The Do’s and Don’ts of Conversion Rate Optimization

By Adam Hansen
The Do’s and Don’ts of Conversion Rate Optimization


What if I told you that by following some simple rules and running a couple of tests you could double the money you make from your websites without increasing your traffic?

I can hear you saying, “Take our money, please!” But relax, dear friends, this one is on the house…

CRO: Exponential Results, the Same Inputs

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), sometimes referred to as Conversion Rate Marketing, is the art and science of improving the percentage of visitors to your site who do what you want them to do.

This is the secret sauce of online marketing, and when you get it down you’re going to have more success than you can swing a cat at!

Defining a Conversion

A conversion could be anything you want and can vary based on the type of site you have.

Examples of some common conversions are:

  • Sales for an e-commerce site.
  • A click-through to the merchant’s webpage for an affiliate site.
  • A sign up to your email list for a blog.
  • A download of your free e-book for an authority/informational site.
  • Request for more information or other lead generation.
  • Viewing a “map and directions” page for a brick and mortar business.

Some companies that know their sales funnel and website well enough will even assign conversions to non-monetary activities. These could be metrics like:

  • Time on site.
  • Pages viewed.
  • Technology-based metrics (users coming in on certain browsers, devices).
  • And so on.

Basically, a conversion is a visitor doing anything on your site that you want them to do. You can have mini-conversions (time on site) that lead up big ones (sales) or however you want to set it up. You know your business the best and what matters the most to you, so run with it!

Calculating Conversion Rates

Yes, CRO is part science — but it’s not rocket science.

The formula for this key online marketing metric is simply as follows:

the number of conversions/the number of visitors * 100

Plug and play, friends!

The Power of CRO

The formula is simple but powerful.

Take this example:

  • You have 1,000 visitors a day.
  • You get 20 sales.
  • Your conversion rate is 2 percent.
  • Using CRO you get that bad boy up to 4 percent. 
  • Now you’re getting 40 sales from the same 1,000 visitors.

Doesn’t that sound a lot better than buying more paid traffic, devoting time and resources to more SEO and social media or other traffic-generation methods?

Think about it this way:

You are the captain of a large ship and find out that the reason you aren’t going as fast as you planned was because the ship is taking on water. Would you dock at the first port possible and fix the holes or just have the workers shovel more coal into the engines? (Yes, in this example you’re the captain of a ship from the 1920s.)

CRO Do’s

OK, so now you’re on board (no, the nautical puns won’t stop) with the importance of conversion rate marketing, here’s some basic rules you must adhere to if you want to capitalize on it:

  • Know Your Numbers: You can’t intelligently approach CRO without having plenty of data on your traffic. You have to be tracking your traffic and your results to truly know whether any changes you made had an effect. Google Analytics works just fine for this.
  • Find the Leaks: Inspect your online marketing ship for leaks so you know where to focus your CRO efforts. Look at your analytics and find pages with high exit percentages and high bounce rates. Something about these pages is making people leave. If you can’t figure out what, use heat maps and click tracking software like Crazy Egg to find out.
  • Run Experiments: This is the science part of CRO. Approach it like your website is a lab and you’re running experiments. With Google Analytics, you can run content experiments to test out different versions of a page and see which converts best.
  • Test Everything: Conversions are influenced by so many factors, you’ll never run out of things to test. You can test design elements (color, navigation, user experience), content (your sales copy), the product (change features, use different merchant), pricing (will you sell twice as much if you lower the price by 25 percent?) and more.
  • Keep Testing: Just like in life, never stop improving. You’ll never have a perfect conversion rate. Test these different elements then use the winners to test against other versions.

CRO Don’ts

Avoid these Conversion Rate Optimization sins if you want to get the most out of this powerful process.

  • Testing too Many Elements at Once: In order to find out what changes to your site had the most impact, you’ll need to narrow the field of things you are testing. If you test two banners against each other while the same time testing two pricing plans how will you know which test was responsible for any change you saw? Instead, run A/B tests where you only test two versions of the same element against one another.
  • Small Sample Sizes: Don’t run a test for a day where you only get 100 visitors. People interact with web pages in different ways throughout the day, week, month and even the year. That’s not to say you should run a test for a year, but make sure you have a good sample size that covers at least a week.
  • Relying Only on Organic Traffic: If you’re just starting off and the world isn’t beating down your online doors yet, you might not have enough traffic to be able to test properly. Instead of just tolerating a low-converting site until you generate enough traffic to test, use paid traffic and generate some results. PPC or paid traffic from social media like Facebook ads are great ways to get some test visitors to your site. Depending on your niche, you can run effective tests for $25-$50. And chances are, you will make some conversions during the test to recoup some of the costs.
  • Being Afraid to Try Something Different: Your site doesn’t have to look like Amazon or Zappos to convert well. Their sites' elements are a result of extensive testing to improve their sales funnel. You have a different funnel. Copying their button color and design won’t necessarily mean success. Pay attention to well-converting sites but don’t be a slave to their results.
  • Depending Only on Conversion Rates to Measure Success: Conversion rates are not the sole metric to measure success. There are many different kinds of visitors to your site and just because they don’t rack up a conversion doesn’t mean there is a problem. Maybe they ordered from you already and are looking up the shipping status. Or they need to find a phone number to recommend you to a friend. Yes, CRO is important but never take an eye off the bottom line. Don’t sacrifice real revenue just for conversion rate improvement.  

Bonus Money Maker

If the prospect of dramatically increasing your profitability doesn’t get you moving faster than Wile E. Coyote strapped to an ACME rocket chasing the Road Runner, then maybe this will.

Once you get good at conversion rate optimization, you can make a lot of money flipping websites. It works like this:

  • Find websites for sale on sites like Flippa.
  • Look for quality sites with existing traffic and some revenue. Don’t bank on prospective revenue claims from sellers.
  • Take a look at the website with your CRO glasses on and see if there are obvious CRO opportunities.
  • Buy the website, fix the problems.
  • Let the new conversion rate changes kick in and make you money for a while (say 3-6 months).
  • After you have proved higher monthly revenue from the site, relist it for sale. Website valuation usually hinges on a multiple of monthly income. Since you’ve increased the monthly income and conversion rates you can list at a much higher price.

If you’re not motivated to master CRO by now, I don’t know what else we can say! 

Have you had any experiences with CRO? What was the most surprising thing you learned? Let us and your fellow affiliates know in the comments! 

Thomas Zinsavage 10 years ago
Great tips and advice here. Like you basically are saying it is all about strategy and a plan for this kind of stuff.
Melissa Johnson 10 years ago
Thomas, that's exactly what we're saying. Sure, you can go at this basically blind and stab around in the dark until something sticks and hope it does well. Or, you can work smart and be methodical about it. Always test, and run your analytics so you know without question whether you see an improvement. Intuition can be misleading.

Set yourself goals so that you don't become complacent. A 10 percent conversion rate might be great -- but why not set yourself a goal to increase conversions to 15 percent by the end of 6 months?