What Is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage of website visitors converting on your site. Conversions are unique to each entity, but some common examples are filling out a form, becoming a customer, clicking a button, or making a purchase. The CRO process involves understanding how users browse your site, what actions they take, and what’s stopping them completing a conversion action.

Typically the CRO process involves analyzing data, testing theories on how to improve conversion, and then analyzing the results.

6 Things to Get Your Business Ready for Conversion Rate Optimization

Below is our list of 6 things every business should do before starting the conversion rate optimization process.

1. Basic Website Maintenance

Before getting started on conversion rate optimization you should do some basic website maintenance to ensure you are meeting best practices. Check for the following:

  • Malware/security issues
  • Console errors / code errors
  • 4xx pages
  • Forms and links working correctly
  • Website speed/performance checks

Any of the above can interfere with testing and results that are crucial to CRO. Testing on a website that is experiencing foundational issue is a too-common “cart before the horse” mistake that we see companies making. We recommend holding off on CRO until you’ve got your basic website maintenance addressed.

2. Analyze Your Funnel

Do you have a good understanding of your marketing/sales funnel? If you have not done a funnel analysis yet, you should do one before starting your conversion rate optimization campaign. Analyzing how your website traffic goes through the funnel for conversions, sales and signups will help you create benchmarks and look for dropoff points in conversions.

For example, your blog may be your leading source for website traffic, but a smaller percentage of people each month convert from your blog pages compared to other entry points – such as your pricing page or services page. This may be a funnel you want to work on improving.

A quick and easy way to visualize this is to use a funnel visualization tool to display the drop-off rate and conversion rates of your top pages.

3. Setup Detailed Event Tracking

Getting your website tracking setup properly can be a big task and something commonly forgotten until after conversion rate optimization has started. We like to start with detailed event tracking, channel groupings and heat maps. We recommend setting up some of the below tracking at least a month before your CRO campaign.

Event Tracking: Setting up Event Tracking in Google Analytics will allow you to track very specific events like scroll depth, video plays, and download clicks. These are essential benchmarks for any conversion rate optimization campaign.

Channel Groupings & Segments: Setting up specific channel groupings and segments in Google Analytics will give you an in-depth look at traffic that is converting and traffic that is not converting. This can be crucial in determining the effectiveness of your campaigns and can also be useful in identifying outliers and anomalies.

Heatmap & Session Recordings: Heatmap tracking and session recordings are the backbones of most conversion rate optimization campaigns. Access to Google Analytics is great but seeing how visitors are using your site, where their mouse is going and where they are scrolling can paint an entirely different picture than what you may envision reviewing the raw numbers.

4.  Gather Data

Depending on how long you have had your tracking setup it’s important to spend a month or two just gathering data. More data will give you a better baseline for your testing otherwise outside variables could be helping or hurting your testing without you realizing it.

Example: Seasonality is a real thing with some businesses, without having year over year data to show that numbers are up during some seasons and down others could lead you to testing elements on your site that are working fine.

5.  Quarterly Growth Objectives

Creating quarterly objectives to focus on specific funnels will help create more measurable and attainable results. Conversion rate optimization won’t always create big changes overnight, giving your tests a moderate time frame will help ensure your tests are validated.

When creating quarterly growth objectives try to prioritize them based on ICE

  • Potential Impact
  • Confidence of success
  • Energy to Implement

This will set your team up to tackle the easiest high impact items that affect your conversions.

6.  Choose Your Tools

A good A/B testing tool is at the heart of every conversion rate optimization campaign and there are a lot of choices out there. Figuring out the right tool for your business will depend on your team, how your website is built and how agile you need to be. Companies like Unbounce have made A/B testing and CRO incredibly easy, also Google has its own toolset called Google Optimize. There are several others out there and every business will have different requirements so its best to choose wisely and do your research.

CRO Process Example: Basic Methodology


With countless things to test and experiment on, how do you gather research and where should you begin?

While we won’t list them all, our favorite research methods include:

  • Click Through Audits: A process where the tester replicates a user experience through following links and clicking on images. Looking for bugs and testing opportunities.
  • Analytics: Using tools and data from Google Analytics to identify where key zones are in a site. Data provided shows which strategies are working and which aren’t.
  • Heatmaps: Visual representations of where users travel on site pages. Typically depicted showing a temperature range, hot to cold, of user engagement on a page.

Once you gather all of your ideas, we recommend organizing by high impact and lowest effort for implementation. It’s recommended to direct your initial research/experimentation to high traffic or high converting URLs first.


In our create phase we will define our CRO experiment hypothesis and approach.

A great hypothesis should be testable, seek to resolve conversion barriers, and aim to gain customer insights. Our hypothesis should answer this specific phrase:
Changing ___ into ___ will cause _______ .

What is changed is where the art of CRO comes into play. Before launching our experiment, you’ll want to ensure that you have a measurable result and practical experimentation type based on the scope and speed of the project.


Once the proposed experiment and hypothesis have been established, that’s when you’ll start building out the experiment with your tool of choice. For us, our go to tool is Google Optimize, though we have used Optimizely and AB Tasty for more complex experiments.

Goal tracking, traffic allocation, QA, and monitoring are all essential pieces of a smoothly run experiment. We don’t want to create more problems for our users while trying to solve them. Make sure to review your experiment on multiple browsers and device types!

PRO TIP: Make sure your internal traffic is filtered out of your analytics results so you are not inflating your numbers.


When the experiment has reached an appropriate level of traffic, we can evaluate whether or not the variant proposed reached levels of statistical significance. Most modern A/B testing tools will automate this piece for you and do all of the complex calculations on your behalf.

If the variant won, go live with the change! If not, did we learn anything about our users in the process? Are there any insights we can gain with the variants design, layout, or messaging? We recommend documenting your findings for future reference.

More About CRO

It’s not uncommon for business owners and professionals 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.

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.