I’ve been content writing for 5 years in English. And now I am sharing my insights with the readers in this blog. A big topic that interests me is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization). For me CRO is like laying the bricks. You pick a good brick that meets the requirements and place it into the wall, then you pick another one. CRO helps you understand whether you have a good brick in your hands or whether this specific component of your sales funnel can be significantly improved. Let’s find out how this works.

Are CRO and SEO the same?

They aren’t. SEO deals with, specifically, anything relating to optimizing your assets for getting organic traffic from search engines. 

But, in small business, with whom I work a lot, a SEO is usually a person who deals with all things marketing. They can easily order new booklets from a printing company. They usually do lots of SMM for their customers (or manage other stakeholders doing SMM).

And they try to redesign the assets in a manner that brings more conversions. 

And that’s what CRO is all about. CRO is done via a cycle.

CRO Cycles

Online, on sites like Hubspot or Digital Marketer, you can find all kinds of CRO cycles. I’ve read through lots of those articles and now I am trying to help my customers with their CRO efforts using those insights. But most of those systems use too many words and processes. I always try to simplify things. Here’s the cycle that I am using. 

Stage 1: Define the CRO goal

We are marketers, and our overarching goal is always “more sales”. I get that. But that’s way too broad. 

We need to go granular and map out your lead’s journey and the touchpoints they have with your assets. 

Then we’ll be able to identify the specific steps within that journey that some customers take and some don’t. 

For instance, you want folks to subscribe to your email newsletter. You get 100 visitors per day, and only 1 of them subscribes. Thus, your conversion rate is 1%. 

The conversion in this case is the very act of them subscribing to your newsletter, and not just the actual sale that you are doing with your business. For instance, if you are a financial consultant, then your “sale” would be an event when the lead actually pays the money for the consultation with you. 

Now, we need to identify the goal that you want to reach. For instance, we can aim to increase the conversion rate by 100%, i.e. we want to see 2 new subscribers per day and not just 1.

Now that we have the goal in hand, we need to think about how we get to it.

Stage 2: Create the CRO strategy 

In a guide from DigitalMarketer, you’ll find the CRO path when you first define your hypothesis and then try to either validate or disprove it.

It’s a feasible approach, but way too many words and actions there. I work with small businesses, and what I see performing best is just setting the goal and then figuring out the strategy to get to the goal. 

Problem with first developing the strategy and then setting the goal

A bigger problem is when small businesses first create the CRO strategy and then set the goals. For instance, a business leader might decide to redesign the site. She’ll hire a designer, they’ll spend hours talking about briefs, specs and color schemes. Then, the wireframes will start coming in. Then – after a lot of hourly paid hours – the design will be created and coded. 

Redesigning your site is great, but the problem here is that there are no goals set forth. The goal of “redesigning my site” doesn’t have any kind of linkage with the business indicators. And business indicators is the reason why we are doing business, right?

A much better approach would be to look at the existing assets and identify some potential growth points or problems or anything else that you care about business-wise. Like “things that draw my attention and can make me more money”. 

In our case, it’s doing CRO on the newsletter subscription. 

And then you go into the site redesign, paying $1,000,000 for it. Or you don’t. Do you?

The poins is that, my beloved reader, it’s completely up to you, because you don’t have to do the redesign just for the sake of. Rather, you can do the redesign in order to grow your subscription rate. 

Now you should be asking yourself – “wait, why would I invest money/time into the redesign in order to grow the subscription rate? Do I even expect that the redesign will enable me to CRO up the subscription rate?”

Exactly!

There’s a lot of chance that it won’t have any impact on the subscription rate at all. And that’s why when you are creating the CRO strategy, you might consider various options as to how you reach the goal, but then you’ll abandon some of the lines and stick with others.

Say, in our case, we have the banner at the bottom of the page that offers readers to subscribe to the newsletter. With common sense, it’s pretty clear that this is the biggest driver behind the subscription rate and we should focus on it!

Stage 3: Create 10 STUPID variants for your CRO effort

Assumptions are bad!

We all have lots of thoughts about what our leads need, how their journeys are structured, how they compare our brands against competitors and what conclusions they make.

And all of those assumptions are… actually completely ON-POINT. 

But assumptions are bad

If you are deep into your business (or your customer’s business), this means that you know a lot about them and all of your assumptions are completely super-valid. 

