What is CRO?

Delving deep into Conversion Rate Optimisation

Over the past few years, conversion rate optimisation (also known as CRO) has grown in popularity. From being on the fringe of mainstream marketing, CRO is now being recognised as an important channel within its own right, and for good reason. Where channels such as SEO and PPC have had their place in digital marketing for the past 20 years, CRO is actually a relatively new concept within the digital marketing world.

If you're new to the concept of CRO, then don't worry. Throughout the course of this article we are going to delve deeper into conversion rate optimisation, look at why it is taking the marketing world by storm, and ultimately seek to answer the question: what is CRO?

What is CRO?

Across the course of this article we are going to look at a number of different elements surrounding CRO to help builder a wider picture of the art and science of conversion rate optimisation. This includes:

  • The basic premise of CRO
  • The value of CRO
  • The CRO Process
  • Integrating CRO into a wider marketing strategy

The Basic Premise of CRO

When looking to answer the question "what is CRO?" we need to start at the very beginning and break it down as a strategic marketing tool.

So what is CRO?

CRO, as a marketing strategy, differs from SEO, PPC, Display and Offline marketing when it comes down to focus. Where the aforementioned channels are all fantastic tools, they are generally (although not always) focused on finding the right audience and driving them to your website at the right time in their conversion journey. Once the audience reaches your website, that channel has (generally speaking, although again not always) done its job.

Once the audience is on the website, this is where CRO kicks in. CRO takes the audience and looks to help guide them towards a conversion. This means that, rather than being focused on generating a new audience or finding an existing audience, CRO is more focused on making the most of the audience you already have. This means that CRO focuses on the conversion rate of a website, rather than focusing on the number of users or sessions.

The Value of CRO

To fully understand the value of CRO, we need to first look at a typical user journey. This is where Rob comes in:

  1. Rob is looking to buy a Chromebook.
  2. Rob searches on Google to find stores that sell Chromebooks and he is presented with 10 results, as well as a few shopping adverts.
  3. Rob clicks on the first result in Google.
  4. At this point, Rob has the decision to purchase a Chromebook from this shop or whether he is going to go elsewhere.

Now, that is a fairly loose and typical user journey - Rob searches, Rob finds, Rob visits, Rob decides whether or not he is going to buy or whether he is going to go elsewhere. Understanding that basic premise becomes a lot more interesting when we start applying numbers.

  • Rob is one of 110,000 people in the UK searching for "Chromebook" in any given month.
  • Position #1 in Google gets, on average, 25% of the clicks on any given search. Different blogs and sites give varying numbers, but 25% is about average.
  • This means that position #1 will get, on average, 27,500 clicks per month.

If that site has an average conversion rate of 1.68% (which at time of writing is the recorded average according to IRP) then that means 462 people will convert. Not too shabby, especially if the average purchase value of a Chromebook is £200 - that means there will be £92,400 in revenue for the month.

That said, by optimising the conversion rate, more can be made out of the users who are visiting the site. With 27,500 clicks per month, a conversion rate of:

  • 1.68% means 462 people convert with £92,400 in revenue (on average)
  • 1.7% means 467 people will convert, increasing revenue to £93,400 (on average) per month. This is an increase by £1000.
  • 1.8% means 495 people will convert, increasing revenue to £99,000 (on average) per month. This is an increase by £7,600.
  • 2.0% means 550 people will convert, increasing revenue to £110,000 (on average) per month. This is an increase by £17,600 per month.
So, what is CRO? CRO is, put simply, a multiplier for your conversions/revenue each month. Increasing a conversion rate from 1.68% to 2.0% is an increase in percentage points by only 0.32%, which results in a 19% increase in revenue. This is a reserved example, but it shows the power of CRO.

That 19% increase in revenue is through only looking at improving the conversion rate through CRO - and not through increasing the number of users visiting the site. Through increasing the number of users visiting the site, via PPC/TV advertisement/Display (etc.) it is possible to increase the amount of revenue even further.

What is the CRO process?

So now we've explored the questions "what is CRO?" and "what is the value of CRO?" we can now dive deeper into the process. CRO is a ultimately a cycle in four parts:

  1. Gather data
  2. Hypothesise
  3. Test
  4. Repeat

However, that does oversimplify the process a little bit - so below we're going to break it down in more detail.

Step 1: Gather Data

Step 1, gathering the data, is the most intricate part of a CRO strategy, and it is (arguably) the most in-depth. A CRO strategy is only as valid as the data gathered to help guide it, so it is for this reason we look at a multitude of different tools to ensure that a holistic view of the site is gathered.

Website Data

Step one is always to look at the website data itself. Traditionally speaking, this means taking a closer look at Google Analytics in order to understand how the user behaves on the site. Doing this kind of analysis means that it is possible to dig into -

  • Conversion rate data
  • On-page behaviour
  • Device level data
  • Acquisition level data

And in doing so understand where the potential blockages on the site exist.

By analysing the site it allows for us to be far more precise when looking at applying other means of analysis. For instance, it is possible to identify pages with a high bounce rate or a high exit rate, implying potential issues with user retention on those pages. By applying other means of analysis to those pages it is possible to narrow down why users may be exiting.

Scroll Maps

Scroll maps are an incredibly useful tool when conducting CRO activity as they help explore how far down a page the average user is going before either clicking or leaving.

So why is this helpful? By knowing how far down a page users go before they give up, we can better understand the percentage of users who actually get to core pieces of information. For instance, if only 25% of users get to the bottom of the page and your only CTA is at the bottom of the page, then you are automatically reducing the potential for users to convert by a large percentage.

