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CRO 2020

Conversion rate optimization: The ultimate CRO guide for 2020

Conversions are almost more important than sales, and since you rarely come by sales without conversions, it makes sense that you’d want to optimize them effectively so that you get the desired outcome as many times as possible when someone visits your website. Of course, consumer trends and marketing strategies change regularly, so it’s important to keep up with current marketing trends and best practices.


Why is conversion rate optimization (CRO) important? It’s the easiest way to increase your business profits and it’s something that you have a lot of control over. It only makes sense that it should be a standard part of your online business operations.

This guide will help you learn more about CRO and offer steps and strategies to assist with improving your own conversion rates.

Convert browsing shoppers


#1 The importance of conversion in eCommerce and lead generation

#2 Conversion doesn't always mean 'sale'

#3 What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?

#4 Optimizing conversion rates for eCommerce stores

#5 Conversion rate optimization for lead companies

#6 Stop focusing on higher conversion

#7 The best tools for CRO

#8 Where to start?

The importance of conversion in ecommerce and lead generation


Conversion is not just an essential part of success - it is the only way to success for a website or online store. You can’t just wait for people to show up and buy something like you would at a brick-and-mortar location. And even then, these physical stores don’t just wait around. They advertise. They offer specials to new customers and various incentives to generate return business. Most importantly, every time they see a potential customer walk in the door, they do everything in their power to turn that visitor into a buyer.


Unfortunately, this is far easier in a physical store, since most people come specifically looking for something. Aside from the malls and shopping plazas that might garner occasional browsers, most stores see people coming in the doors intentionally. In the online world, there is a much higher incidence of visitors arriving at a website by chance or without the specific intention of doing more than visiting. Therefore, online salesmen have to work that much harder to make the conversion.

Conversion doesn’t always mean ‘sale’


In the case of ecommerce, the end goal is generally to create a sale out of a visitor. However, when you refer to conversion, it doesn’t only refer to sales conversions. There are many types of conversions and they can occur all over your website. Understanding where all of your conversions take place and what their individual intentions are will allow you to better optimize every single one of them.


CRO can benefit your website in a number of ways. Your homepage, landing pages, pricing page or product pages, and your blog can all be optimized to assist with the conversion process. Here is a breakdown of each element and the opportunities it presents for optimization.


The homepage

Your homepage is a prime spot for all kinds of optimization. The first impression is a make-or-break moment in the modern online world that is oversaturated with websites trying to sell this or convince you of that. This is also a great place to catch eager visitors and lead them into other areas of the site. Don’t over-clutter your homepage, by any means, but make sure that you offer a few extra conversion resources:

  • Links to product information or more detailed blog posts

  • Free sign-up buttons, email captures, and other quick grabs

  • Add a chatbot to the homepage that is available to solicit questions during the browsing experience. Just make sure that you don’t overdo it with pop-up frequency or people will get annoyed and leave.


Landing pages

Your landing page is specifically created to get visitors to take action. As such, you definitely need to hone in on CRO here. No matter what your landing page is attempting to cause a visitor to do, there is a way to entice them and give them more reasons to convert rather than navigate away.


If you have a download available, offer a preview or a video preview of the content so that users know what they’re getting. Someone who is trying to sell a product could use this page to focus in on their value proposition: what makes this product better than the rest, and how can it solve the consumer problem?


Pricing page

Your pricing page is where people get the information they need to make a buying decision. Therefore, it’s a critical point for conversion, and it is one that deserves some attention. CRO can allow you to take away all questions and concerns by providing detailed information.


For memberships, you can incorporate a pricing structure that offers modified pricing intervals (annual versus monthly versus weekly, etc.). You can also explain all of the benefits and product features that are included in each item or price. One other option for service-based businesses or those that offer custom product pricing is to provide a phone number and encourage customers to call for pricing.


Use CRO strategies and tools to take all the guesswork out of the pricing page and your conversion rates will start to soar.



You might think your blog is just the place where you put information for people who want to learn more about your business, industry, product, or service. While that is primarily what a blog is for on a business website, it can also be really useful in conversions. Even just a well-crafted and perfectly-placed call-to-action can make a huge difference in your conversion rates. Standard bottom-of-the-post CTAs often get glossed over because people expect them to be there. However, you can place a strategic H3 or H4 call-to-action link in the middle of the content that will probably get a lot more attention.


Another optimization strategy here is to add links to product pages within the content and include a live chat feature that’s still accessible outside of the product and pricing pages. Just make sure you go light on the links, otherwise, it will just look like your only intention in blog posting is to generate sales. You don’t want that kind of reputation.

