What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

In marketing a lot of technical terms get tossed around. Sometimes this can make marketers sound pretentious and disconnected from the people they’re trying to reach, but there actually is a value to these narrowly defined terms. Conversion Rate simply means the percentage of your site visitors who take a desired course of action.

This desired action may be anything from signing up for a free newsletter, filling out a contact form for a quote, or completing a purchase.

Conversion Rate Optimization is the process of increasing your website’s conversion rate. This can be accomplished many different ways, but generally requires a logical and intuitive interface, a robust understanding of your customers’ needs, and use of language that speaks directly to your customers.

Optimizing everything on the page for the customer’s thought process.

When a customer arrives at your website they are already considering your service – they haven’t arrived by some random twist of fate. However, your customers will arrive at your webpage at different stages of the decision making process and it is essential that your page be prepared to guide your customer along their journey no matter where they are in it.

While it would be fantastic if there was a magic phrase that we could include on a product page to convince every customer to convert, the reality is that customers always move to their decision through a series of small “yes” decisions that lead to the big “Yes, I want to work with your company.” CRO means optimizing for each of these micro-yesses.

It’s important to recognize that a CRO strategy must look at all of the factors that lead up to a purchase. If your page load times are lengthy you’ll lose customers before your page even finishes loading. Likewise, if your landing page’s call to action button (CTA) is hard to find then you may lose customers who get frustrated with the poor user experience.

These factors are actually so important that Google uses them as ranking metrics – penalizing sites which offer poor usability and promoting those which deliver speedy load times.

Examples like these are important, because they point out a flaw in conversion funnel metaphor – the funnel image implies that gravity is working on our side, but the reality is prospects have a far easier time falling out of the funnel than falling into it.

Conversion optimization involves developing a well-defined customer theory so we can reduce the resistance a prospect experiences as they approach the sale, in addition to doing a better job explaining the value of the product or service being sold.

The Power of Testing: Tests used in series result in incremental wins that over the long run lead to a large increase in the conversion rate

Earlier we described the CRO process as a science – and that term was carefully selected. Too often online marketing is conducted in a haphazard fashion, with companies simply copying successful competitors’ marketing strategies and hoping for the best. This may increase the number of conversions your site gets, but there is a strong possibility that this strategy will result in you missing out on serious gains.

In fact, there are numerous case studies of newly “optimized” websites performing worse than before. Sometimes common optimization efforts just don’t work out. The only way to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your page optimization is by taking a methodical approach; marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

The best way to approach CRO (and SEO) is using a data-driven approach and testing different options to see which best fits your customer base. After forming a hypothesis, A/B testing is employed, comparing multiple versions of the page to see which produces the desired results.

Additionally, analytics tools like heatmaps can be used to monitor the user behavior on a more granular level than simple metrics like bounce rate. If website visitors on your landing pages are missing your CTA button in favor of a prominent link to a different section of your website, changing the button’s position may be all it takes to increase conversions.

What is conversion rate?

Conversion rate is the percentage of people that take a desired action on your web page. Conversion goals vary, and the desired action can be as simple as a “micro-conversion” like clicking to the next page or following your company on social media, or as complex as making a purchase or requesting a service.

How do I calculate my conversion rate?

The formula for determining conversion rate is very simple:

CR = Total Conversions / Total Unique Sessions * 100

Note: In some cases Unique Sessions may reasonably be switched for Total Sessions or Total Leads.

This formula will yield a percentage, with a maximum possible value of 100 and a minimum value of 0. A conversion rate of 100% means that 100% of your unique sessions result in a conversion. A CR of 0% means that 0% of your unique sessions result in a conversion.

What is a good conversion rate?

This is a tough question, and honestly the answer varies widely. Some industries have higher conversion rates than others, and even where the customer is in the buying process will impact your conversion rate!

For example, a page selling luxury flooring may expect to have a lower conversion rate than another offering emergency mold remediation. This is not to say that the first page is performing worse than the other, simply that the target audience visiting the second page are in a much greater hurry to get through the checkout process!

