You’ve probably heard all about how valuable CRO is to your digital marketing ROI by now (and if you haven’t you really should read up). But just because you know the importance of a practice doesn’t necessarily mean now know how to go about doing it.
Dozens of blog posts talk about how Conversion Rate Optimization is a “must” or is “vital” to your marketing success. Well if that’s the case, I’m sure you’re wondering “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 CRO audits are not performed blindly. It’s important to keep very specific goals in mind when running your pages through your CRO audit. For this reason, using the guidelines below as a loose order of operations will help keep you on track:
- Recognize your need for CRO
- Establish specific business goals
- Align business & marketing goals
- Choosing the right metrics (not vanity metrics)
- Differences between lead gen, eComm, & SaaS
- Identify your ICP (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
- Auditing the offer itself (bounce rates)
- Thank You page CRO opportunities
Let’s get started so you can get going on your own CRO audit and find out what skeletons-in-the-closet you can turn into optimization gold mines.
Step 1) Recognize Your Need For CRO
They say that “the first step in solving a problem is to recognize their is one.” And it turns out that digital marketing isn’t immune to this old saying, no matter how fancy or sleek your landing page may look.
There’s some real truth to the statement that everyone could always use some CRO. I mean, just look at the basic 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 really imagine a time where I’d consider that a bad thing for my bottom line. Can you?
What Is CRO?
As stated above, CRO is the practice of increasing the percentage of your traffic that successfully converts.
Now, “conversion” here can mean quite a few different things. Depending on what business vertical you’re in, and what specific campaign you’re running, these conversions can vary quite a bit.
Some CRO audits will focus on a page’s ability to generate actual leads for the sales team of the business. Others will focus on increasing the number of products sold on a specific page. And other CRO audit may focus on an entirely third option – 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 come into play when it comes to successfully converting users, beginner conversion optimizers might be caught up with which facet of their page 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.
It’s not going to be fun when you realize you’ve been optimizing your campaigns and pages for clicks instead of conversions, only to see your total ad spend shoot through the roof without a higher conversion rate…
Step 2) Establish Your Business Goals
Imagine you’re a captain of a pirate ship, sailing across the ocean in search of the treasure that will one day make you famous. Of course, you can’t just aimlessly sail the seven seas hoping to find some gold. You need a map.
Setting clear business goals will help guide you on your CRO journey and make prioritizing future optimization/budget decisions easier later on down the line.
If you want to grow brand awareness as opposed to generate more sales, the metrics you choose to track as KPIs (key performance indicators) will be different.
For example, a KPI for brand awareness could be blog subscribers, even though this isn’t a metric that directly grows revenue for the brand. Whereas a better metric to track if you’re looking to increase ROAS and ROI is actual SQLs (sales qualified leads).
The distinction matters — and taking the time to identify your business goals early on will help ensure you stay focused later.
Step 3) Are Your Business/Marketing Goals Properly Aligned?
Now, having established a clear set of business goals you are trying to hit or improve upon, you need to make sure your marketing goals are actually properly aligned with said goals.
You’d be amazed to learn how frequently clients on board with a new agency only to find that they’ve been tracking metrics and prioritizing goals that simply having 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 probably burning budget while you do so.
I used the pirate ship metaphor in the previous section, so let’s try that again:
Imagine if, on your pirate ship, you were trying to navigate by miles when the map was written only in kilometers (or vise versa if you’re on metric). Worse yet, try putting the map in a different language.
Even on your best day, you’re going to have serious trouble staying on course. And you’ll end up wasting a great deal 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 — one should feed into the other as directly as possible. The closer you can correlate a single marketing action to an actual $ value in terms of revenue and returns, the more confident you’ll be in each CRO implementation you decide to test.
Step 4) Tracking Audit: Steering Clear Of Vanity Metrics
I’ve already briefly mentioned vanity metrics before. Vanity metrics are metrics that often distract PPC marketers because they are easy to inflate/improve.
However these metrics don’t actual grow the value of any specific page or campaign. Often times chasing these metrics can cost you money instead of making you more.
The classic example of a vanity metric is traffic volume in PPC. Beginner level PPC marketers may think that an easy way to increase their lead volume is to increase their traffic volume. The more traffic, the more conversions, after all — right?
Well, not entirely wrong. But it certainly isn’t that simple. It also means more clicks, which means more and more ad spend for you. And if you aren’t increasing your conversion rates along with your click rates, you’re going to end up burning through your budget before you get to see any legitimate increase in value.
