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The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimisation

Image of Brock Ashton
Brock Ashton

Do you know what separates the top performing businesses, those who continue to grow month-on-month, and those that are stuck chasing their tail (and their next customer)?

Optimisation.

The ability to do more with what you already have is a key concept all businesses should be familiar with. After all, wouldn’t you rather turn your existing leads into customers, instead of chasing down new prospects?

That’s where Conversion Rate Optimisation comes in. Conversion Rate Optimisation, or CRO, is the process of improving your website (and other digital touchpoints where your customers interact with you) to improve the number of conversions you get.

Want to know how powerful testing can be? In 2007, a little-known Barack Obama managed to raise $60million in campaign donations. And his team achieved this by focusing on CRO and adopting the belief that every website visitor was an opportunity. 

While your goal might not be to generate funds to run a presidential campaign, the theory behind the success can easily be implemented in your business RIGHT NOW.


What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Before we can start discussing how you can optimise your conversion rate, let’s first dive into what a conversion is, and how to figure out your conversion rate.

What is a conversion?

Simply put, a conversion is any desired action a visitor takes on your website. Some common examples include:

  • Subscribing to your newsletter
  • Downloading an ebook or similar resource
  • Submitting an enquiry form
  • Booking a demo
  • Activating a trial
  • Making a purchase

 

Most businesses have multiple conversions they are tracking. For example, at FocusHawk we want to keep an eye on the number of subscribers, and the number of leads (download a resource or complete an enquiry). 

Other businesses might be concerned with new subscribers and the number of purchases, such as an e-commerce business.

 

What is your conversion rate

To work out your conversion rate you take the total number of conversions divided by the total number of website visitors, and multiple by 100 to get a percentage.

Total conversions / website visitors x 100

When working out your conversion rate, remember that each conversion you’re tracking needs to be calculated individually.

For example, if the number of subscribers and the number of leads is important to you, you will have two conversion rates.

 

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Conversion Rate Optimisation, or CRO, is the process of improving your website (and other digital touchpoints where your customers interact with you) to improve the number of conversions you get.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Well, it is, and it isn’t.

See, in theory it sounds simple, but in reality, CRO requires a commitment from marketing teams (and business owners, too) to be dedicated to the numbers and the data, and to set a cadence of regular testing and experiments in search of consistent improvements.

As every day tasks start to pile up, strategies like CRO can often be the first to be dismissed. After all, if you have to choose between making sales calls, or launching an email campaign, and running website experiments, most businesses choose the former.

But CRO is all about setting up your website to maximise the traffic you’re already generating, rather than trying to bring in more. It’s about leveraging existing visitors and leads rather than generating new ones. As you’ll see later on, the best way to increase revenue (or leads) is to improve the rate at which you convert them, and this is why CRO should be a priority for all businesses. Which leads us nicely to the next section.

 

Why should you use CRO?

The most important outcome of CRO is improving the performance of your website. If you can measure your ability to turn a visitor into a subscriber, lead or customer, then you can take actions to improve that ability.

 

Where Can You Use CRO?

Conversion Rate Optimisation can be used on any pages of your website where a conversion takes place. Usually, this is one of the following:


Home Page

Optimising your homepage should be the first step for anyone looking to improve their website performance. Whether it’s getting more subscribers, directing people to visit a product page, or even making sales, CRO can help improve the first impression of your homepage and drive better performance.

 

Product Pages

Once a visitor makes it to your product/feature page, you should be doing everything you can encourage them to take the next desired action. For some businesses, this might be to activate a free trial, while for others it’s getting them to contact your sales team. Regardless of your conversion goal here, CRO can help you achieve it.

 

Pricing Pages

Ever seen your Google Analytics account showing a heap of traffic to your pricing page and wondered how you can make the most of these visitors? Here comes CRO once more. Optimising pricing pages, if you have one, should be high on your priority list as people who visit this part of your site are usually good leads worth following up.

 

Landing Pages

A landing page is a page built for a specific purpose, usually as a part of a campaign. For example, if you’re running Facebook ads and looking to get visitors to your website, you should be directing them to a landing page, a page built with information specific to the campaign and that carries on the story you started telling in your ads.

Optimising landing pages is important because a poor-performing landing page drags down overall campaign performance. Also, if you’re spending money to get people to your page, you want to make sure you’re doing all you can to get them to take the desired action.

 

Blog

Finally, optimising your blog is a good use of CRO tactics. When visitors find your blog, you want to capitalise on this by capturing their contact details so you can continue the conversation on other channels, such as email or through your sales team.

 

Conversion Rate Optimisation in Action

By the Numbers

Ok, so we’ve outlined what Conversion Rate Optimisation is, as well as where it can be useful.

But to understand it fully, it can be useful to look at how it works using some numbers. Ready for some math?

So, let’s use a hypothetical business as an example to see what CRO looks like in action.

This business gets around 10,000 website visitors per month. From these 10,000 visitors they see 100 new leads. On average, they’ll convert 1 of these leads to a customer.

10,000 visitors to 100 leads = visitor to lead conversion rate of 1%.

100 leads to 1 customer = lead to customer rate of 1%.

 

Using these numbers we can start to put a plan in place on how to grow the business.

Let’s say they want to double the amount of new customers each month to 2.

Using the numbers above we can work backwards to see that we’d need 200 new leads, and to get them we’d need 20,000 visitors.

Now, doubling website traffic is very difficult.

So, to increase their customers we can use Conversion Rate Optimisation tactics to make better use of the 10,000 visitors they are already getting, rather than trying to find new ones.

If we could double their visit to lead conversion rate from 1% to 2% they’d be getting 200 leads per month, which would work out to 2 new customers each month - all without having to increase their monthly traffic!

