SEO, CRO, UX & Strategy.

Intro to CRO and its Best Practices Here’s What you Need to Know.

E-business, e-marketing, and e-commerce are growing exponentially and CRO is the best way to compete effectively. If your business wants to survive and thrive today, you need to read this post on conversion rate optimization definitions and best practices.

Where there are resources involved, like money, talent, time, or inventory, there is both risk and opportunity to be managed. Ideally, when you finish this article you will have a clear and general idea of CRO and how it manages resources to reduce risk and maximize the benefits of current opportunities.

About CRO:

  1. ¿What is CRO?
  2. CRO best practices
  3. About this information

¿What is CRO?

CRO is designed to increase the performance of a website by measuring how visitors behave, by helping us understand how changes to your website affect behavior and the rate at which you obtain conversions.” – B. Massey

Brian Massey 

¿What does CRO mean?

CRO means Conversion Rate optimization.

  • Conversion Rate Optimization is designed to increase results, by methodically applying multiple dimensions of best practices to then measure and tweak for the perfect combination of copy, design, and user flow. It can mean billions in new profits. And competition is exploding. 
  • It is a big shift from the traditional intuition, but not an unexpected one, as Claude C. Hopkins predicted it is an art that graduated into a science, backed by statistical data and extremely powerful in the 100% measurable and 100% controllable environment of “UX Design”.
  • It is a huge opportunity for businesses that have not really “dived” into eCommerce until now as the current economic discomfort is making people finally shift to the web.

CRO relies on ideas.

  • CRO improves online asset returns through systemic changes where we test ideas to validate their effectiveness in terms of a quantifiable objective.
  • CRO lives on statistics, as we optimize for “x”, we are required to “read” the data in such a way that it helps us improve the general ROI of an online operation.

This requires us to refresh our grasp on statistics and develop a strong “foothold” on key aspects like “validity”, “quality of sample” and “sample size” and other terms better explained here.

Basics of Idea Management

I love statistics and CRO because I get to prove my “crazy” ideas.

There is a big relationship between big changes and big results, and while they are not always good results, learning is always good and has an inevitable accumulative positive effect derived from the lessons learned through constant wins and failures.

The faster we test and validate ideas, the better. The more ideas we validate, the faster we comprehend how our “UX” influences our visitors.  This of course means, like with any other powerful tool, we need to be both careful and ethical.

Idea Management Process

Idea management is the basis for CRO, according to superstar institute for CRO training CXL.com this is a great general process to do so: 

  • List all ideas: Save ideas and why you came up with them on a list. This is your basic work material. The validation of the right idea at the right time.
  • Defined them: Ideas need to be defined in the form of a hypothesis:  If I X, I expect X to happen, as measured by X.
    • Specifics are very important
    • There can be multiple hypotheses under one idea, make sure to dissect and list these too.
  • Rank them based on possible benefits using the ICE method, by grading ideas for their: 
    • Impact – How much can this impact results?
    • Confidence – How probable is this?
    • Effort – How much work do we need to do to test this?
  • Sort them on whether they should be tested or if they are already proven best Practices: New ideas need to be tested, best practices need to be applied. 
  • Harvest and accumulate ideas, here are some sources: Has anyone else run a test on this? (Data points on this), Are there industry-specific best practices, Are there published surveys that can inspire us, are there Case Studies or pre-recorded focus group data that can help us? All of these information sources will inspire a ton of ideas.
  • Observe your users using online data and observational models like the First click test, the Preference test, the Question test, the 5-second test (my favorite) where you show your website for 5 seconds to a person that has never seen it before and ask them what they saw and what the website is about. 
  • Use intelligence tools like Google Analytics and HotJar, to name a few.
  • Ideas can be validated through A/B testing tools helping you separate good ideas from bad ones. The general process requires: 
    • The sample size is calculated to be significant. 
    • Data is collected over time.
    • Data is collected on recent traffic.
    • It is Quantitative.
    • Prospects and customers are being tested. 
    • This is a double-blind experiment.
    • Low traffic requires high impact changes and a long time to get to statistical validity.

You need to be an Authority in the development process

Conversion Rate Optimization requires you to be authoritative, this means you require communication skills and context to gain the trust and freedom to experiment. To do this, you need to let the boss know and you know what you are doing and that he can trust you. A great example of this is Howard Yeh, CEO and founder of Healthcare.com and Carlos Cabrera, Chairman of Guatemala.com, both CEOs have empowered their teams to experiment, resulting in very fast-growing companies.

But you might not always start with a compelling boss, this requires you to Gather research and explain the logic of the process, specifically how it is all about managing the risk of testing new ideas that could generate great results.

CRO Best Practices 

CRO is about applying known best practices and learning new high converting practices, which are particular to your scenario.

There are Two Kinds of Optimization Tasks: 

  1. Best practices, the ones that are competitive requirements, that all “good” sites have, features, or design principles that are expected by the user and that generally improve results. 
  2. Specific optimization ideas: The ones you learn through CRO testing. 

It is important to prop your website up as best as possible before you start testing, as there are many things that are already pretty universal. 

