Companies that decide to wade into conversion rate optimization (CRO) do so in a variety of ways—and those that do so with an intentional approach are more likely to see success. Unfortunately, many businesses release optimization ideas in a more haphazard, less-informed manner.
Website optimization is really just like any other business effort: If you operate without a clear goal, you’re way less likely to make a measurable impact.
And for an idea like conversion optimization to gain traction inside a company, it must have a clear connection to helping people do their job better and/or driving more revenue. But how can we take something as technical as optimizing your website performance and turn it into a concept that people with diverse roles can understand and—more importantly—be motivated by?
Random vs. intentional CRO
With every CRO project, you’re attempting to improve a business metric of some sort. Even the most basic analysis and testing aims for an upgrade or change that can grow your business. And randomly deploying A/B tests based on a hunch can absolutely be a net positive over time.
What’s likely to happen along the way, though, is a series of guesses based on incomplete information. Teams also tend to work on low-hanging optimization. If something more high-effort comes along, it might get thrown to the back of the line even if it has great potential for gains. It’s just human nature.
With a more intentional approach, one that we’ll describe in greater detail below, anything you do around optimization will be connected to core business goals. It’s a more efficient path forward and one that can empower great progress throughout the entire organization.
Before moving on, let’s slap a definition on intentional CRO.
Intentional CRO is the practice of mindfully researching your website visitors and combining all relevant data sources to create highly informed optimization tests aligning with overarching business goals.
In other words: applying great focus to making your optimization ideas as good as possible, every time.
The three goals of all CRO efforts
While each of these goals is listed separately below, you’ll likely see a bit of each when executing your CRO strategy. It’s also worth noting that these goals are the broad benefit of CRO—not the objectives or key results you’ll use to measure specific success. More on that later.
1. Learning about your customers
Oftentimes, CRO is exploratory in nature. Whether you’re hoping to understand if your website is mobile-friendly or which types of people complete your desired action, these are all an attempt to better understand your website visitors.
Depending on where your business is in its maturity curve, this goal may be your sole (or primary) focus. And while it might feel like learning is several steps removed from increasing conversions, the relationship is much tighter than you think.
The more you understand your customers, the higher your chances of delivering a great user experience.
2. Gaining effectiveness and precision
The tighter your goals are, the more focused your work will be. With optimization, time is money. Every idea based on incomplete information that is working towards something as broad as “making the website better” is most likely a step sideways, not forward.
When you apply a structure and intention to CRO, your ideas become more refined and push your website or landing page experience closer and closer to its perfected form.
3. Gaining efficiency
Again, time is money when it comes to optimizing your website experience. And just as you pay attention to website performance, you should pay attention to the performance of your CRO efforts. Building a system that makes it easier to generate and deploy great ideas is key.
Each member of your CRO team (even if it’s just you) should have a living document to track insights and ideas—and reporting for those things that turn into action.
Bonus: Improving communication
Communication is a problem area for many businesses. And no matter how complex your business is today, it’s likely you’ve seen situations where poor communication gets in the way of progress.
By developing CRO goals in an intentional fashion, we help everyone better understand why and how things are happening in real-time. It’s much easier to discuss projects where everyone at the table understands the language used and the overarching goal of their time and energy.
How to make your team more intentional
What is working with intention?
It’s worth clarifying that intentions are not goals. Unlike goals, an intention (in the individual sense) maps out how you’ll approach a situation and, more importantly, why you’ll do it this way.
In a successful business, you’ll likely have a series of business goals. Whether they focus on increased revenue or market share or bringing a new product to market in a certain amount of time, these goals are what you’re trying to achieve.
Intentional work, then, is how your team will approach their work en route to achieving their portion of the goals. Working without strong intent leads to disjointed teams that operate with their own belief system and their own way of doing things.
Let’s take a look at the system we use to focus our work towards creating a good user experience at Lucky Orange—OKRs.
Objectives & key results (OKRs)
This is not to say you should apply strict uniformity and squash creativity—but rather, create a system where creativity has a clear and organized path to move forward. Speaking of a system that drives results in an intentional fashion, let’s talk about what we use at Lucky Orange—objectives and key results, OKRs.
