Conversion Rate Optimisation Explained
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the art and science of maximising business from your website traffic. It applies to both lead generation and eCommerce websites. In many cases companies don’t realise the value they are losing by having unknown issues in their conversion funnel. This is akin to going fishing with a big hole in your net – you could be catching fish but they are all escaping before you land them.
Conversion rate optimisation can have a BIG impact on your bottom line financials, but despite being vitally important, it is often overlooked. This is because marketing teams are mainly focused on driving traffic to your website and just assume it will convert into actual business. However, this is simply not true. There are many reasons why a genuine potential new customer can land on your website but not convert.
Some web teams may be well versed in user-experience (UX) theory, but this is only one subset of conversion rate optimisation, which has a broader scope and a more commercial focus than UX.
The Value of CRO
This article aims to provide a non-technical guide that can be understood by business people in a ten-minute read.
We explain the essentials of best practise conversion rate optimisation and the value it can create.
When you understand even the basics of conversion rate optimisation you will be able to look at any website page with a new eye and see many glaring errors.
- Financial Examples
- Lead Generation
- The Secret Sauce
- Interpreting The Data
- Speed & Technical Fixes
- Don’t Make Me Work!
- Landing Pages
- Lead Handling/Nurturing
- A/B & Multivariant Testing
- Google’s Free Tools
CRO & Business Development
Conversion rate optimisation is all about looking at a website from a commercial perspective, in order to see the business development implications of it’s design and technical implementation. It is part art and part data science. But don’t let the idea of data analysis scare you away, since just an understanding of the top level statistics is sufficient for a small company.
CRO is important because it helps you to lower your customer acquisition costs and get more value from your site visitors. For any business person it is similar to looking at a profit and loss or a cash flow report. It tells you how you are doing and where you need to improve. With that in mind, let’s begin by looking at examples of how it can benefit your business financially.
In our experience, many CEOs and CFOs who do not consider themselves digitally savvy start to get much more interested when they understand online from this commercial mindset.
Let’s consider two simple examples to illustrate the difference conversion rate optimisation can make to the bottom line figures of a website.
Lead Generation Example
In this example our website gets 5,000 visits a month, and from this traffic 80 enquiries come in via calls or contact forms. This is a 1.6% enquiry conversion rate (5000/80). These enquiries convert to 8 new clients a month which is a 10% sales conversion rate (80/8). If the average value of each new client is €5,000 per annum then the total income from our website is €40,000 a month (8 x €5,000) or €480,000 per annum (12 x €40,000).
If through conversion rate optimisation techniques we can increase the enquiry conversion rate from 1.6% to 2%, and increase the sales conversion rate from 10% to 12%, then the overall income increases by a phenomenal 50% to €720,000 annually. (€480,000/€240,000
This illustrates how seemingly small statistical increases can create significant additional revenue WITHOUT extra marketing costs. How we gain these increases is the subject matter we explore further on in this article.
Let’s say the cost of making the CRO website improvements was €12,000, then by generating €240,000 in additional revenue the return on investment (ROI) is 20:1 in the first year alone.
Pro Tip: A focus on ROI brings clarity, credibility and justification for digital projects that might not otherwise get approval.
Let’s now examine a simple eCommerce example. The website receives 40,000 monthly visits with a 1.5% conversion rate, i.e. 640 of those visitors make a purchase. If the average order value is €60 then the website will generate €36,000 a month in sales, or €432,000 annual revenue.
If through converion rate optimisation efforst we can increase the conversion rate from 1.5% to 2%, and the average order value from €60 to €70, the annual revenue will increase by €240,00 to €672,00. This is a whoping 55% increase, again without any additional marketing effort or cost.
The Secret Sauce
You can see from the examples above that you first need to establish a line in the sand for your main statistics, on which you can then build and track improvement.
The secret sauce of all successful digital business is tracking the end-to-end data of the conversion funnel, allowing the business to see what is working well, and what needs improvement.
Google provides tools to do this tracking, the main one being Google Analytics (GA). Anyone who is serious about digital business should have at least a basic understanding of GA. Although GA may seem complicated at first glance, the top level figures are very easy to find and track. Hopefully you now understand the value of learning how to read this data.
Setting up tracking correctly is absolutely vital to CRO so you may need a technically competent web developer to do this.
Interpreting The Data
How do you know how well you are doing when you see the data for the first time, i.e. what is a good conversion rate?
There are average industry statistics available to compare your data with and that is always a good starting place. There is always room for improvement when it comes to CRO. The best companies are constantly iterating and improving their website. Digital is a rolling evolution of improvements. It is about getting lots and lots of small things right through end-to-end attention to detail.
Your data will show you where to prioritise your efforts and resources, for example on better content, more focused landing pages, a better shopping basket experience, more effective call to actions, page speed or on-page SEO. For lead generation it may highlight issues with your busines development or lead nurturing process.
Speed & Technical Fixes
Before addressing individual page designs you need to check the performance of your website technically. in our experience, there are often many back-end technical issues that can play a big role in loss of business.
For example, the ideal load time of a website page is less than 1 second. If it is over 1.5 seconds many visitors will immediately bounce, and every extra second reduces conversions rates by 7%.
Imagine your website looks great but you have not realised that it is taking 5.5 seconds to load. That means that you could increase your conversion rate by 30% by just fixing the speed of the site.