General CRO Best Practices  for Optimizing Forms

  • “Set Clear expectations”.
  • Only ask for the minimum required information for the most immediate conversion. 
  • There is a balance between too little information: “spammy” and too much information “too f-n long”. 
  • Use long forms as a filter to increase lead quality. People that overcome friction are more motivated.
  • Multi-Step Forms are better for long sets of questions.
    • Group questions by subjects. 
    • Start with the easier ones. 
  • Labels are usually best on top. 
  • Bold is not as good as regular text. 
  • Make the default value of a dropdown be the CTA of the info required.
  • Never make dropdowns have more than 15 options. 
  • For multiple select for less than 5 options go with radio buttons. 
  • For more than 15 options, it’s best to include a search option on top. 
  • Password confirmation is usually unnecessary. 
  • Preselect optimal defaults whenever possible. 
  • Use inline validation so as to allow error messages to provide feedback immediately, allowing for the user to correct in real-time and avoid the negative experience of not accepting a submission. Make the form tell the user to correct the input before moving to the next field. 
  • Avoid Captchas, there are nicer human tests that don’t require human input.

General CRO Best Practices  for Ecommerce Category Pages

  • Make UX Narrow down the choices based on preferences/key criteria
  • Sort products in a way that makes sense to the customer, use filters if possible.
  • Help the user understand whether a product in the list is right for him or her by identifying the criteria involved in the decision-making process of purchase for the products on the category page. Turn this into filters. 
  • Create filters to help the user sort through products or product variants, this is best for more than 20 products and filters are expected to be on the left column or on top. 
  • Product Badges to provide safe options for customers. Use them sparingly, the point is to avoid decision freeze. Or decision paradox. 
  • Category Architecture or (sorting products). This needs to be a common framework of knowledge. There are either standardized categories or you need to research how your customers categorize the products you are selling so as to mimic the same context architecture.  
  • Help visitors answer the following questions fast: 
    • Is it a product for me?
      • Price – Clear, open, and filter ready.
      • Specifications – Comparable data lists
      • Photos and videos. BIG FOTOS
  • User Bread crumbs, it’s a great way of teaching your users about the general structure fo your online store.
  • CTAs ( this is a great place to test). But use them, have them buy now, save, add to cart. These are basic but can be optimized based on your specific scenario.

General CRO Best Practices  for Buttons and CTAs

  • Don´t make me think. CTA´s need to be aligned with the general intent the user came with, and just make the path as short and obvious as possible with big obvious CTAs on high contrasting buttons. 
  • Use the right copy, CTA´s have the following key criteria: 
    • It’s specific: “Add to cart”
    • It conveys a benefit: “Start making money”
    • It contains a trigger word ( this is based on intent). 
    • Avoid negative words: Submit, finish, Send. 
  • Page Fold and Page Length

General CRO Best Practices  for Ecommerce Signups

  • Don’t make it a required thing. Make it optional.
  • Don’t even mention that there is an option to register, until after the first checkout, just ask for a password.
  • Make the email or phone, the first field for checkout. 
  • Always present a quick login option, but make the guest buyer a default route.
  • Offer a coupon for account registration or some other freebie or perk. (Lifetime discount membership).
  • Use social log in´s they reduce friction, speed up the process, are better UX, and increase credibility.

General CRO Best Practices  for “Phone-to-Contact Sales

  • Is it an important sales channel? if it is, it might be the centerpiece of your UX.
    • Phone leads are instant: no scheduling and no waiting, unlike email leads.
    • Phone calls are intentional: “people who call you mean business, nobody is calling you by accident”.
  • You can track phone calls with google analytics and other tools, and thus attribute who or what campaign brought you the customer. 
  • “Click to reveal” is the cheapest way to track phone call use, if you don´t have resources for better systems.

General CRO Best Practices  for Persuasive Design

  • The design must be simple and familiar.
  • It must have strong visual hierarchies.
  • Its main objective is to conserve attention. 
  • Easy one conversion action per page. 
    • Big image backgrounds with the general idea of what they want to see work better. 
    • Our brain is constantly reconstructing a story of what we are doing.
      • Make sure you understand its context in a few seconds. 
      • Our brain processes visuals 50x.  
  • Use a big image background to transmit the big general idea of your site. 
    • Products
    • Screenshots
  • While content may be king in the world of SEO, the design is the key factor for success once the user is on your site.
  • First impressions can last for years, invest in making a great one. 
  • Maintaín attention at all costs, it is the most competitive commodity in the online world.
  • Graphic contrast: Then Vs. Now. is the general storyline you want to convey to your users. 
  • Unexpected, memorable creative ideas work.
  • Action is taken when motivation is at its highest and conversion is at its easiest. 

General CRO Best Practices  for Value Propositions: 

  • Clarity.
  • What are you selling?
  • For Whom.
  • What is your unique competitive difference?

General CRO Best Practices  for Fonts

  • Pair them having the Title be serf and the body sans-serif. 
  • Make the line spacing as big as possible without interrupting the reader’s flow. ( about 1.75)
  • Structure the content so it is scannable and easy to find where you are going to focus your attention. 