What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?


Conversion refers to the process of getting website visitors to complete the desired action (which may or may not be a purchase) while on your website. In order to ensure this process is working at its best, you can enlist the assistance of CRO, or conversion rate optimization, which is simply defined by Wikipedia as:


“A system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that […] take any desired action on a webpage.”


While we don’t give this site a lot of credit as an informational resource, it really does nail the simplicity in this definition of CRO. It’s all about implementing tools and methods to increase conversions. There are different tools available and plenty of ways to go about optimizing your website or eCommerce store conversions.


Bear in mind, of course, that some methods will work better for certain types of businesses or marketing strategies. For example, you wouldn’t suggest adding cart abandonment features to a lead generation website, but it’s one of the best ways to bring back visitors who started a transaction at an eCommerce store and then left for one reason or another. Part of the success in CRO is choosing the best strategy for your specific industry or type of business.

Optimizing conversion rates for ecommerce stores


There are a lot of different strategies that you can use to increase your conversion rates when you’re looking to generate more business for your eCommerce store. There is a lot that goes into the initial setup and launch of this type of operation, from sourcing products and setting up shop to advertising and creating brand awareness. Unfortunately, thanks to the increasingly competitive digital world, you have to put in a little more work to get the customers that you want.


First and foremost, you need to stop worrying about sales and focus on conversions. This is perhaps one of the most important metrics that you will need to monitor to increase revenue and build your brand. As discussed earlier, a conversion rate doesn’t always have to be a sale, even on an eCommerce website. Other types of conversions include:

  • Email sign-ups

  • Wishlist or cart use (adding items is one step closer to a sale)

  • Social media sharing

  • Other form submissions

  • Subscription sign-ups (free and paid)

  • Downloads

  • Membership or service upgrades

  • Site engagement (repeat visits, length of stay, etc.)

While your ultimate goal is to generate a sale, your long-term goal is to develop a base of repeat customers that will generate steady revenue for your business. Therefore, you have to offer more than just a product for sale. By giving people other ways to convert on your site without forcing them into a “buy or leave” situation, you’re encouraging them to stick around and showing that you want to make absolutely sure that they get what they need.


Here are some of the best optimization tools, strategies, and areas of focus for eCommerce that you can implement immediately to start making improvements.


A/B testing

If you want to test out new features or layouts on your website, try A/B testing before you commit to changes. In this scenario, you’ll have two available websites, allowing you to split your traffic into two separate groups and send each group to a separate page. Then, you can see how each group responds to each version of your website. You can use this to test out things like buttons, CTAs, headlines, overall design, and more.


The most important key here is to ensure that you only make one change between each variation. That way, you will know exactly what improved conversions and you won’t be guessing which feature actually did the trick.


Value proposition

As mentioned above, your customer value proposition is crucial to conversions and you must make it well-known. Instead of telling people what they get if they buy your product or service, tell them why they need to buy your product or service. When you clearly answer the following questions, you’ll have a well-established value proposition:

  1. What do you offer?

  2. Why does the consumer care?

  3. How can they trust you?

  4. How do we get started?

The minute that someone lands on your website, what you do should be completely obvious. You also need to make people aware of the why, your brand values, and provide support to prove that they can trust you. If you refine your VP to reflect these things, it will do its job every single time.


Change the language

Today's customer isn’t interested in some professional sales pitch or page filled with technical jargon. They prefer a more conversational approach, and your website should reflect that. Talk to people like they are just people - because they are, and if you treat them as anything else, it’s going to affect your bottom line. If you’re writing technical product specifications, using lingo and going into “smart speak” mode is acceptable.


If you’re just writing a description that is supposed to explain your product, keep it simple. Think of the last time you were shopping for something online. How helpful is it to have a bunch of technical jargon that should be down in the specs, right there where a perfectly good product description could be?


The secret to writing effective product descriptions and website content for e-commerce is to stop trying so hard. You don’t have to sound smart. You don’t have to be cold and “professional”. In fact, that is exactly what will drive people away if you aren’t careful. Just tell people the awesome things that your product can do, what features they’ll love most, and how they can learn more. It’s really that simple.


Sense of urgency and fear of loss

These are two tried-and-true marketing tactics that have been used for decades, if not centuries. It's human nature to be afraid to miss out on something. People tend to dawdle when they think they have all the time in the world to make a purchasing decision. Look at the Amazon “rabbit holes” that you’ve undoubtedly found yourself in from time to time—you're just wandering the website, clicking through products, aimlessly. But then, you find that one item that only has two left in stock, and you have to order one before they’re gone.


