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Conversion Rate Optimization: the What, the Why, the How.

Picture of Connor Wilkins
Connor Wilkins

CMO, Direction.com

Guide to SEO Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization is crucial for business success in the digital world. With so much competition online, having an effective website that persuades visitors and turns them into customers is essential.

What is a Conversion Rate?

A conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors that complete a desired goal or action on a website. For example, on an ecommerce site, the conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who make a purchase. Improving conversion rate involves optimizing the user experience to remove friction and make it easier for visitors to convert.

What is a Good Conversion Rate?

There is no universal “good” conversion rate, as it depends on the industry, business model, and goals of the specific website. However, here are some general benchmarks for average conversion rates across different sectors:

  • Ecommerce: The average ecommerce conversion rate is 2-3%. Top performing ecommerce sites see conversion rates of 4-5%.
  • Lead generation: For lead gen, a good conversion rate is usually between 2-5%. High performing sites can achieve 8-12%.
  • Services: Service-based businesses tend to have higher conversion rates, around 4-8% on average. Exceptional services convert at 10% or higher.
  • B2B: For B2B companies, conversion rates tend to be lower, averaging around 2%. 5%+ is considered a good rate.
  • Informational sites: Blog or content-focused sites have very low conversion goals, so rates below 2% can be decent.
  • Mobile: Expect lower conversion rates on mobile, around 1-2% typically.

While these benchmarks provide a general idea for average rates, the optimal conversion rate will depend on your business model and metrics. The key is to continually test and optimize pages to increase conversions over time. Even minor improvements of a fraction of a percent can translate into significant revenue gains.

How do you Calculate Conversion Rate?

  1. Identify your conversion goal
    First, determine what counts as a conversion on your site. Common goals include sales, leads, downloads, signups, etc. Pick the action most important for your business.
  2. Decide on a time frame
    Calculate your conversion rate over a specific time period – a day, week, or month. Longer periods give more data but shorter intervals show changes faster.
  3. Count conversions
    Use your analytics platform to count how many conversions occurred during your set time frame.
  4. Count total visitors
    Look at total visits or sessions in analytics for the same time period.
  5. Divide conversions by visitors
    Take your total conversions and divide by the total number of visitors.

For example:

  • 100 sales (conversions)
  • 5,000 website visitors
  • Conversion rate = 100/5,000 = 2%

The final percentage tells you your conversion rate. Monitor this over time and aim to increase it through conversion optimization.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of improving the percentage of website visitors that convert into customers or complete other desired actions. It is a crucial component of an effective SEO strategy for several reasons:

  • Improves user experience – By removing friction in the conversion funnel, CRO provides a better overall user experience. This boosts rankings, as search engines favor sites that satisfy visitor intent.
  • Optimizes ranking factors – Many factors that improve CRO also enhance key SEO ranking factors. This includes site speed, mobile optimization, navigation, page content, and more.
  • Provides insight – Analyzing user behavior and conversion flows reveals SEO issues like technical problems, thin content, or indexation errors.
  • Increases organic traffic value – Higher converting traffic drives more revenue. CRO allows you to get more from each organic visitor.
  • Compounds gains – More conversions mean more repeat visitors, links, social shares, and brand visibility – all helpful for SEO.

Overall, conversion rate optimization helps create a user experience that converts and engages both visitors and search engines. It is an essential complement to technical SEO activities. Improving conversion rate should be a priority for any effective organic strategy.

What Webpages Should I Focus CRO on First?

While a conversion rate optimization strategy should cover your entire website, not all pages have equal impact on conversions. To maximize results from your CRO efforts, focus first on optimizing the pages that directly influence your conversion funnel and bottom line. These high-priority pages include:

  1. Homepage – This is the first impression visitors get of your brand. Optimize calls-to-action, hero images, copy, and navigation.
  2. Landing pages – Any page used specifically to convert visitors should be optimized. Shorten forms, highlight USPs, add social proof.
  3. Product pages – For ecommerce sites, ensure product descriptions, images, pricing, and add-to-cart buttons convert shoppers.
  4. Checkout page – The final step before a sale, so minimize distractions, keep forms simple, offer guarantees.
  5. Blog posts – Add relevant calls-to-action to convert readers into subscribers or leads.
  6. Contact/Services pages – Make it easy to contact or book appointments by having clear, simple booking forms or calendars.
  7. Thank you/Confirmation pages – Upsell other products or services and provide links back to key pages of the site.