Just like making sure that you’ve properly aligned your business and marketing goals, choosing the right metrics to track and prioritize as KPIs can make or break your campaign’s success.
It’ll also be important, as a conversion designer or account manager, to have the emotional intelligence to be able to prioritize which of these metrics needs to be improved first. 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.
Step 5) Lead Gen, eCommerce, Or SaaS?
Before you get started on your actual 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.
It may seem like an obvious step and something that shouldn’t really have to be written about. But there’s actually quite a high search volume built upon the differences between these three types of landing pages. So the distinction felt justified 🙂.
Step 6) Identifying Your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)
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’ll be able to customize your content, offers, and landing page copy to create a unique and memorable experience for that specific user.
Much like your business/marketing goals, your ICP will be one of the guiding pillars on which you will base your CRO decisions. Certain changes will be made to better engage or please your ICP, while others may be implemented in the attempt to broaden the range of your ICP or target an entirely new demographic.
However, regardless of the final goal, 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 final thought as a conversion designer should always be: “What will my end user think of this?”
Step 7) Message Match In Headers (Say No To Clickbait)
Now that we’ve properly set you up to know what you’re looking for, we can actual start combing through your page to perform your CRO audit.
The first thing we’ll address is message match.
When a (qualified) user clicks on your ad, he or she is usually looking for 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 you could call their “user intent.”
Whatever the original user intent was when they clicked on your ad, your landing page messaging needs to match the intent of the user.
We usually like to make this as clear as possible right up front in the headlines of the ads and landing page.
While it may seem enticing to create ads with headlines that are too good to pass up, you’ll actually only end up increasing your CTR without actually increasing user time on page or conversions. Which will, as previously addressed, lead to an increase in ad spend without an increase in revenue.
Which is a big no no for any PPC mathematician.
The best landing page optimizers and paid search experts recognize that the ideal user experience is singular and streamlined from the initial ad through the landing page.
Step 8) Auditing Design And Layout
Your landing page design is more than just the colors and shapes you choose to employ on your landing page. 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 just as important as what you’re saying, is how you’re presenting this information to your users.
Auditing the design of your landing page will help you step into the shoes of your users to understand how they’re consuming the information on your landing page and how it can be made easier to consume.
Step 9) User Experience Audit (FAQs, Social Proof, etc)
Taking your CRO audit beyond just the design of your landing page, you can now take a look at the actual user experience on your page. This is where you get to examine your page for the actual 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 the 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 5 seconds to grab and hold the user’s attention span, it’s important you make a good first impression.
After you’ve managed to get ahold of your user’s attention, you now have to make the most of it. This is where answering the user’s potential questions becomes so important — which is why FAQs (frequently asked questions), social proof (reviews and ratings), and pricing/delivery options are made transparent.
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 actually 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 actual 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 actual contact information. While we get to the actual question they want answers (or problem they want solved) by the landing page in the first step of the form, the user’s guard is subtly lowered.
The second or third steps in the form are then used to collect the user’s contact information so that we marketers still get what we’re looking for from the conversion.
Try employing the Breadcrumb Technique in your own forms to see if your forms themselves are costing you conversions. If so, providing more value up front to get your foot in the door should make the final conversion easier in the long run.
Step 11) Auditing Your Actual Offer (Bounce Rates & Temperature)
Lastly, or — should I say — second to lastly, is auditing your actual offer itself. If, after running your site through an aggressive CRO audit like the one above you haven’t seen any bump in conversions, it might be time to consider the worst case scenario.
That worst case scenario is that the users that are clicking through your ad are simply not interested in your landing page offer at all.
This type of misalignment is very rare. But it does happen. In which case you’re likely to see some abnormally high bounce rates as users will click through your ad and immediately bounce off the 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 is clicking on a retargeting display ad has already engaged with your ads and has already expressed interested buying your product. This click can be considered high conversion intent — hot traffic.
But someone who is clicking a preliminary level ad about potential benefits of hiring a ppc agency (colder traffic) isn’t going to want to sign up for a 6-month contract right off the bat. And offering them such a package on the landing page is sure to scare them 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 ran 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 efforts. These low hanging fruit will grow your ROI the fastest.
And the sooner you start to see returns, the sooner you can start to double down on your wins and move on to bigger CRO opportunities.