Some companies doing conversion rate optimization suffer from a similar problem: they don’t see any gains and end up putting CRO on the backburner. The team doesn’t get to the root of conversion issues or create channels for optimization research and communication.
Unfortunately, these results are often reached without a clear understanding of where things went sideways.
The signs of a failing optimization effort can be subtle and may even be purposely hidden by those involved to avoid giving up on a topic they recognize as vital to long-term growth.
These signs— unclear roles, bad goal-setting, over-complication and treating optimization as a “want”—result in frustrated, disjointed efforts. This creates an optimization process that doesn’t really optimize anything.
Here’s how to spot these issues and what you can do to prevent or fix them.
“I handle A/B testing, but the ideas are sort of just collected over time from meetings and Slack messages.”Lack of role clarity is a huge issue for many companies.
Even if you’re a great team player willing to jump on projects to help get things done, you want to know what you’re responsible for and what is viewed as a success by your manager. And when it comes to website optimization, teams without clear expectations can end up with very mediocre results or worse (completely stalled efforts and in-fighting).
To solve this, it’s vital you first identify the role your website plays in business growth. Doing this early on allows you to figure out what kind (and how much) work will be required. Then, you can start to figure out which team members will take the work.
And the role your website plays in your business will change as your goals change.
For e-commerce, you’ll focus on increasing add-to-carts and reducing cart abandonment. This will require watching Session Recordings to spot specific abandonment triggers.
For businesses that use their website as an educational resource, optimization will focus on making content easier to find and surveying visitors to determine if the website is helpful or not.
For lead generation, you’ll focus on filtering by traffic source to optimize budget efficiency. You’ll push to understand which features on landing pages are a distraction and which are encouraging visitors to convert. Similar to e-commerce, much of your time will be spent improving your CTAs.
While these all may sound similar (in some ways they are), the path to optimization likely requires different types of expertise and different tool usage.
Decide who your experts are (or will be).
Most teams don’t have a job title containing “CRO.” If you’re lucky enough to have someone like this, fast forward to the next section—you already have a CRO expert, you just need to refine the surrounding processes.
If you don’t have a CRO job role, remember that all we’re talking about is someone who studies visitor behavior to create a better website and increase conversions.
You can go about identifying your expert(s) in two ways:
Who on your team has an interest in CRO or a passion for the customer experience?
Who on your team is responsible for the success of your website?
Either way, you’ll want to make space for conversation and education about CRO before setting optimization goals. Part of these conversations should be the amount of work required to “do CRO,” beginning with specific tasks involved.
Though we’re framing this section around tasks, it’s all really about time.
Do you have the time to watch 50 recordings a day or can you watch five and get what you need? Are there spaces in your week to build monthly reporting decks or does it need to be less formal? Think through what would happen if you carved out 20% of someone’s week to focus on CRO.
Bad communication & goal setting
“I mean, we’re just optimizing for more conversions, right?”
In an ideal world, individual employees would understand their own objectives, how they relate to departmental objectives and how those live within current business objectives.
And while this world may be closer than not for some organizations, most can benefit from just a touch more formality and process. As you navigate conversion rate optimization, try to plug in processes and opportunities for communication where it makes sense. At the start, this might be sharing the latest insight or A/B test result during an existing department meeting.
Here are two tips to improve communication and goal setting around CRO:
Create a full hypothesis before starting a test. This will help everyone involved know why the test is happening, what you’re measuring and why you think the expected result will happen. Start with this template: “Because we saw X, we believe changing Y will result in Z.” Document this hypothesis and add test results alongside any notes after the test ends.
Consider reframing your efforts as customer experience optimization. While you’re obviously optimizing to increase revenue, don’t forget that you’re delivering an experience for real people.
Goals that drive your team to focus on the wrong thing can have a cobra effect and leave you pushing against what you once sought to fix. Framing website optimization and customer experience optimization may resonate better with people whose roles are not website-centric.
“Before I release this test I need to know the PPC keyword changes and get approval from the leadership team and … and … ”
Yes, we’re encouraging you to develop processes and communication channels. But these formal elements are only useful if your CRO experts are creating output on a consistent basis.
The reality is that your most successful competitors are optimizing their websites (along with their product and marketing channels) as quickly as they possibly can.
So, it’s important to remember that the output has to be there.
You have to be studying visitor behavior, coming up with test ideas and (most importantly) doing something about it if you’re going to not only keep up but aim to beat them. And keeping things simple will help everyone involved moving forward with minimal resistance.
Allow yourself to make a goal for the number of A/B tests run per month/quarter/year. While we generally avoid this type of vanity goal, it can be a healthy driver for action. It encourages consistent research and hypothesis generation, which is the core of optimization.
Account for the customer journey, but accept that some uncertainty will always exist. In a perfect world, we’ll never be fooled by confounding variables but they exist and that’s okay. If possible, document the main touchpoints from your main channels throughout the customer journey. This will allow you to consider the impact of any changes you make or may help you discover other optimization levers you can pull.
Lean on common sense when optimization stalls or fails. Sometimes we conflate so many pieces of data and opinions that we end up with a test that’s nonsensical. Training your CRO instincts as opposed to always putting things through an engineered process is a great way to make your efforts more efficient and impactful over time.
Treating optimization as a “want”
“We’ll get to CRO when things settle down a bit.”
You know the feeling. You have a lot of responsibilities, but you have that one thing that keeps getting pushed to the back of the line, week after week because it’s viewed as either:
Difficult and time-consuming
Lower priority than other projects
And while some tasks will be pushed to the back of the line, CRO is something that truly can’t wait. Every day that passes without a push for optimization, you’re missing out on revenue gains.
Let’s approach each of these struggles separately.
CRO is difficult and time-consuming.
When conversion rate optimization is viewed as difficult or time-consuming, it can be because it’s an unexplored topic for the team, there aren’t clear experts to take on the work or you don’t have the right tools in place to get started.
And these are all understandable concerns.
Hopefully, this article gives you some ideas for making CRO more approachable, but it does boil down to giving your CRO expert(s) time to learn and propose workflows and strategies and onboarding a piece of tech that gives you the data you need without a ton of time and effort.
People that know what they’re doing + tech that works = faster results
It’s a lower priority for us than other projects.
It’s easy to de-prioritize conversion rate optimization, especially if it’s a new concept for your team.
While increasing revenue and delivering a better customer experience is vital for any business, it’s justifiable to prioritize other projects at any given moment. Whether this is responding to customer inquiries, fixing a product bug or writing a blog post, it’s okay to handle your business based on immediacy, business impact, etc.
What’s not okay, is to go an entire week or month without analyzing visitor behavior on your site. So, where is the sweet spot? How can you handle your core responsibilities AND optimize your website?
It all comes down to building a workflow that becomes a habit. That weekly calendar block to watch session recordings, monthly meeting to share insights and A/B testing log all create urgency and responsibility around CRO. And while it may start as a must-do task, once you start seeing value from this commitment, it’ll likely turn into something you can’t wait to get to each week.
How to be great at CRO
As you read above, conversion rate optimization doesn’t have to be complex, but it does require commitment and process.
And there’s certainly no blog post out there that will immediately turn you into a world-class optimization expert, but here’s a set of guiding ideas to take forward into the wild:
1) Spend more time observing your customers.
2) Spend more time interacting with your customers.
3) Document what you see, even if you’re not sure what it means.
4) Share what you see/learn with your team so they learn to value customer insights.
5) Trust the data and your intuition when it comes to coming up with a test idea.