Off the Bat: What is CRO?
I guess we should start from the beginning—get a little practice time before we really dive in. Your site, whether you sell products, market a service, or both, has conversion points. A conversion can be just about any action by visitors, but for most sites it's more along the lines of a completed purchase, a form submission, or a click to call. Since we're talking sports here, these are goals.
Your site also has traffic—users who visit your site any number of times (for what are called sessions) in a given timeframe. Each of these sessions is a play, or a pitch, and every single one has a chance of resulting in a goal via one of your conversion points.
Your conversion rate is determined by finding the percent of plays that results in goals.
Conversions / Sessions x 100 = Conversion Rate (%)
To boost conversions you have two options:
- Drive additional traffic to your site. The more plays happening, the more likely someone is to score.
- Increase the efficiency of your site to convert. Keep the same amount of plays, but make the game more interesting and turn more of them into goals.
Conversion rate optimization (or CRO from here on out) focuses on the second. By looking at sales funnels we can analyze previous plays to identify friction, hurdles, or complete blocks that are stopping visitors from scoring goals on your site. From there we generate a hypothesis to test, create a new version of the page that incorporates our test, drive the same amount of traffic to both and let the two duke it out to see who scores more goals per play.
The biggest issue clients seem to have when getting on board with a CRO plan is time. Whenever possible, we test one thing in the funnel at a time—nothing else. The reason being: we can say with certainty that any change we see is due to that one change. For many clients that can seem like a painfully slow process. We field questions like, "if you know what's wrong, why don't you just fix it?" or, "can't we speed up the process and just pick a winner ourselves?"
Speed up the process? Pick a winner ourselves?!
Listen, the baseball season is ridiculously long, too. Ain't nobody got time for that. But no one looks at the schedule in April and asks, "gee can't they just get it over with and pick a World Series Champion now?"
He was a young man at the beginning of the season.
No. It is the way it is because that's the way that works. That's the way that gets the job done right. Rules is rules.
Now that we know what CRO is, let's dig into why it should become every business owner's favorite new sport.
We All Love Competition
Football, futbol, basketball, hockey, baseball—all of our favorite sports involve head-to-head competition, and CRO is no different.
More often than not CRO is heated, one-on-one competition… just on your website. One page. One conversion point. Two versions. Battling it out, trading blows, scoring goals, and doing everything they can (well, as much as HTML code can do) to win.
Don't miss what could be the fight of the century, live now on our website.
The best part? It's all for you. Your website is like the Stanley Cup, and each page version is a team. Win, and their roster could be engraved on that beautiful cup forever (until we come back and test something else, but shhh).
We Prefer to Win...
An important part of doing CRO correctly is putting aside some of your biases. Like I said, we're not picking winners here, we're organizing a match and letting the teams decide who wins.
But that having been said, it's hard not to root for the new team. We picked them, from relative obscurity and scores of other teams, and forced them into the spotlight to take on the defending champs: your current site.
Like our brackets in March, we've got some money riding on this. If the new guys can pull off a win it will be cause for celebration, drinks, and hell… maybe a parade.
…But Losing Can Teach Us a Lot
Sometimes, though, that new team we picked just isn't ready and the defending champs repeat.
Losses can feel devastating but they can also show up the holes in our line-up, or that the other team (remember: they're also our team) was actually better than we had thought. Nobody likes to lose, but losses can teach us just as much about our sites and users as wins do.
Ties Are The Absolute Worst
This is America, dammit. We like winners. Hell, we'll tolerate losers, too. But a TIE? What's the point?
In CRO, ties—or inconclusive tests as we call them—are the real failures. We developed a hypothesis, picked our team, sent them out onto the field...
And nothing happened.
Sure, both teams scored a number of times, but no one stood out as the true champion. They just traded goals until the final whistle.
When this happens, the defending champs are the de facto winners. We learned little, changed nothing, and need to rethink our plan of attack. In short: it sucks.
Become a CRO Fan
Sure, maybe I'm a huge nerd, but I think CRO can be fun and exciting… even if it does involve spreadsheets and math and "statistical significance." I've never been that guy at a baseball game keeping stats, but maybe I should give it a shot.
But whether it's fun or not, the best reason to become a fan is that it's a great investment. The whole goal of CRO is to make more money from the same amount of people. Doubling your conversion rate is the same as cutting your cost per acquisition in half.
It can be slow going, but it's important to remember that small changes add up over time. A winning test that results in a small percentage improvement of the conversion rate may not feel like winning the Super Bowl, but each increase adds to the last.
Before long, you can see big results from all those little changes, and you may feel like hoisting a trophy to "We are the Champions."