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    It’s not uncommon for business owners and copywriters to feel like they’re drowning in alphabet soup when it comes to internet marketing acronyms. Today we’re going to take a crack at decoding the CRO acronym, a.k.a. Conversion Rate Optimization.

    We’ll explain what CRO is, how CRO and SEO play together, and finally, get some learnin’ from Sherlock Holmes and Walt Disney on best practices for implementation. Break out your decoder ring, it’s time to begin.

    Want to dive into a few examples, case studies, and see how we can improve your leads, sales, and overall website conversions. Start here!

    Decoding Conversion Rate Optimization Basics

    Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the act of deliberate digital improvement. It means finding an area of weakness on your website, implementing improvements, and measuring the results. Another way to say it is this: CRO means you are making it more likely for someone to take a specific action on a given page on your website.

    One distinction,  a “Conversion” isn’t always a sale; sometimes it’s just getting that extra add to cart or driving signups for your email newsletter. The “Conversion” you’re trying to get depends on the experiment objective and what you are trying to improve on a given page or element. We recommend looking at CRO as experiments. Gathering research for improved conversions is one thing, but creating and testing your hypothesis is another. This isn’t a comprehensive article on experimentation, but if you want to learn more about it feel free to check out our posts on a/b testing. In addition here is another blog we like on the importance of digital experiments.

    CRO is not SEO, But They’re Cousins

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may seem similar on the surface to CRO since both tend to deal with content and user experience. The primary difference is, when you write with SEO in mind, you’re mostly writing to help search engines understand your content in order to rank properly and ultimately drive more traffic to the site. With CRO, you are emphasizing the people first; your customers or clients. CRO is about looking at existing traffic on-site and seeking to understand where opportunities lie for improvement.

    To summarize: CRO is the art of improving a page to get a person to do a thing you want, while SEO is making changes to the page so that a computer system or algorithm does what you want. For more information on SEO and how to implement it, read this piece.

    Keep in mind that just like SEO, CRO should NOT be a one-and-done thing you do when you get your site set up. CRO is a verb; that peppy little “Optimization” at the end of the acronym means it is an ongoing process of improvement. You should be optimizing for conversions all the time. For a guide to this kind of constant improvement, we turn to the illustrious Mr. Disney.

    Walt Disney’s Guide to CRO

    While Walt never gave explicit instructions on “how to increase conversions,” he did have a nose for what he called “plussing.”

    “The park means a lot to me in that it’s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to—it’s alive. It will be alive, breathing thing that will need changes.”

    -Walt Disney, speaking to journalist Pete Martin in 1956.

    For Disney, the act of ‘plussing’ was fundamental to any project he was involved in. It meant making things better, even if only by 1%; and it was a never-ending process. This attitude perfectly describes what CRO is supposed to do: make constant improvements for the sake of your customers. Anytime you hear a marketer or a mogul say “CRO,” it may help you to think of Disney’s cheerful “plussing.”

    Data Identifies Where “Plussing” Is Needed Most

    Now, how do we implement CRO in an effective way? You can make any number of changes to your site in an attempt to ‘plus’ it, but if you’re not looking at the data, you may be firing blind. Or as Great Britain’s greatest fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes put it: “Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay!”

    You cannot bake bricks without the main ingredient, and you can’t implement CRO effectively without data. Fortunately, you don’t need the master detective’s analytical skills in order to succeed with CRO. All the tools you need are available thanks to Google Analytics and other software services that offer heatmaps, user testing, and even surveys. If you’re not set up with Analytics, we recommend getting the script installed and start to track clicks/engagements on elements with custom event tracking.

    Once you are set up with analytics, you can identify which pages need to be plussed, and you can start making bricks. Use this checklist to start your CRO journey, and remember that CRO is an ongoing process. It’s never going to be “done” because your site can always be improved. Like Walt, treat your site like a living thing that’s always going to change and get better. After all, at the end of the day, that’s what CRO is about: making conscious, dedicated improvements to your website.

    Contributing Author Post: Lucas X. Wiseman is two parts writer, one part dungeon master, with a sprinkle of PNW rainwater, art & woodworking for flavor. Find him here or on Twitter.


    Our favorite a/b testing tool for CRO is Google Optimize due to it’s simple integration with websites and Google Analytics. For more robust testing, consider using Optimizely or VWO.

    When it comes to CRO research, there are three fundamental tools we look at.

    • Yourself (yes, you) – for click-through audits
    • Google Analytics – for behavioral analytics and problem indicators
    • HotJar – for heatmaps and video tracking

    To get started with an a/b test or experiment, you first need enough traffic to prove statistical significance. In most cases, that means at least 1,000 sessions per experiment or page. After you have enough traffic, you’ll need to quantify the goal in a measurable way so the experiment tool has something to analyze (click throughs, conversion rate, bounce %, etc).

    Lastly, you’ll launch that bad-boy and listen! The optimization tool should do the heavy lifting on the math front and spit out a result to help your CRO decision making.