Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) in its basic form is using data and analytics to increase conversions on your website. Whether that conversion measurement is product sales, form fills, registering for an online account (think social housing providers moving tenants to an online account area instead of postal communications) - any online transaction that matters to your business.

CRO used to be a tagged on service for a set period of time after a site went live. Agencies specialising in CRO would use analysis tools and plugins to review a website and report back on design changes, user journey recommendations and the placement of calls to action to test. That might give you a jump in conversions, but shouldn’t you be aiming for ongoing growth? Your online presence should evolve and improve over time. It should be a key factor in growing your business and you should always be looking to increase conversions. Your digital strategy should be one of iterative improvements to keep your customers converting and your website up to date.

Don’t aim to have a great new website, aim to have a great old website.

Increasingly, CRO is becoming the heartbeat of an ongoing digital strategy. It’s no longer enough to put a website out there, make the odd improvement and then redesign or rebuild in 3 or 4 years’ time.  The go live date is no longer the end of the project, it’s a milestone in the iterative development of your web presence. It’s the start of the real user testing. Granted you will have tested the heck out of your site before go live – functional testing, technical testing, UAT, if you’re lucky enough to have access to customers willing to help out you may have already tested the site on your audience – but you’ll never have a complete picture of how your site will fare amongst your users until it’s live. This is when the fun begins!

If you’ve integrated CRO into your planning you’ll already be utilising the personas and objectives identified during the design and UX phase to decide what you’re going to measure on launch. You’ll have set up the reporting, analytics goals and - if you have a content management system with a good marketing suite - you may have set up lead scoring and contact groups to start putting your users into groups depending on their onsite activities and behaviours. Now it’s time to analyse, test and refine.

There are lots of ways to measure what’s working and what might work better, the most common being A/B testing full pages, multivariate testing specific features, analysing form abandonment and using the many tools available to track onsite behaviours (heat mapping, eye tracking, click tracking and the like).  

This wealth of data and information should be used to continually improve your site while minimising the risk involved in pushing boundaries. You can try out new designs against the current layout and be confident that if users hate them you’ll know pretty quickly and can roll back to the old one. You can implement personalisation by measuring what works for your various user groups and tailoring content, imagery and messaging to them. You can play with user journeys until you find the ultimate path for your customer from site entrance to conversion. You can take bigger risks and trial bold strategies because you know exactly what’s happening on the site.

You’re unlikely to find that a single improvement increases your conversions by 50%, that would be too easy, but it’s those continuous small gains that add up to big wins. You might find a button colour change increases conversions by 2%, a landing page layout performs 6% better than the current page, a field change on your booking form reduces abandonment by 3%. The point is to build upon each success and use it to inform the next test.

The main thing is to ensure you are continually monitoring what’s happening and testing any hypothesis that might lead to improvements. In the context of working with your digital agency, gone are the days when they build you a site, train you up on adding content then disappear into the wilderness until you need a big change or a rebuild because your site isn’t working as well as it used to. Your digital strategy should be collaborative and iterative. Your review meetings should involve looking at the data and test results and setting out the hypotheses for the next few tests. 

CRO is a digital discipline that should underpin every digital activity. Whether it’s the SEO, PPC, design and UX or development team, they all impact on conversion rates. If your conversion rate falls through the floor then inevitably there are cries of ‘the site doesn’t work’ within the business, but is that the case? What about quality and volume of the organic traffic you send to a site? Sure you can flood a site with visitors but if they’re not there to buy then your conversion rate plummets. Even if your conversions stay the same, the increased visits mean your percentage is lower. So truly understanding your conversion rate and having common KPIs across the digital disciplines is key. It’s the best way to measure your agency performance – the quality of leads sent through from PPC, the effectiveness of the design recommendations from your UX team – they should all be leading to increased conversions.

Website review meetings used to involve looking at how many people visited your website, how long they stayed there and how many pages they looked at. Now they should involve looking at which fields on your form they struggled with, which image made them want to read more, which content made them click a call to action, which call to action button convinced them to take the next step – all through measuring and optimising conversion rates. Your local bakery won’t stay in business just because they had 200 people browsing the shop, they need people to buy a cake.  Your website isn’t helping your business just because you’re increasing the number of visitors – they need to be buying your cakes!