If we also double their lead to customer rate they’d be getting 4 new customers per month - effectively 4x their revenue.

Getting a 1% increase in conversion rate is much, much easier than trying to find an extra 10,000 visitors per month.

 

The CRO Process

CRO involves rigorous testing and record keeping. Much like in your high school science class, all experiments begin with an hypothesis (an assumption you want to test), some ideas on how you will test it, and keeping notes of the results of the tests you conduct. 

So, if you want to get started with CRO, here’s a quick rundown on the process we use when testing our own website and those of our clients:

Subject: what page and area we want to test

Hypothesis: what we think will happen

Method: how we will test our hypothesis

Results: the types of data we need to collect, as well as the data itself

Conclusion: how the test went and what action we will take now

So, let’s use the example of a landing page to demonstrate our process.

 

Subject:

ebook landing page

Hypothesis:

by changing the colour of the ‘submit’ button on the lead form we think we will be able to increase the number of leads we capture each month by 50%

Method:

create a duplicate version of the landing page where Page A has a green button, and Page B has a red button. We will use the AB testing functionality of our CMS (HubSpot) to show the two versions at random to visitors over the course of a month.

Results:

Page A (control) captured 40 leads; Page B (test) captured 55 leads. Over the course of a month we registered 1,500 visits to this page.

Conclusion:

Changing the button colour resulted in a 37.5% increase in leads captured. WHile this does not match our hypothesis, the results are good enough to make the button colour permanently red.



For anyone who did a statistics class at high school or university, you’ll be aware of the term ‘statistical significance’. Basically this means that the results of the test are very likely to have occurred as a result of the test, and not by simple chance.

Without going into too much detail (although if you did want to read up on it, Optimizely have a great article on it here), essentially for a test to be statistically significant, you need to have a large enough sample size and enough of a difference between the two results.

Using the above example, the red button led to 55 leads compared to 40 from the green button, and we had a sample size of 1,500. This is a substantial sample size, and the difference in the two results is 37% - therefore it was statistically significant.

Now, if we only had 100 visitors and the two results were 5 for green and 8 for red, I’d be wary of concluding that the results were created from the test variables and not purely by chance as we had a small sample size and very little difference in results.

Statistical significance is a complex concept, and for most small businesses it’s not something you need to go in detail when running tests, but the basics of the concept - sample size and effect size - are vitally important when concluding on the results of your tests.

 

CRO Tools

Conversion Rate Optimisation is all about testing, and you can run proper tests without the right tools. Ever tried opening a can of beans without a can opener?

When it comes to running AB tests, your website CMS can usually help you out. Wordpress has a number of plugins you can download and use to help run an AB test, and the HubSpot CMS has this feature available for users and makes it simple to create, run and record test results. It even has the ability to automatically update your website once a winner has been declared.

If your website doesn’t have these features, you can use the Google Optimise tool to help run tests. It allows you to create new variations of your website, automatically runs the test for you by showing the variations to visitors, keeps track of key data, and provides a breakdown of results once the test is over.

Another great tool is Hotjar - a website analytics tool that tracks user behaviour on your site. You can use this tool to create heatmaps - a visual tool that shows what elements of your website are clicked on the most - and screen recordings - videos of actual users (deidentified) that shows what their cursor does on your site and what they do on each page.

Hotjar is a great tool for CRO as it allows you to capture baseline data and identify areas for testing. For example, if a heatmap of your homepage shows that only 10% of your visitors make it halfway through your page, you know that you should put all the key information at the top.

Finally, you can’t go wrong with good ol’ fashioned Google Analytics to track user behaviour on your site.

 

Conversion Rate Optimisation Tactics

Now we get to the good stuff - some ideas you can implement right now and start testing!

Before you jump in, use our process above and be sure to remember statistical significance when judging the results.

 

Text-based versus image-based CTAs

One of the easiest things to test is how well you CTA, or call-to-actions, perform across your website, specifically in your blog or on webpages..

Testing text versus image is something all businesses should do because we, as readers, tend to block out banners when we view websites. After years of seeing banner ads, our brains have begun to tune out to them, a phenomenon called banner blindness.

To overcome this, marketers have switched to text-based CTAs to grab attention. 

Start testing on your website and see which style contributes to more leads for you.

 

Changing button colour

Like our example above, changing the colour of a button is a great test, and one that’s very easy to implement.

 

Change value proposition/messaging

A value proposition is the promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged. It is also a belief from the customer about how value will be delivered, experienced and acquired.

Changing the value proposition or messaging on your website/page is considered a macro variant - it’s a large change that can have large impacts on page performance.

 

Change layout of a page

Sometimes, simply moving elements around on your page can lead to great improvements. 

Have a lead magnet you really want a visitor to download? Try moving it up near the top of the page.

Does your page have a form and some text? Try having them side-by-side versus on top of one another.

 

Change location of buttons or CTAs

Similar to changing the page layout, experiment with placing buttons or CTAs in different locations to see if you can attract more clicks.


Test different CTAs

Perhaps your visitors aren’t interested in signing up for your newsletter, but would download a PDF resource instead - run a test that has the newsletter subscription CTA on one variation and a lead magnet on the other.

 

Conclusion

Conversion Rate Optimisation is a key marketing strategy that all small businesses should be using to make the most of the website traffic they are already generating. As we’ve seen from the numbers, increasing your revenue and customers is much easier if you can improve the performance of your website before trying to attract new visitors.


Testing is also a key element of Essentialism - our approach to marketing. Only through planned, strategic and systematic tests can you truly uncover the strategies and tactics that will work for you.

7 steps to building a winning marketing plan - download our free resource, Creating a Small Business Marketing Strategy


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