What is CRO? How to Increase Conversion Rates (Free Template)

What is CRO?

You may remember from Latin 101 at college that conversiō is the process of turning around, altering, changing, or converting.

And whether you’re now a WeWork-dwelling solopreneur or a newly-hired marketer at an SMB, it’s crucial for your leads to undergo conversiō.

After all, without conversions site visitors aren’t as likely to sign up to newsletters, put an item in a cart, or proceed to the checkout page and order that product or service. Conversions, therefore, are a major contributor to your business’ longevity.

This could be the point where you’re frantically thinking: “I want to secure my business’ longevity! How can I help facilitate conversions? And how can I optimize conversion rates for the better?!”

Slow down.

We’ve got you covered.

During this post we’ll be explaining all things CRO – conversion rate optimization.

First we’ll tackle what CRO is, then we’ll delve into an actionable framework for increasing your conversion rates, and then we’ll provide you with a Process Street-made template which has everything you need to hike those conversion rates up!

All you have to do is read the different sections below:

Let’s jump straight in.

What is CRO (conversion rate optimization)?

What is CRO conversion rate optimization?

Question: What is CRO?

Answer: It’s conversion rate optimization.

In layman’s terms, conversion rate optimization is the process of, well, optimizing conversion rates so they can reach the highest percentage possible.

As the writers at much-loved marketing software company Moz explain:

“Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action — be that filling out a form, becoming customers, or otherwise. The CRO process involves understanding how users move through your site, what actions they take, and what’s stopping them from completing your goals.”Moz, What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

However, the thing with conversion rate optimization – and this might be infuriating to learn – is that there’s no set, standardized way to increase conversions for each and every website. No one-size-fits-all method. No plug-and-play guide.

How you increase conversions is dependant on your industry, your niche, your business branding, the kinds of leads you’re bringing in, and what you want those leads to do.

Ergo: It’s situational.

But there’s no need to pull your hair out or click off this post.

In fact, the situational nature of CRO is rather positive.

What is CRO?: An introduction to the conversion rate optimization process

For this hypothetical example, I’m the CMO of eCommerce fashion site (You’ll find this hard to believe if you’ve read my post on Marie Kondo and how I only wear 3 different Patagonia shirts and 2 pairs of trousers, but bear with me).

Due to the high-quality, hand-selected pieces we’re selling, there isn’t an issue with visitors buying’s wares.

However, when it comes to newsletter signups, it’s downright depressing.

I spend hours researching, writing, editing, and then publishing the newsletter so the brand is bolstered and readers are engaged by quality content. But there’s only a handful of newsletter subscribers, and there’s been hardly any traction concerning newsletter signups. And that’s the area where I want visitors and customers to convert.

Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of going about conversion rate optimization, I can forego checkout page optimization because that isn’t an issue and, instead, I can focus all my attention on newsletter signup optimization.

After figuring out the exact conversion rate percentages via the conversion rate formula, I’ll conduct qualitative research, quantitative research, and competitor analysis.

Then, I’ll attempt to optimize newsletter signup rates by:

  1. Offering an incentive to sign up to the newsletter.
  2. Showing (and telling) visitors what they can expect from signing up.
  3. Bettering the email confirmation workflow.

I’ll also undergo A/B testing, so I can clearly see if the three above changes have been effective in helping me to achieve my goal: Increased newsletter signups!

If they haven’t, I can swap them for other CRO hacks until I find the ones that work for my business.

Ultimately, with conversion rate optimization, I can have control over how I increase rates and tailor (pun intended) the conversion tactics I use to my business’ specific needs.

A 10-step framework for optimizing conversion rates

Optimizing conversion rates

To hammer the point home: There’s no one way of going about conversion rate optimization which suits every single business. If we made a Process Street checklist which instructed users to implement more CTAs and offer free refunds, those steps could be useless for many.

This is why you need to follow a framework which pin-points and improves differing areas on an as-needed basis.

By doing so, it reduces the liability of you targeting the wrong area, or going about conversion rate optimization in a, well, non-optimal way. This is why only 28% of marketers are satisfied with their conversion rates – they’re simply not conducting CRO properly.

To help you do it effectively, we’ve created a simple 10-step framework for you to work with.

Ad labōrem eāmus! (“Let’s get to work!”)

1. Gather initial data

The first step is to gather initial data relating to conversions.

Ideally, you’ll want to use a conversion rate formula to figure out the latest overall conversion rate, and then a specific formula to look at the conversion rate of what you’re trying to target, like the aforementioned newsletter signup rate, for instance.