Not only will conversion rates vary from industry to industry, but you should expect to see variability within your own site. Using the luxury flooring example from before, your page detailing how to measure floors for an estimate may have a greater conversion rate than a page describing the differences between vinyl and bamboo. The customers who are still determining what sort of flooring they want may be less far along in the buying process than those who have broken out a tape measure and are getting their measurements in!

The difficulty in determining what conversion rate is ideal is a big part of the reason why good conversion rate optimization strategies include split testing and multivariate testing. Settling for a small improvement to your conversion rate could mean that significant benefits are being missed.

What are the micro-yesses that I should be optimizing for?

The most important element in marketing is the same as in business more generally: focus on the customer and meeting their needs. To determine which micro-yesses a small business needs to optimize for, you must first put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Every prospective customer must answer yes (implicitly or explicitly) to a series of questions before a sale can take place. All it takes is a single ‘no’ answer for someone to drop out of the sale process.

Yes, I will pay attention

Capturing this yes requires two things: a compelling and relevant headline and robust SEO.

In a sea of search results your headline needs to convince your customer that they want to learn more about your page. However, a great headline won’t do you any good if it’s buried on page 2 of the search results. Good SEO gets your headline views, and a good headline gets your page clicks.

Yes, I will engage deeper

Once the customer has arrived on your homepage or landing page you have about 7 seconds to engage with them. All it takes for paying customers to leave your site is a slow loading page, a confusing layout, or an introduction which doesn’t convince them that they are in the right place.

No amount of search engine optimization or paid advertising will help if your customers arrive at your website and then decide it is loading too slowly, isn’t going to answer their question, or solve their need.

Quickly and clearly explain how your site is going to answer the sort of question which has brought customers to you. Don’t bury the lead – customers want to know they’re in the right spot.

7 Seconds to engage with any customer.

Yes, I understand

This is an oft overlooked element of marketing. Too often ad copy focuses on telling customers that this widget is the best, or touting what awards the company has won, without first explaining to them what the value of the product is.

Clarity is far more convincing than persuasion – let your customer know what you’re offering in clear terms that they’ll understand. Skip the advertising-speak about your “industry-leading technology” or “game changing” strategies and just tell them in plain speak how you can help them.

Not only will your customers appreciate your honesty and directness, they will be more likely to understand your product and therefore to want your product.


Yes, I believe

Once you’ve conveyed the benefits of your product or service to the customer, the next step in the micro-conversion process is getting them to believe your claims. This used to be far simpler – a few testimonials might have been all it took to gain a prospective customer’s trust. However, over the past few decades social proof has been abused and exploited so much that now its value as a marketing tool is just a fraction of what it once was.

This isn’t to say that businesses shouldn’t use testimonials when they’re available, but it is important to recognize how much more difficult it has become to get customers to believe you.

Data is a fantastic way to prove your claims – if you can demonstrate your company or product’s success then you don’t need to tell customers that you’re great, instead simply show them.


Yes, I want this now

Having a customer who is convinced that your service is valuable is good, but it won’t take you all the way to the sale. You also need to convince them that now is the time to make a decision.

In order to do this well you’ll need to have a good idea about your customer’s motivations. Are they risk averse or are they opportunity seeking? The message you use will need to align with their internal compass, otherwise you risk pushing them away.

The customer looking for toilet repair isn’t interested in the opportunity to have a designer toilet installed, they just want their throne room back in working order and quick! On the flip side, someone looking at hardwood flooring is imagining how much better their living room will look when they replace their tired old carpet. They are interested in the opportunity for a fresh style.

There will be times where your customers sit on both sides of the risk averse/opportunity seeking spectrum, and in these cases it’s important to craft messages for each. Typically the value proposition you’re offering to each type of customer is the same – the only difference is how you show it to them.

Yes, I want this from you

Once you’ve gone through all the hard work of getting your customer to agree that they want the product and they want it now, it is vital to make sure they want it from you!

Remember, people don’t buy from websites, they buy from people – and you need to have your customers realize that they should buy from you.

Note that the customer needs to realize this – simply telling them is not going to be enough. Customers are skeptical of unfounded claims and are going to push back against a narrative which seems baseless.