The problem with this is that according to your CRO goal you need to grow the subscription rate. 

There are two options how you can go about it: 1) “grow the subscription rate while thinking about all of those assumptions”, 2) “just take some actions to grow the subscription”.

The second option doesn’t seem scientific, comfortable and appealing AT ALL. It’s like anybody would be able to give this kind of tips about your business. 

And this is what we want here!

Lots of business leaders and marketers are too deep into the assumptions that they limit their potential actions with all kinds of restrictions. If you free yoursefl up, you’ll be able to start generating STUPID ideas and then CRO through them.

Basically, you’ll be able to declutter your vision and go back to the basics. And unless you are selling rockets, don’t treat your business as a rocket science. Treat it as a lemon stand. 

Business has been decluttering itself a lot during the last two decades. Sales assistants usually deal with leads who know a lot about the specific product and the market competition. Their choices are globe-wide with short delivery periods. 

And that’s great! You surely remember those times when landing pages had sheets of text, and  now they don’t. It’s not because copywriting services cost too much, it’s because people don’t read long sheets of text at landing pages. They need bite-size zingers! They want something simple, with a soul and reverberating with their brainwaves. 

If you let go of all those cluttering assumptions, it’ll be much easier to come in touch with the simpler you.

Stage 4: DON’T DISCUSS THESE CRO VARIANTS

Then, literally, avoid discussing the 10 STUPID options you’ve concocted. Otherwise, you’ll gradually morass yourself into negotiations, comparisons, assessments and paid consultations. 

Yeap, this is a very standard sign that you are going through a bout of analysis paralysis. 

Don’t do that! Just move on and publish the changes on the live site! CRO means not only generating ideas but also testing them out!

Stage 5: Put it out the CRO variants one by one

Place the STUPIDEST option at the site and see what happens. Seriously. Provided that I am consulting mainly small businesses, this is not going to result in your bankruptcy. 

Some people might like it, some people might completely ignore it, and some people might hate it. Nobody is going to sue you, unless you violate laws or common sense of course (so make sure that you consult with the legal person in your team first, at least).

It’s quite probable that nothing – really nothing – is going to happen. 

How much time do you need to test? 

Again, CROs have various testing periods and statistics… Don’t. Just put it out and see whether it works or not for 1-2 days. 

How do you measure efficiency of your CRO test? 

Again, there are all kinds of tools. And there’s the heatmap too. 

But, since I work with small businesses who just take the first baby steps in their CRO efforts, I just like to focus on measuring the change in the respective conversion indicator! If you are looking for more subscribers, then look for more subscribers. 

If your CRO variant doesn’t work, then, boom, the test has just failed. Don’t waffle, don’t sugar-coat. TELL YOUR TEST – YOUR ARE FIRED!!!

What if my CRO test fails? 

It’s quite possible that lots of your tests will fail. It’s normal, it’s life. 

Just keep on going through your stupid ideas. At some point, something will work out, and you’ll see a bump in the subscription rate. This is the signal that this variant is working. CRO is about being bold and active, it’s not about testing one idea for 3 years while you know that it’s not working on day 1.

Stage 6. Measure results and then CRO another customer journey stage

Then, instead of doing the sub-variants for the winner variant and trying to squeeze out even more subscribers (like 0.25 of a human-being subscriber), just move on to the next stage. 

Why? 

Because of the Pareto Efficiency which states that 80% of the bang comes from the 20% of the effort. 

Thus, it’s possible that the efforts you’ve taken in order to CRO your subscription funnel have already resulted in the 80% of the potential wins. Yeap, this is it – this is what you are going to get here.

And, of course, it doesn’t make any sense to keep on working for the puny 20%…

But, if you move forward to another stage of your customer journey, you’ll be able to squeeze out another 80% batch there, in that other stage! And, cumulatively, you’ll get much more as opposed to fixating on only one stage in your customer journey.

Do I need to know the customer journey in order to move between the stages of the same? 

Exactly, but as with anything in this life, just “half-life” it and just identify the big things. Don’t sweat it as to what sub-target audiences you have. You are a financial consultant. Your TA is folks who need financial consultations. Don’t sweat it over whether the “sale’ occurs when they book your call for $50 or when they book you based on the 1-year contract. Just break it down into two stages – Call Conversion, 1-Year Contract Conversion. Then, identify the biggest potential growth drivers and do the SRO on them.