If you aren’t sure of what to target and what’ll bring in the most traction, Gabriel Weinberg‘s Bullseye Framework is a great way to figure out what isn’t possible, what’s probable, and what’s working. It’s a great metric-driven framework which will set you up for this CRO framework rather well.

2. Write down hypotheses

By gathering your initial data, it will set you up nicely for the next part of the framework: Writing down the hypotheses. This step is where you’ll write down what areas should be targeted for conversion rate improvement, why, and the webpage elements you think will need to be altered.

After all, going into improving conversion rates blindly doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly won’t help you and your business.

To help you write down your hypotheses, answer the following questions:

  • What needs to be improved?
  • Why does it need to be improved?
  • What effect will the change have?
  • What are the people behind the (non)clicks like (in terms of customer persona), and at what stage of the customer journey map are they?
  • What parts of the site should be targeted?

3. Undergo qualitative research

The customer knows best” isn’t just a useful slogan for customer success teams; it’s essential for marketing teams, too.

By directly asking your customer base how you can improve certain experiences related to what you’re targeting, you’ll gain insight into their thought process, enabling you to figure out what needs to be changed for them to undergo conversiō.

Customer feedback can be gained via polls, online surveys, 1-1 conversations, and group interviews. Reading users’ suggestions or reviews they’ve left on review sites are also potent ways to gather qualitative data.

Once you’re provided with answers, you’ll want to note them down in a memorable, easy-to-access place.

4. Then undergo quantitative research

The flipside of qualitative research is quantitative research. So, instead of gathering feedback based on thoughts, feelings, and instincts, you’ll be gathering hard numerical data during this step.

For this deep dive, you’ll want to find and examine the analytical data relating to how your site visitors are interacting with your website, and where they’re dropping off.

So, in addition to bounce and exit rate metrics, you’ll want to use a tailored-tool to look at things such as how users are moving from web page to web page. Google Analytics is, for this exact reason, many marketers’ best friend. (For instance, Conversion Rate Experts used Google Analytics as a part of their method for growing Crazy Egg‘s conversion rate by 363%!)

Just as you noted down the qualitative data in a memorable, accessible place, you’ll want to do the same for quantitative data.

5. Research your competitors

Competitor analysis

Staying in a self-contained bubble and only focusing on what your business is doing is a dangerous move, and especially when it comes to CRO.

As Svitlana Graves, a web revenue marketing maverick, explains:

“Knowing what the competitors are doing — how they’re thinking about the market, which tactics they’re using, how they’re crafting messages and design — can make all the difference in the battle for customers.

In addition, competitive analysis can be a treasure trove of conversion optimization insights, yet it often gets skipped. And it’s not just a CRO problem—it’s a marketing-wide phenomenon.”Svitlana Graves, How to Do a Competitive Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

Neither me or Svitlana are saying to copy the element of your competitor’s success bit-by-bit. (After all, the last thing you want to generate instead of better conversion rates is a lawsuit!) What is being suggested, though, is to undergo research so you can gain inspiration, ideas, and insight.

However, the process of competitive analysis is bewildering for many marketers – 57% of marketers said they weren’t good at it. But competitive analysis needn’t be fear-inducing.

I suggest using this handy, effective process created by Shane Barker – a digital marketing consultant specializing in CRO – when researching competitors.

6. Identify issues on your website

Now that you’ve looked at your competitors’ websites and your own in depth, you’re about to get into the nitty-gritty: Identifying the issues impacting conversion rates.

Going back to our trusty low-newsletter signup example, this could be the lack of “Sign up to our newsletter here!” pop-ups, poorly written copy, or a lack of information regarding what the newsletter actually consists of.

Another example of an issue could be something as simple as the color of a CTA button, which happened to be HubSpot‘s issue. (After changing the color from green to red, they saw a 21% increase in conversions.)

You’ll want to write down all the issues relating to the targeted element, again, in an easy-to-view, easy-to-remember place.

7. Consider actions to rectify those issues

For this step, you’ll want to brainstorm ideas and actions to tackle the issues you identified in the previous step.

This should be fairly easy: You’ve conducted thorough research, so this is the point where you’ll want to note down the ideas you’ve had along the way.

As you consider actions to take, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the changes directly impact the element(s) you want to change?
  • Can the changes be technically implemented?
  • Will the changes keep the site’s design on-brand?

Although these questions may initially appear basic, they’re crucial for locking down the correct CRO changes you’ll want to make. After all, there’s no use of choosing an action if it can’t be technically implemented; that’s a waste of effort, energy, and money.

8. Prepare those actions for A/B testing

By this point, you’ll have a list of actions you want to implement to see if they’ll improve conversion rates. But first, you’ll need to prepare them for A/B testing.

