what is CRO

What Is CRO? A Brief Guide


If you write, create, or publish online, you’re bombarded with acronyms.

Today, we’re focusing on one of them — CRO.

Just what does this mean?

It stands for Conversion Rate Optimization, and this oh-so-popular buzz worthy acronym has been floating the web for some time.

According to HubSpot’s Ginny Mineo, CRO is a process by which you create an experience for your site’s visitors. The experience is so compelling that you transform them from “visitor” status into “customer” status.

Conversions have different ways for being measured; and really, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your website.

Before we can dive into the nitty gritty and make you a CRO Pro, you first need to understand what CRO is and the basics for it.

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what is CRO

What It Really Means To Convert (The C in CRO)

Conversion, in its simplest form, means you convinced someone to take action; an action you wanted them to take.

The action could be signing up for a newsletter, clicking around on your site, calling to book an appointment; you get the gist.

Conversions are unique to each website. Your conversion success isn’t the same as the other guy. It is all about what you’re trying to achieve with your site, and if you achieve it. So, if people do what you want them to do, you are going to measure the number of people that do it (versus those that ignore your requests) and see where you need to optimize.

Hint: CRO Is Not SEO

Now that you have a slight grasp on the definition of CRO, next you need to separate it from SEO.

It’s easy to confuse the two terms.

  • SEO, search engine optimization, focuses on optimizing for search engines.
  • CRO, on the other hand, is where you optimize for conversions.

Now, here’s for the confusing part. CRO, in some ways, can still be used to optimize social media; therefore, it could be slightly related to SEO. Related, however, isn’t code for the same.

Moz dives further in and discusses the civil war among CRO and SEO – basically, telling you that you need both, but they aren’t the same.

How To Measure Your CRO

CRO is not measured using just one tool or one piece of research.

Instead, you’re pulling data from multiple sources to compile an optimization tactic for better conversions.

  1. First, you’ll need to identify the troublemakers and get rid of them immediately.
  2. Second, you will devise a plan so that those pesky anti-CROs stay off your site for good.
  3. Third, you will need to compile numbers again, recheck your CRO health, and adjust when necessary.

So, where do you start?

The Numbers You Can Improve With Better CRO

1. Total Conversions

You can’t exactly improve if you don’t know your total conversions. Total conversions are the number of people that did what you wanted them to do (e.g. signed up for a newsletter).

2. Conversion Rate Calculation

This is where you need to whip out your calculator. Here you will take your total number of conversions and divide it by the total visitor count. Note, this will always be higher. It is virtually impossible for you to have a 100% conversion. Also, according to Dave Chaffey at SmartInsights, your optimum conversion rate weighs heavily on the industry and what page you are measuring.

Putting It All Together And Improving CRO

Now you know what CRO is now, but how do you do it?

There isn’t a one-size-fix-all solution with CRO. What works for one website will not work for your site. Even your competitors will have different conversion rates that they are trying to optimize. So, don’t expect to pull a magic solution from a hat here.

Instead, you need to focus on the best practices for CRO and implement what applies to you.

A List Of Best Practices For CRO: 5 Things To Implement Now

You have plenty of tools at your disposal, so now is the time to go fetch them up and harness their power.

See what data you have available to you, and see what your numbers are already telling you about your conversion rates. Here are five ideas Moz recommends you start with:

1. Find Out Where Your Traffic Is Going

By now, you should have Google Analytics on your site (and correctly setup). If you do, finding out where your traffic is bottoming out should be a breeze.

Remember, certain percentages of your visitors will be lost at any transition opportunity. Instead, look for unexplained or higher than average bounce rates and exits.

2. Think Like Your Site’s Visitor

Yes, you own the site, but now is the time to step into the shoes (or screen) of those visiting your website.

Look at your pages. Do they flow well? Can you navigate easily? What about the call to action (CTA)? Is it clear, concise and compelling? Do you even know what the end goal is per page?

See what stands out on the page versus what doesn’t. Anything important should be easily seen, such as links, phone numbers, and of course, the CTA.

3. Run a Survey

There’s no harm in asking people on your site what they want to see improved. After all, they are the people you need to impress. You can survey via social media, email lists, or even set up an outside survey.

4. Usability Testing

Have human beings test your website. You can use sites like Usertesting.com to set up a task for people to complete on your site. You may even receive feedback (depending on which tool you use), audio responses, etc. telling you what users think.

5. Heatmaps

A heatmap will show you where visitors are clicking and where they are going cold. Heatmaps can also show you where visitors would expect your call to action to be on the page.

A few good heatmap tools to try include Tableau, SumoMe, and CrazyEgg.

3 Quick Pick-Me-Ups That May Improve Your CRO Strategy

If you don’t have time for testing, or just don’t have the patience, here’s a few starting ideas:

  • Change Up The Content: Content is the best way to improve your conversion rates. Create content that is engaging, easy-to-read, and flows well on the page. Ease readers into your content, educate them, give them something good to walk away with, then deliver your CTA. Coming off like an excited sales professional won’t get you far regarding In fact, it will likely improve your bounce rate.
  • Make It Pretty On The Eyes: No one likes a website that is cluttered, or they can’t figure out. You cannot expect people to quickly find your contact page when there’s no clear link or option in the menu. Also, colors can turn people away. Kissmetrics has an excellent blog on the power of color and how it can improve conversions. They even go into the psychology of color, which is a critical read for any web designer or owner.
  • Accommodate The Right Type Of Web Users: You aren’t going to have two identical people looking at your site. Even identical twins will have different user experiences. Your website needs to focus on converting those that matter to your business the most; rather than trying to optimize for every person that may accidentally click their way to you.

Don’t Put It All In One Basket: CRO Isn’t Everything

I know, we’ve spent all this time answering the epic “What is CRO?” question, and now I’m concluding by telling you to forget about it.

Before you put your hands up and walk away, listen carefully:

CRO is important, but it is hardly the only element you need to focus on with your marketing strategy. If you solely focus on CRO, you’re leaving out tons of potential for improvement.

Dan Barker at SmartInsights said it best when he stated how conversion rates are not the only answer to your problem. If you solely focus on conversion rates, you may be reflecting on irrelevant data.

Some things Barker suggests you take into consideration include:

  • Higher Conversion Doesn’t Equate to Higher Performance: It’s true. One day you could double conversions, while the next day it decreases by 80%.
  • Not All Visits Are Conversion Opportunities Anyway: Landing pages should have higher conversion rates. However, someone checking the status of an order doesn’t necessarily need to convert. So, keep in mind what page you’re looking at before assuming your CRO needs improvement.
  • Engaging Content Could Reduce Conversion Too: You may have added new content, which is always a bonus. Yet, your conversions have now decreased. The decrease is because more people are visiting to read the content, but not necessarily purchasing that same day. The dip in conversions doesn’t mean they won’t come back; instead, you need to ensure your content keeps them coming back, so they do eventually buy.

So, What Is CRO? It Is Your Key To Web Success

Now is the time to take the knowledge you’ve just learned and implement it.

Take a look at your goals. Define them for your website and only your website.

Then, start implementing your optimization plan.

If you want to grow your email list, make sure the reader knows you want them to join; and, give them a good reason to do so.

If you want people to buy, design a site that makes your products irresistible and pair it up with content that makes readers shake with delight as they click the “add to cart” button.

While SEO optimizes your site for search engines, CRO is what helps turn those lookie-loos into real customers. So, when you’re assessing your website and all the acronyms out there, don’t forget CRO is vital too.

No time to optimize? Let our talented writers at Express Writers help you convert those lookers to buyers. Visit our Content Shop today to get engaging, conversion-ready copy for your site.

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