You've got a great website, it is 'on brand' and looks the part, has good content and dozens of pages of text and images; however you feel you're not getting enough enquiries or sales.

That's where conversion rate optimisation (CRO) comes in. It sounds like a fancy scientific phrase, however I can assure you it's a simpler concept than it sounds.

Imagine this; you have a page with a simple headline, some text and a contact form. Something similar to the following screen:

Conversion rate optimisation - landing page

Version 1: Initial landing page

At the moment, for every 100 visitors to this page, 2 people complete the contact form at the bottom of the page. That equates to a 2% conversion rate.

We'll call this two percent the baseline.

Experimenting with headlines

Now, let's try changing the page headline (we all know how important headlines are, don't we?). We decide to add something about our great prices, whilst still ensuring the message about being 'the best widgets in Australia' stays there as well.

We want to keep a close eye on what works and what doesn't, so we decide to literally only change the headline and nothing else about the page. So, this is what we decide to publish:

Conversion rate optimisation - landing page

Version 2: Landing page with updated heading

We leave this page live for a few weeks, or until we get at least a few hundred visitors (more visitors equals a larger sample size, which is always better for this sort of quantitative research) and then we assess how many times the contact form has been completed versus how many visits the page has had.

Assuming the same sort of visitors arrive at this page (so they are a similar cohort to the other visitors, in geographic location, etc) then any variation we find between the first page and the second page will be very interesting.

Experiment results

After a period of time, we have had 400 visitors to this newly changed page. We look into how many contact forms were completed during the same period, and we find that a total of 16 enquiries were made.

This equates to 4 enquiries for every 100 visitors, or a 4% conversion rate. Comparing this to the first unaltered page, which had a 2% conversion rate, we have effectively doubled the amount of enquiries by literally only changing the headline.

Fantastic job!

This may seem far-fetched if you haven't worked on conversion rate optimization before, however as someone who does this regularly for our clients, it really isn't that unbelievable. A great result? Yes. An achievable result? Sure is!

Calculating the cost per enquiry

Let's take this one step further. Perhaps you have spent money advertising this page. It could have been spent on TV ads, newspapers, pay per click or any other form of advertising. Assuming all the visitors to the page came from this advertising, we could equate the cost per enquiry.

We'll use pay-per-click advertising for the purpose of this example. We've been paying $4.50 per click, so we know it costs $450 to bring 100 visitors to the page.

In our initial page, with a 2% conversion, we can work out that it cost $450 to get two enquiries, or $225 per enquiry. This is fine, if the widget sales normally make us $1,000 profit, however we're in trouble if we make less than the $225 it cost us to get that enquiry.

To make matters worse, not every enquiry leads to a sale, so we want to try and maximize the number of enquiries, and bring down the cost per enquiry.

So, using the same spend per visitor, our newly revised headline page has now cost us $450 for four enquiries, or simply put, we are now paying $112.50 per enquiry, or half the cost.

So, with some small effort, we have doubled our conversion rate, which means for the same outlay, we are getting twice as many enquiries. However, us being us, we want to keep working on improving this conversion rate further.

Experiment with images

This time, instead of changing the headline again, we are going to swap the big image to the left of the content. Our current image is a boring product photo of a widget. We will swap that for a nicer one, showing someone using one of our widgets.

Something a little like this:

Conversion rate optimisation - landing page

Version 3: Landing page with new image

Once again, we wait until we have collected enough of a sampling in visitors, so we can feel confident we have reliable figures.

Experiment results

Once we had 300 visitors, we calculate again, and find 15 enquiries, or 5 per 100 visitors, equaling a 5% conversion rate.

In real money terms, based on the original outlay of $450, it now costs $90 for a new enquiry, which is a significant saving from our $225 per enquiry we started with. A budget of $5,000 would now bring us 55 new enquiries, which is a lot better than the 22 enquiries we would have been getting.

This whole example is based roughly on the conversion rate optimisation work we do for some of our clients, so I know that these figures and improvements are achievable.

Keep in mind though, what works for one landing page and audience, may not necessarily work for another, so copying our steps here may give you wildly varying results.

6 tips for conversion rate optimisation

So what are some of the lessons you can take out of all of this?

  1. Keep an open mind - it's amazing how small changes can make large differences.
  2. Never stop looking at ways to improve your landing pages or website.
  3. Keep a track of conversion rates and changes.
  4. Keep changes small and iterative, so you can see what effect each change has made to your rate.
  5. Try and keep the traffic the same in all testing; having wildly different demographics will naturally result in changes, positive or negative, in your baseline data.
  6. Make sure you understand the cost per acquisition (CPA) and profit margins of any services or products you sell.

Because of confidentiality, we typically can't share real data, however if you would like to see an example of how we increased our conversion rate on a landing page for our employee survey start-up, 6Q, from around 5% to 26.4%, I encourage you to read my Medium post, How a few small landing page tweaks created five times the conversions.

I wish you the best of luck in improving your conversion rates, and becoming a science-based marketer like myself. Good luck!