Are you struggling to reach your website’s conversion goals? Do you find yourself too busy to complete a comprehensive CRO audit, or are unsure of what metrics to track?
You’re not alone.
Managing a website can be a daunting task, and optimizing it for conversions requires a deep understanding of user behavior and a strategic approach to testing and optimization. After all, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
In this blog, we’ll guide you step-by-step through everything you need to know about improving website conversions. From defining what a CRO audit is and how to prepare for one, to everything that is included in an audit and how to conduct them correctly.
With this detailed guide, you’ll be well on your way to crushing your business goals and increasing your bottom line. Now, let’s dive right in!
What is a conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit?
A conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit is a thorough analysis of your website that identifies roadblocks hindering your customer’s user experience and preventing them from taking a desired action on your website. For example, making a purchase or filling out a form.
Some topics covered in an audit include:
- website usability
- analytics tracking
- analyzing existing content on the site
- and much more.
CRO audits allow you to gain valuable insights, make data-driven decisions, and find new opportunities to maximize conversion rates.
Why is CRO important?
Put simply, if your site currently isn’t performing as well as you’d like, then it’s a good idea to do one. If your site is bringing in lots of organic traffic but they’re bouncing as soon as they arrive, then that is also a good indicator you need an audit to find a resolution.
Whether you’re an ecommerce store or B2B site, your goal is to turn more of your visitors into leads or paying customers.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you work for a pet supply ecommerce company that receives approximately 100,000 organic visitors per month and 1000 of those visitors make a purchase. That would give you a 1% conversion rate.
Then, say the CEO wants to increase sales by 20% for the following year. In order to achieve that goal, you’d have to get 200 more users to make a purchase.
There are a few tactics to go about this:
- Use SEO and/or paid media strategies to drive more traffic to your website. This is a great option but it may require more time and money upfront.
- Advertise on social media platforms to drive more awareness.
- Increase your prices for your products. This may prevent some users from making a purchase because it’s too expensive.
- Optimize your existing website to turn more visitors who are already on your site into paying customers. <- spoiler alert, it’s this one
The fourth option is probably the safest and the least expensive. When you look at conversion rates, you only have to increase your conversion rate from 1% to 1.2%, which is extremely doable given you adhere to the right strategies.
Two Reasons Why CRO is Essential in Your Marketing Strategy
- It allows you to get “behind the scenes” and better understand your customers by analyzing the “whys” of their user behavior.
- It can help you reduce your acquisition costs by improving your website’s user experience and increasing customer loyalty, which is a plus in Google’s eyes.
How to Prepare for the CRO Audit: Part 1
1. Review business objectives and goals
The very first step is to review your business objectives and goals, allowing your team to be accountable and stay on-track.
By identifying your goals and breaking them into micro (small) and macro (big-picture) goals, it makes it more focused and attainable.
Macro: increase customer loyalty, increasing repeat sales by 15%
Micro: completing a contact form
Here are a few examples of marketing objectives:
- Increase repeat sales by 15%
- Drive 10% more organic traffic to your website
- Boost sales of a specific product line by 20% within 1 year
2. Get Accurate in Analytics and Google Tag Manager
Maybe you’ve noticed that you haven’t received any goal completions for newsletter signups for the past 3 months. However, your email marketing tool shows that at least 15 new subscribers signed up. Conversions won’t mean much if they’re not being tracked correctly, so get that newsletter sign up event fixed as soon as possible. Having accurate conversions and funnels set up are crucial because you will be making key decisions based on this data. This is what separates substantiated recommendations from ill-informed guesses.
3. Really get to know your target audience
As a professional, you probably already know the importance of deeply understanding who you’re marketing to. That’s because not taking the time to do audience research ahead of time could put you in a tight spot. Yikes.
Tools like GlobalWebIndex (GWI) can be leveraged to help you gain valuable insights into your audience’s behaviors and preferences and create a persona with this information. Then, you can easily tailor your website, landing pages, and ad copy to speak to them, increasing the likelihood of converting them into paying customers.
Build a Buyer Persona
Demographics that are standard to include are: age, race, income level, profession, and geographic region. There are also several questions you can ask to build your buyer persona, such as:
- What are some of your pain points and challenges?
