So you’d like to become a conversion rate optimization guru?

Awesome. Just keep in mind that mastering CRO takes time.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time.

You can probably reach black belt level in about two weeks or less if you really dedicate yourself to the task.

That means you’ll be in CRO bootcamp for those two weeks while putting other priorities on the back burner.

Once you emerge from your training, though, you’ll be an optimization Jedi.

Image of Sir Alec Guinness as Star Wars' Obi Wan Kenobi holding a light saber

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My goal in this guide is to take you from complete newbie to CRO master in a very short amount of time.

If you’re a Director of Marketing, this level of knowledge is crucial both to developing your marketing leadership ability, and to optimizing your website for maximum conversions.

Here’s your step-by-step guide to becoming a conversion rate master.

Day 1: Convince Yourself It’s Important

Before you can teach yourself the “how,” you’ll first have to understand the “why.”

You need to learn why conversion optimization is so important to digital marketing.

“But I’m already sold on it,” you might be thinking to yourself right now.

Good. Get sold on it some more.

Why? Because when the tough times arrive (and, believe me, they will), you might be tempted to ditch your CRO campaigns in favor of other action items that you think have higher priority.

Here’s your Day 1 homework.

First, read these articles:

Then, make a list of reasons why you think conversion optimization should be a priority in your own marketing efforts.

Keep that list in your desk and refer to it from time to time to help you keep your eyes on the prize.

Finally, commit to this for the next two weeks. If you engage in CRO with the level of knowledge required to make it happen, you will see success from your efforts.

Day 2: Run Some Numbers

Have some fun on Day 2 by taking a look at the actual numbers around your conversions.

If you already have a website and you know your conversion rate, run some theoretical numbers.

For example, let’s say you have a landing page and the current conversion rate is 1 percent with 1,000 visitors per day. Each conversion is worth $100 in revenue, so your business earns $1,000 per day from that page.

Let’s also say that you spend $500 per day on digital marketing, so your cost per customer acquisition is $500/10, or $50 per customer.

Now, ask yourself this: what would happen if you doubled your conversion rate by just improving the user experience on the landing page?

Do the math. I’ve made pretty easy.

With a 2 percent conversion rate, you’d gain 20 customers per day and earn $2,000 each day.

But your marketing costs would stay the same. That means you’d cut your cost-per-customer-acquisition in half ($500/20 = $25).

Do you see what just happened there? You doubled your revenue while reducing your cost per acquisition.

What business wouldn’t want that?

Whip out your spreadsheet and play with some numbers. Give yourself a better idea of how much you can improve the financial health of your company with effective CRO.

Quote from WiderFunnel Founder and CEO Chris Goward: Optimization is a way of doing business. It's a strategy for embedding a test--and-learn culture within every fiber of your business.

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Take a fresh look at Google Analytics and/or any other analytics platforms that you’re using.

Make sure that you have a firm grasp of the numbers and data that drive conversion rate optimization. You’re going to be spending a lot of time staring at metrics, and it pays to know them cold.

Day 3: Make a List of What You Can Optimize

Now that you’re inspired about what optimization can do for you, it’s time to make a list of all the places on your website that you can optimize.

Basically, anything can be optimized.

Infographic explaining that conversion rate is the various elements of a web page that are goals, expressed as a percentage

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For example, you might just have a single-page website with just one CTA. If that’s the case, you may want to test variations on your CTA wording.

Or your headline.

Or the image size.

Or the button size.

Or the background color.

On the other hand, you might have an ecommerce site that sells dozens of products. In that case, you can optimize the “add to shopping cart” button, cross-sell and upsell offers, email list opt-in offers, membership vs. guest checkout, etc.

Find every place on your site that has a conversion rate of less than 100 percent, and jot it down as a candidate for optimization.

You can even focus your conversion optimization efforts on email or social media.

At this stage, I recommend implementing split tests on your landing pages.

