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Getting Started With Conversion Rate Optimization

Shae Henrie

Content Strategist @ AdRoll

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In today’s uncertain economic environment, advertisers and agencies are under pressure to justify their budgets quantitatively, reduce ad spend, or both. Improving the efficiency of ad campaigns helps teams respond to this pressure and get a bigger bang for their advertising buck.

Previously, guest blogger Kevin Brkal, Founder and President of KNB Online, shared three tips for optimizing return on ad spend (ROAS). Now that you know how to leverage retargeting and bring shoppers back to your site, you should also know how to help convert them through improving conversion rate optimization (CRO).

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

CRO describes the systematic process of increasing the percentage of your users who take a desired action. What you view as an appropriate conversion may differ based on your business’s needs, but typical conversion actions include:

  • Completing a purchase

  • Signing up for promotional emails

  • Filling out a form

CRO aims to maximize website traffic by using data and feedback to improve conversion rates. Simply put, it’s about getting more website visitors to do what you want them to do.

What does this look like in mathematical terms? 

Optimizing the conversion rate equates to optimizing the number of viewers who convert divided by the number of total viewers exposed to the ad.

Conversion rate optimization terminology

Advertising is one of those industries that produce an abundance of acronyms. In addition to CRO, you’ll likely see other terms. Below, we’ve listed brief definitions of the four most commonly used advertising campaign metrics. Many of these metrics are often confused with each other:

  • ROI (Return on Investment): This equals the money a company earns from an initial investment. If a company invests $100 in an ad and earns 20 sales with a profit of $7 per sale, the ROI is $140 or 40%. Companies typically include other costs in ROI beyond marketing, such as production.

  • ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): ROAS measures the amount of money a company earns from funds spent on a single ad or advertising campaign. If a company spends $1,000 on an ad campaign and earns $4,000 in revenue, the ROAS would be 4x. It differs from ROI in that ROAS focuses exclusively on the ad spend, while ROI measures the company’s profits after deducting all expenses associated with that investment. You can calculate your ROAS using our ROAS Calculator here.

  • ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment): This is similar to ROAS and ROI but includes all other marketing costs, such as email marketing campaigns.

Why Conversion Rate Optimization is Important

Customer acquisition is expensive. Acquiring new customers often costs as much as five times more than retaining your existing ones. CRO helps you lower those costs and get more value from your existing visitors and users. When you optimize your conversion rate, you increase your revenue per visitor as your business continues to grow. Lower acquisition costs aren’t the only benefit, however. Utilizing CRO can lead to other improvements, such as:

  • Better customer insights as you understand your key audience and what language or messaging resonates the most.

  • An improved user experience, as you streamline navigation and usability to help reduce the number of steps a customer takes to convert.

  • Higher profits as you get more value out of existing visitors and users.

  • Agility to test new marketing ideas or trends on your site and determine their effectiveness.

The CRO Process

The conversion rate optimization process might take some time, but it’s a strategy that can increase your revenue and customer experience by leaps and bounds. The payoff can be immense if you’re willing to do the legwork. Let’s walk through five steps that can help nearly any business develop its conversion rate optimization strategy.

1. Identify your goals

What do you view as a successful conversion?

It might seem like a simple question, but if your business or marketing strategy doesn’t have clear goals, you can’t accurately determine what your conversion rate is. Typical goals that might count as conversions include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Email sign-ups

  • Purchases

  • Form fills

  • CTA link clicks

  • Downloading an app

  • Starting a free trial

Depending on your business, you may have multiple conversion goals to optimize. If you’re just starting out, consider focusing on one at a time. Ideally, this is the part of your sales funnel that sees the most traffic or generates the most conversions. These pages usually have a bigger impact on your business.

2. Analyze your current conversion rate 

Once you know the conversion goal, it’s time to track conversions. Most marketers use Google Analytics to track conversions across their websites because the attribution and conversion values are relatively simple to set up. But once you track conversions and have the data, how do you know what counts as a good conversion?

That’s not an easy question to answer. Because every industry is different, the benchmark for “good” conversions is just as much of a variable as the traffic sources, visitor volume, brand perception, and UX design for individual sites within that industry.

Once you have the data in hand, uncover any common patterns and trends. Do pages with a specific CTA perform well? Are pages with visual elements like infographics or hero images seeing more traffic than those without? Chart your observations and use them for the next step.

3. Find opportunities for improvement 

Once you know your conversion goals and rates, it’s time to put on your scientist hat and form a hypothesis about what you can change. This doesn’t have to be a complex process. Instead, think of your hypothesis as three elements:

  • A proposed change

  • A desired effect of the change

  • A reason for the change to lead to the desired effect

You can tweak your web pages in almost any way to increase conversions. Common landing page elements that typically impact your CRO can include:

  • Headlines and copy: Headlines should be punchy and convince your audience to read further. They directly link to the content or main offer on the page. Experiment with long or short headlines or subtitles.

    Other copy-heavy elements to include on landing pages and sections of your website include customer testimonials, which add social proof to your marketing efforts.

  • Value propositions: What makes your product worth buying? How do you differentiate it from others? When you refine your offer to resonate with customers, you can increase your conversion rates.

  • Visual media: Add images and videos to help break up the copy and provide readers with engaging elements on the page. These elements are also a fantastic way to cement your brand identity in the user’s mind.

  • CTAs: Some CTAs are more attractive to potential customers than others. Play with the copy, color, and placement of your CTAs and experiment with which one drives the most conversions. Even something as simple as button colors can impact customers’ willingness to click.