- What channels do you use to find new products and services?
- What are some values that you truly care about?
- What industry do you work in?
- What drives your decision making process?
- What social media channels do you use and how many hours do you spend on each one?
There are a plethora of other questions to ask, but these are just a few questions to get you started.
How Audience Research Influences CRO
Understanding your audience’s pain points and challenges enables you to optimize your website or landing pages to address those specific concerns.
Buyer personas can guide you in choosing the right design elements, colors, and visual elements that align with your target audience’s preferences, resulting in a more visually appealing and persuasive website. They also help you identify potential barriers or objections that may prevent your audience from converting.
By incorporating buyer personas and audience research into your CRO audit, you can gain valuable insights into the customer journey, identify areas of improvement, and create targeted experiments to optimize each stage of the conversion funnel.
How to perform a CRO audit (part 2)
Once all the “prep” work is done, we can move onto the actual meat of the CRO audit!
4. Analyze content on the site
Auditing every page takes time. Since you won’t have time to audit every single page, pick the pages that are conversion-oriented, have decent organic traffic numbers, and have the most potential for improvement. Your site will have various types of content including: product or service pages, landing pages, and blog pages.
Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content, which has very little to do with products or services, focuses on providing value, answering user’s questions, and engaging your audience.
These types of content include: blogs, videos, and infographics. The purpose of top of the funnel content is to drive awareness about their brand. Although these pages tend to bring in the most traffic, they typically are not the best at generating conversions since they’re found towards the beginning of the user journey. However, you can still add a contact form in the sidebar for your blog pages to make it easier for users who are ready to reach out.
On the other end of the spectrum is bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content. This is content found near the finish line of the customer journey and it’s typically used to help shape a decision. Product pages, demo videos, and case studies are just a few examples of BOFU pieces that address barriers. For example, if a user is deciding between purchasing a product from you versus one of your competitors, they may want to compare key features and benefits. Thus, it’s important that you have a page that includes the necessary information. Alternatively, they may want to read a case study of a client in a similar industry to see what kind of results they can expect to get.
5. Google Analytics Page performance
GA4 is like a goldmine for marketing and CRO. If you’re struggling to understand why users aren’t converting, then take a closer look at page performance. Analytics can provide mind-blowing insights into how users are interacting with your website, including which pages are driving the most organic sessions, have the highest entrances and exits, and the longest time on page and pages/session.
Landing Page Conversions
One cool feature in GA4 is the ability to look at “engagement” for each page. This report allows you to see:
- High traffic pages
- Pages that brought in the most unique visitors
- High engagement pages
- Poor converting pages that need improvement
Highest Entrances and Exits
Look at the pages with the highest number of entrances and exits. For example, if your home page receives a lot of entrances, you can edit it to include more content and internal links to encourage more page visits and engagement. Conversely, if a page has high exit rates, you can figure out what’s causing that and remove element(s) to boost the amount of time people spend on your website. Some examples that may be causing the high exit rates include: dead end pages, poor UX design, no clear next steps, broken steps, or points of frustration.
As the name suggests, engagement gives you details on how long users stay on your website. Google considers a session to be “engaged” when it lasts 10+ seconds, has 1 or more conversion events, or 2+ pageviews. Keep a close eye on engagement levels because lower numbers correlate to lower conversion rates. Some examples of pages that may have low engagement levels include: visually poor or hard to read content, a disconnect between search intent, or page copy not resonating because of audience misalignment.
6. Understand user behavior
At this stage, you should have a solid understanding of what pages you plan on prioritizing. The next step in the audit is to examine how real users are behaving on each page and why. I.e. users are taking, or not taking, action on a page.
Heatmaps provide a visual representation of where users are clicking and scrolling on a page. It shows you the hot, popular areas and the cold, least popular areas on a color scale from red to blue. Hotjar and CrazyEgg are a few powerful heatmapping tools that allow you to view the data clearly and all in one place.
Analyzing user behavior is a crucial aspect of conversion rate optimization (CRO) because it provides valuable insights into how users are interacting with your site and where they may be getting stuck or experiencing friction in the conversion process.
