CRO: The Game-Changing Online Marketing Activity You’re Underinvesting In
What if there was a change you could make to your website that could, in one fell swoop, improve your school appointment rate by 30%?
Seem impossible? It’s not. Though results like this may or may not be in the cards for your site, it’s not at all unheard of to see gains like this for school websites that have never been optimized before with an eye toward conversion.
Methodically reviewing your website for such conversion improvement opportunities is called CRO.
What Is CRO?
CRO stands for conversion rate optimization. It refers to a systematic approach to reviewing various conversion rates in your audience’s online purchase journey and creating a program to test incremental changes that will improve these conversion rates.
For example, maybe one of the conversion rates you care about is the percentage of web visitors who fill out a form asking for an in-person admissions appointment. A CRO plan would look at your site’s historical conversion rate over time, then propose changes to the admissions request form experience that might boost this rate. These are likely changes to the form itself but could even include fancier features, such as the addition of a popup prompt message for visitors who have been on your website for a certain amount of time without engaging on your site’s form.
In larger companies where online leads are an important source of new customers, CRO is a discipline that can be a full-time job of one or multiple people on a marketing team.
Ideas for Beauty School Website CRO
Here are some specific ideas you can consider testing on your beauty school website:
- Placement of your form on the page, such as moving it from the bottom of your pages to the top
- Streamlining the fields you request or require in your form, usually focusing on reducing any form fields that absolutely do not need to be asked (for instance, if you don’t use them in your followup communications with inquiries)
- Reducing the number of steps or friction to completing the form on a mobile device especially, such as changing an open-ended text field asking about the type of inquiry to a dropdown menu of predefined options
- Varying the size, color, font, or copy in the form, mostly to make it more prominent relative to the rest of the page and clarifying the purpose of the form and what to expect
Creating a CRO Plan
What does it take to create a CRO program?
Step 1: Brainstorm a list of test ideas and prioritize them
Stack-rank your test ideas roughly in order of expected impact. Unless you have CRO experience, you may just have to go with your gut here, because there’s not much way to know what type of impact a test may have before you test it. Don’t forget the different levels of effort needed to perform different tests: quick changes such as form color or copy changes tend to be much less effortful to implement than something that requires a plug-in, such as adding a chatbot, or other technical integration.
Step 2: Check that you have the right conversion tracking set up
Do you have the ability to track the right metrics to determine success of a conversion rate test? If you are tracking the rate of form submissions out of all web visitors, then you just need to be able to measure the number of form submissions over a certain time period and divide by the number of web visitors in the same time period.
Step 3: Implement an A/B testing tool to measure results
It’s standard to use an A/B testing tool to randomly select and test a segment of your traffic that sees the changed website experience against a control group that sees your website with no changes. If you don’t use a testing tool to split your traffic randomly in the same time period, you will only be able to compare the behavior of traffic before and after a certain change. This can sometimes be a decent fallback solution, but it’s not as airtight as an A/B test. With a before-and-after observation, you won’t know if other variables affected the outcome, such as seasonality or some other external factor that only affected one of the observed time periods.
Common CRO or A/B testing tools include Google Optimize, Optimizely, CrazyEgg, and many more.
Step 4: Launch your first test, measure, and implement if successful
Using your A/B testing tool of choice, set up a test variant containing the change you want to see. Then decide what portion of your traffic to randomly send to the test variant.
You can set your initial test split to be whatever you’d like—5% of your traffic, or 50%. How aggressively you set your test split depends on how quickly you want to get results back. However, the more aggressively you split your traffic with the test variant, the bigger the risk that your test actually reduces performance inadvertently. Read more about A/B testing best practices, including designing tests and interpreting results (sorry, you will need to brush up on elementary statistics, but a lot of the testing tools make test result conclusions as painless as possible nowadays).
Once you have received a large enough sample of traffic through the test and control versions, you may be able to call a winner. This is assuming there was a statistically significant difference between the performance of the two versions. With some tests, there may not be a statistically significant difference based on the thresholds you set, in which case you cannot conclude that the test variant did better or worse than your original site experience.
If you did see an improvement, hopefully it was a big lift in conversion. If so, you’ll want to take it out of the A/B test tool and just make the test variation the experience that everybody sees when they come to your site.
Rinse and repeat with the next item on your test list. To drive your overall CRO planning, you might establish a goal of getting a certain number of tests completed within a year, or perhaps reach a certain level of improvement in a particular conversion rate within a year.
Not Ready for CRO? Common-Sense Improvements to Consider
CRO is relatively advaned online marketing. It’s not something to try if you don’t have a lot of the basics of your online presence covered. But even if you’re not ready to take on a CRO program because of limited knowhow or time, there are some benefits you may be able to glean from thinking about your site with a laser focus on conversion and user experience.
Many websites have user improvement opportunities that hold conversion back. If you haven’t already reviewed these areas and improved on them, they could be great places to start. These are also improvements that you should just implement, given the chance. You don’t need to A/B test every change. Some changes are unilaterally positive for user experience, so there’s not much need to test.
- Use direct, action-oriented calls to action. If you have a form that is particularly confusing or vague, try changing the language. For instance, if your form copy says “Interested in our programs? Sign up,” it’s less likely to be successful than form copy that says “Schedule a school visit today.” That’s not to say that copy changes never need to be tested, but if your copy is noticeably bad now, just change it.
- Ensure that your forms are fully responsive and mobile-friendly. If your form doesn’t fully fit in the width of some mobile devices, or if it looks strange or worse versus the desktop screen, engage a web developer to fix the responsiveness of your form.
- Invest in page load speed improvements. Page load speed can in certain instances be a boon to your SEO indirectly, but actually one of the more powerful effects of speeding up your site is that it directly improves conversion. One study found that going from a 4.2-second load time for a webpage to 3.3 seconds—shaving off approximately a second—resulted in a 27% improvement in conversion rate.