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In an ideal world your website will be your company’s most effective salesperson – one that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ‘converts’ a good percentage of site visitors.

While the most obvious example of a conversion is a purchase, a website visitor can also ‘convert’ whenever they take a desired action, like clicking a particular link or offering up their contact information.

The ability to convert website visitors is measured using the simple ‘conversion rate’ metric – the percentage of visitors that take a desired action. The number that represents a ‘good percentage’ can vary dramatically across different businesses, industries and web pages, but an idea can be gained from looking at average figures.

According to this study, the average conversion rate across all landing pages is approximately 2.35%. Amongst the top quartile, it rises to 5.31%, while the top 10% of websites convert at an average rate of 11.45%.

How do you get into that 90th percentile, and convert at almost five times the rate of the average web page? Today we’ll look at seven of the most critical conversion rate optimisation best practices, to understand how you can turn your website into a sales and lead generation machine.

What is conversion rate optimisation (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the practice of maximising the effectiveness of your website. The approach encompasses a suite of tactics and strategies that ultimately encourage customers to take desired actions. The objective is to improve the likelihood of a customer doing what you want them to do.

A lot of the time the desired action will be a purchase – pushing that shopping cart all the way through to a transaction on your online store. Other times it will be about generating leads by getting the visitor to leave their contact details. It can even be as simple as getting a visitor to click through to a specific web page to build brand awareness.

No matter what a ‘conversion’ looks like to you, you’ll want more of them. CRO is the art of increasing the chances of a customer following your preferred path.

Why is conversion rate optimisation important?

Why worry about conversion rate optimisation in the first place? Put simply, when done well, it is one of the most efficient and effective ways to improve your business’s bottom line.

The importance of CRO is laid bare when you look at the numbers. Let’s say you define conversion as a website visitor making a purchase. Let’s also say that your current conversion rate sits right on that average of 2.35%.

After employing a number of CRO tactics and strategies, in line with CRO best practices, you manage to significantly improve your conversion rate, to the point that you now sit in the 75th percentile mentioned above, converting at a rate of 5.31%. This means that you are now making 2.26x more sales than you were before, and these sales are being made without any extra input from you and your team.

You’ve more than doubled your web sales revenue, and you’ve got your website doing the hard work for you. Such is the power of CRO.

7 CRO best practices to grow your business online

The what and the why of conversion rate optimisation are compelling. So let’s move to the how.

CRO is a diverse, complex and in some ways abstract subject. The exact look of CRO will vary from industry to industry, business to business, web page to web page. It’s therefore important to put guidelines in place that ensure you do things in the right way and direct your energies to where they’re needed most.

You need conversion rate optimisation best practices. So here are seven of the most important.

1. Define your objectives

What do you want to achieve with your CRO efforts? It’s easy to say ‘increase website conversion rates’. It’s far harder to make these objectives SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Your main objective shouldn’t simply be to increase your website conversions. It should be to increase your conversion rate by a specific percentage in a specific period of time. This primary long-term goal should then be supplemented by a set of secondary short-term goals that form stepping stones to the main prize.

Let’s say you want to double your overall conversion rate, from 2.5% to 5%, over the next six months. You should then break down the ultimate goal into smaller, more achievable steps. To increase overall conversions you’ll need to test unique strategies for each web page. You’ll need to gain an understanding of your customers and where you sit in the market. You’ll need to create compelling on-page content.

Aim to take small but meaningful steps toward your main goal every few days or weeks. This type of goal-setting ensures you keep up the momentum, and makes it far more likely that your ultimate objective will be achieved.

2. Understand your competition

Who are your major online competitors? Which online brands are competing for the attention of your customers? How do they win that attention? If you work to identify your main competition, then explore their sites to understand their strengths and weaknesses of the user experience, you might be surprised at what you find.

In terms of CRO, your biggest competition can also be your biggest inspiration… though that inspiration cannot turn into duplication. If you replicate every aspect of a competitor’s strategy, you’ll turn yourself into a poor facsimile. You won’t give a customer any reason to choose you.

Instead, you should work to identify the things that your competitors are doing well, then look to put your own spin on them. Perhaps they are amazing at offering up helpful information to their customers via regular blog posts. Maybe they are incredible at social media, and have built a large and engaged following. They might be using clever search engine optimisation to outrank you on Google, and be enjoying far more organic traffic because of it.

Once you understand how your competitors attract and convert customers, put your own spin on their most successful methods.

3. Understand your customers

Arguably more important than understanding your competitors is understanding your customers. Effective conversion rate optimisation is about identifying the mechanics of desire. It’s about listening to what your customers actually want, then acting on that information.

