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Intro to Conversion Rate Optimization

C+R Co.

Optimizing Your Website for Maximum Results.

Optimization is defined as applying analytical techniques to help us make better decisions.  Using this definition as the context, then, when the goals of a business are defined, we make decisions on how to optimize those goals.

This article is going to touch on the merits and effects of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). However, also in this discussion, I will quickly look at another form of optimization that is important in your planning strategy—and that is SEO; Search Engine Optimization.

But, before we look at CRO, we need to define what a Conversion is.

A conversion is the term used when a visitor to a website completes one or more of the established goals for that website. A conversion can be anything from completing a request to receive newsletters or emails, to making a purchase on the site.

The goal of every eCommerce website, whether it be Shopify-hosted or otherwise, is to achieve a conversion of some kind. The larger, overarching goal, of course, is to make a sale…and that would be the macro-conversion. But before the macro-conversion, there can be several smaller conversions, micro-conversions, completed by your website visitors.

The micro-conversions can comprise a sequence of steps the visitor will take leading up to the macro-conversion.

So, let’s start with a definition: What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

According to, 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.

Therefore, conversion rate optimization is a process of determining why, or why not, visitors to your website are completing the desired action steps (goals) that you have created on your web pages for them.

It’s extremely important to understand why the visitor took the action they did. Because, if they didn’t convert as you had intended, then you must ascertain what needs to be fixed. And, if they did convert, then you can determine what’s working and then, can improve on it?

The conversion rate is the indicator that you use to monitor the effectiveness of those goals or action steps you have created on your website for the visitor to take action with. The rate is a number or value that you monitor, and you tweak your strategy accordingly to continually increase that value.

Subsequent articles will dive into the depths of CRO and the specific tactics and procedures of how this optimization process works. But for now, we’ll only get into an understanding of why CRO is necessary.

Before moving on though, let’s take a quick look at SEO.

SEO, search engine optimization is similar to CRO, but at the same time, distinctly different. The main objective of SEO is developing your website so that the search engines find it…preferably quickly and often. SEO is the technique of making your site visible and applying the strategies and tactics recognized for accomplishing this.

SEO is all about increasing traffic to your website. When people do a search online for, say, a product that you just happen to carry, you obviously want the search engines to direct them to your website. So, as you can imagine, it’s a highly technical and competitive process. It’s almost a science and most marketing agencies create a specific position just for an SEO expert.

There is an entire discipline devoted to SEO, but, again, this article is meant to be introductory and to develop an understanding of why we work so hard to optimize your eCommerce website.

And again, SEO is about driving traffic to your website and how to increase the number of visitors you get to look at the products or services that you offer. CRO is all about taking care of those visitors once they arrive at your website and guiding them toward your goals…conversion.

Thus, SEO and CRO compliment each other but are approached and managed quite differently. Getting more customers to your site is a critical part of your marketing strategy. But what you do with these customers once they are at your site is possibly more critical.

When did CRO begin?  

CRO had it’s origins in the infamous (or Internet Bubble) burst of 2000 when countless internet marketers went bust as well. Although many experts point to several economic reasons for the collapse, underneath it all was a lack of interest in consumer motivation and buying habits.

Anybody with anything to sell created a business. The internet market was tremendously overvalued and economic success was minimal because people were not buying as expected—because there was no customer service. This is a very oversimplified explanation of the mess created at the turn of the century. But it serves to point out the need to create a relationship with the customer.

One of the many principles that came out of the debacle was the need to become aware of the flexibility and usability of the internet to connect with the consumer and to learn just what their needs are and to establish a conversation with them.

Measurable results were needed.

What resulted were measurable metrics to monitor and gauge the success of online marketing campaigns and a means to measure the competition as well.

These early marketing tactics, with their measurable results, led marketers to an understanding of their customers and began to allow them to develop websites with a focus on the customer’s needs.

Over the years since 2000, marketers have experimented with web design and other variations in online retail marketing to fine tune their processes…keeping in mind that everything must be measurable to determine what works and what doesn’t.

By 2014, over half of the internet marketing community admitted that CRO was instrumental in their overall marketing strategies.

The goal of CRO is to increase the overall percentage of web site visitors that take action. That is; sign up for a newsletter, give you their email, ask for additional info…respond to any of your lead magnets. Anything that can and will lead ultimately to that macro-conversion…a sale.

The underlying principle to this is that you must fully understand what they are looking for and what they will respond to…what motivates them? Hence, conversion rate optimization is a process of testing…trial and error to determine these motivators.

It actually started with Direct Response Marketing…

Direct Response Marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization go hand-in-hand and share the same basic principles: It suggests a strong emphasis on testing, measuring, and improving.  By putting that emphasis on the user experience and two-way communications with your visitors, and future customers, you are capable of determining what consumers are looking for—then, you can provide it for them.

Obviously, the more people that visit your web site (via SEO) and are converted into buyers (via CRO), the more profit the business realizes. Just an increase in conversion rates from 2% to 3% means growth in sales of 50%.  But any business owner today knows that it is much more than just dollars and cents. It’s about creating relationships with customers who come back, time and time again.

Watch this site for more on Conversion Rate Optimization.

In the meantime, let Chelsea & Rachel Co. help you put your business plan into work and they will show you just how CRO can and will make a difference.

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