Essentially, this means asking a designer to create some new designs, or asking a developer to write new code for a “Sign up to our newsletter here!” pop-up.

9. Conduct A/B test

The eagle-eyed among you will notice I’ve mentioned A/B testing a few times now. That’s for good reason: A/B testing is one of the – if not the most – important steps in conversion rate optimization.

With A/B testing, you’re comparing two versions of a webpage with each other. You’ll be able to see if the changes you’ve made have encouraged people to convert, or whether it’s had the opposite effect.

Marketing guru Neil Patel suggests running an A/B test for at least two weeks.

“As a rule, you should test for a minimum of seven days, make sure you’ve reached statistical significance, and then test for another seven days if you haven’t.

When it comes to data, more is almost always better than not enough. Factor testing time into your A/B plan at the start, and you won’t feel rushed or tempted to cut it short too early.

Can you run a test for longer than two weeks? Of course!”Neil Patel, How Long Should I Run My A/B Test?

10. Return to your hypotheses

You’ve identified issues. You’ve tried to rectify them. You’ve run an A/B test and have received data. Congratulations, you’ve completed the CRO process!

Well, nearly.

The last step is to see if the changes you made were successful or not, and how the data relates to your original hypotheses.

By doing this, it’ll help you to pin-point issues and figure out appropriate ways to combat them more easily when going through with conversion rate optimization in the future.

If the changes didn’t result in upped conversion rates, you’ll want to go through the process again until you’ve found a solution that works for your specific niche.

Once you’ve seen rates rise and you’ve returned to your hypotheses, you just have to push the changes live.

Use Process Street’s template for CRO and website optimization

Website optimization

Research by ConversionXL, a digital growth agency, uncovered three major pain points that marketers face when it comes to kicking off the CRO process.

The first issue is that there’s a lack of budget from top execs.

The second problem is there’s a lack of time and accountability.

For the third and final pain point, ConversionXL found that marketers didn’t have the sufficient know-how to tackle CRO properly.

Now, these are rather dramatic roadblocks. They’re enough to sabotage any business’ plans for upping their conversion rates and gaining more engaged, loyal customers.

Here at Process Street, we want to help you overcome these bumps in the road with the right business growth tools.

That’s why we’ve turned the above 10-step framework into an astonishingly easy-to-use template you can run checklists off!

By using this amazingly handy template, you’ll:

  • Have a process to follow, which will inadvertently save you time.
  • Be able to instill accountability.
  • Use a free resource, which will surely make those top execs in charge of finances happy!
  • Have the ability to use checklists launched from the template time and time again, on an as-needed basis.
  • Be able to edit the template, should you want to make any changes or additions.
  • Have important data, hypotheses, and findings all in one document.

Simply put, with our hyperfocused marketing resources, we have you and your CRO efforts covered every step of the way.

And luckily for you, the benefits of using Process Street to up your CRO game don’t end with our template, either…

The secret 11th step for improved website conversion

We’ve provided you with 10 simple steps to abide by when undergoing conversion rate optimization, but there’s another tactic that will help your website transform from conversion rate zero to conversion rate hero. Think of it as the secret 11th step you’ve gained exclusive access to by reading this far.

It’s time to give you what you’ve been waiting for. The 11th step is… make use of Process Street’s other conversion-related resources to bolster your CRO efforts even further!

If you haven’t used Process Street before (or signed up for a free account), Process Street is superpowered checklists.

By using, creating, or editing templates, you can document the processes you need to follow and adhere to. You – or others – can then run checklists straight from those templates, meaning there’s a single-use checklist to complete each time you want to tackle that recurring task.

Below we also have CRO-focused blog posts, templates, and even a Process Street podcast you can use alongside your flashy new CRO framework template. Click on the links and become the most insightful marketer in your department, or the most clued-up solopreneur in your WeWork office.

You can see our A/B testing template in all its glory via the embed here:

And for our aforementioned customer journey map template, you can jump straight into it by hitting the “Edit Checklist” button:

That’s it, unfortunately – the end of this “What is CRO?” post. We’ve provided you with everything you need to know about conversion rate optimization and offered three immensely useful templates. Now all you need to do is dive in and use them yourself!

Here’s to making your business the best it can possibly be.

Are there any CRO tips, tricks, or insights you’d like to share? Write them down in the comment box below. By doing so, you could be featured in an upcoming article!

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Thom James Carter

Thom is one of Process Street’s content writers. He’s also contributed tech-related writing to The New Statesman, Insider, Atlassian, G2, The Content Marketing Institute, and more. Follow him on Twitter @thomjamescarter.

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