Google added Core Web Vitals to its search algorithm in 2021. This rates the user experience of your website from a technical point of view and speed is a major factor. Read more about this in our article about Search Engine Optimisation.
Unfortunately most graphic designers turned web designers are not well versed in technical implementation. We see all kinds of rookie mistakes from poorly built sites. However, there are two things you can do that can make a big difference to your page speeds.
1. Optimise your images and other aspects of your site. Large images can drastically slow your site down, but most can be compressed to a fraction of their original size without loss of quality.
2. Cache the content of your site so that it doesn’t have to be loaded each time a user visits your web page. A caching tool/service can exponentially speed up your website.
Google has a free tool called Search Console which can help identify on-site technical issues that could be effecting your website, and in most cases tells you how to fix them.
We will be happy to do a CRO (and SEO) audit on your site to explain what you need to do to reach your business goals.
Don’t Make Me Work!
The essence of conversion rate optimisation can be summed up as “Don’t make me work!”
In other words, you need to get inside the head of your visitors and give them the information they want as fast as possible, and with as much detail as they require. Then once they are ready to contact you or make a purchase that process must be obvious, simple and fast.
Like you, your website visitors don’t have time to waste. If the page they land on does not obviously give them what they expect or need they will immediately “bounce” off and go elsewhere.
Even if you do manage you get their attention initially, you need to continue to provide what they want because the average attention span is 8 seconds (it was 12 seconds in 2005).
If for example, they have searched in Google for “start a pension” then you need to have them click through to a page about starting a pension and nothing else. This is known as a “landing page”.
Console also identifies on-site technical issues that could be effecting your website and in most cases tells you how to fix them.
Your homepage is usually the worst possible landing page because it is likely to have a lot of general content and your site visitor will have to spend time looking around to find what they need. You might think that it is easy to find via your menu, but users often won’t even give you the extra few seconds required to find the information they are looking for. How often have you been frustrated by a website and left in disgust?
Landing pages are bespoke selling pages.
They should shorten the user journey as much as possible by bringing your site visitors directly to the information they are looking for. To do this every page on your website should have a keyword phrase target which informs page content and which is optimised for on-page SEO. This will vastly improve conversion rates.
Google has a free tool called Search Console which provides information on the performance of individual landing pages and how they relate to your industry’s top keywords. This can help you understand where to focus your conversion rate optimisation efforts.
A good webpage design is functional, intuitive and easy to use, with no unnecessary baggage. ideally it should visually communicate to your potential new customers the value you offer and include a call to action that is clear and unambiguous.
Not all people are alike, and our approach is to attune content to a wide psychological spectrum. For example, some people will just read the headline and a few lines of text and will then make a fast, gut reaction decision to contract you. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who operate with an attitude of “I don’t believe you – prove it to me”, and will want a lot of detail before they consider you credible. So your content needs to be geared towards both of these type of visitors. (This psychological approach dovetails nicely with the use of personas that marketing people are so fond of!)
Here are the main elements of a landing page:
- Headline (main benefit statement)
- Secondary benefits (less is more)
- Clear call to action (CTA), such as contact us form or purchase button.
- Main body text (if long include extra CTAs)
- Header & footer CTA
It is vitally important to eliminate all unnecessary steps in the contact form or purchase process. This final step in the conversion funnel is where most of the bounces occur, akin to a hole in the bottom of the net.
So, for example, just asking for a name, email and number will get a higher conversion rate than a form where you look for lots of extra details. This extra information may be useful for your sales team, but it is annoying for the site visitor to have to do this “work” for you.
Remember a landing page is NOT a sales qualification page. That is the job of your business development team.
We have to mention poor lead handling and nurturing as a major cause of low sales conversion rates.
This can be a big cause of frustration for marketing teams because it impacts the return on marketing investment (ROMI) for lead generation marketing campaigns.
We often see a major disconnect between marketing and sales when a website lead is provided to a sales team from an online campaign run by marketing. The examples below will illustrate this point.
Over the years we have seen many call-centre horror stories where little or no training was provided to sales on how to handle leads from websites. Here are a couple of quick examples to illustrate what an happen:
1. A fabulously sucessfully marketing campaign was generating many high quality leads for a financial services company in Dublin which were being handled by a call centre in Belfast. Recordings of the calls showed how the callers could not understand the accents of the people in the call centre, and also identified a host of other issues.
It also turned out the call centre was for handling calls from existing customers had had no experience in sales. The campaigns were deemed a failure and the conclusion was “digital marketing doesn’t work for our type of business”.
2. Another campaign for a legal company had excellent marketing and landing pages, but the enquiries were sent to a junior solicitor to deal with. She was an excellent solicitor but not the kind of people-person you need for dealing with the publi. Plus she had been given no training.
Once this was identified and a more suitable person was given the job, with proper ongoing training, the campaign generated €2m in fee income for the firm in the first year alone.
A/B & Multivariant Testing
Once you have the basics of conversion rate optimisation in place and have established your baseline statistics you are ready to get into the finer detail of conversion rate optimisation.
This is where you can test individual or multiple improvements to a landing page and discover the impact on your conversion rate. This can be done fairly easily with free Google tools but is beyond the intended scope of this article.
Feedback from customer surveys and heatmaps are just two ways of finding things to test/improve.
How Can We Help?
The sooner you speak to us, the sooner you will discover for yourself why our deep experience of digital makes us such a valuable resource. We speak the language of business and our success has come from being able to explain digital from a commercial rather than technical perspective.
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