Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and fresh content. 🙂
Original Publication Date: October 30, 2018
You’ve probably heard that Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is valuable to your digital marketing ROI by now. (And if you haven’t, you really should read up.)
But just because you know something is important doesn’t mean you know how to do it.
Dozens of blog posts talk about how CRO is a “must” or is “vital” to your marketing success. If that really is the case, the next natural question is “how do I get started?”
This post will teach you how to run your website and/or landing pages through a CRO audit to identify what changes need to be made.
Keep in mind that you should never perform a CRO audit blindly. It’s important to keep very specific goals in mind when running your pages through your CRO audit. For this reason, use the guidelines below as a loose order of operations to stay on track:
- Recognize your need for CRO
- Establish specific business goals
- Align business & marketing goals
- Choose the right metrics (not vanity metrics)
- Differentiate between lead gen, eComm, & SaaS
- Identify your Ideal Customer Profile
- Check your messaging matches traffic temperature
- Check page design/layout for conversion
- Optimize user experience with color & design
- Improve conversions with user psychology
- Audit the offer itself (bounce rates)
- Thank You Page CRO Opportunity Audit
(If you’d like to commit this list to memory as an acronym, it’s “REACDICCOIAT”. Good luck with that.)
Let’s get going — the sooner we start, the sooner you can begin your own CRO audit. What skeletons in the closet will you turn into optimization gold mines?
CRO Audit Step 1: Recognize Your Need For CRO
They say that “the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that it exists.” And as it turns out, no matter how fancy your landing page looks, digital marketing isn’t immune to this cliché.
Frankly, if you’re trying to get anyone to do anything online, you could probably use some CRO. I mean, it’s right there in the definition:
Conversion Rate Optimization is, at its core, the practice of taking the traffic your pages are generating and increasing the percentage of that traffic that converts.
I can’t imagine a scenario where this would be bad for your bottom line. Can you?
Why Is CRO Important?
As stated above, CRO is the practice of increasing the percentage of your traffic that successfully converts.
Now, depending on your industry and marketing goals, conversions can vary quite a bit.
Some CRO audits will focus on a page’s ability to generate leads for the sales team. Others focus on increasing the number of products sold on a specific page. And other CRO audits can factor in other options – scheduling demos and trial run-throughs for software in the SaaS industry. Each CRO audit will be unique to your industry, business, goals, and pain points.
Because so many different factors can impact conversions, beginners can get struggle with what to fix first. But don’t panic. This is when it’s most vital to avoid blind optimization and make sure you identify which goal actions you want to boost.
Because it won’t be fun when you realize you’ve been optimizing your campaigns and pages for clicks instead of conversions, and your ad spend shoots through the roof without improving your conversion rate…
Step 2: Establish Your Business Goals
Imagine you’re the captain of a pirate ship, sailing across the ocean to seek treasure and fame. Of course, you wouldn’t just aimlessly sail the seven seas hoping to find some gold. You’d need a map.
Setting clear, specific business goals will help guide you on your CRO journey. Also, prioritizing future optimization/budget decisions will be easier down the line.
For example, if you want to grow brand awareness as opposed to generating more sales, the metrics you choose to track as KPIs (key performance indicators) will be different.
Blog subscribers might be one of your brand awareness KPIs, even though that metric doesn’t grow revenue directly. If you’re looking to increase ROAS and ROI, however, you might be better off tracking sales qualified leads (SQLs).
The distinction matters. Identifying your business goals early will help you stay focused later.
CRO Audit Step 3: Are Your Business & Marketing Goals Properly Aligned?
Now, with your clear set of business goals, you need to make sure your marketing goals are properly aligned with said goals.
You’d be amazed to learn how frequently clients join a new agency only to find that they’ve been tracking metrics and prioritizing goals that have nothing to do with their business growth.
This isn’t to say they were wasting their time and money altogether. But it’s safe to say that if you’re chasing leads up blind alleys and down dead ends, you’re burning budget while doing so.
I used the pirate ship metaphor in the last section, so let’s keep that going:
Imagine if, on your pirate ship, you were trying to navigate with an incomplete map. Worse yet, let’s say the map was in a language you didn’t recognize.
