Making Conversion Rate Optimization a Business Driver

Conversion rate optimization, abbreviated as CRO, is one of the noblest disciplines of digital marketing. And it drives real value to site owners. Let's see how.

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Do you sometimes walk out of a physical store having bought loads of great stuff except the one thing you went inside to look for? In physical stores, people rarely walk out without buying something — it almost feels awkward if you do. That is why retail conversion rates are so high.

In online stores, it is the opposite. People often walk away without buying anything. And as a site owner, you don't know if the buyers changed their minds or if something was blocking the process.

Solving this problem is one of the major challenges for making money online. Conversion rate — the number of visitors who make a purchase — is 10 times lower in e-commerce than in physical stores. Let's look at some ways to improve it.

The conversion rate formula.

Conversion rate is the proportion of visitors who buy one or more products. They are converted from visitors to buyers.

Overview: What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a set of techniques by which you analyze and optimize for conversion in a website. The primary rate conversion analysis looks at is the purchase-to-visit rate illustrated above.

Types of conversions

CRO analytics can be applied to a wealth of different types of conversions and not just purchases. This data-driven approach can function as a much broader user experience optimization tool by considering both macro and micro conversions.

Examples of macro conversions

Macro conversions are measurable actions a user takes within a website that correspond to a business goal.

  • Purchase: The main conversion most sites examine is the purchase conversion. Purchase conversion information is often fed back into marketing campaigns for their optimization.
  • Download: Many websites don't sell online. Their objective can be to promote a cause or distribute information. An often-used macro conversion for this type of site is the download of a pdf.
  • Form fill: In complex sales, a purchase can rarely be fully completed online. Leads are better converted by a salesperson or advisor. In this case, the corresponding website's main purpose is to generate leads by having users fill in a contact form. Measuring the filled-in form is a common macro conversion type.
The Google Analytics dashboard with Enhanced Ecommerce activated.

In the Conversions menu in Google Analytics, you will find the Ecommerce item which shows your Enhanced Ecommerce reporting if it is activated for your store. Source:

Examples of micro conversions

Conversion information is a type of user feedback. You want people to buy a product, but you are also interested in users who want to stay in touch with you or engage with your site content.

As those actions are much more frequent, they can provide information that can help you improve your site's marketing. By improving the user experience, you might ultimately improve your macro conversions. Find some examples below.

  • Visited the contact page: For many websites, having users go to the contact page can be considered a small victory. It means the content convinced them to consider contacting your company.
  • Spent five minutes on the site: If your site is content-rich and you are in the business of influencing users or you know that purchase decisions for your product are long, a visit lasting over five minutes in a world of reduced attention spans can be a great conversion to measure.
  • Viewed full video: Video content is expensive to produce, but it is also some of the most engaging content you can create. Measuring how many people watch your video to the end — clearly showing interest in your company — can be a micro-conversion.

How to calculate your website’s conversion rate

To calculate your website's conversion rate, simply take the number of conversions and divide it by the number of visitors. Sure, but where do you find the data? Let's go through the steps below.

1. Configure your analytics to track conversions

The data you need is found via a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics. Most sites have one, but if you don't, you need to get one. It requires the insertion of a tag on every page of your website.

2. Define the conversions you want to monitor

In most web analytics tools, you can define what is considered a conversion at the back end, but for some types of conversion — and some analytics tools — you need to carefully install additional tracking at the point of conversion in your website.

Some less-advanced analytics solutions only provide you with the number of visitors. Despair not, you can still calculate your conversion rate if you have some way of registering your conversion outside of the site. This could be the case for purchases or website actions that generate an email that is sent to you.

3. Set the time span

Conversion tracking only starts from the day your analytics solution is configured to track the visits and conversions. Make sure you don't include time periods when the data analytics wasn't active.

A good time span to look at is a month — or even a week if you have a high number of conversions. Make sure the data sources are active for both the number of visitors and conversions. Ideally, the time frames should be identical down to the hour and time zone.

4. Count unique visitors rather than individual visits

The longer the time span is, the more important it becomes to look at unique visitors rather than merely visits to a website. We are interested in understanding whether real people converted from visitors to clients, not how many repeat visits they made.

5. Put in a dashboard

Once you have established your conversion type, data sources, and time spans, you should consider entering the information into a dashboard. Ideally, you should be able to automate a process by which the dashboard updates regularly so that you can always have access to your current conversion rate and compare backward.

5 ways to optimize your conversion rate

Let's say 2.5% is a good conversion rate. For purchase conversions, it is. However, a key performance indicator (KPI) only makes sense when it is compared to a baseline. With your 2.5% conversion rate, it makes a lot of business sense to find ways of improving that ratio so that you get better outcomes from the same number of visitors to your website. Let's look at some of the ways you can do that.

1. Improve your content

The best way to improve conversion rate is by improving your content quality — better articles, better images, richer illustrations, and more videos. You probably don't even need to measure the conversion rate to know this. A great way to justify investment in richer content is by monitoring conversion rates before and after you improve the content.

2. Increase calls to action

If content is already great and up-to-date, perhaps there are places in the user journey where you can do a better job of calling out the conversion action you want users to take. This could be achieved by placing links or buttons in your page templates or article signatures with links to your conversion page. It can also take the form of banners you place on various pages of the site.

3. Reduce drop-offs

A more common CRO marketing approach is to look at the steps in the online conversion funnel. Analytics solutions can measure drop-offs after each step. This means you can identify the pages you need to improve to maintain the users' confidence and interest along the path to conversion.

For e-commerce sites using Google Analytics, there is a great extension for analyzing steps in the funnel called Enhanced Ecommerce you should be sure to get. It enables website conversion optimization step by step in a funnel you define.

4. Reduce non-qualified traffic

A more unconventional way to do website CRO is to increase the qualification of the visitors. If the visitors this month are more likely to convert than the visitors last month, then your conversion rate is bound to go up.

You can increase qualification by reducing traffic from unqualified traffic sources. Perhaps you have optimized your SEO for irrelevant keywords, or perhaps you are acquiring traffic from sources that do not convert. Reducing those traffic levels will improve the conversion rate.

5. Use cart abandonment remarketing

Remarketing is not necessarily the technique most appreciated by internet users as it often feeds on limited data and fails to update when the reason for remarketing is gone. The reason for its success, however, is that it provides great results.

One successful application of remarketing is to target abandoned carts. A reminder banner is shown to users who have initiated a purchase on your website without completing it. It can be configured to communicate solutions for users who abandoned the cart for reasons you have identified. "You left a full cart on our website. Can we help you complete the order?"

CRO is the best e-commerce investment

It is sometimes the little things that take a user off a purchase course. And if you can identify what those little things are, it is much more cost-efficient to improve the conversion rate for your website than it is to drive more traffic to it.

Conversion rate optimization is the best investment for an e-commerce site. It will leverage the value of all the other investments you make and all the time you spent on your marketing.

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