Amazon will probably get more of the item in at a later date. However, they’ve just successfully used fear of loss and sense of urgency to get you to make a purchasing decision when you didn’t even come there to buy in the first place. You need to incorporate the same tactics on your website. Sure, you might not have the huge product selection that creates the paralyzing fear of making the wrong choice, but you do still present consumers with the option to make no choice.


You have to let customers know that some items aren’t going to be around forever, or that you’re limited on inventory (but only if you really are). You aren’t creating a false sense of urgency - that is not effective and that will not build trust. Don't tell people you’re selling out if you aren’t. Find a different way to foster urgency. For example, some ticket websites will create urgency by showing buyers the sold-out tickets and often listing them at the top of the page. When they see that tickets are selling so quickly, they’ll be more likely to buy tickets on the spot than if the sold-out seats were removed from the ticket listings.


Optimize by eliminating ALL concerns

Think about why you buy the products that you buy. Typically, you buy them because you are 100% confident that they will solve the problem that you have. If a man goes to a discount clothing store and buys a suit off the rack, he will probably try a couple on and just hope to get the closest fit. If he goes to a suit store, he will be properly measured and fitted, and be given a suit that is the exact right size for him, every time. Which suit do you think he’s going to feel more confident in?


You need to make people feel like they’re buying the most perfectly-fitting bespoke suit or designer dress. It’s not about making them feel luxurious or fancy, but about addressing every single concern that they have and providing a solution in your products. Instead of waiting for people to ask questions, give them answers from the start. If you’re already on the job of easing their mind, they’ll be that much closer to a conversion.


Remember how we talked earlier about the importance of being a good salesperson? In the demanding online world, you have to work twice as hard in many cases. That's why it’s best to take on the mindset of the high-end outfit analogy—it is doubly important for you to provide your customers with peace of mind by addressing their concerns.


How can you do this? An FAQ page is a popular choice, and it can be effective when done right. You can also rework all of the content on your website to ensure that it comes from this approach. Here are four ways you can address all of your visitor concerns and increase your conversions:


  • Provide a specific explanation of the problem that your product solves and the benefits that it offers.

  • Include certifications, ratings, awards, and references where you can, along with any industry case studies or third-party testimonials

  • Provide social proof, along with customer testimonials, to let your current customers convert your new visitors

  • Compare yourself to the competition before the buyer does and show them why your product is the one that is worth the investment.

Don’t try to convince anyone that they need your product if they really don’t. If they do, however, make sure that you convince them fully that it will deliver everything that they need by addressing and eliminating any concerns they may have.


Optimize your most popular blog posts

Check out your blogging history and see which ones have the highest levels of traffic but don’t have much in the way of conversion rates. Figure out where those are going wrong. Usually, it’s just an unclear call-to-action or that the content doesn’t align with your products closely enough to create a correlation for the visitor. You can’t make them figure it out—you have to tell them, show them, and walk them through the process. Fix any blogs that aren’t converting or consider removing them if they have no value.


Then, you’ll want to look at the blogs that have the highest conversion rates. Those are the blogs where you want to focus on driving traffic. Update the content with fresh information, optimize your posts for search engines, or use social media to share older posts that are big converters for your brand. As long as the content is evergreen and useful, your readers won’t care if the blog is six days or six months old in most cases.

Conversion rate optimization for lead companies


You might not be selling a product like an eCommerce store, but a lot of the CRO strategies that work for them will also work for lead generation. Of course, the focus shifts a little and some strategies will become more valuable here than in eCommerce, and vice versa, but it’s still very similar.


Did you know that 80% of website traffic goes to the top 10% of the landing pages online today? While having multiple landing pages might be effective for bigger companies, a small business or lead company will benefit much more from focusing on optimizing a single, spectacular landing page that hits all the right marks. While this may not be as crucial for the e-commerce store, when you’re generating leads, the landing page is everything. This should be your first stop for optimization, and you should make sure that you do everything in your power to make your landing page(s) sing.


Some people will choose to keep multiple landing pages, and that’s absolutely fine, but you are going to have to go in and optimize all of them to get them in the rankings where they belong. If you have five landing pages out there and only two of them are generating more than 50% of the clicks, why are you even bothering with the other three? Find the balance, whether it’s one or multiple landing pages, and figure out what’s best for your lead generation needs.

