What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Suzanne Trainer by Suzanne Trainer | 30th January 2020

Are you getting lots of quality traffic to your site that’s not converting?

You need conversion rate optimisation (CRO).

Website traffic acquisition is only half of the job of digital marketing. The other half is getting web visitors to perform the desired when they’re on your website. Whether it’s a content download, webinar sign-up, product demo or trial or an online enquiry. Conversion rate optimisation is the process of making that happen.

What is Conversion rate optimisation?

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process of optimising web pages and/or page elements to increase conversion rates by running A/B tests or split tests with two different versions of a page or multivariate testing where multiple elements are tested at once.

In A/B and split tests, traffic is equally divided between the two versions to see which version achieves the highest conversion rate until statistical significance has been achieved.

be number one on google

Sounds good, but I’m in B2B so do I need CRO?

There is often a misconception that CRO is just for an Ecommerce business, but the truth is, it is for every type of business.

Let’s say your digital marketing is working and you’re getting plenty of website traffic from your SEO, paid search, social or content marketing.

But, the people visiting your site aren’t actually doing what you want them to do i.e downloading a whitepaper, subscribing to your newsletter, booking a demo or completing an enquiry form. They’re not converting.

The process of optimising your website to increase the likelihood that your visitors will perform the desired action is conversion rate optimisation.

When there is marketing investment going into inbound, lead generation activities designed to drive traffic to the website, it’s crazy not to invest a bit more time into optimising the website for conversion.


Conversion rates

What is a good conversion rate?

Conversion rate averages vary by sector.

According to Capterra, the conversion rate average for lead generation in the software industry hovers between the 5% to 10%.

The average e-commerce website conversion rate is about 3%. This means that 97% of visitors leave sites without completing a purchase. This doesn’t mean, however, that each and every site is destined to fall into its industry’s average conversion rate.

A Marketing Sherpa study revealed that website conversion rates across various industries are typically:


Industry average conversion rates

  • Non-profit 2%
  • Retail or Commerce 3%
  • Travel or Hospitality 4%
  • Manufacturing or Packaged Goods 4%
  • Technology Equipment or Hardware 5%
  • Software/SaaS 7%
  • Education 8%
  • Healthcare 8%
  • Other 8%
  • Media or Publishing 10%
  • Professional or Financial Services 10%

How do I calculate my website conversion rate?

(Total Attributed Conversions / Total Measured Clicks) * 100

To textualize the formula, think of like that if your conversion rate is 4%, it means 4 out of 100 people visiting your website convert.


How to do conversion rate optimisation

CRO Hypothesis

At the heart of each CRO experiment is the hypothesis – the statement that the experiment is built around.

An effective hypothesis statement looks like this:

Changing the wording of this CTA to set expectations for users (from “submit” to “send demo request”) will reduce confusion about the next steps in the funnel and improve order completions.

You can further build on your hypothesis, buy adding a problem statement:

Problem Statement: “The lead generation form is too long, causing unnecessary friction.”
Hypothesis: “By changing the amount of form fields from 10 to 5, we will increase number of leads.”


What can be optimised for conversion?

According to optimisation tool, VWO, the 6 website elements that can be optimised are:

  1. Landing page design
  2. Website copy
  3. Call to Action (CTA)
  4. Navigation and site structure
  5. Forms
  6. Page speed

Quantitative research

Quantitative data is number driven where you’re looking for the actual data or statistics to support or dismiss the hypothesis and identify what users are doing, whilst qualitative data by contrast, helps you understand the why behind consumer behavior.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is powerful software. It provides a lot of free data about user behaviour on your site. Use Google Analytics reports to identify landing page performance and conversions by browser, mobile, acquisition source, customer segment etc. 


Heatmaps show you where users are clicking and scrolling on your web page.

Hotjar heat map

Example: Hotjar heatmap.

Crazy Egg produced this before and after heatmap comparison where the goal of the optimisation program was to increase the percentage of e-commerce sign-ups for nurse’s Continuing Education subscription.

This heatmap of the page before the CRO work shows that users did not have a clear idea of what to do on the page. 

Heatmap before CRO


After testing variations of the page, the winning version show that page visitors had clearly focused attention on the most important area of the new page – on the call to action area.

heatmap after CRO

Other quantitative research methods include: Survey data Web Analytics and Net promoter score (NPS).

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is gathered using session recordings session replay and user surveys.


Session recordings

Session recordings show you how people interact with your pages. Which takes a lot of the guesswork out of answering: “Why does no-one convert on this page?”

Watching session replays gives you insight (often surprising) into how many pages users view, how long they dwell on a page, things they try to click on which aren’t clickable and where they’re dropping off in your conversion funnel. Qualitative research will give you insight into the user experience (UX) and levels of customer satisfaction. It typically is used for a better understanding of:

  • Purchase journey of a customer
  • Exact root cause of abandonment(s)
  • Customer thoughts about your product(s) and/or services(s)
  • Their fears, doubts or hesitations before and during the purchase
  • Their feedback after they receive/use the product(s) and/or service(s)

Voice of the customer (VoC)Hotjar poll

For your qualitative research you can also use survey tools to poll users about why they landed on a certain page or didn’t convert. This poll shown is a hotjar poll. You can choose a question from their bank of popular Q’s or you can add your own. 


A/B Testing

Once you’ve identified what page or element you want to improve you then you decide the most appropriate method of testing.

One of the core elements of CRO is A/B testing.

