If you’ve been reading about online marketing and websites recently, you’ve probably come across the words “conversion” and “optimization” a lot.

Yeah, they’re kind of like the new “it” words… the cool kids on the block. Remember when keyword search and SEO were all the rage?

That’s pretty much what’s happened to these guys.

What does Conversion Rate Optimization mean?

Let’s simply start with conversions as they relate to websites, landing pages or even emails. A conversion happens when someone takes an action on your site that you wanted to happen.

For instance, this can be as simple as signing up for your email list, clicking on an “add to cart” button or filling out a form.

These actions are what we measure and hope to optimize or improve. Therefore, Conversion Rate Optimization – or CRO for short – is the process of analyzing qualitative and quantitative data to understand and improve the performance of your website.

Think of CRO as a systematic way to figure out what’s preventing your visitors from doing the things you want them to do on your site – then, fixing them.


It’s not just about conversions…

There are loads of marketers out there telling you that you’ve got to “convert” more. “Get people to convert,” they say.

Sounds good. Right?

The thing is that just getting more conversions doesn’t necessarily mean increasing revenues and your profits. As Peep Laja from ConversionXL has noted,

…but the goal should never be to boost conversions. Just lower your prices by 99%, and conversions will go instantly up – but you will lose money. So in the end the question we’re asking is ‘how can we increase revenue, and do so at profit?’

You need to be thinking about the goals and objectives for your website and how that fits into the larger picture of your overall business strategy.

A whole lot of moving parts

CRO from soup to nuts can be a very complicated and time consuming process. It involves:

  • Qualitative research (customer surveys, user testing, interviews, heuristic analysis)
  • Quantitative research (Google Analytics mining, mouse tracking data, etc.)
  • Hypotheses, A/B and multivariate testing
  • Implementation of changes

And, that’s just the extremely abbreviated list. The fact of the matter is that you’ve got to collect good data and understand how to interpret it correctly in order to make meaningful changes.

What this means for your business

Attention spans have shrunk and website visitors have become more savvy.

Basically, more and more people expect faster results online while having less patience completing their goals.

Usability and clarity of messaging is critical. Whether people realize it or not, they are constantly making decisions based on interaction costs with a web page. If there are too many competing images, the fonts are too small, the information is irrelevant or difficult to interpret, you’re placing undo cognitive load on your visitors.

As the web usability expert, Steve Krug, says,

Don’t make me think.

When you design, build and write copy for websites or landing pages that require people to figure out how to get things done, you’re going to lose out in the process.

Start optimizing, even if you’re site is small

Here’s the deal. No matter the amount of traffic you have on your website you can run split tests (running one version of a page against another to see which one is more effective.)

But, with very little traffic the time it takes your test to get to statistical significance could be so long – say 6 months – that it makes no sense to do. You need to get enough good data over a reasonable period of time – otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for making poor decisions.

Low traffic doesn’t mean you can’t still optimize. You’ll have to rely more heavily on qualitative research.

This is where heuristics, heat maps and customer interviews come into play.

Not sure what any of those entail? Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts where I’ll talk about the qualitative research end of things, how you can use it to improve the copy as well as the overall usability on your sites.

In the meantime, check out these resource posts for more information:

How to do conversion optimization with very little traffic? ConversionXL

6 of my all time favorite conversion rate optimization case studies Crazy Egg

What conversion rate optimization experts often forget about: the customer lifecycle Kissmetrics

Have you spent any time trying to optimize your site?