Stop focusing on higher conversion


It sounds counter-productive, and especially in a guide regarding conversion rate optimization, but quite frankly, lead generation companies shouldn’t be focused on the end game of higher conversion rates alone. That is, you shouldn’t present people with some forced situation that requires a “convert or leave” scenario as we discussed briefly in the eCommerce section. You should also consider asking for information after you offer something.


For example, rather than making people fill out a form to access free content, just give them the content. Then, include a note at the end that if they like what they see, they can sign up for your newsletter, blog updates, or something similar. Your goal, after all, is finding better leads. Higher conversion rates are important, but those will come on their own when you do have the right leads in the first place.


In the world of lead generation, better leads mean more sales. More importantly, an optimized landing page can help you build a better business. Your entire job is to generate solid potential customers for a specific business or brand. You can’t do that without extending the proverbial olive branch and giving your audience a trustworthy source to work with.


Here are some important CRO strategies and tools for lead companies.


A/B testing

This can also work for testing your landing pages and can be especially valuable to lead generation companies. As discussed earlier, you want to make sure that you’re only testing variations that include a single change so that you can easily follow the results.


Research your target audience

It’s important to know who you want to attract so that you can attract the right people. If you’ve worked with this audience segment before, what methods were most effective for conversion? What strategies were a total flop? If you are dealing with a new audience, what are similar companies doing? In marketing, it’s really easy to cheat and you should whenever you can. Why spend months trying things on your own when you can copy what others are already doing effectively?


Get to know your audience, including the best way to target them. That may be through social media, PPC campaigns, email marketing, or any other means. However, it’s usually specific to a target audience as to which means will be most effective. This is where a little bit of homework can go a long way.


Build trust

In order to develop trusted leads, you have to be a trusted source. Use your landing page and other areas of your website to develop that trust and convince people that there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t work with you. More importantly, convince them that the only option is to work with you. You can do this without being pushy, too:


  1. Provide value-added information, along with related products and services. Solve the problems that you can and provide outside solutions for the ones that you can’t. If people see that you care about helping them more than generating leads, they’ll immediately feel a sense of trust.

  2. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Come up with every possible question, rebuttal, and potential argument to your sales pitch or other material. Then, curate that information in the form of an FAQ page or some other resource that gives them all of the information they could possibly want, and probably more. Address their concerns before they do and they will notice.

  3. Point out the competition to them. Tell them, and show them, why you’re clearly the better choice. Many companies are afraid to even mention the competition. Guess what? Everyone already knows you aren’t the only company out there. Owning up to it just puts you in control of the competitive debate and allows you to guide the conversation.

Pay attention to micro conversions

Often, lead companies and marketers get so caught up in landing the big fish that they forget about all the small fish along the way. Every single action should be considered a win because that means people haven’t left yet. As long as they’re still acting or using your website, you still have a chance to make the big conversion. Sometimes, it’s actually the attention to the smaller conversions that drives a visitor to make a bigger conversion when the time is right.


Your potential leads that are timidly making their way through your site are just as valuable as the obvious leads that show up and do exactly what you expect in the conversion process. By making a bigger deal of the little things, you’ll also be able to find flaws, point out minor issues, and optimize all of the steps in the consumer journey from start to finish. Having a fully-optimized process for visitors will ensure that your conversion rates are as high as they can get.


A few more tips

For the lead generator, the biggest tips are about paying attention to your visitors. In addition to the tips above, here are a few more ways to improve your conversion rates when it comes specifically to generating leads, rather than eCommerce sales:


  • Remarket to the dwellers: If you have users that have been lingering or that have clicked out of a submission form without filling it out completely, you should be reaching out to see what the problem is. A simple pop-up offering assistance or showing concern can offer valuable feedback and make them complete their actions.

  • Set the expectation: People need to be told what to do. More importantly, most of them want to be told what to do. When someone submits their contact information, make sure you inform them of when they will be contacted, how you will contact them, and other pertinent information. This goes for any area of your website, and not just at the form submission stage.

  • Ask only for what you need: For initial contact, you probably don’t need a full address and residence history. A simple email address and/or phone number will do the job. People hate filling out forms and they hate having to over-share information even more. If you don’t need it yet, make it optional, or skip it entirely and ask for it later.

The best tools for CRO


There are a number of online tools and resources that can assist you with the process of optimizing your conversions. Most involve some form of tracking to help you see how your current website is functioning or what your conversion rates have been like historically. Some are designed to help improve conversions, but may not offer analytics for previous conversion statistics. Either way, they’re all worth a look and most professional marketers have at least one of these tools in their wheelhouse.


