Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is an incredibly important step in your marketing process. No matter how well your strategy is working, the potential to test and improve is always there.
Many marketers are hesitant to dive into CRO because there’s not really a set starting point for tests that works for every business.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed because there are just so many different things you can test. The process itself can be frustrating as well. It requires patience and diligence, but the results are well worth your time and effort.
Let’s take a look at 2 categories of CRO you can use as a starting point, along with 6 specific tests you can try out on your own website.
What is CRO?
Before we jump in, let’s start with a quick definition.
Conversion rate optimization is the process of testing and adjusting elements on your website in order to maximize your conversions.
In this context, a conversion is a step in your sales funnel – a new contact form submission, a purchased product, an email newsletter subscription, etc.
How do you perform CRO tests?
Most of the examples I use in this post are A/B tests.
This means you take an element of your page, make a variation of it, and test the performance of the variation against the performance of the original. If the variation out-performs the original, you can make a permanent change.
This type of testing doesn’t really have an upper bound, as you can always come up with different variations to test.
To perform these tests, most people use either Google Analytics Experiments or a third party testing software such as Visual Website Optimizer.
Basically, you need some software or bit of code that divides incoming traffic between your two (or more) variations, so that you can then compare user metrics in order to find a winner.
Optimizing your calls to action (CTAs)
This is one of the easiest places to practice CRO because it’s straightforward and very measurable.
If you have good, consistent traffic coming to your website but very poor conversion rates, your calls to action (CTAs) are a great place to start when investigating the discrepancy.
A CTA is anything that invites your visitors to take action. They might be buttons that say “buy now!” or “click here!”, or in-text links encouraging visitors to download a specific resource, and so on.
When you start optimizing your CTAs, there are two parts to look at – the wording itself, and the graphical presentation of the CTA.
1. CTA copy optimization
In general, pointed CTA copy that instructs a visitor to take a specific action outperforms generalized CTA copy.
If most of your CTAs are generic instructions like “Click Here,” “Sign Up,” or “Download Now,” you can try experimenting with more personalized commands.
Speaking directly to your users is a great way to encourage users to click on an otherwise-boring CTA. Check out one of Grey Goose’s CTAs for a great example:
Another common and well-tested trick is framing your CTAs as benefits. Let’s say you run a computer parts business and you offer a free, downloadable guide on how to build your own computer.
Instead of a CTA that just instructs visitors to “download now,” you could test out a CTA like “Build the perfect computer today!”
Copy that implies the user is missing out if he or she doesn’t download, buy, sign up, or take some sort of action will typically outperform more general instructions.
2. CTA visual optimization
On the other hand, it doesn’t matter what your CTAs copy is if people don’t even notice it in the first place. You can extensively test the look of your CTAs, from the background color to CSS animations and beyond.
If you’re just using normal hyperlinks as CTAs, you may want to test out links that are styled to look like buttons.
People know what to do when they see a button. It’s a deeply-ingrained associated for users – click the button and something will happen.
But once your CTAs are styled as buttons, you have even more room for testing and experimenting. There is a psychology behind color and it’s up to you to test and find out what combination of colors, fonts, and sizes increases your overall conversion rate.
3. CTA placement optimization
The location of your CTAs is another opportunity for optimization.
Lots of websites have a single CTA on their “money pages,” usually shoved all the way at the bottom of the page.
Test out putting a big CTA above the fold and at the bottom of the page, or even as many times as you want throughout the page.
It might seem counterintuitive – after all, you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors with sales copy every two sentences – but with the right balance, it works.
Optimizing your headlines
Other than CTAs, your headlines are one of the easiest elements to test, optimize, and benefit from.
While CTA optimization helps with the very end of your sales process, headline optimization helps bring users to your website from the SERPs in the first place.
There are entire books written on copywriting and how to construct the perfect headline, so keep in mind that this is a very small slice of information on the subject. That being said, here are a few common, easy-to-implement headline modifications you should test out on your site:
4. Add numbers
As simple as this is, it can work wonders on your click through rate.
Everyone claims to hate those “top 10” Buzzfeed articles, but everyone continues to click on them. Why? Because people love the comparison, ranking, best of/worst of, etc format that numbers imply.
Beyond the Buzzfeed method of utilizing numbers, take a look at the headline of this current article: 6 CRO Tests for Your Website. I put the number in there because it does a better job of showing that this post is definitive and actionable than something vague like “How to do CRO.”
Yet another method of incorporating numbers into your headlines is simply sticking the current year in there. Returning to our computer parts example, people will almost always click on the headline “How to build the perfect computer in <current year>” rather than one that doesn’t specify how recent the information is.
So go ahead and try putting numbers into your headlines to see what works best for you!
5. Use negative words
This one may seem counter-intuitive, but OutBrain’s test results are fairly conclusive: Negative words like “never” and “worst” result in a higher CTR than positive words like “always” or “best” in headlines.
A practical example of this is the numbered, list-style articles we talked about earlier.
Instead of an article on “the 5 best CRO tests for your website,” you could flip the idea and write “the 5 worst CRO tests for your website.”
According to OutBrain’s research, a negative spin on your content often yields a better CTR.
6. Other headline optimizations
You can keep going forever when testing the performance of headline variations.
Some other common variations to test on your website are:
- Headline length
- Level of sensationalism
- Headline question vs statement vs exclamation
- Joke / pun headlines
Some of these are obviously better suited for different industries, but the point here is to explore and test any variation that you think will have an appreciable impact on your CTR (or other engagement metrics).
CTAs and headlines are probably the two easiest facets of CRO to get started with.
But as you can probably see, there are endless opportunities for optimizing through testing and adjusting.
CRO should be an ongoing aspect of your marketing efforts, although it is important to keep in mind that the lack of a clearly defined stopping point means you’ll have to use your best judgement as to when something has been tested “enough.”
How do you approach CRO?
If you have any favorite CRO tricks, quick wins, or preferred approaches, let me know in the comments below!