The optimization industry is plagued most by a poor acronym: CRO. Here is my reasoning for changing this damaging moniker.
The Importance of Acronyms
The three letter acronym (TLA) that defines an industry or organization is crucial to its success.
We all know of organizations who’ve been carried by their TLA. IBM comes immediately to mind. Here is a company that is universally recognized by its TLA. More recently, the search engine optimization industry has enjoyed significant success with the SEO TLA.
Industries with poor TLAs have fared much worse. Remember the WOM industry? Neither do we. In fact the entire social media industry has fallen on hard times due in part to the lack of a compelling TLA. SMM? Please! It’s basically a mumble.
Several industries have even consolidated their TLAs in an effort to get traction. Social media teamed up with local search and mobile to create Social Local Mobile, or SLM. When this didn’t work, they tried to slip a few more letters in. Hey, SoLoMo people, lower-case letters are still letters! This is really an acronym haiku.
Today, the TLA for the conversion optimization industry is CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimization. This is a sad moniker for a set of disciplines that offers so much promise. The conversion rate is the number of transactions or leads generated divided by the traffic for a given period of time. It is a metric of optimization, not the thing we are optimizing. Anyone can easily increase the conversion rate of any ecommerce site by cutting all prices in half. This would bankrupt almost any business, however.
Why Conversion Rate? It’s like naming our industry Bounce Rate Optimization (BRO) or Revenue Per Visit Optimization (RPVO). No, we don’t optimize conversion rates alone, so CRO is fundamentally flawed.
Despite the cool allusion to a black carrion bird, it cannot stand. We can say we optimize for conversion, and could call the industry “CO”, but a quick letter count reveals that this is a two-letter acronym (TA). We spend most of our time optimizing websites, so website optimization, or WSO would work. But we have to come clean and admit that “website” is just one word, and “WO” is a TA. Furthermore, WSO is owned by the World Safety Organization, so the Association of Three Letter Acronym Selection and Transfer (ATLASt) likely wouldn’t grant it to us.
We can upgrade our TAs to TLAs by adding ancillary words. Online Conversion Optimization gives us OCO. Since we’re really optimizing for revenue, we might embrace Online Revenue Optimization, or ORO. We could use the SoLoMo approach and call it OReO, but the makers of a certain sandwich cookie may take issue with this.
Submit Your Ideas to ATLASt
Submit your ideas on behalf of your organization or you as an individual. It doesn’t matter to the application process.
If we get enough conflict generated, ATLASt will have to do a poll to determine the proper TLA for our industry.
DON’T DELAY. SUBMIT YOUR TLA TO REPLACE CRO.
Join the Cross-out Protest
In addition, I recommend that you write CRO with the “R” crossed out anytime you use it on the web. This is our visible protest. Here is the HTML:
Use this in your blog posts, marketing or anywhere you want people to know that YOU DO NOT OPTIMIZE CONVERSION RATE ALONE.
Brian Massey is the Founder and Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences. He is the author of Your Customer Creation Equation. His rare combination of interests, experience and neuroses were developed over almost 20 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, international speaker and writer.