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8 min read

The beginner’s guide to CRO

What is CRO?

We define conversion rate optimisation (CRO) as a scientific process that aims to increase the profitability of your website by making more of your existing traffic.

The goal is to get more sales or leads per customer visit. How can you achieve this? By implementing an ongoing process of website optimisation and split testing that slowly but surely bring measurable benefits to your site.

A complete CRO strategy should touch on pretty much every part of your online offering, including the user journey from first click to checkout, website performance on different devices, content and imagery.

Within CRO, these different strands are all unified and underpinned by a data-driven methodology – every change, good or bad, should have a measurable outcome.

Why should I include CRO in my marketing strategy?

If you want your website to convert more visitors, you should consider implementing some form of CRO strategy. Some of the more popular techniques work better with high-traffic websites, but many of the principals can be applied whether your website has high or low traffic, whether your goal is website sales or lead generation and whether you’re tech savvy or not.

A big attraction of CRO is that it delivers results with no need for additional marketing spend beyond the time invested. You don’t need an advertising budget and you don’t need to fork out for bespoke media creation for it to be a success. The goal is to make more money from the resources already at your disposal.

Moreover, CRO compliments any marketing activities you may already be engaged in. A primary goal of disciplines like SEO and PPC is to bring more visitors to your site; CRO helps you to turn those visitors into customers, which improves your website’s engagement metrics, which in turn has a positive impact on your organic and paid efforts.

Finally, by gathering data for CRO, you can’t help but learn more about your audience and how they engage with your business. More detailed knowledge about what your audience is interested in and how they behave on your website is invaluable when it comes to planning future advertising strategies, sales techniques and marketing campaigns.

Practical tips for turning users into customers

Set up accurate tracking

Before doing anything else, we recommend checking that your traffic tracking software is set up correctly. On Google Analytics, limit traffic data from bots and unneeded IP addresses (normally IP addresses of your business’s own offices and any agencies you work with). The process for excluding individual IP addresses is as follows:

  • Create a new filter – Admin → All Filters → + Add Filter
  • Choose a name for the filter, such as ‘company IP’ and leave the type as ‘predefined’
  • From the filter type drop-down menu, choose ‘exclude’
  • From the next drop-down, choose ‘traffic from the IP addresses’ then choose ‘that are equal to’ from the final drop-down.
  • Enter the IP address into the box that appears and add the views that you want to apply the filter to with the tool at the bottom of the page (you most likely want to apply it to whichever view you tend to use for your main audience data)

Look for quick wins

Most websites will have a handful of errors that could significantly boost your traffic if fixed. While we see CRO as a long-term strategy (not just for Christmas!), starting with some quick fixes can give you a nice platform to build on.

To find these errors, start by putting yourself or someone else in the position of a user. Navigate around the website, from the homepage to the checkout, and see if you can break anything or if anything doesn’t work as it should. Note down any difficulties you run into. This is the starting point of what we call user journey analysis.

Another way to find issues is to look in Google Analytics at user data across browsers and different devices. Look for any devices or browsers that, over the past year or so, have particularly poor engagement stats (bounce rate, pages per session, time on site etc.) and especially that have poor conversion rates. Shortfalls in these areas could indicate that the site isn’t working as well as it could be on a particular platform.

Solving these problems can be tricky without technical knowledge. Fixing a user journey issue might be as simple as changing a link to a 404 page to a current page, but fixing browser and device problems is much harder. If you have developers on your team or you work with a development agency, it’s best to hand over to them.


As an agency, we use certain techniques to help us identify areas that a site could improve in, and one that we strongly recommend is heatmapping. Heatmapping is included in a CRO tool that we use, VWO.

So what is it? It’s a visual representation of where people are positioning their cursor and clicking on a given page. It helps you to see how people are engaging with the page, and the results aren’t always what you expect. Sometimes it might highlight a button that users never touch but you think is important, or that users spend a lot of time on an area of the page that you haven’t paid much attention to. Heatmapping is a great tool for planning out the rest of your CRO strategy.

Split tests and multivariate testing

Testing different versions of a web-page is the bread and butter of successful long-term CRO strategies. These tests all work on a basic principle: you create alternative versions of a page and display each version to a random subset of your visitors. When enough people have seen each version, you compare conversion rates to see which version was the most successful.

A/B split testing is the easiest for most websites. As the name suggests, you change a single element on a page and run the new version against the original. If the new version converts better, you change the page permanently, if it doesn’t, you plan another test. CRO software like VWO will help you to set up and run the tests, bringing them to an end when you have enough data for the result to be statistically significant.

Multivariate testing involves making more changes and running more parallel pages. As such, it requires the audience to be split into smaller segments and takes longer to arrive at a result, but it allows you to identify which elements are the most important for conversion and to transform the page in one go.

It is also important to remember that, the lower the traffic to your website, the bigger the difference between the pages needs to be to reach statistical significance. This is because it takes more to demonstrate that a result isn’t a fluke when the sample size is smaller.

Carrying out tests like these is virtually impossible without a tool to help. Market leaders like VWO and Optimizely are both paid tools, but there are different levels of subscription and both offer free trials for you to see if they’re worth buying or not. By combining the free trials, you can actually get 60 days of free software, which should be more than enough try out a handful of tests. Google Optimize is a free option to consider alongside the more comprehensive paid tools.

CRO isn’t just a one-time project

CRO is for life, not just for Christmas. Sure, there are a few quick fixes, but to see the biggest improvements you need to keep at it over time and build on the changes you’ve already made.

When it comes to split and multivariate testing – the most sustainable CRO techniques long-term – only 1 in 6 tests return a successful result, where a new version of the page significantly outperforms the original.

Does that mean engaging in these tests is a waste of time? Absolutely not. Good CRO is as much about the failed results as it is about the successes, as long as you learn from each and every one. No matter the result of the test, always ask this question: why did it turn out like that?

Asking yourself and your team that question and following through with a logical, reasoned evaluation will lead you to a deeper understanding of what your audience is looking for and how your website can meet their needs.

Perhaps you try a few split tests that involve changing the colour of CTA buttons (which you know are underperforming thanks to heatmapping), but you haven’t seen a difference. This could be a sign that colour is not an important factor in this instance, and that something in your page’s layout or the messages the copy aren’t as strong as they could be. It could indicate wider issues with the design of the site or the strength of your content.

Alternatively, several successful colour tests could indicate that customers are influenced heavily by colour and imagery on your site, which should indicate that it will be productive to try new tests based on this hypothesis. In this way, successful or failed tests can both highlight areas for improvement and the next stage of your strategy.

As we mentioned earlier, a strength of CRO is its ability to inform your other marketing strategies. As you conduct tests and make changes that have a positive impact on your conversion rate, you will inevitably learn what your audience values. This information can be translated easily into advertising campaigns and has applications for organic and social channels as well.

Seeing the wider applications for the data you gather does take a degree of critical thinking, but your goal is to discover what your audience sees as most important. This will become apparent after just a few months of CRO, but the more you stick with it, the more you learn.

Further reading

If you want to learn more about CRO, here are some resources that can help you increase your knowledge:

If CRO sounds useful for your business, but your team doesn’t have the capacity to give it the time it needs, why not have a conversation with Impression about how we can help? Start by visiting our CRO service page to find out more.