There are 2 Types of Conversions to Optimize

Micro-Conversions

  • Signing up for email lists
  • Creating an account
  • Adding a product to a cart

Macro-Conversions

  • Purchasing a product from the site
  • Requesting a quote
  • Subscribing to a service

10 Tactics SEOs are Using for Conversion Rate Optimization

  1. Improve website speed – Optimize images, minify code, use caching, upgrade hosting for faster page load times. Every 100ms delay reduces conversions.
  2. Mobile optimization – Make site responsive or create dedicated mobile pages. Leverage accelerometers, tap targets, and mobile-friendly CTAs.
  3. Fix navigation – Eliminate dead ends, mismatches, and errors. Ensure easy pathfinding to key pages. Use breadcrumbs, sitemaps, and wayfinding cues.
  4. Structured data – Implement schema markup for rich snippets, product details, reviews, events, etc. Helps SEO and provides details for conversions.
  5. Compelling copy – Use concise, scannable copy focused on visitor needs and benefits. Target key landing pages first.
  6. Clear CTAs – Drive action with strategically placed and designed call-to-action buttons/text links.
  7. Reduce distractions – Remove unnecessary elements that distract visitors from converting. Declutter layouts.
  8. Install CRO plugins – Tools like Hotjar record user sessions to pinpoint struggle spots.
  9. Dedicated landing pages – Create focused pages with clear copy and layout to drive conversions.
  10. A/B testing – Continually test variations of copy, headlines, designs, offers to gain incremental improvements.

Diagnosis, Hypothesis & Testing

Where to optimize?
What to optimize?
Who to optimize for?

These three simple questions derive the complex riddle of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). On the surface, many people think that CRO involves A/B testing the color of buttons to see what performs best, changing header colors to red, or copying competitor strategies in landing page design. 

But… this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

No, conversion rate optimization is more defined and systematic than guesswork or copycatting. There isn’t some magic button or immediate solution to CRO and there is no single framework for optimization. At its core, CRO is designed around a powerful mindset: developing an empathic understanding of your website visitors and customers.

1. Diagnosis

In the discovery phase we are diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing funnel. We’re looking to your customers for valuable insights into why they won’t buy, why they can’t buy, and why they want to buy by studying these three factors:

  • Week persuasive techniques — what language is powerful/ineffective
  • Usability issues — what functions are user-friendly/objectionable 
  • Page relevancy — what landing pages are valuable/misleading 

We’ll use these customer metrics to identify which pages to focus our efforts on and which elements to improve or replicate. 

Use a spreadsheet to organize your findings. 

  • Create three tabs with won’t, can’t, and want
  • List all reasons given by customers and sales staff
  • Identify common trends
  • Brainstorm ways to overcome obstacles and enhance successes. Add these to to a second column

2. Hypothesize

You’ve gathered data from your website, your customers, and your staff. You’ve identified the pages to test. You’ve analyzed the CTAs, copywriting, and layout of these pages. Now, it’s time to hypothesize your weakness and their solutions. 

Again, look to your customer surveys to identify converging trends between qualitative and quantitative data. This will assist your brainstorming process.

At the end of this process, you should have a better understanding of why customers aren’t converting with ideas on how to change that. Now it’s time to test your theories. 

3. Testing & Expirementation

Start by redesigning, or rewriting, the pages you’ve identified based on the hypotheses you’ve formed. 

Google Optimize is a free tool that will help you A/B test your conversion optimizations. Optimizely is another trusted alternative for split testing your new site designs and copywriting. 

Here is some framework to help you stay on track in the experimentation and testing phase:

  • Are the changes directly testing my hypothesis?
  • Are the changes keeping the design on brand?
  • Are the changes technically doable?

Be aware that your site optimizations might not always work as planned. So, expect that there will be trial and error in this process. Don’t get discouraged! All marketers anticipate that some solutions might not be the best solution for optimization.

Once your newly improved optimizations are in place, it’s time to test their effectiveness. You’ll need to track the quality of traffic coming to your site once more to determine if your optimizations are working. Redeploy The People Method and The Analytics Method to see if your conversion rate optimizations were a success.

Get Started With Conversion Rate Optimization

CRO may seem like a long winded process, but, necessity aside, it will turn your website into a seriously powerful profit generator. The more you stay on top of your analytics tracking and customer sentiment engagement, the easier the process will be moving forward. If you feel the full scope of CRO is too demanding at this point, check out these 3 quick hacks for improving conversion rate optimization

Regardless if you don’t see the numbers you’re after, trust that your customers will appreciate your dedication to improving their shopping experience. In most instances, your customers are buying into your brand, not just your product. So, catering to their happiness is in itself a worthy thing to optimize.

Want a CRO plan delivered to you? Get in touch with our team to discuss a comprehensive SEO strategy that will turn your website into a lead generation (and conversion) magnet.

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