Let’s say you want to generate more leads. A landing page that simply asks for a user’s email will never be effective. You need to give your customers a good reason to hand over their contact information. What do they get in return for their details? The only way to answer that question is to listen to what your target audience is saying.

Perhaps they would find some form of downloadable content useful, like a how-to or instructional guide. Maybe they’re looking for entertainment rather than education, and will subscribe to a monthly newsletter or mail-out for the memes. They might choose to become a member or subscriber in return for loyalty discounts and rewards.

How do you convert your website visitors? Don’t ask us – ask them!

4. Develop a systematic approach

All businesses are looking for that one simple trick that instantly increases conversions ten-fold – changing the background colour, rewriting the CTA, moving the button. But such hacks are rarely effective, not least because no two CRO situations are ever the same. The annoying but understandable truth is that the only way to win at conversion rate optimisation is with hard work and a methodical, systematic approach.

What does such an approach look like? While the specifics of your process will be highly contextual, a ‘broad strokes’ version might look something like this:

  1. Identify conversion issues through qualitative and quantitative research on your website and landing pages.
  2. Use the insights you generate from this research to develop CRO ideas and hypotheses.
  3. Prioritise your ideas and hypotheses.
  4. Test each idea/hypothesis in order of priority. Run each test all the way through to its conclusion.
  5. Record and analyse the results.
  6. Use these results to refine your idea/hypothesis until it is ready to be deployed as part of your CRO strategy.

5. Make decisions based on (the right) data

Conversion rate optimisation is not something driven by opinion or gut-feel. It’s a science. While it might be tempting to act on instinct and intuition, particularly if you’ve been dealing with customers in your industry for a long time, the reality is that the objective is always more valuable than the subjective.

In an ideal world, every decision you make and step you take will be backed by hard data. A tool like Google Analytics can grant you access to the necessary information, giving you a real-time view of the performance of your site and how users are interacting with it. If you concentrate on the right metrics, you’ll discover insights that hint at potential CRO strategies. Some of the most important KPIs include:

  • Bounce rate: What percentage of users are leaving each web page mere moments after they arrive? A high bounce rate can reveal any number of issues, including slow load times, a bad user experience, or a disparity in user expectation vs reality.
  • Exit pages: Which pages cause visitors to leave your site? The biggest offenders demand the most attention.
  • Cost per conversion: How much does each conversion cost you in terms of marketing budget? This metric helps to reveal the return on your marketing investment, and to enhance your marketing effectiveness moving forward.

6. Commit to experimentation

One word matters more to CRO than any other. To find an approach that works, you need to testtest and test again.

Once you have analysed competitors, customers, and the hard data, and have come up with a number of ideas and hypotheses, you’ll need to conduct A/B testing. Otherwise known as a ‘split test’, an A/B test is where you test two slightly differing approaches to a problem to see which performs better.

An example: You’re a marketer looking for an effective way to get your email subscribers to enter the sales funnel. You A/B test two different calls-to-action (CTAs) in an email, sending both to 100 customers. The click-through rate (CTR) for option A is 8%. The CTR for option B is 20%. You can then either send out your email blast using option B, or further refine your CTA by conducting another A/B test using option B as inspiration.

Another option is multivariate testing, which allows you to modify and test multiple elements at once against the original version of a web page. No matter which testing method you choose, you must:

  • Test on a sample size that ensures your results are reflective of the larger audience on which the results will ultimately be used.
  • Run the test over the course of a complete business cycle.
  • Never drop the test mid-cycle, even if you don’t see the value of seeing it through (often this will only be revealed right at the end).

7. Review and optimise

There’s no end point to CRO. Between competitors who are always looking to outdo you, and customers whose wants and needs are constantly changing, you need to regularly review and optimise your approach. Sure, you might achieve the goal that you originally set out to achieve, but this should simply be a trigger to set a new and even more ambitious goal. It could also be that your original goal is no longer particularly relevant, and you need to adjust your target to better reflect the realities of the situation.

Remember too that conversion rate optimisation takes time. It’s a gradual process, but if you stick to it you can gather real momentum. The real key to higher conversions is commitment to the process.

Another key: Getting help from professionals. If you’re not someone who works in the digital marketing space, you may be lost in all the information above. CRO, like many areas of digital marketing, is a complex and ever-changing thing.

Happily it’s something that our Traction experts deal in every working hour of every working day.

If you’re looking to increase your conversion rate, or even understand what your current situation looks like, we’re ready to help. Get in touch with our friendly team today!

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