When The Change Occured
As we implement changes, we are careful to make thorough records so we can note what was changed and when it was changed, which is important for comparing data gathered before and after the change.
When It Is Unclear Which Hypothesis May Work Best We Run A/B Or Single Variant Tests
Sometimes, there are multiple factors preventing you from gaining more conversions, or it's tough to tell exactly which factor is giving you conversion trouble. When this happens, we will run A/B or single variant tests. This helps us determine which areas will give us the most bang for the buck when it comes to improving conversions.
Once We Have Collected Adequate Data We Deem The Test Either Successful Or Unsuccessful
After we've spent enough time reviewing the data, we'll decide if an A/B test was successful or unsuccessful based on the outcomes compared to our hypothesis.
Successful Tests Become the New Normal
If a test works at improving your conversion rate, it means we have successfully made your marketing better! We will incorporate it into your normal conversion path.
Unsuccessful Tests are Returned to the ‘Drawing Board’
If a test doesn't work, or doesn’t delivered the results we had desired, we'll scrap it. However, we will still keep it in our list of potential changes (on the "drawing board"), as the test may be applicable for another campaign or conversion point.
CRO Across The Full Marketing Funnel Is A Never Ending Process
Marketers are never really finished improving their conversion rates. Even if you are already running a successful campaign, there is always room to get conversion rates higher. Our challenge as marketers is twofold - first, finding the areas of CRO that will give us the best results from the areas easiest to optimize. Second, identifying the areas in which tests will best serve the broader goals of the business as a whole.
If you are interested in learning more about our process for conversion rate optimization, or you have questions about how we can help you with your CRO needs, contact us today.