By Kelsey Jones; CRO, which stands for conversion rate optimization, deals with optimizing your website, sales strategy, and marketing to get a higher conversion rate, which is when potential customers complete the end action that you were hoping for. For some, this is an email newsletter signup; for others, it is a completed lead generation form that's sent to the sales team.; CRO not only typically involves SEO, which is search engine optimization, but it also ties in multiple departments: sales, customer service, marketing, and development. By looking at which aspects of your website are working, you can get a better idea of what's not, which is where the 'optimizing' comes into play. There are several different aspects within CRO, but a few of the continuously overlooked and important ones, as well as suggestions for stepping up your CRO game in these areas, are included below.

Focus on what's working first before turning to what isn't. Where have you been gathering conversions in the past? Why it is working so well? If it's a landing page, maybe the conversions can be attributed to an exclusive, explanatory graphic that is used only on that page. Could this illustration be used in a Facebook post, a postcard mailer, or other piece of marketing material?

The same goes for copy on a page. If you find that a certain style of copywriting works better than what was used previously or what can be found in other materials, test the same style and voice in your other marketing and sales collateral.

Think about all the places where your customers may come in contact with your company. These could be in places that aren't even in your department, including:

Sales Materials

Do you have an onboarding document or sales portal that customers prefer or that seems to make the conversion process happen quickly? Check your data: If one part of the sales process has a faster turnaround time than another, investigate. See if you can replicate the success in other parts of the funnel.

Apps and Mobile Sites

App management is often under the jurisdiction of developers, with their colleagues periodically suggesting improvements, updates, or fixes. But monitor your analytics. If your app has a higher conversion rate than your website, you need to see what's working. Does it have an easier check-out process? Is the mobile version of your website as easy to use as your app?

Some industries now heavily rely on the effectiveness of customer mobile search. For instance, 72 percent of food and beverage searches are made on mobile. While there are many benefits (such as data or customer loyalty) that come from encouraging the use of your app, some customers prefer to use a website over downloading an app. Stay aware of your users' preferences and keep your app and mobile site conversion friendly.

In-Person Conversions

If you have a physical location that welcomes customers, research their conversion rates. How many people walk into your business and convert as a sale? Could any of the tactics used in the store, such as signage or how representatives encourage customer engagement, be used on your website or in online advertising? Since 80 percent of people use search engines to find local products and services, combining their need to find a local business with what converts in person may increase your website conversion rate.

Third-Party Apps

A lot of food- and service-based businesses get customers from third-party apps and websites such as Postmates, Grubhub, or Groupon. If this is true of your company, find out if these services have a higher conversion rate than your own website. Analyze any data the outside app provides to determine what's working better for them than for you.

While these apps may be more visible than your company, you have the benefit of being the main source of your business. Many customers will often trust going straight to the source. For example:

  • businessname.com

  • groupon.com/businessname

This is true especially when prices are the same or you offer something the third party can't, like free shipping or an extended warranty.

Call Tracking

Set up call tracking for your website so you can see which pages convert to calls most often. You may find that calls have a higher conversion rate than contact forms; if that's the case, you'll know that optimizing for more calls is a higher priority than contact forms. Additionally, take what's working with call conversions and test them for contact form calls to action (CTAs).

Once you figure out what's working in each one of these categories, you can narrow down where your website needs to improve.

The first order of improvement is using your website and blog content to address your customers' wants and needs. After all, they are using search engines to find answers, and when your website has content that gives them information on possible solutions, you're much more likely to get conversions.

Finding out what real customers want and need is as easy as asking your customer service and sales department colleagues. Start with the following questions:

  • What do customers complain about?

  • What are customers most confused by, especially within your industry?

  • How frequently do customers know your company by name?

  • What is the most common struggle in our industry that customers mention?

In the last question, perhaps a customer answers, 'I really need website hosting, but all the hosting companies I've talked to don't show me how to install WordPress.' This would not only be a potential new service (automated WordPress installation), but could also spin off different pieces of content: tutorial videos, a WordPress ebook, or a listicle-style blog post of top WordPress plugins for new sites.

Give your customers the information they need when they need it. They'll be more likely to trust your business and want to continue growing the relationship.

Part of this process also includes improved overall communication during any interaction with customers'even if it's automated. Many companies have automated confirmation emails for completed contact or email subscription sign-up forms. But are they using these emails to their fullest potential? All contact with a customer gives them all the information they are looking for, as well as suggests additional products or services.

Take, for example, an email from one of the hosts of Being Boss, a popular podcast for creative entrepreneurs. It's from their lead generation email series, which subscribers receive when they sign up for the Being Boss mailing list. The email could simply give a few episode suggestions. In their case, a podcast listen likely counts as a conversion since more listens for podcasts usually equal more sponsors.

Instead, its email outlined areas that entrepreneurs struggle with and listed specific episodes that can help. In the world of online marketing, people are more likely to click on a link when it's specific to what their pain points are. Being Boss is more helpful and transparent in its email campaigns by using the podcast episode titles as the links, instead of a generic 'Click here.'

Moz, a leading SEO platform, recommends including clear calls to action to conversion forms or related content on websites, just as Being Boss does in their emails. Consider what communication (automated or not) your customers receive from you and test what is most effective for more engagement and conversions.

Testing is one of the most important aspects of CRO. If you aren't A/B testing your content and digital marketing efforts, you definitely need to start. This involves randomly placing two different versions of a website or pieces of content in front of users to see which one gets more traffic and conversions. A/B test several different email aspects, and test different elements on your website, too.

Some of the A/B tests Kissmetrics recommends include typography, calls to action, colors, and offer types. You can also test the different ways content is worded, such as multiple blog post headlines. CoSchedule can help: It lets you test headlines and also offers a free headline analyzer if you want to see which variations of headlines may work best before actually testing them.

A/B testing may be an area where developers are needed to insert code or set up proprietary testing scripts. Make sure your website is compatible with any testing tools and that you keep track of all the variables and testing you're doing. It's also crucial that you only test one thing at a time so you know what's working. Changing the color scheme and a button CTA at the same time will make it impossible to know which actually had an impact on your conversion rate.

The nuances of conversion rate optimization, or CRO, make it possible to test several different aspects of your website and online marketing. Make sure you only test one variable at a time for each platform. Keep your data handy and continue to work with other departments to see what performs best; your reasons for success will usually change depending on the time of year, trends, or customer behavior patterns. By testing to see what makes it easiest for your customers to convert, you are ensuring a higher return and referral rate and a better overall user experience.

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