If your company is the best in your field then your customers are more interested in knowing why your company is the best in the field instead of that you’re the best. Your goal is to give your prospective customers the information necessary to come to their own conclusion that they want to do business with you.

Yes, I will trade

The ultimate goal of marketing is to get that final yes, “Yes, I will trade.” CRO is all about making sure that the perceived value of your product or service is greater than the perceived cost – and once you’ve done that you’ve made the sale.

However, keep in mind that this outcome only comes about as a result of a long, unbroken series of yesses leading up to this point. You can’t take any shortcuts to this stage – there are no magic words which will convince your customer to leap ahead. You must help them discover the value of your product and your company before they reach this point.

Yes, I will finish

This yes doesn’t have to be hard, and yet there are countless sites which make the final process of giving money or exchanging information with the company hard enough that they lose out on potential sales.

The final leap must be as easy as possible – your customers have already agreed that they want your product but you still risk losing them to frustration or distraction.

For ecommerce sites this means having your checkout process be seamless and asking the bare minimum from your customer in order to complete the sale. Lengthy sign-ups forms will inevitably push away some customers who were otherwise ready to convert.

Similarly, if your end goal is to have your customer request a quote, make this call to action button easy to find and even easier to use.

How do I run a proper CRO test?

Running a CRO test isn’t rocket science – but it IS science. In order to get meaningful results from any test it is important to conduct the test in a methodical and rigorous manner, otherwise the results you get will be hard to interpret and difficult to turn into future actions.

How do I build a proper hypothesis to test?

The first step in running a CRO test is formulating a hypothesis. This could be as simple as “a call to action pop-up will boost conversion over the current version” or “a notification will increase the number of email-list subscribers.”

Importantly, hypotheses need to be phrased in such a way as to be testable and comparable to a null hypothesis. The null hypothesis in this case is your existing website. Remember, we’re not making these changes in a vacuum and we need to be sure that our changes are resulting in real, measurable improvements.

While any random idea can be treated as a hypothesis, the best hypotheses come from a foundation of understanding.

Start by researching your customers and their needs, and investigate what sort of updates to your website’s functionality or design should help you deliver these results.

In the past, many marketers and small business owners would stop here: implementing these changes and hoping for the best. But to get the best results from your conversion rate optimization process we need to go further and test the hypothesis.

One very important consideration is that the more changes you implement the harder it will be to determine what changes are causing the results you end up seeing. There are times where for the sake of expediency many changes can be rolled out simultaneously, but to truly understand your results (and thus be able to reproduce them) it is better to only change one variable at a time.

How do I test my Hypothesis?

Testing a hypothesis first involves collecting data, analyzing your results, and then determining whether or not the data supports the hypothesis.

For the sake of CRO, data collection often relies on conversion rate optimization tools like Google Analytics or other CRO testing tools like heatmaps. Using these tools, business owners can track website traffic both in real-time and over the course of days, weeks, or months.

After a predetermined period of time the results should be looked at and compared with past performance. For the sake of ecommerce conversions it is important to make comparisons between similar time periods. If big changes are made in January it is unreasonable to expect performance to go up from the holiday sale season of December. Most CRO tools allow historical comparisons, allowing a more apples-to-apples perspective.

Finally, it is time to draw conclusions. Does the data support the hypothesis? Did conversions (or traffic or average time on page or whatever else it is you’re trying to change) go up? Sometimes the answers will be clear, with an obvious jump recorded in very little time. Other times the results may be harder to interpret, or may even run counter to your expectations. In these cases it’s important to step back and assess why your expectations were wrong.

Finally, we iterate. Performing a single test is better than no testing, but in many cases there are a few key variables that are worth exploring. After a series of tests you’ll have the information you need to create pages with the best possible conversion.


At Cut Throat Marketing we offer so much more than paid ads or SEO. While these are tools which, when used correctly, can drive traffic to a webpage, they do nothing to increase your conversion rates. Boosting traffic to a page which is poorly set up to convert does little to help your profits.

Cut Throat Marketing offers expert website design services and CRO to make the most of every single visitor your website receives. We realize that businesses aren’t making money on traffic, they make money on sales – and we have the tools and know-how to help you increase your sales.