A/B testing is a way of comparing two versions of the same webpage or element on a page to see which produces better results. So, 50% of traffic will see version 1 and 50% will see version 2. Eventually, the version that performs more effectively and produces a larger amount of conversions is declared the winning variation.

AB test variants

You’ll need to find out if your website receives enough traffic to produce statistically significant results before you run an A/B test. If your sample size is too small, you won’t be able to learn anything from your results since they won’t accurately reflect how a larger population is using your site.

To calculate the sample size you’ll need to conduct an A/B test, enter your current conversion rate for the web page that you’d like to test and the number of pageviews it receives into this VWO calculator.


Multivariate testing (MVT)

Multivariate testing is the testing of different elements of your website simultaneously. For instance, you might test new images and a new CTA, a different navigation structure along with a new explainer video, and so on.


The biggest difference with A/B and multivariate testing is the amount of time and traffic required.

Multivariate testing requires more traffic and takes more time to yield results, nevertheless, it can give more valuable insight.


Do I need A/B and MVT testing tools to do CRO?

To run CRO tests, you do need to use a testing tool. The popular A/B and MVT testing tools are VWO, Optimizely, and Google Optimize. For a more complete list and comparison, check out this article from CXL.com A/B testing tools.


How do I measure my CRO tests?

Conversion rate optimisation is a data-driven approach which means you need good data going into your CRO experiments and an understanding of how to interpret the data coming out of them.


Micro and macro conversions

There are two types of conversions, micro and macro conversions.

A micro conversion means that a prospective customer has engaged with your brand. They might have signed up for your newsletter, watched a video or downloaded your whitepaper.

A macro conversion is when someone converts on a primary offer on your website. This is the one that really counts, and often the only one a small business owner is interested in.

Both micro and Macro conversions matter as the smaller micro conversions often lead to a macro conversion further along the sales funnel.


Conversion rate metrics

Key conversion rate optimisation KPIs to track are:

  • Website conversion rate (total conversions / total visitors)
  • Primary (macro) conversion rate. (example, demos booked / total visitors)
  • Bounce rate
  • Homepage bounce rate
  • Repeat visit rate
  • Sign up flow completion rate

What is the difference between a bounce rate and exit rate?

A bounce is a single page session, where users left the page they entered the site on without navigating to any other pages. The exit rate is the number of people who left the site from that page. Of particular interest here is the exit rate of pages with a lead capture form.


Funnel conversion rate

The funnel is defined as the steps a user takes to complete a micro or macro conversion. For a macro conversion such as a SaaS free trial request, the pages in the funnel are the free trial landing page where a user signs up for the trial by completing a form with their details through to the thank you page that’s viewed after they have submitted the form.

The video below whos how to set up funnels in Google Analytics.


Key pages or elements to optimise

Home page optimisation

The homepage is a key page to optimise for higher conversions as it is often one of the pages viewed during the conversion process, known as the conversion funnel, which we’ll get to further on.
A good homepage bounce rate is 30% or lower, although 50-60% tends to the average.

Best practice for optimising your homepageGood homepage design

  • Clearly show your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) above the fold
  • Have a strong headline and image
  • Remove clutter and focus on content that will assist conversion
  • Have a clear Call to Action (CTA)


Call to Action (CTA)

Call to action (CTA) is a button asking the user to take action leading to a conversion. For instance, “Sign Up Now”, “Buy Now” and “Download Now” buttons are examples of different calls to action. Every form of online marketing, whether its social media marketing, paid search or SEO needs to drive a desired action in form of a CTA.

call to action example

To increase the conversion rate, your call to action needs to be clear, well-placed, and attention-grabbing. You can test the size, colour and position of CTA buttons to see what gives better conversions.


FormAB test on a form

The average web form converts roughly 2.35% of users who click through to a landing. If form optimisation is your goal, then here’s a detailed form optimisation guide from Ventureharbour.com. Their tips are summarised below. 

Best practice for optimising web forms

  • Multi-step forms outperform traditional designs
  • Otherwise, stick to single column layouts
  • Shorter forms are not always better
  • Remove unnecessary fields
  • Make your forms easy to complete
  • Progress bars make it difficult for users to quit your forms
  • Selectable images are among the most engaging question type


Landing Pages

A landing page is any web page where you send visitors, in order to drive them towards taking a defined action.

A landing page may be a standalone web page with a single focus and call to action, often with a lead magnet such as a free resource or tripwire such as a time-bound reduced price offer. However, a landing page is any page that a visitor lands on upon entering your website.

There are many case studies illustrating various examples of best practice and studies that point to different landing page techniques.

For instance:

One study found that using long-form landing pages increased conversions by 220%. However, some companies find that short-form landing pages work better for their audiences.

84% of landing pages have navigation bars, while studies show that removing navigation can boost conversions by up to 100%.

Best practices for optimising landing pages example of good landing page design

  • Have a high-converting headline
  • Convey your UVP and benefits
  • Use social proof – testimonials, reviews, ratings and case studies
  • Use subheaders, bullet points and imagery
  • Include key decision-making information
  • Show FAQ’s, how it works, what you get etc.
  • Finish with a strong call to action and form

Popular tools for building your landing pages

  • Unbounce
  • Lead pages
  • Instapage
  • Wishpond

Keep testing

Now that you’re armed with a working knowledge of conversion rate optimisation, you can dive in with confidence. There is always room for improvement, so keep testing and learning and you’ll reap the rewards with more conversions and ultimately more sales.


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