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Managing Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

Author's avatar By 01 Aug, 2016
Essential Essential topic

A structured guide to improving leads and sales from your website

You'd think Conversion Rate Optimisation would a “no-brainer”. You can get more leads/sales from your website without spending extra money on marketing for new visitors. Sold.  But it seems as if the jargon and complexities of analytics can get in the way of understanding approaches how to improve conversion rates.

To help demystify what’s involved with a structured approach to improving conversion, we’ve created a 6-step process, which is the foundation of all our client projects, dubbed Conversion Architecture. To help explain to non-specialists what’s involved in a typical conversion project, I’ll be sharing how we approach each step in a series of articles on Smart Insights.

In the first in this series, we'll cover Step 1 - Analyse

Step 1 Analyse

This is probably where most people start to get a glazed look over their eyes and make a mental note to read the rest of this post when they have more time. But analysis can be fun, so read on!

Like trying to build a house without foundations, attempting CRO without first analyzing the current state of play in your business, your overall marketing strategy, your macro environment and, yes, your website performance, would be not just a red herring, but actually quite pointless.

Setting and reviewing your KPIs

Most companies will have KPIs in place for each marketing strand and for the business overall. In most cases, your digital KPIs will be probably come down to the commercials that need to be measured (how many sales/ leads/ subscriptions, profit value, Cost-per-sales/ lead/ subscription etc).

Most of you will have this information to hand, but print it out and stick it on your desk. This is now your ‘rules of the game’ – it tells you what numbers you have to play with when thinking of where/ how to spend your money, what you set your PPC limits to and so on.

Analysing your use setup of analytics and usage

There are many great articles already written about setting up analytics, including Dave Chaffey’s article on 5 success factors for Google Analytics to Dan Barkers article on using the new version of Google Analytics. So I’m not going to try and repeat their great work in this post, but rather just point out the key data you want to look at for CRO.

The trouble with analytics is that many people don’t look past the first couple pages. The sheer amount of data contained in there puts most people off looking too deeply. So it starts to become a reporting tool, not a rich set of data that you can mine. To try to simplify, I'll look at just 5 key areas of reports which should feature in your analysis.

The 5 key areas you must cover in your analysis

While I appreciate that many marketers don’t have the time to sit down and really study every bit of your analytics, there are 5 things that you should try and find the time to look at:

  1. Set up and review your goals
  2. Look at your traffic sources and then list them by goal conversion
  3. Look at your top entry/ exit pages
  4. Look at bounce rates on your top entry/ exit pages
  5. Set up and study your goal funnels

If you’re pushed for time, taking 20 minutes a week to check these will give you enough ammunition to know where to focus your efforts. If you need help setting up goals and funnels then you can use this tutorial from Dave Chaffey to help you.

So, what are you looking for? At a top-level you’re trying to find what parts of your site work the best and what parts don’t work at all. For example, do more than 10% of people in your funnel drop out on a particular page? Are the bounce rates on your top landing pages over 40%? Do any of your pages have Exit rates over 20%? What traffic sources are performing well and which ones badly?

There is a load more you can learn from your analytics, but these are excellent starting points on the road to improved conversions.

For example, one of our clients (a major holiday company) was converting at just under 10% - not bad at all – but within a quarter hour of looking at their analytics we spotted a major flaw in their funnel, which caused over 60% of people to drop out. It took us another 2 hours to get it fixed and since then they have averaged 19% conversion rates. Two-and-a-bit hours to nearly double their online sales… that’s got to be worth anyone’s time.

Competitor research and analysis

This is another of those, “Sounds obvious, but don’t have the time to do it often,” tasks. Like analytics, try and put aside some regular time in your working week (or even month) to do a quick check.

All of your competitors are in the same boat as you. They will all be testing their online performance and trying to find ways of improving their site and marketing, so make use of their research and learn from them. Obviously, I’m not saying you should just rip off their content (that’s just lazy and plain wrong), but put on your ‘customer hat’ and ask, honestly, whether their design, messaging, layout or CTA’s would persuade you to convert more than your own do.

Perform some Google searches on your top keywords and follow the links to some of the sites that appear at the top. What can you learn from them (good and bad)? Ask yourself why they are taking that angle and if it would work for you if you were a customer.


This first phase in the Conversion Architecture process isn’t the most glamorous. In fact, crunching data and trawling your competitors’ sites probably isn’t fun at all. But, it will give you the basis for knowing (roughly) what you need to look at changing to improve your performance.

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