Heat Maps

Heat maps are similar to scroll maps, with one big difference. Where scroll maps tell us how far a user scrolls before exiting a page, a heat map tells us what they click on. This is important as it helps us identify where links may be missed, where videos aren't being played, or where CTAs are being ignored.

Movement Maps

The final type of map is an interesting one, and that is movement maps. Where heat maps show you where someone clicks and scroll maps show where they move on a page in a linear way, movement maps show where the mouse moves throughout the course of the user's visit to the site. This allows for core information to be placed in opportune positions, ignoring places the user doesn't look.

User Recordings

So, we have the images - what about lingering time and how users actually behave on the site? Well, for those kinds of statistics, we can look at user recordings.

User recordings are a tool that allow us to watch users using the site, anonymising the data, but allowing for us to understand how users pause, linger, or scroll through the on-page data. Through viewing user recordings it is possible to observe where users are struggling, where they keep returning to, and where they move through an area of the site with some fluidity, in order to better understand how users flow through the site.

User Testing

So far, the tools above tell us and show us how website visitors are behaving on a site; however, they do not tell us one vital piece of information - what the user thinks.

User testing is a process in which a series of users are given tasks to complete on a site whilst narrating their thoughts and providing feedback. Afterwards, they complete a questionnaire about their experience on the site. Through user testing then, it is possible to get really honest and valuable feedback as to how users found using a site.

Step 2: Draw Hypotheses

Once all the data is available (which may be collected using a mixture of some or all of the above) it is possible to then draw hypotheses. To do this, the data needs to be analysed in order to pull out core points of interest or theories as to what could be standing in the way of a user converting. When drawing hypotheses there are four core points to take into consideration:

  1. What are the hypotheses we can draw from what the data is telling us?
  2. What is the specific data that supports the hypothesis?
  3. What test can we design to prove or disprove the hypothesis
  4. What can we measure in order to judge success?

Where creating hypotheses there is no limit to the number of hypotheses produced. In some cases, the hypothesis may be clear. In other, several hypotheses may be produced to be tested.

Step 3: Testing

After the hypotheses have been generated then it is time to run tests. For testing we always recommend an A/B test approach, in which two versions of the page are used - one of which is the original and one is the version on which the hypothesis is being tested. Half of the traffic is then directed to the original page, whilst half of users are directed to the new "tested" version.

For this type of experiment we recommend using Google Optimise, which has a powerful engine for A/B testing. Not only does Google Optimise make it easy to make changes to a page, without the need for a developer, but it also provides a breakdown of the core data at the end of the test, so you know which page performed better.

Once a test has been completed then it is possible to implement the changes using a development team.

How long does testing take?

When conducting a conversion rate optimisation strategy, how long it takes will depend on your site and how much traffic you get. Ideally, we want a page to gather enough data to make it possible to confidently say whether a change will improve the conversion rate or not. If your site gets 100,000 visitors a day then the test may only need to be run for a couple of weeks. Generally speaking though, we recommend a test runs for at least a month before gathering the results and making any changes based on the data.

Step 4: Repeat

The final step is repeating the process.

Going back to Rob's situation earlier and the Chromebook example - it is entirely possible to improve a website's conversion rate from 1.68% to 2.0% in one round of testing - however, it may take more than one. This means that it is recommended, once a CRO test has completed, to implement changes and then use the new version as a base for the next set of experiments. It is perfectly normal to go through four or five rounds of constant improvement before reaching a goal like that 2.0%.

The flip side to this though is that it is possible to keep optimising and reoptimising. That 2.0% is just an example, but through optimising and reoptimising you are continuing to improve upon your conversion rate. There is no reason that 2.0% can't be 3.0%, 4.0% or even 5.0% over time.

How CRO Integrates with Other Channels

So, now that we have explored what CRO is, what makes CRO valuable, and what the process is for conducting a successful conversion rate optimisation strategy. The next question is: how does CRO integrate with other marketing channels?

The good news, for those considering CRO, is that CRO integrates with other channels incredibly well. CRO can help a website improve upon its conversion rate, whatever the source of the traffic. Through improving a site for converting users as a whole, it is possible to optimise it for both users visiting through organic search or PPC as well as users who are visiting direct because they saw a TV advert or print media advert. Essentially, CRO works with every single marketing channel, making it a truly integrated strategy.

That being said, there are a couple of further integrations that can often be overlooked. At the top of this article, we said that CRO usually concerns itself the traffic that is already on a website - however, this is not always the case. CRO can also integrate with SEO and PPC on a deeper level, helping with meta-data and advert text accordingly to help improve the click through from the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) as well as the conversion of users on the site.

It is for this reason that CRO is an incredibly valuable tool. CRO helps improve the user's experience as they traverse the conversion journey - whether at the initial conception phase or whether they are ready to convert. It doesn't matter where they come from - it only matters where they end up.

What is CRO?

Throughout the course of this article we have explored the ins and outs of CRO - what it is, why it is valuable, how to conduct a CRO strategy, and how CRO integrates with other channels. This leads us to ask one last time -


CRO is a multiplier that allows you to make the most out of the users who visit your site by improving their user experience. CRO uses a multitude of different tools to gather reliable data, generate hypotheses and run tests. CRO can be integrated with any marketing strategy in order to generate a larger number of conversions from the same amount of traffic. Increase the traffic through other means such as SEO/PPC/TV/Radio/Display advertising and it is possible to increase the amount of conversions generated through your site even further.

Find out more about how CRO can help boost your marketing strategy

If you would like to find out more about how CRO can be used to help take your marketing strategy to the next level, you can contact us today.

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