5 steps to get you started with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Web audiences are known to be highly fickle. Attention spans are at an all-time low, and users are typically multitasking online.

But the reality is, every time a user visits your site you have a tremendous opportunity — and that opportunity is what they’ve given you: their valuable time.

Although there is tight competition for a user’s time, it also means that those who get it right can reap the greatest reward: getting your users to engage with your business. In this case, “getting it right” refers to what is formally known as Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO. If you’re new to this term, we’ve written a beginner’s guide to CRO here.
Here are five steps that you can take to kick-start your testing and CRO process:

Step 1 — Set up for success

Any successful endeavor always requires strong foundations from the start.

  • Decide what success looks like
    Establish KPIs that can be reviewed at each testing cycle, ensuring a measurable way to track progress.
  • Choose the right tools
    Analytics tools help you to form an analysis and devise strategies from the data they provide. Google Analytics (and Google Tag Manager) is a popular and free tool that many use. Others we recommend include Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Mixpanel, Optimizely, Qualaroo, and CrazyEgg.

  • Define your assumptions
    Be aware of the assumptions you make in regards to users before you conduct any tests. These defined assumptions will serve to act as foundations for your hypotheses further down the line.


Make sure you’ve established the driving force behind your strategies before taking them further

Step 2 — Analyze before acting

Analyze current data before conducting a test — Test results, insights, and learnings are crucial in forming the direction of your tests.

  • Review site analytics
    Analytics reporting provide the bigger picture of how well your site is performing, with the addition of qualitative data and user testing reports.

  • Collect qualitative data
    Use tools that provide qualitative information and aim to conduct user interviews to inform user behaviors and help you form a strong hypothesis.

  • Determine what you need to optimize
    Using qualitative and quantitative data, you can decide on the areas you want to test, how you should go about doing this.


The roadmap towards a successful testing process

Step 3— Get the CRO mindset

  • Identify key areas to test — this might include high traffic pages, buttons, layouts, forms or headlines; making these specific will make testing more accurate and worthwhile.

  • Collaborate — It’s crucial that you collaborate with the right team members when working through CRO. From sales and design to engineering and marketing, each team has valuable insight to offer.

  • Create a testable hypothesis — use tools to inform and make sense of how users engage with your site allowing you to form hypothesis on how to improve the experience.

Step 4—Test, test, and test again

Get organized with your testing and track everything.

  • Stay focused
    Keep a methodical and scientific approach, changing only one variable at a time for control and accuracy.

  • Document everything
    For efficiency and best practice, make sure that you document all stages of the testing process for future reference.

  • Every failure is a win
    82% of all tests fail, which means only 18% of testing is solid. Right hypothesis but wrong solution? Good thing you tested it first. Wrong hypothesis? Now you’ve eliminated one possibility and can move on to the next. A willingness to be wrong can equal long-term success.


Every failure is a win: one step back often leads to three steps forward

Step 5—Implement and optimize

Its time to put your theories into practice.

  • Don’t jump to conclusions
    Make sure you get enough traffic for valid test results — the smaller the project, the longer this can take. Patience is key!

  • Review the results
    All insights work to inform and prioritize your backlog. They can help you to understand which are the most crucial and pressing changes to be made; and which changes are not necessary.

  • Decide on the future
    Take the time to reflect, and question every step of the process. If the test didn’t work, establish the fault — was the hypothesis wrong, or was it related to the nature of your testing process?

Small changes = big impact

To optimize is to continually aim for better outcomes, and doing so can be the difference between success and failure. During the presidential campaign of 2008, Obama’s digital team uncovered key findings on image variation during the team’s A/B testing efforts. For a campaign fundraiser for “Dinner with Barack”, they chose to test two photos: the first photo was a shot of the President at the dinner table (which performed well previously). The second was a photo that also revealed the First Lady and two guests. The team’s hypothesis was that users would convert by seeing how close they would be sitting next to the President. And they were right, changing the photo lifted conversions by an astounding 19%.

The essence of testing is figuring out what your audience considers valuable. Once this has been established, implement this value to the user and they will repay you with meaningful conversions. True value leads to better engagement, better user experience, and ultimately a stronger connection between your audience and your brand.