The first thing you should do is identify the number of goals received in Google Analytics for events such as: newsletter signups, click-to-calls, click-to-emails, and purchases. Then, you can get more granular with Hotjar’s heatmapping tool by simply entering in your domain URL to give you a visual representation of where users scroll, click, and move on the page. This allows you to get “behind the scenes” and see what elements are working and which ones are being ignored. With this information, you can make data-informed decisions to inform your optimization efforts. For example, if a visitor is clicking on a non-clickable element, it may indicate confusion with the page design and to turn that element into a clickable element.
What to look for when analyzing heatmaps:
- Where on a page users click on the most
- How many visitors scrolled to the bottom of the page
- If visitors are scrolling down to important elements like CTAs and contact forms
- If users are clicking on non-clickable elements
- Where users are hovering or paying close attention to
Another handy tool to implement is session recordings. When used with heatmapping, you get a 360 view of user behavior, and can quickly pinpoint what components are blocking or driving conversions.
Session recordings, also known as website replays, are a form of user behavior analysis that involve recording a user’s screen activity as they interact with a website. Like heatmaps, screen recordings enable you to see mouse movement, clicks, scrollability, and more, but you view them by sessions.
When watching session replays, you’ll want be on the lookout for:
- What elements users click on to navigate from one page to another
- What call-to-actions (CTAs) are clicked on or ignored
- Abnormal mouse clicking like wild scrolling or clicking on non-clickable elements
- If users don’t take any action and then leave your site entirely
- How visitors move around your site
As a result of watching the replays, you can start a plan to fix the issues you identified.
Customer Feedback (chatbots, surveys, feedback directly on site)
Have you ever wondered what your visitors are thinking when they’re browsing your site? We have the answer! You can acquire qualitative data through customer feedback like surveys and chatbots. Both surveys and chats are invaluable for directly engaging with customers and getting real-time feedback on their experience with your site.
On the other hand, feedback forms can provide additional insights into their opinions and preferences. By actively seeking out and listening to customer feedback, you gain a deeper understanding of their needs and motivations, as well as hear firsthand about areas that may be causing frustration.
For example, you may discover that users love the “How to Sign Up for your service” page because it details every single step clearly and is easy to read. However, they find your site to take a while to load pages. Based on the feedback, you’ll need to talk to your web team and figure out a solution to improve page speed. Making these targeted improvements will improve UX and increase the likelihood of getting them to convert.
7. Review key SEO on-site and technical performance
No CRO audit is complete without taking a peep at SEO on-site and technical performance.
SEO and CRO intersect at many points so it’s critical to not skip this step.
Some key on-site elements to analyze include:
- What calls-to-action are on the site? Are they clear? Do they link to the correct pages?
- Is there social proof? (reviews or testimonials)
- Are there clear headings that are catchy and skimmable?
- Is there enough whitespace to easily read the copy?
- Does the copy match your brand’s voice and tone?
- Is there a clear unique value proposition?
- Are there high quality images that complement the copy?
Here are some technical elements to review:
- How is the site speed?
- Does everything render properly?
- Is it responsive to different screen sizes?
- Mobile friendly? Does anything look strange on mobile?
8. UX heuristic analysis
Unlike user testing where a site is audited by users, a heuristic analysis is evaluated by CRO experts. The definition of heuristic is a mental shortcut, so a heuristic analysis uncovers how users make an instant judgement about your website or brand. Based on approximately 200+ criteria, it helps you uncover your target user’s motivations. Given the limited amount of time you may have, looking at 200 elements might be a challenging feat. Instead, you can pick and choose the most important ones.
Some of the most common standard metrics to judge include:
- Aesthetic Design: The design should be clean, professional, easy to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing.
- Message Match: Message match should tell users how relevant your site is to their needs and desires. For example, a Google ad should match the landing page in terms of its offer and copy. If there is a mismatch, users will get confused and bounce, possibly never returning again.
- Clarity: Are there any confusing areas like images that don’t match the copy or headings that just don’t make sense? What about steps that take too long or are missing important details? Scrutinize the size, color, and location of CTAs, the legibility of headings, subheaders, and main body text, the amount of whitespace to separate sections, and font size readability.