  • Page layout: The secret to great page design is creating something your customers don’t think about too often. Your pages should be well-designed and aesthetically appealing. Visual hierarchy in headers and subheaders, combined with appropriate white space and colors, removes cognitive load from visitors. This reduced cognitive load leads to a better user experience as customers have fewer website navigation problems.

Another technique to try that doesn’t have customer visibility but can drastically impact their experience includes page speed optimizations to ensure elements load quickly on mobile and desktop.

4. Conduct tests and measure your results

Focusing on one element at a time is a hallmark of successful A/B testing because it gives you a clear answer of which design element or decision wins. Did more people click on the blue CTA button or the orange one? Did the shorter headline lead to more clicks than the long one? Did swapping images help? So long as you change one piece of your website at a time, A/B testing gives you a clear answer to these questions.

No matter what your testing strategy looks like, make sure you have a way to measure results accurately. In addition to tools like GA4, you can track your marketing efforts with reporting tools like Google Analytics or AdRoll’s digital marketing dashboard.

5. Implement changes

Once you’ve tested your hypotheses—either through several rounds of A/B testing or even with multivariate testing that shows how different factors interact—it’s time to implement any changes based on the results. If you uncover that specific CTAs perform better in your random testing, it may be time to permanently make the switch.

Some adjustments will always be easier to make than others. For example, it’s usually a simpler procedure to swap one image for another or to rewrite headlines. For larger scale projects like site or page redesigns, you may need to perform additional tests prior to investing time (and money) into those projects.

Five Tips for Optimizing CRO

In addition to the basic conversion rate optimization best practices, you’ll likely want to follow some advanced conversion rate optimization tips that go beyond the nuts and bolts of changing your website to boost conversions. Consider the following advice as you think about why the changes you’re making to your pages work:

1. Know Your Customer 

Companies think they know their customers, but do they really know them? Understanding your customer is much more than knowing what they bought and when. Five factors you should pay attention to include:

When you understand these basic details about your customers, you can effectively group them for targeting with appropriate messaging. These audience segmentation strategies can help impact your on-page marketing and the success of your paid advertising campaigns.

2. Track the Customer’s Journey 

Understand the customer’s complete journey from when they first research a product to when they finalize a sale. In D2C situations, heatmap software can inform marketers about a customer’s journey through the website by measuring bounce and abandon rates. It also helps marketers better understand, streamline, and improve the purchasing process.

3. Inject Personalization

Despite the demise of third-party cookies, it’s still possible to execute highly personalized ad campaigns and customer journeys. Think about searching for new shoes online. One retailer pushes ads about shirts and sweaters, and another pushes a new line of shoes they’ve just stocked and offers a 10% coupon. Which retailer would you select?

Even if third-party cookies are on the way out, you have plenty of options to personalize ad content for your users. Leverage first-party data you collect directly from your customers like their behaviors on your website, purchase history, survey data, or customer service feedback.

Your CRM is full of customer data that can help you reach frequent and infrequent customers. Send remarketing campaigns that focus on items left in shopping carts, and consider using form information to connect with your customers on a first-name basis in emails.

Need more ideas? We’ve got plenty. Check out other personalization strategies to help you get started.

4. Conduct Omnichannel Ad Testing 

Even if you settle on working CRO strategies, there’s never a bad time to revisit your campaigns. Frequently test your ad campaigns using A/B or multi-variable testing to better understand which media, messages, frequency and other factors tend to optimize results. Learn more about the benefits of testing your ad campaigns.

5. Survey Your Customers 

Using data to pull insights is one way to know how your customers feel, but it’s not the only tool at your disposal. You can also ask them about their experiences outright.

Periodically ask your customers which elements of your ad campaigns motivated them, which ones didn’t and their opinions on the purchase experience. Not only will you gain additional intelligence to complement ad testing, but they will also appreciate being asked!

It’s Time to Get Started!

CRO is important because it helps companies lower their customer acquisition costs by helping them gain greater engagement from the visitors and customers they already have. By optimizing CRO, you can improve your revenue per visitor and gain more customers. 

It’s important to understand the many metrics utilized to evaluate ad campaigns and what that data tells the advertiser. One of the best ways to help use that information is to make a digital marketing platform like AdRoll part of your workflow.

Building strategies around these five tips will help ensure your CRO efforts yield strong results. But, for each tip, there are many details to master. Now that you know more about CRO and have a roadmap to improve your CRO strategy and results, it’s time to get started! Check out more of our resources and guides below!

Conversion Rate Optimization FAQs 

What are the benefits of CRO?

Optimizing your conversion rates offers plenty of benefits to you and your customers. Enhancing your users’ experience by streamlining their buying process can foster an increased sense of trust. In addition to lowering your customer acquisition costs (and increasing your ROI), you’ll enjoy boosted SEO efforts. Optimized websites tend to have lower bounce rates and higher engagement, which can lead to a better position in search engine results pages (SERPs).

What are some common CRO techniques?

Marketers have plenty of conversion rate optimization examples to pull from. For starters, you can use A/B testing to isolate and swap out elements for performance tracking. You can also optimize for mobile browsers and page speed to ensure elements load fast on your highest-traffic pages. One of the most significant changes you can make is to your CTAs. Writing better CTAs can help drive users to the behaviors you want them to take. 

How much does CRO cost?

Conversion rate optimization strategies can have dramatically different costs depending on who performs the work. In-house CRO efforts may have a smaller monetary investment but can take time from other tasks. You’ll also need to invest in tools to help do the job. CRO tools can range from free (but with limited features) to premium ones that cost hundreds of thousands per month. You can also pay consultants and agencies to perform the work. This is the pricier option, but the expert advice you receive may be worth more than doing the job on your own.

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