As digital marketing practices go, conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is often met with skepticism. For some, it just sounds too good to be true; run a few tests, improve your website, then revel in the lifted conversion rate. In one sense, those people are right: CRO isn’t as simple as knocking up a few split tests and watching the sales roll in. It’s this myth, and a few others, I want to bust in today’s blog post.

Start your CRO efforts with best practices

It’s just not as simple as that, not least because “best practices” change with the times. Now, I do believe there are some good rules to follow with certain areas of a website, including things like succinct contact forms and developing your brand story, but blindly following statements like “users don’t scroll” and “keep the user journey as short as possible” are just rubbish.

It used to be that shorter pages were seen to have an advantage over longer ones. They’re concise, to the point, and deliver their message quickly. Thing is, in an age where we’ve all got our smartphones glued to our hands, we’re not just used to scrolling, we expect it. For this reason, you should take into consideration a sort of visual hierarchy, putting the most important stuff at the top of your page in a succinct, easy-to-read format that coaxes your users to explore further down the page.

In this example from ASOS, the product image, cost, and ability to purchase are right above the fold there, while further details about the product, brand and reviews are but a scroll away for those who care to find it.

Similarly, there was a time where CRO gurus were all about the single-page checkout, but not so now. For the most part, we’ve all got access to super-speedy internet connections, and so breaking up the checkout process into several separate steps is no biggie now. In fact, it helps deliver important information (like delivery costs) more obviously.

CRO = A/B Testing = CRO

Nope. Not at all. A/B testing is not an essential part of CRO – what about if you don’t have enough traffic for split testing? And just because you’re running a test, it doesn’t mean you’re “doing” CRO.

Running an a/b test will reveal which version of a page your users prefer, and indicate which variables improve the performance of your site, but coming up with testing schedules, and ideas for improving a site, has to come from somewhere. I’m not going over the “best practices” thing again, don’t worry, but you must be careful not to simply replicate tests you’ve read about in case studies or seen in blog posts. Copying other tests ignores the nuances between audiences and industries – what works for one might not work for another. It’s why we test in the first place.

Start each new test with the goal of appealing to your audience specifically. Understand their need and their desire, beware the “curse of knowledge” and do your research.

CRO doesn’t work for me

You mean, you’ve had one inconclusive a/b test and you’re ready to jack it all in? Well, not only will your competitors be very pleased to hear this, you’re missing the bigger picture. Failed or inconclusive tests don’t show that your audience isn’t right for testing, but that you’ve got more to test.

I’m very proud to say that Browser Media’s CRO process involves a rigorous and thorough period of analysis before we go on to test… but even then not all of our tests are jaw-dropping landslides with case-study-worthy results. It can be difficult to explain, but these sorts of tests are valuable for different reasons. If changing the headline on your landing page, or the colour of your buy button didn’t yield the results you were hoping for, it could indicate a wider problem. CRO can help your entire business evolve, not just your website.

CRO is a one-off project

Like SEO, CRO is not something you should be switching on and off. It should be a major part of your overall digital marketing strategy, and it takes time to execute properly. The more we test, the more we learn, and the more we reveal about your customers and what they’re looking for. There’s no such thing as the perfect website, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working towards it. Research the industry, analyse user behaviour and test visitors to your site in order to refine the user experience.