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The Definitive
Conversion Rate Optimization Guide
Conversion Rate Optimization Guide
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Conversion Rate Optimization Guide
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Getting Started with the Conversion Rate Optimization Guide

Conversion optimization, or conversion rate optimization (CRO), is the tinkering, tweaking, and testing that occurs to make the most out of every piece of content you publish and every campaign you run. Think of it like a digital marketer’s test kitchen, experimenting with different recipes to get the best possible result to serve to the diners.

Unlike a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ approach to marketing, conversion rate optimization assumes that, with thoughtful testing, there is always room for improvement. After all, getting online is as simple as publishing a website, but growing your business involves transforming web traffic into leads and sales. This is how you take your business growth from good to great, from ‘in business’ to a steady (and increasing) income.

What is a conversion?

A conversion refers to any time a web visitor takes a desired action on your website or landing page. Therefore, your conversion rate is the number of people who took that action, divided by the total number of people who visited the page.

For example, 20 out of 250 visitors downloaded your ebook. That’s an 8% conversion rate. Then, imagine you run an AB split test on the page to see if your visitors respond better to an ebook or a checklist. You see that the offer of a checklist increases your conversion rate to 36%. That’s the difference between 90 leads (0.36 ⅹ 250) or 20 leads (0.08 ⅹ 250) on the same amount of traffic.

The goal of conversion rate optimization is to make the most of your hard-won web traffic. Website conversion optimization involves constantly improving on your success and figuring out what you can do to better engage with your audience.

By testing and paying attention to how well your audience responds to different kinds of marketing queues—everything from price to the pictures you use on the landing page—you’ll be better able to connect with your audience, convince them of your value, and convert them to the next stage of their customer journey.

This guide is designed for the savvy small business owners and DIY digital marketers who want to go from 0 to 60 on their conversion rate optimization journey. We’ll cover the basics (what is conversion rate optimization, what’s a good conversation rate, etc.) and the nitty-gritty tactics that you can use to take your web content to the next level.

Ready to dive in? Each chapter of the Conversion Rate Optimization Guide explores a key topic to both enhance your website conversion optimization knowledge and help you apply this knowledge to your own business right away.

What is conversion rate optimization?

Conversion optimization is typically a four-step process:

  1. Analyze current conversion by looking at all the variables that are influencing your CRO.
    • Don’t have a conversion event? Identify it by pinpointing the single most-valuable action a visitor can take on this page.
  2. Talk to your audience to understand why your visitors are leaving as opposed to converteding.
  3. Make changes and focus your efforts on improving things your audience provided feedback on.
  4. Continuously test your changes to determine what’s working (and what’s not).
    • On any given page, identify one variable to test: identify one design or content feature you think will influence how your visitors behave (ex. headline text or button color).
    • Publish multiple versions of your content: change that single variable to have two or three versions of the page (with just that one difference).
    • Distribute your web traffic between the versions: with AB split testing tools that randomly redirect your web traffic to one of the test variations.
    • Determine a ‘winner’: based on the version that has the highest conversion rate (total conversions ÷ total traffic), end your test, and apply what you learned to future content you create.

Step one is about understanding your business and your primary points of conversion. How are you getting people to make a purchase or click “download” on a piece of content? This means, before you even start optimizing your page, you need to understand what actions are most important for your business and also what single action is most important for a particular piece of content.

In most cases, the conversion is accompanied by a call-to-action (CTA) button, prompting the visitor to act: buy now, sign-up, register, etc. Strong CTAs are concise, compelling, and clear.

You’ll also want to calculate your current conversion rate. This will help you understand how your page is currently performing and will establish a baseline that you can improve upon.

Then you’ll take a look at the difference between your goal and your actual performance numbers. How well are you converting now? What would an increase in your conversion rate do for your profits or sales?

Conversion rate optimization is about making changes to your offer and content that close the gap between your goal and real-world performance.

Ask yourself: what on the page might make the conversion rate better? It might be the CTA box or the lead magnet or the headline. Pick one variable to change and test it against the control version.

Then, you’ll duplicate your page. Each version should look almost the same, except for that variable change. For example, one version might have a blue CTA button, a second has red, and a third has orange.

Then, divide your traffic as evenly as possible between the different pages. This helps you collect data to see which shows the best conversion rate.

Finally, whichever page has the best conversion rate is the “winner.” If the blue CTA button has the highest calculated conversion rate, keep the blue version.

Then you can start testing the next variable.

Why is conversion rate optimization important?

Your conversion rate is perhaps the strongest measure of success on any web page, landing page, or digital marketing campaign. It tells you how many web visitors take the action that will help achieve your business goals.

A high conversion rate means more people are taking the desired action. A low conversion rate, on the other hand, can signal one of three problems: you’re not reaching the right audience, you’re not engaging the audience effectively, or you’re not bringing them the right offer.