Stage 7. Take a holistic look at the customer journey after you’ve gone through all the stages

Let’s imagine that you’ve gone through all of the customer journey’s stages and you’ve done some CRO on each of them, now you know even more about your sales funnel than you used to. 

You can take a helicopter view and identify some new opportunities for improvements. When you go after them, keep in mind the need to let go of the pre-existing assumptions to free up your creative hands.

This is when you look at the brick wall overall and see any problems in any sections.

Stage 8. Keep on going into opportunities and taking holistics looks

If you manage to do Steps 1-7 within 3 months, you are bound to see at least some increases in macro-conversions (i.e. the actual sales) because you are doing what you are supposed to do – you are actively testing your variants and figuring out which ones work well. You are not just doing SEO, SMM or anything else, but you are doing CRO leveraging any kind of tools you believe will help reach the goals you set out for your tests.

Now you can keep diving into some specific opportunities and fishing for new growth drivers there. Then you can take a helicopter view again and find another opportunity. 

Comparison paralysis 

Never fall victim to the analysis paralysis. If you let go of the assumptions, you’ll free your self up and you’ll be able to start putting out the really STUPID variants. 

And lots of folks are reading tons of articles about CRO instead, wasting the valuable time. While they can be testing some factors which might grow into potent growth drivers. 

Instead of growing, they are learning. It’s nerdy.

Conclusion / About this blog and CRO 

When I started working on this blog in November 2020, I was working with a couple of SME customers on contentwriting and SEO and I was getting deep into DM. But I was no guru, and I wasn’t trying to present myself as such. At the same time, I had a wealth of insights that I wanted to share with other folks, network with marketing-related companies and possibly get more customers. 

My baby steps weren’t easy, and the blog was ugly. The design was ugly, some articles were ugly and the business model was raw. 

But, instead of running away into “thinking more about the strategy first” which we both understand is the good-ol’ “negative procrastination“, I started taking the first steps. I was failing in some parts, I was doing something good in others. And I was testing things out, using the CRO cycle and mentality described above. In this way, I got in touch with a couple of customers right out of nowhere. 

I started making more money, learning more. This is a virtuous cycle you want to get into with your business.

But there were several people who said to me that my articles were stupid and the whole idea was pointelss. They tried “mentor-splaning” to me that there are tons of digital marketing blogs already, that nobody needs me, that there’s no point in doing this.

And here I am – getting big contracts with lucrative rates (boom, conversions are going) and sharing the insights I have (boom, having fun and loving the work I do is here). 

And I wasn’t even doing any formalized CRO at the point since I was focused on just getting more traffic into my sales funnel. I was just testing things out, but not in a completely haphazard manner. I had a framework in place and I was taking all the actions through it. My main goal was to increase the number of folks who were reaching to me via email/facebook and wanted to order some copywriting services. The redesign was a thing I had in mind, but I quickly abandoned this idea because I was sure that it wouldn have a lot of impact on the goal. And it was clear that this might change – in 1-2 years – thus the strategies you use to reach the same goals might transform and change with the growth of your business.

And this is an important point to make – you should be doing CRO only on the existing traffic. Don’t try to camouflage the lack of traffic in your sales funnel with CRO campaigns. If there are no people (or just a few random folks) at your site, then it doesn’t matter what kind of hooks you use. They won’t work – because there’s nobody at your site.

Thus, instead of focusing on CRO, you should take efforts to get more traffic. And the best way to get qualified traffic is to launch a long-term and big strategy in blogging. 

You can either blog yourself or you can hire a blogger. And don’t think that it’s hard to find a good helper. If you are OK with paying normal rates (anything above $0.1/word would be OK), you’ll find a person who’s ready to help you.

I, personally, have been working with lots of finance, digital marketing, ecommerce, crypto and legal businesses. This is my beat. What you need to do is to look for a content writer who has some experience in your industry. 

And if you are seeing problems with finding such a person, it might be time to in-source. Ask a manager with your team to start blogging for you. This can be a win-win since the manager will act as a mentor and get a pretty awesome recognition for their name, and you’ll get great content from an actual expert in the niche.

If you start blogging, there’ll be more visitors at your site. This can create the traffic you need in order to do more CRO experiments!