Even if you figured things out eventually, you’d have serious trouble staying on course. And you’d waste lots of time and resources trying to course-correct — all because your map and execution weren’t properly aligned.
The same goes for your business and marketing goals -— they should feed into each other as directly as possible. The more accurately you can correlate unique marketing actions to quantifiable value, the more confident you’ll be in each CRO implementation you decide to test.
Step 4: Steer Clear Of Vanity Metrics
I briefly mentioned vanity metrics above. Vanity metrics can distract PPC marketers because they are easy to inflate or improve.
These metrics don’t grow the value of any specific page or campaign, however. Chasing these metrics can actually cost you money instead of making you more.
The classic example of a PPC vanity metric is traffic volume. Beginner-level PPC marketers may think that an easy way to increase their lead volume is to increase their traffic volume. After all, more traffic means more conversions — right?
Well, not entirely wrong. But it certainly isn’t that simple. It also means more clicks, which means more spending for you.
And if you aren’t increasing your conversions with your click rate, you’re going to burn through your budget before you see any legitimate increase in value.
Just like you’ve aligned your business and marketing goals, choosing to prioritize and track the right metrics can make or break your campaign’s success.
Depending on what you’ve agreed on with your client, certain optimization opportunities will have to be put on the back burner while other urgent matters are attended to.
CRO Audit Step 5: Lead Gen, eCommerce, Or SaaS?
Before you start on your CRO audit, you also need to clarify which type of landing page you’ll be optimizing.
Landing pages usually fall into one of three categories: lead gen, eCommerce, or SaaS. And each comes with their own types of idiosyncrasies that conversion optimizers should keep in mind.
This may seem obvious, but there are quite a few differences between these three types of landing pages. So the distinction feels justified 🙂 .
Step 6: Identifying Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
Let’s be real clear right off the bat. When I say Ideal Customer Profile, I mean customer — singular.
The more specific of an ICP you can craft, the better you can customize your content, offers, and landing page copy. Your goal should be to create a unique and memorable experience for that specific user.
Much like your business and marketing goals, your ICP will be a guiding light for your CRO decisions. Certain changes might better engage or incentivize your ICP, while others can broaden the range of your ICP or target an entirely new demographic.
Regardless of the final goal, however, it’s vital that you have a specific end-user in mind when you’re choosing what to test/change on your page.
Your first and last thought as a conversion designer should always be: “What will my end users think of this?”
CRO Audit Step 7: Message Match In Headers (Say No To Clickbait!)
Now that you know what you’re looking for, we can start combing through your page to perform your CRO audit.
The first thing we’ll address is message match.
Now, while it may seem like a good idea to create ads with irresistible, must-click headlines, all those extra clicks probably won’t increase user time on page or conversions. Instead, as previously addressed, your ad spend might increase without a corresponding increase in revenue.
Which, in technical PPC terms, is a “big no-no”.
In contrast, when a (qualified) user clicks on your ad, he or she expects a particular experience. Whether this is finding a free downloadable asset, watching a video, purchasing a product, or scheduling a call with your sales reps, this is what we call “user intent.”
And your landing page offer needs to match the messaging of that ad by presenting an experience that matches the user’s intent.
We usually like to make this as clear as possible right up front in the headlines of the ads and landing page.
The ideal user experience will be singular and streamlined from the initial ad through the landing page conversion.
Step 8: Auditing Design And Layout
Your landing page design is more than colors and fonts.
Depending on the aggressiveness of your offer and the friction that your users will face when landing on your page, the design can have a serious effect on user psychology.
This is why setting the right tone/mood for your page with design, imagery, and color theory is so important to landing page best design practices.
A strong landing page layout will guide your users through the content and copy they need to explain the value of converting.
But how you present this information is just as important as what you’re saying to your users.
Auditing the design of your landing page will also help you step into your users’ shoes. You’ll be able to understand how they’re consuming the information on your landing page — and how you can make that process easier.
CRO Audit Step 9: User Experience Audit (FAQs, Social Proof, etc.)