Conversion rate optimization, then, helps you fine-tune your marketing content to be as effective as possible. As your conversion rate rises, more people will move through your sales funnel and your list of qualified leads will grow (thus, so will your sales and revenue).

Some key benefits of conversion rate optimization:

  • Minimize acquisition cost by making the most of your hard-won web traffic
  • More quickly grow your email list with qualified leads
  • Increase your sales (and repeat sales)
  • Help you better understand your audience’s expectations (and what compels them to act)

Getting web traffic to your site is expensive, whether it’s with pay-per-click campaigns, social media posts, or word of mouth. Don’t waste all that traffic by allowing visitors to leave without engaging with your brand on a deeper level. That means getting them to take action when they come to your website or landing page.

How do you calculate a conversion rate?

You can’t improve what you don’t measure, and you can’t guide your decisions on gut feel alone. Measuring and tracking a single number over time (conversion rate) is critical to understanding how your website is performing. Your conversion rate tells you how many customers are connecting with your website enough to take a step towards purchasing.

So how do you calculate a conversion rate? Let’s do some simple math.

Take the number of people who took your desired action (aka “conversions”) and divide it by the total number of sessions or views. How many people saw the CTA versus how many people took the action?

Conversion rate = actions taken divided by unique views.


Not sure if your conversion rate is good or bad?

Sure, there are industry benchmarks you can use, but it’s usually more complicated than a single number. The best indicator is your own historical data. How have similar pieces of content performed in the past? Is your average conversion rate getting better over time?

Also, think about what a higher conversion rate would do for your business. Are you happy with your current influx of traffic, or do you need more based on your ROI?

How do you optimize conversion rates?

Your website conversion optimization is unique—unique to your business, your audience, the type of offer, and even the timing of the page launch. What works for a competitor’s site might not work for yours. That’s why tracking your conversion rate and trying to improve on your historical performance is the best possible way to improve your marketing.

Still, there are a few universal truths that can radically improve your conversion optimization.

Here are some of our favorite truths about conversion optimization:

  • Increasing credibility increases conversions Testimonials, reviews, awards, case studies, and references all increase your credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Your CTA should be easy, succinct, and clear Tell your visitors what you want them to do in the most direct, understandable way.
  • The CTA should be the most intriguing and attractive part of the page. Make the CTA even clearer by changing the color of the text or putting it in a separate box.
  • The content should effectively answer the visitor’s objectionsProactively address the barriers (friction) that will keep visitors from taking the desired action.
  • The page should be minimalistic and easy to follow Remove any unnecessary copy, content, links, or distractions and focus your visitor’s attention only on the desired action. For example, remove extra navigation (menu items) and social share buttons from your landing pages.
  • Make it urgent People procrastinate, unless they’re given a reason not to. Create a scarcity of stock or time, so people are more likely to click right now. Don’t give them time to “mull it over.”
  • Always test Run tests and ask your customers for feedback to get data on what is and isn’t working on your page. There’s always room for improvement.

The ultimate guide to website conversion optimization

In Chapter One: What is a Conversion Rate you’ll learn that conversion rate optimization constitutes:

  1. Set a goal and desired action
  2. Count how many visitors are taking that action
  3. See how many visitors are not taking that action
  4. Find a way to get more visitors to take that action

We’ll also go over what the benefits of optimizing conversion rate are, like:

  • Minimize acquisition cost by making the most of your hard-won web traffic
  • Grow your email list with qualified leads (faster)
  • Increase your sales (and repeat sales)
  • Help you better understand your audience’s expectations (and what compels them to act)

Chapter Two: How Do I Calculate My Conversion Rate we’ll go over the math for calculating your conversion rate and what a good conversion rate looks like (in Chapter 3: What’s a good Conversion Rate).

With the 21 tips and tricks in Chapter Four: How Can I Improve My Conversion Rate, you’ll improve your conversion rate by learning how to design an optimized page that connects with and engages your audience.

In Chapter Five: A/B Split Testing, we’ll dive down into the nitty-gritty of CRO with A/B testing to discuss how one small change on your website can show improvement in your conversion rate. (We also give you some variables to test out that tend to show the greatest success.)

We’ll also give you 10 recommended variables to test out that tend to show the greatest success.

Then we lay it all out in Chapter Six: Creating a Conversion-Optimized Website , with the 14 ultimate steps to creating a conversion-optimized website that can take your business further, faster.

This comprehensive Conversion Optimization Guide is designed to condense decades of conversion marketing knowledge into no-nonsense steps that you can take today. We’ll cover the basics of conversion rate calculation, how to know if your conversion rate is “good” or bad, running A/B tests, and fine-tuning your optimization tactics every step of the way.

As you work through this guide, we recommend that you pick one of your landing pages or a static website page that has a CTA on it. Use this page as an example as you move through this conversion optimization guide, so you can get first-hand optimization experience and relate the info directly to your business. By the end of this, you’ll have a fresh page to test out for your new conversion rate.