I’ve done dozens of CRO assessments as a conversion rate optimization analyst. It’s true that every site is different and what appeals to one audience may not work for another. BUT there are still best practices, common truths, and widely applicable theories that a CRO analyst can use to assess a website or landing page. Companies that I’ve done a CRO assessment for have seen 30%, 75%, and even 100% lifts in conversion rate when they implemented my recommendations.
(P.S. Want to jump straight to doing your own assessment? I have a video guide here.)
A CRO assessment is a review or audit of a website or landing page with the intention of increasing conversion rate. The assessment will create a list of recommended improvements and tests. Those recommendations are given to the website’s copywriters, designers, and developers. The recommended changes will increase the website or landing page’s conversion rate.
It’s up to the website owner and/or CRO analyst what type of conversions they are looking to increase. It could be bottom-of-funnel conversions like purchases or lead generation. It could also be top-of-funnel conversions like watching a video, increasing engagement, or downloading a freebie. It could even be a combination.
I’ll get into this more in depth when we talk about how to do a CRO assessment. The quick answer is: anything that the assessor believes could increase conversion rate. My recommendations range from updating an image to reconfiguring how an application works.
Some of my most common recommendations are:
CRO recommendations typically cover elements on a website or landing page. Sometimes my clients ask me to assess emails and social media ads as well.
What is not in a CRO assessment?
Every CRO analyst is different, but most will not include:
Depending on the analyst you might also get:
I pulled from a wide variety of sources to inform my recommendations. Most of them fall into these categories:
My background, before I started in conversion rate optimization, was in user experience. There is a strong correlation between increased usability and increased conversion rates. When visitors find a site easy and enjoyable to use they trust the site more. They are also more likely to accomplish their goals instead of abandoning your site.
For this reason, I always review the website to make sure that it is easy to use and follows UX guidelines. For some clients I will also do user testing. With user testing, I can see where a visitor will struggle to use the website effectively.
Remember, when visitors get frustrated they abandon!
There are great UX books out there! My favorite is Designing with the Mind in Mind. It’s a little more technical but it’s a great foundation.
The Inmates are Running the Asylum is also a great resource.
Every website and audience is different. You’ll see many people promoting that as a reason to test everything. And they are right. In a perfect world, we’d test every change before making it. But we are not in a perfect world and business decisions need some flexibility and nuance.
If you aren’t in a place to test everything (and really, 99.9% of us aren’t) then you can fall back on best practices. Use them to make an educated guess.
You’ll find a lot on sites like GoodUi.org, CXL.com, GuessTheTest.com, and other conversion rate optimization organizations who share test results and case studies. Be careful though! Not every test is done correctly so some people publish false results. Make sure that the organization is reputable before you base any decisions on their experiments.
You should also network with other conversion rate optimization professionals. A lot of us are so busy that we don’t ever find the time to share all the experiments we’ve done. It’s nice to have people to reach out to to see if they’ve run a similar test or seen similar results. Especially when you are doing an assessment and aren’t sure about a recommendation.
This is a big one that most websites miss! It’s a very easy fix. Run any copy through Hemingwayapp.com and aim to fix any sentence scored as “hard to read” or “very hard to read”. Increased readability is tied to increased conversion rate.
A lot of times your audience will tell you what they want, we just don’t take the time to listen. When I am working on a CRO assessment, I read through a company’s reviews. The customers often mention their most important differentiators. You can also read through competitors’ reviews. Look to see what things their customers didn’t like that this brand might do better.
Forums, Reddit, and Quora are great resources. Really look anywhere else the target audience are talking about relevant topics . Assess if the brand’s messaging addresses the most important points that their audience is talking about.
People have quirks online and offline and there’s a lot of research out there about them. Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman are well-known in this field. Reading about how people behave and think can open up insights. Including into how they might behave on the website you are assessing.
My assessments also contain theories I have that I don’t have proof for but I have a strong hunch. I always make sure to call out that these are theories, not recommendations. But they often make for great split testing opportunities!
These hunches are usually based on my understanding of the audience or something about the website that makes me wonder. It’s hard to put hard facts to these, but pay attention to areas that you pause on or wonder about. Don’t dismiss the feelings because they are harder to quantify. Label them as “wild theories” and test them.
I left out an extremely popular area: competitor analysis. Most marketers want to look at what their competitors are doing. Quoting Peep, they don’t know what the f*** they’re doing either.
I’ve worked with companies to implement new, tested concepts. Soon after we’ll see their competitors blindly copying what we implemented. They normally miss the most important points, too.
Maybe they copy the section we added highlighting our consultants. But they use a stock photo when the entire point of that section was to test using a real photo to humanize and create connection with our consultants!
If you want to look at competitors for ideas of what to test, that’s fine. Just don’t implement blindly. I also find that my better test concepts come from theorizing about the audience and watching innovators and leaders, not competitors.
There are 5 key areas I’ve found that lift sales. Optimizing them I’ve helped clients get 30%, 75%, and even 100% lifts in conversion. I created a video guide that walks you through assessing and optimizing each area. Check out that video guide here.