What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

In the world of digital marketing, a conversion can be defined as follows:

A meaningful action taken by your site visitor that has a specific value to your organization.

The conversion type will differ depending on your goals and what kind of actions you want to see. It doesn't necessarily have to be a sale. A conversion could be a movement between different sections of your inbound sales funnel, e.g.:

  • A visitor who signs up for your weekly newsletter.
  • A visitor who submits a form turning them into a prospect.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

CRO is a data-driven strategic process aimed at expanding the percentage of your site visitors who perform a specific desired action. In other words, they convert. Elements of this process include a fuller understanding of your visitors' motivations, the improvement of web page components and triggers, and then the validation of your information and changes via A/B testing.

  • By measuring the rate at which users convert and what pages they are converting on, you can identify areas that need greater improvement.

Determining Your Current Conversation Rate

Before you can begin with CRO, it’s necessary to find a baseline for measurement. To do this, you need to know one piece of essential data: what is your current conversion rate? Here's how to come up with the answer:

Calculate the total number of users who completed the desired action you are targeting as a conversion, e.g., a completed sale, form submission, email signup. Divide the above total by the full number of visitors to your website.

  • Example: Your website had 50,000 visitors, and 1,000 of them converted. This translates to a conversion rate of 2%.

Once you've got your baseline established, you can begin to analyze some important metrics. Eight of them are briefly discussed below. 

  1. Exit Pages. This metric tells you on which pages your visitors are leaving. You can easily find the exit rate for every page by using Google Analytics. Take note of any pages with a high exit rate and try to figure out why your visitors are leaving. 
  2. Average Time on Site. This metric will tell you if your visitors are actually reading and interacting with your content. Content that is relevant to what your visitors are searching for, is properly displayed, and is well written will have a higher average time on site. This number directly correlates with your bounce rate. The lower the average time on site, the higher the bounce rate.
  3. Bounce Rate. The bounce rate represents the percentage of users who exit your website immediately after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate may indicate several problems with your site, e.g., slow page load speed, poor page design, receipt of traffic from weak sources, a page not optimized for conversion.
  4. Average Page Views. This metric informs you of the number of pages a visitor views on average before exiting your site. This measurement could indicate good engagement with your site. Conversely, it could mean visitors are having difficulty finding answers to their questions and are searching for clarity. You will need to assess this metric alongside others to determine what it means.
  5. Interactions per Visit. You need to understand what your visitors are doing. They may not be converting, but they could be interacting with your site at a high level. Here's what you need to determine:
    • What kinds of pages are they reading? Product pages or blog posts?
    • How far down the page are they scrolling?
    • What parts of your landing pages are visitors clicking on?

Tools are available to help you gather visitor interaction information, e.g., Hotjar and Crazy Egg.

6. Traffic Sources. There are three primary sources of traffic:

  • Direct traffic (users that directly typed in your URL).
  • Referrals (visitors that clicked through to your site from somewhere else).
  • Search visitors (users who discovered your site through a search engine such as Google or Bing).

Each type of traffic comes with a different expectation for the level of user engagement, so knowing where your visitors are coming from is important.

  • Keep your traffic sources diverse. Relying heavily on one source increases the risk of losing a lot of traffic overnight.

7. Click-Through Rate (CTR). Understanding your CTR allows you to know how your offer resonates with searchers. If your CTR is low, shift your focus to determine why search visitors aren't responding. Make educated and tested changes to your page title tag to find messaging that resonates best with your audience, and then incorporate it into your landing pages.

8. Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate. If your prospective customer takes a look at what’s in their cart before checking out their purchase, you have successfully led them deep into the digital sales process. However, losing a sale at this point is common and frustrating. Trillions of dollars of merchandise lie unclaimed in digital shopping carts every year.

There are several reasons for abandoned shopping carts, including:

  • Added on shipping charges made the product more expensive than anticipated.
  • The visitor wasn’t ready to purchase but just wanted to see what the total cost including shipping and taxes would be.
  • The user didn’t want to create an account/register in order to make a purchase.

Finding a way to reduce these lost sales will boost your bottom line.

Final Thoughts

Once you've got your baseline conversion rate established and have analyzed data from some key metrics, you can move on to identify areas for improvement.

Ultimately, CRO aims to increase the overall efficiency of your entire digital marketing strategy, lower your customer acquisition costs, and improve profitability. If your website is optimized for conversion, you will gain an edge over your competitors who have not understood the benefits of CRO or have not put enough time and energy into an optimization strategy.

This post is the first in a series of monthly articles. So stay tuned while we take a deeper dive into Conversation Rate Optimization.

About Author

Tim has been building, designing, and executing websites since 1999, and joined Americaneagle.com in 2009. His specialties include online e-commerce consulting, web and business marketing, and project management. With technical and creative savvy, Tim is a born entrepreneur & problem-solver. When not staring soulfully at Google Analytics, Tim enjoys roughing it Apple-free in the great outdoors.

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