To take your CRO audit beyond the design of your landing page, you should review the user experience on your landing page. This is where you analyze the content and copy that you’re offering users to educate themselves.
If you want someone to understand the value of your product or service, it’s on you to educate that user.
Good thing this is exactly what landing pages were made for 😉 .
There are a few different factors to consider when auditing your user experience. For starters, let’s take a look at some technical issues you may run into:
- page load speed time
- image quality
- dysfunctional animations
- broken links
- broken forms
These technical issues may seem monotonous, but they can be seriously detrimental to your landing page’s performance. Especially in the modern digital marketing world where you only have around five seconds to grab and hold the user’s attention, it’s important you make a good first impression.
Once you have your user’s attention, you have to make the most of it. This is where overcoming common user objections becomes so important —- which is why answers to frequently asked questions, social proof like reviews and ratings, and pricing/delivery options are vital on your landing page.
You can check out this landing page checklist for a more robust account of what types of content and copy are must-haves on your landing page.
Step 10: Optimizing Conversions With User Psychology (The BreadCrumb Technique)
When it comes to landing page CRO, this is one of the best kept secrets of KlientBoost branded strategies.
A surprising amount of bounce rate and landing page conversion problems stem from the conversion form itself.
This is often because the landing page form creates too much friction for users to justify converting. There has to be an equal ratio of landing page friction to landing page offer for the user to feel comfortable converting.
This is where our super secret technique comes in: the Breadcrumb Technique.
By mastering some basic compliance psychology we were able to figure out that users are more likely to convert on multi-step forms when the first step of that form includes no significant contact information.
By moving the conversion action to the second or third step of the form, the users are more likely to finish a process they already started than they are to give you everything in one fell swoop.
Try employing the Breadcrumb Technique in your own forms to see if your forms themselves are costing you conversions. If so, providing more value upfront to get your foot in the door should make the final conversion easier in the long run.
CRO Audit Step 11: Auditing Your Offer (Bounce Rates & Temperature)
Finally, or rather penultimately, is an audit of your offer itself. If you haven’t seen a bump in conversions after running your site through an aggressive CRO audit, it might be time to consider a more troubling scenario.
It could be that the users who are clicking your ad simply aren’t interested in your landing page offer at all.
This type of misalignment is very rare, but it does happen. It usually accompanies abnormally high bounce rates, as users will click through your ad and immediately leave your page.
If this is the case, don’t freak out just yet. It may just be a matter of lowering the intensity of your offer to match the temperature of your incoming traffic.
Consider this. Someone who clicks on a retargeting display ad has already engaged with your ads and expressed interest in buying your product. This click can be considered high conversion intent, or hot traffic.
But someone who clicks a preliminary-level ad about potential benefits of hiring a PPC agency (colder traffic) isn’t going to want to sign up for a six-month contract right off the bat. And offering that package on your landing page is likely to scare those users away.
Keep your traffic and landing page offer temperature aligned and you should be in the green. Besides that, if you follow the guidelines above you should be able to start the steady climb up the never-ending mountain that is Conversion Rate Optimization.
Step 12: Thank You Page CRO Opportunities
Don’t think that because you’ve run your landing page through the wringer that you’re done with your CRO audit.
Just because your user has converted doesn’t mean that the customer journey is over. Your thank you page is still a great opportunity for you to up-sell new products as well as remarket other offers that have failed to convert in the past.
Don’t ever let yourself grow complacent when it comes to CRO. The best CRO auditors will always be looking around the corner for their next big money-making opportunity.
Go, Be Fruitful, Audit, And Optimize
And so, I leave you at the end of our long journey together with this massive guide to performing your CRO audit.
Make sure that you stay true to the goals that you set at the onset of your audit. And always keep in mind that, when it comes to CRO, you’re working to impress real live humans on the other end of your landing page (not a computer as it is with search engine optimization).
Follow these guidelines and stay focused on prioritizing the changes that will generate the biggest conversion rate bumps with the least effort. These low hanging fruit will grow your ROI the fastest.
And the sooner you start to see returns, the sooner you can double down on your wins and move on to bigger CRO opportunities.