There’s no greater skill than self-reliance. Generating data to support your designs, ideas, and strategies gives you a freedom not available to marketers 10 years ago.
Conversion rate optimization is the segment of digital marketing that seeks to maximize the value gained from your website’s visitors. We seek to convert a visitor to a customer, a lead, or an email subscriber. In short, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the discipline of getting the most value from the visitors to your website. Businesses get value from their visitors when they begin a conversation with them or convert them to customers.
Without a CRO program, you lose qualified visitors, leaving money on the table. This is why these skills are in high demand from businesses in all industries.
Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he can charge up to $29.99 a pound for fresh salmon.
In this article we’ll discuss conversion rate optimization training, how to set learning goals, define essential concepts, funnels, UX, A/B testing, courses, e-books, and communities.
So, grab a pole and a net. We’re going to make sure you’re not left talking about the ones that got away.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
CRO increases the percentage of visitors who become buyers with the guidance of analytics to determine what is happening behind the scenes on your pages and then implementing the creativity of winning messages, images, and calls-to-action.
Why is CRO Important?
CRO is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing.
Sitting at status quo could leave you stuck if you don’t implement a CRO program. There’s a direct connection to the amount of time, effort, or money you put into CRO and the resulting ROI benefit.
If your landing experience is converting at less than 2%, it doesn’t really matter how much traffic you throw at it. Your acquisition cost is going to remain high.
Getting Started with Self-Paced CRO Training
The first step to learning any new topic is to understand how you like to learn. Learning in your own way ensures that you absorb the information that you can then use for the lifetime of your business.
There are four common ways people learn*.
Methodicals: You need to become an expert in conversion rate optimization. You will read blogs, watch videos, scour reports, and attend events before you dive in.
Competitives: You need to be able to apply what you are learning to your current problems. You will look for content and training that addresses CRO to reduce acquisition costs, decrease shopping cart abandonment, or other specific issues.
Humanists: You learn with others. You are looking for trusted experts and communities in the CRO space that are providing content and recommending resources for you to explore.
Spontaneous: You need to jump in and start doing things. You learn fastest by trying things and making mistakes.
Being honest with yourself about how you learn allows you to tailor your learning program.
Evaluate Your Current Knowledge
CRO is about applying data to business problems. Why not collect some data on yourself?
We recommend that you look at your Myers Briggs type, Strengths Finder strengths, or the Kolbe A Index to understand how you learn.
Assessing your skills will keep you from investing in resources that you ultimately won’t get value from. Doing so will help you to prioritize your goals.
How much experience do you have with CRO? How in depth are your skills in copywriting, usability, consumer psychology and behind the scenes coding?
Set Learning Goals
To help you prioritize goals, use the SMART method for defining them. SMART helps you to become specific in finding measurable goals that are achievable, relevant and met in a timely manner.
Here’s an example of how you can do this with a CRO goal.
Specific – Create copy for a page that increases conversion rates.
Measurable – How many conversions does a page with the copy contribute to?
Achievable – An increase of 10% to 20% in your conversion rate would be helpful and achievable.
Relevant – More conversions will mean more revenue for the business.
Time-Bound – I can accomplish this within 3 months.
Essential CRO Concepts to Master
The core principles in CRO include:
- Conveying a unique value proposition
- Building trust
- Increasing relevance
- Providing clarity
- Amplifying desire
- Eliminating friction
- Adding urgency.
As you begin to master CRO skills, you will be able to apply and test these concepts in your own marketing.
The Conversion Funnel
Your campaigns are a series of steps. Each step is an opportunity to apply CRO to move a visitor forward in their evaluation of your offering. So, it’s important that you look at the entire journey as a whole and pay attention to how it all works together.
Top of funnel activities are usually focused on awareness.
Your home page is a top of funnel hub that directs visitors to areas of your website that are relevant to them when they visit.
Here are some things to focus on for the home page:
- Fast page load speeds will keep visitors on the site.
- Great navigation will make it easier for your visitors to find their way around.
- A strong unique value proposition will help visitors to commit to further engagement.
Elements in the middle of the funnel focus on getting visitors to look at specific products and services.
Great content will engage them with your products or services and build trust. Clarity will help define which products or services they should look at.
Bottom of funnel elements strive to close sales.
Use comparison pages, demos, and testimonials to help visitors pull the trigger. Eliminating friction will help move visitors through to the end of the funnel. And adding urgency might make it more likely to happen quicker.
User Experience (UX) and CRO
In digital marketing, much of the customer journey boils down to UX. Is the design of your site helping them understand what is important to focus on??