- Credibility: Users are more likely to trust and buy from you if they see one of the following: reviews from real users, testimonials, industry awards and recognition, case study, or team photos.
- Responsiveness: Not only should the site load quickly, but it should also be responsive to different screen sizes and its original intended purpose. For example, a button should take you to another page when clicked on or adjust accordingly on mobile devices.
Part 3 Testing and Implementation
9. Form a conversion hypothesis & launch A/B testing
At this point, you might be patting yourself on the back for doing for all the hard work you did. But, you’re not quite done. A CRO audit needs testing and implementation to tie it all together.
To start, forming a conversion hypothesis simply means deciding what you think will result in the most positive change in conversions.
For example if a landing page for an ebook signup has extremely low conversion rates and a poor engagement rate, this could indicate that there is a message mismatch or there is a lack of social proof. Then, you could create a hypothesis like: If I add a Google review slider and an award on the landing page, I can expect the conversion rate on this landing page to increase by 2%.
The hypothesis you form will help act as the basis for your A/B tests.
An A/B test, also known as split testing, is an experiment that consists of 2 or more versions of a variable and is shown to different visitors to determine which is the better performing one. To run an A/B test, use tools such as Google Optimize, Optimizely, or VWO. They can also be integrated with Hotjar so you can find out why users prefer one page over the other.
Going back to our scenario, the A/B test would consist of having a control version of the landing page, and another page with the social proof right below the hero image.
At the end of the test, you will then be able to confirm your hypothesis as to whether having social proof increases the conversion rate by 2% or more. When done effectively, they allow you to make data-informed decisions.
10. Implement optimization plan and continue collecting research
Now that the heavy lifting is done, you can finally relax a little! The last step is to implement the findings you discovered from the content audit, analytics review, and A/B testing efforts.
One scenario is that you run your A/B test and prove your hypothesis to be correct. So, you roll out the changes and achieve your conversion objectives.
Another likely possible scenario is that your hypothesis doesn’t pan out as expected. Don’t fret. In this case, you’ll want to go back to the drawing board to gather more user data and then form a new hypothesis.
CRO is not a one-time deal, but rather, a continuous event that should be optimized over and over again to achieve the best results. Recommence monitoring and analyzing data, forming hypotheses, and performing A/B tests. Don’t forget to put your learnings into practice and to share your findings with your team so everyone is aligned on where to focus optimization endeavors going forward.
Schedule your next CRO audit approximately 6 months from your initial audit. New competitors, products, and strategies are constantly coming into play and evolving. Despite that, the strongest companies who can handle the tumultuous waves, are always working to solve these user and market challenges.
CRO, SEO and user experience (UX) are more closely intertwined than you think
At this point, it should be clear that CRO has a huge impact on website conversions. But, what if there was a way to supercharge your performance even more?
Well, there is!
A digital marketing strategy that combines search engine optimization (SEO), user experience (UX), and conversion rate optimization (CRO) will take your business to new heights. This is because they complement each other by working towards the same goal of ultimately increasing revenue and conversions.
SEO attracts visitors to your site, UX focuses on delighting and providing a memorable customer experience, while CRO makes it as seamless as possible to make a purchase. Simply put, when all three work synergistically, you’ll get a sustainable system that drives more high-quality leads who get a world-class online encounter and are more likely to convert.
Completing SEO and UX audits will help you identify wins and fixes to implement to make your digital goals more achievable.
Scale your business and website conversions with a data-driven CRO audit
Nowadays, users expect the absolute best from brands. Fast load times, good site structure, enticing copy, images that resonate with the message, and ease in contactability are just a few considerations that affect a user’s decision to convert or not.
Conducting a data-driven CRO audit will uncover barriers that are preventing your potential customers from advancing along the course. Then, test out a variety of innovative experiments to further your optimization efforts and see the results you desire.
If you need help getting started with a conversion rate optimization audit, learn more from the CRO experts at Intuitive Digital. Give us a call at 503-206-4988 or send us a message at [email protected]. We’d love to help you crush your digital marketing and conversion rate goals!