What is conversion rate optimization?
We’ve noted that – depending on the goals of your site – a conversion might be a purchase, but could also be the creation of an account, the completion of a survey or contact form, signup for an email newsletter, an app download, and so on. No matter what the objective is, though, you want as many of the site’s visitors as possible to achieve that objective (or even several – perhaps a succession of micro conversions leading to a macro conversion). Conversion rate optimization (often abbreviated to “CRO”) simply means taking a structured and systematic approach to increasing the proportion of site visitors who achieve a conversion.
Measuring the engagement of your visitors is an important first step. A high bounce rate and low Average Time on Site means visitors are probably not sticking around long enough to do whatever it is you want them to do. Average Page Views is also an important engagement metric, but you need to relate it to your site’s specific goals – if visitors are viewing a high number of pages but eventually leaving without converting, this can mean a lack of clarity in your conversion funnel.
A key technique in CRO is A/B testing – that is, trying out variations of pages and measuring which produce a higher conversion rate. Just about any element on a page can be tested, from the color of a call-to-action button to the actual product copy, image size, layout, amount of text, fonts used – anything. And as we’ve seen, Google Analytics includes built-in Experiments reports under Behavior, which make it possible to set up as many as 10 variants of a page and track their results against a whole range of metrics. There’s a bit of setting-up involved, specifically in creating variant pages each with a distinct URL, but when you click “Create experiment” in Analytics the wizard makes it relatively straightforward to configure the testing and specify which metrics you want to apply.
Bear in mind that Google Analytics offers a wide range of ways to measure conversions and investigate how users achieve them. In the Conversions reports you can define and track Goals and Ecommerce performance, and you can also view Events reports under Real-Time and Behavior, enabling you to take a close look at what users are doing. You can trace their paths through your conversion funnel using Flow visualizations and Multi-Channel Funnels.
As one expert puts it, remember that the goal of CRO is not to manipulate visitors into converting.  It’s to ease the journey of already interested or engaged visitors through your website until they’ve achieved the outcome they desired themselves. If a user has searched for “blue Nikes” and landed on your product page, chances are they want to purchase the product. It’s not trickery to make doing so as simple or even enjoyable as possible. Removing barriers, simplifying forms, clarifying navigation, all these things lead to an improved customer journey and a better user experience. That customer is more likely to come back for future purchases and recommend you to other users.
CRO makes sense because it makes the most of the traffic you’re already getting. You aren’t spending more money getting visitors to your site, just doing a better job of converting them once they get there. Optimization increases the return on your current investments in SEO or paid search, and converting a higher percentage of your current visitors is likely to be much more cost-effective than attracting new ones. It reduces your customer acquisition cost and improves the bottom line.
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