In short, this system empowers goal-setting and work alignment throughout an organization under the guise of high-level objectives with related measure (key) results.
For example, you might have an objective to increase your understanding of your customers. While we can’t measure this, we can add specific key results that create tangible work for employees. In this instance, key results might be doing 10 customer surveys per quarter, doing 100 NPS surveys per month or studying heatmaps twice per week.
By setting up a system of OKRs, intentions are clear, no matter your level in the organization. For individual contributors, key results drive your day-to-day work. For managers, OKRs help you communicate your team’s work towards overarching business goals. And for executives, OKRs help you see how different departments are progressing toward those business goals you’ve set.
Optimizing with intention
When we transition this conversation into conversion optimization, intention basically becomes a list of things to do. It’s important to not lose the original goal—proceeding with an unwavering commitment to understanding the whole situation before making a move. To make gains with efficiency, effectiveness and education about customers, painting the complete picture is a must.
Here are a few example activities you can run in pursuit of becoming intentional with your conversion optimization work.
Spend time with heatmaps and recordings
It’s time to plug Lucky Orange.
Using our Dynamic Heatmaps and Session Recordings gives you a front-row seat to user behavior on your website. Spending time looking for high-level trends on a heatmap segmented for Facebook traffic might lead you to watching recordings of visitors who do something weird with a CTA.
This type of activity is extremely intentional as you must devote your time and attention to breaking into subjective research in search of qualitative data. Making heatmap and recording analysis a weekly or monthly habit can pay dividends even with just one great optimization opportunity.
The best way to use these tools? You can, of course, pick key pages or page elements to study in a mostly random path. Alternatively, you can generate a hypothesis or find a specific business problem to evaluate.
For example, if you see an abnormally low number of sales for a certain product, ensure visitors are engaging with that section of the site in the way you intend. Or, let’s say your mobile conversion rate is much lower than desktop. You can potentially put an end to this by watching people struggle with your mobile navigation or forms.
If you choose this more specific approach, don’t forget to look for other notable insights along the way.
Study front and back-end data
No matter how successful your website is at converting visitors, it’s important this turns into a reliable stream of revenue. Without this, optimization means nothing. And, in some cases, a win on the website side of things can cause issues in back-end metrics like cost-per-acquisition or time per phone call, etc.
This exercise allows your team the time to spot a correlation between behavior on the website and your other data sources.
Do people who regularly visit your website submit more help tickets? Consider building a stronger FAQ page.
Are visitors who convert without reading any content abandoning your service quicker than others? Get a help video or links to top content in front of them immediately after conversion.
Taking the time to connect as many data sources as you can into one picture is a great way to come up with better optimization ideas (leading to more efficient optimization).
Set an expectation if you can’t see everything
What happens when you come up empty with your initial research? How can you responsibly move forward?
It might be time to work with a specific business issue in mind.
Which products are selling less than others?
Which sections of your website have lower time on-page?
Are there any fields on your forms causing more abandonment than others?
Is there a significant difference between mobile and desktop performance?
If you reach this point, the solution may be revisiting our first goal of optimization—learning more about your website visitors. In the absence of a solid UX design, CTA location or product layout test, lean into further research and customer interaction. Release a new survey, put together an offer to connect with customers or meet with a customer-facing team to hear the latest questions they’ve been getting.
When to work on high-effort optimization
Sometimes you’ll figure out that your CTA button isn’t visible and people aren’t completing your desired action. Easy fix.
Other times you’ll notice that your website leaves something to be desired on mobile devices and you need to re-work entire sections.
In the latter example, you’ll likely need to pull in multiple employees and devote an entire technical cycle just to follow this optimization opportunity you’ve uncovered. And it’s easy to push these high-effort ideas to the back of the line in favor of something easier. Beware, though, these “difficult” ideas may be just the ticket to increasing revenue and growing your business.
Document every idea you have and make space in the year (OKRs are a great place for this) for your team to dive deep with complex optimization needs.
Free download: CRO journal
One great way to keep things intentional is journaling.
And no, this isn’t the journal you’ll hide under your pillow so your parents don’t know you like Timmy. This is the journal where you document ideas or even test results so you can remain organized and efficient. Check out our free template below as a starting point and message us on Twitter if you run into any roadblocks on your optimization journey.