There are two competing forces at work in UX: familiarity and novelty. We don’t have to work too hard if we are familiar with the UX. Novelty can grab our attention, highlighting what is unique about the business.
We can use the example of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.
Grocery stores that use the same standard universal aisle layout across stores make it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for if they find themselves shopping at the same store in a different city. This approach leverages our familiarity with how grocery stores work.
Novel UX requires us to teach shoppers a new way of doing things. Save it for truly novel situations.
In a grocery store, self-checkout, however, is a novel way to pay. It makes it quick for those who have small orders but requires more work on the part of the customer.
So, make the usability of your online store smooth in this same fashion. Make your navigation seamless, add upsells and make your checkout process simple.
One of the best ways to know if a change to your website will be preferred by your visitors is with A/B split tests.
A/B split tests can scientifically tell you with statistical accuracy which change will increase your conversion rate.
It works by loading the current existing web page along with a competing test page into split testing software. Half of your visitors will see the original version while half of your traffic will see the test page.
Conversions are then tracked for each page and a winning page is declared. It’s beneficial to get on a split testing program of at least one test per month.
An example of a basic split test would be testingtwo2 different calls-to-action to see which yields the most sales.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
There are many KPIs that will tell you if your CRO work is improving things for the business.
Measurement is critical to CRO work, and website analytics is the source for most of your KPIs. If you are unfamiliar with website analytics, we can recommend MeasurementMarketing to gently get you up the learning curve.
Here are some KPIs to consider in your digital marketing endeavors.
Bounce Rate/Engaged Visitors
Your bounce rate has been defined by the ubiquitous Google Universal Analytics as the percentage of visitors who leave your site after visiting only one page. Less blunt measures of bounce rate use the time a visitor is on the site or to indicate a bounce, or some combination of time and pages visited.
For example, Google Analytics 4 uses such a combination of metrics to determine which visits are from engaged visitors. The inverse of this is equivalent to the bounce rate.
A high bounce rate, or low engagement rate, tells you that you are getting qualified visitors from your search, ads, emails, and other traffic sources. They quickly see that they are in the wrong place.
Click and Scroll Depth Metrics
Platforms such as Hotjar and Microsoft Clarity show you where people are clicking on your pages, where they’re not clicking, and how far down a page they are scrolling.
This gives you on-page information that unearths problems with your UX, messaging, and design.
Most analytics products will show you how visitors are moving through your website. You will see where visitors are getting stuck or dropping out of the funnel.
Google Analytics shows you how much time, on average, your visitors are spending on your page to evaluate engagement.
It is important to realize that time on page may not correlate with higher conversion rates.
The exit rate tells you which pages are causing visitors to leave your website. Take a close look at pages with high exit percentages.
And finally, don’t forget to measure your actual conversion rate. Measure it using this equation…
(Number of conversions / Number of visitors) * 100 = Conversion rate %.
Best Resources for Self-Learning CRO
There’s a myriad of CRO resources that will help you learn how to increase your conversions rates and practice developing new skills.
It’s important that you follow reputable digital marketing sources. Here are a few resources both free and paid to add to your CRO learning program.
Online Courses and Certifications
A CRO course is one of the most effective ways to get training under your belt. With a regimented course plan and quizzes, it’s a great way to test, develop and practice skills. Some conversion rate optimization training courses offer a CRO certification, which can be a nice addition to your resume.
We can’t recommend a training resource more than CXL Institute.
Our own Brian Massey teaches the introduction to the CRO mini degree, which has the detail that Methodical learners will love.
With 90 digital marketing courses, Competitive learners will be able to find something that focuses on their current problems.
CXL draws from industry experts, so Humanists are likely to find a trusted source to learn from.
Market Motive offers a low-cost but comprehensive conversion rate optimization training course. Market Motive offers hands-on projects for our Spontaneous learners to try out what they learn.
The bite-size lectures found on Udemy will also appeal to our Spontaneous learners.
For our Humanist learners, we recommend live and online workshops, like those offered by SMX, Digital Summit and others. These provide a way for you to interact with the trainer and the class as you explore topics in CRO.
Regardless of your learning style, your ability to create words and images that are relevant and compelling to your visitors is crucial. For this reason, we love Copyhackers online courses for copywriting.
Books and E-books
Many CRO experts have written books that should be in every budding analyst’s library to help them learn more. A comprehensive list wouldn’t be that useful to you.
Instead, we offer one or two resources for each of the learning styles we’ve highlighted in this article.
For our Spontaneous readers, we recommend Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Formulas of the Conversion Scientist. Brian Massey walks readers through five website formulas and helps you determine which aligns best with your specific business structure to get amazing results.