General CRO Best Practices for Evolutionary vs. Radical Design

  • Only change your website radically when the design has hit a local maximum.
    • Technological
    • Optimization
    • Trend
  • Radical Design is still evolutionary, we are just stripping everything we know does not work and making a beautiful new thing with the remaining proven elements. 

General CRO Best Practices  for Homepage Design

  • A home page must be optimized to communicate the following: 
    • What can I do here? 
    • Why should I do it? 
    • How is this better/different from other offers?
  • The objective of a home page is to get the visitor to move down the funnel.

General CRO Best Practices for Pricing

  • Pricing needs to be tested.
  • A higher price means more info is required. 
  • Pricing presentation works best when presented with the principle of framing and imprinting. (Prince anchoring / Contrast).
  • It helps filter leads.
  • Present pricing with at least 2 options.
  • Make pricing comparative tables with obvious hierarchical design.

General CRO Best Practices for Visual Hierarchy

  • There should be one obvious bigger thing, more noticeable that dominates the visual landscape, it should be the most important action the user can do on that page. 
  • I also recommend my own insights into UUX and UUX/CRO

General CRO Best Practices for FAQs on Websites

  • Should your website have a FAQ or not? In most cases, people will almost always try to figure it out before turning to a manual. So, optimize for that. 
  • The FAQ section is good for credibility, usability, power users, and SEO, so still includes it.
  • Enable people to ask, and use the questions as the basis for FAQ, as its name states.

General CRO Best Practices for Key Visual Design 

  • 94% of first impressions are design-related. 
  • Noise = distraction. Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Data-driven Design, test good artists against each other. Kindly let the boss know that, unless he is an artist, he should allow for talent to enrich his investment.
  • Take into account human biases, heuristics, and symbology.

General CRO Best Practices for Search Bars

  • Good for sites that have more than 20 products or pages. 
  • Using search shows high intent. 
  • Make the search box bigger. 
  • Optimize the search function.
  • Make the 404 or No Results page have CTA´s to convert using alternate methods. 

General CRO Best Practices for E-commerce product pages

  • Keep “Added to Cart” but keep users on-page, if you are aiming for repeat customers and multiple products. Send users immediately to check out for one-time buys. ( ebooks, etc). 
  • Make the user have a lot of control over what is on the cart, how to add or subtract. Any feeling of mistrust here can be terrible. 
  • On Checkout Field, do not show coupons, but enable discounts very visibly when a campaign promises these bring in the user. 
  • “When will they get the goods? How much is the shipping, is it free? Will the transaction be secure? Remind people. -” https://cxl.com/institute/lesson/shopping-cart-pages/
  • Make people remember what they have on the cart. 

General CRO Best Practices for Commercial Copy

  1. Research: You first need a concrete and insightful realistic comprehension of:
    • Your Customer.
    • Product.
    • Competition.
  2. Then you need to create a body of knowledge that answers specific questions in the words and phrases that your customers use: 
    1. Create a customer profile, understand your customer’s ways, perceptions, and points of view.
    2. What does our product help the customer do?
    3. What features matter to a customer? How is the customer comparing you against the competition?
    4. What are the most important painful problems your product or service is solving? (*key usability pains to fix)
    5. What are the customer’s alternatives when trying to resolve this?
    6. How did they choose the product?
    7. What were the biggest friction points before purchase? (things we have to address in the copy)
    8. “Where their questions couldn’t find any? (necessary information to provide)”
    9. “What information would have helped you make the decision faster? (same as above)”
    10. “In which words would you recommend it to somebody you know? (words they use to describe our product)”
  3. Draft a first commercial product page copy where you sell the value of your product and where the user takes action (adds to cart, sign up, makes a purchase, etc.). Make sure the copy has: 
    1. Product name
    2. Value proposition
    3. features and benefits
    4. Problem it solves
    5. Technical information
    6. Bonuses (what you get on top of the offer).
    7. Money-back guarantee (+ return policy).
    8. Price.
    9. Call to action.
    10. Expectation setting: what happens after you buy?
    11. Be specific
    12. Word it in a way that the customer understands and appreciates. 
    13. Communicate value before price
  4. Now revise and “optimize it”. 
    1. Optimize for clarity – it’s plainly obvious what you sell, why that is good, and who it’s for
    2. Optimize for information – no question unanswered
    3. Persuasion boost – apply a persuasion technique that’s applicable for your particular context. View Cialdini’s persuasion principles. 
    4. Does every paragraph have: 
      1. Value
      2. Clarity
      3. credibility?
  5. Revise, rearrange.
    1. Rest, revise. Get others to read and see if you got the message through, hear their critical constructive feedback. 
  6. Test. Try many different copies and see which one pushes more users down the sales funnel. 

About this information.

This is the first of ten articles I will write about Conversion Rate Optimization as explained by the mini degree in CRO I´m taking called CLX.com most of the content is taken from 3 of their wonderful speakers and conversion rate optimization specialists:

I have published it as part of the tuition agreement, and it is as I have “understood” it, so I´m open to corrections and improvements!.

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