  1. HotJar, which offers heat mapping and recording of user sessions to help businesses understand exactly how visitors interact with their website.


  1. Google Analytics, which is something that should be in everyone’s toolbox for tracking and website metrics, as it offers valuable insight and can be linked to AdWords campaigns to assist with paid traffic monitoring.

Some final quick tips for conversion rate improvement

In case you don’t already have enough insight into starting your CRO strategy, here are a few more quick tips before we wrap up the guide:


  • Make sure that you’re properly and accurately tracking your existing conversions. A lot of businesses aren’t, and when they start, they see an increase of as much as 50% overnight, just by implementing better tracking tools and strategies.

  • Make sure that you use high-quality images and video for all products and webpages. You already can’t physically touch a product or see it in person when you shop online, so the more detailed the images and videos, the better.

  • Offer free shipping, even if you think you can’t. You don’t really have to offer free shipping; you just have to make your visitors think it’s free. If that means increasing product prices by a few dollars to cover the cost, do it. People are more likely to pay a few dollars more for an item than they are to pay for shipping. You can thank Amazon (and similar retailers) for this.

  • Use coupon codes that have limited windows. These codes help foster that sense of urgency and will help people get through the transaction with fewer distractions because they are on a mission to save money while they can.

  • Make absolutely sure that your pricing is competitive. Even if your product is leaps and bounds above most of the competition, people aren’t going to pay more than they think is fair. You have to stay competitive if you’re operating in the online world.

  • One of the simplest CRO improvements is to ensure that your brand is being marketed to the right audience with the right message. This, in and of itself, can generate a lot more conversions because you’re targeting people who are actually in need of what you have.

  • eCommerce stores need to ensure that their checkout process is smooth, simple, and hassle-free. If it takes too long, requires too many forms, or is difficult to navigate, you’re going to see high numbers in the area of cart abandonment.

  • Speaking of which, take advantage of cart abandonment tools that will allow you to remind people that they’ve left something behind. Sometimes, people intend to come back. Sometimes, you might get lucky. Either way, you can often win back a lot of cart ditchers if you reach out to them in the right way.

  • Safety first! You need to, quickly, make sure that your visitors know that your website is safe and secure. Whether you are taking financial information or not, a visitor should trust that any information they give you is safe and that they can trust working with your brand.

  • Include digital wallets in your offering for payment methods. These apps and services allow users to keep their information separate and will even pre-populate form fields for a faster checkout process that is also super secure.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, don’t force anyone to sign up for anything, ever. Let people visit your website. Let them choose whether or not they want emails or a newsletter. Let them decide whether or not they want to register before they complete their purchase or if they would rather check out as a guest. If you start forcing sign-ups and forms on people, they’re going to leave.

Where to start?


Now that you’ve got all this information, you might be wondering exactly where to start with the optimization process. Some people will dive right in and just start making changes, but you really should come up with an effective plan first. There's a handy acronym floating around the marketing world known as PIE: Potential, Importance, and Ease.


When you’re planning your strategy for conversion rate optimization, you need to ask yourself what each potential method or improvement offers in terms of these three elements. Rather than leaving it open-ended, use a score-based system, such as a scale of one through 10, so that you can rank potential CRO strategies and implement the simplest ones that add the most value first. When ranking each strategy with the PIE method, ask yourself:


  • What is the potential total improvement from this optimization strategy?

  • How much value will this add to my brand or business?

  • How simple (or complex) will this strategy be to implement?

It’s not an exact science, but it does offer a systematic way to prioritize your optimization efforts and decide exactly which methods are going to be most effective for your eCommerce store or lead generation business.


Wrapping up

Conversion rate optimization is important, but not so important that you should be afraid of it, by any means. This guide has plenty of tools and resources to help you optimize your website and make sure that you’re getting the highest conversion rates possible. You can pay for all the clicks and ad space in the world, but if they don’t convert eventually, something is wrong and you need to fix it as soon as possible.


If you really want to take your CRO game to the next level, contact our team today. We can help you make the most of your conversion rates, no matter your industry or the type of conversions you’re working with. Call us now to learn more or get started.


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About the author

Jo Molloy

Jo Molloy

Jo is passionate about brand storytelling and loves to write. A self-confessed chocoholic and TV addict, she is always on the look out for the latest trends and hopes to share her knowledge and enlighten you with her insightful blogs.

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