For our Humanist readers, we recommend Waiting For Your Cat To Bark? Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. This starts with the premise that customers operate more like cats than Pavlovian dogs.
For our Competitive learners, we recommend Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think Revisited. For decades, this book has changed the mindset of readers and experimenters.
For our Methodical learners, we recommend a detailed top-to-bottom overview of CRO.
Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions by Tim Ash, Maura Ginty and Rich Page.
This book focuses on landing page optimization with before and after results.
Forums and Online Communities
Being able to openly ask and answer CRO questions is a valuable place for people to broaden and learn more CRO skills. It’s a place of precision learning. It’s also a really great place to meet other CRO folks.
Check out the Moz CRO forum where you can learn techniques by meeting like-minded people and interact with questions and answers.
Practical Tips for Applying CRO Knowledge
Finally, there will come a time to apply your CRO knowledge in a real-world setting. It’s important that you adjust and refine based on outcomes.
You should have access to a website with at least 100 conversions a month if you want to start exercising your new CRO skills.
You don’t have to perform a complete web redesign in order to get results. In fact, it’s not advised because multiple changes can skew results making it difficult to know what changes helped or hurt a page.
It’s advised that you start with small changes so you can gauge exactly which changes increase and which changes decrease conversions.
Even a small change such as changing the copy on a CTA button can yield significant results.
Analyze, Iterate, Improve
The beauty of CRO is that at each step you can take what you learn and build and improve upon that improvement.
Don’t be afraid of failed tests. There is opportunity to gain insight from failed tests as well.
Take what you have learned from both your winning and losing tests and then use that information to iterate with a new test.
Stay Updated with CRO Trends
As with any arm of digital marketing such as CRO, it is always evolving. New platforms are always emerging that could change the game enabling you to learn more.
Make sure you’re signed up to newsletters that will help keep you up to date on the latest trends. Follow blogs for new articles that showcase new technologies and trends. And follow influencers on social media.
How do I get good at CRO?
Practice really does make perfect. If you follow all these guidelines and maintain a learning program and you will notice that as you go along, things really start to click and make sense in new ways as you continue to learn.
What skills do you need for CRO?
You need analytical skills to sort through data that will help you make informed decisions. And you need creativity skills to write copy and messaging that resonates with your audience.
What is the best degree for a CRO?
A marketing degree with a focus in digital marketing is highly beneficial to a CRO specialist with a concentration in CRO related classes.
What makes a successful CRO?
A successful CRO makes decisions based on data, not assumptions.
Analysis is just one part of the game. You will also want to work on your ability to present your findings in a way that others will understand.
How long does it take to become proficient in CRO?
There is a lot of skill developing when it comes to CRO. It often takes time for things to truly click. It typically takes a couple of years if you stick to your learning program and have opportunities to exercise your skills.
Are there any industry-recognized certifications for CRO?
CXL Institute offers certification that is generally recognized by the industry.
How do I measure the success of my CRO efforts?
Measure your KPIs and make sure that they are moving in a positive direction.
How do I balance user experience with aggressive CRO tactics?
It’s always important to make sure that your user experience is effortless. If aggressive CRO tactics interfere with a user experience, it might be in your best interest to forego those tactics.
What are the most common pitfalls or mistakes when starting with CRO?
Testing everything can be a problem as many tests don’t end up yielding wins. Focusing on the wrong things can also be a waste of time. Spend extra time on choosing which ideas you test, which you just change, and which you ignore. This is part of the process of becoming good at CRO.
How often should I update or revisit my CRO strategies?
Updating your skills should be an ongoing process. New strategies are being tested by other CRO professionals, and many of them share their results. A year away from newsletters and articles on CRO could cause a huge gap that results in a lack of updated information.
Kickstart Your CRO Journey Today!
Now that you’ve been given the tools and map to teach yourself CRO, it’s time to get started.
Assess your current knowledge and set realistic SMART goals to implement a successful learning program.
Master essential CRO concepts such as conveying your unique value proposition, building trust, increasing relevance, providing clarity, amplifying desire, eliminating friction, and adding urgency.
Understand funnels, UX, A/B testing and KPIs. Take courses, read books, and join forums. Start small and iterate on your advancements while always updating your skills.
And if you need a little extra help, Conversion Sciences is here to offer a hand. We’ve been thought leaders in the space since 2007. Through our books, blogs, podcasts, and trainings, we’ve taught thousands of people how to excel in CRO. We can help introduce you to CRO 101, share a few more CRO resources or offer more in-depth CRO training.
Reach out and let us know how we can support our CRO learning journey.
* Modes of Persuasion from Waiting for your Cat to Bark? by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg.
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