Focus on the proverbial “low-hanging fruit.” And if you need a list of suggestions, check these out …

Day 4: Meet With Your Development Team

Now that you know what you can optimize from a conversion standpoint, it’s time to make sure that you can optimize those CTAs from a technical standpoint.

The reality is that your software probably already has some A/B testing functionality built in. Still, it’s best to meet with your development team just to put the cork in the bottle.

Get confirmation from the team that everything on your list can be split-tested. That is, they can code it so that half of your visitors see one version of the CTA page and the other half of your visitors see another version of it.

T-shirt on person's back that says: Programmer: Noun. An organism that turns caffeine and pizza into software

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If you come up dry from this conversation, it’s time to buy some split testing software.

You don’t need software that manages everything, though some SaaS providers try to tell you that you do. Your main goal is to find something that runs a good, solid split test.

Here are three well-known tools that I feel comfortable recommending:

Day 5: Get Your Analytics House in Order

You’ll likely need to hang around with your development team for another day to make sure that you’re tracking analytics.

If your site isn’t already set up in Google Analytics, then ask your team to get that ball rolling on that. Not only is GA free, it also offers a wealth of information about your site that you’ll have trouble finding anywhere else.

Also, make sure that GA is properly configured based on your existing needs.

For example, if you’re running an ecommerce site, you’ll need to specifically configure GA to track your ecommerce conversions.

Once you’re done with GA, set up analytics tracking for any other tools you’re using.

Note: you might need to wait a few days before going on to the next step. That’s because you’ll need at least a few days’ worth of data that you can analyze.

Infographic depicting the sales funnel with multiple marketing channels and an overlay of SEO and conversion optimization to motivate website traffic

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Day 6: Check Your Analytics

Before you can optimize, you need to know where you’re at right now. To learn that, go over your analytics.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Ecommerce Overview report

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Let’s say that your analytics show you that your landing page conversion rate is 1.5 percent.

That gives you a starting point. When you begin your campaign, the goal will be to improve your conversion rate so that it’s better than 1.5 percent.

You have to know where you stand. This is your basal rate, and you’re only going to go up from here.

Day 7: Start Asking Questions

Before you can move on with optimization, you’ll have to ask some questions.

To continue with the landing page example above, you might ask: “Is 1.5 percent a good conversion rate or should I expect more?”

You might find that, for your business model, it’s an outstanding conversion rate and increasing it will be a challenge.

On the other hand, you might know competitors who are converting at 3 percent. What’s their secret?

It’s time to go a level deeper with your thinking.

What kinds of things could be keeping you from achieving a higher conversion rate? What things might help to improve your conversion rate?

Jot down some preliminary thoughts, and then do some light reading on the subject.

Here is what I recommend for your perusal:

Day 8: Research

Now that you have a few questions as a result of going over your analytics, it’s time to do some research.

You can start by Googling around for typical conversion rates in your industry. But, as we’ve seen, they don’t necessarily mean a whole lot for your business model.

You can also look around for case studies about how people with similar business models and landing pages improved their conversion rate. You might find a few great ideas to test that way.

The important thing, during your research phase, is to remember what Benny Hill said about people who assume.

Colorful depiction of phrase: Assumption is a mother of all mess-ups

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Never accept anything at face value. Always test your hypotheses.

That brings me to the next day.

Day 9: Create a Hypothesis

You have some questions, and yesterday you did some research to help answer those questions. Now, it’s time to develop a hypothesis.

Let’s say you read a case study about someone who added a second CTA to the top of his landing page and increased conversions by 50 percent. You’re persuaded that you might succeed if you did the same.

So here’s your hypothesis: “If I add a second CTA at the top of my landing page, I’ll increase conversions by 50 percent.”

That’s a valid hypothesis because it’s testable, it’s specific, and it will give you actionable insight.

Phrase on blue background: Keep Calm and Create a Hypothesis

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Day 10: Learn About Sample Sizes

It’s Day 10, and it’s time for another learning experience.

This time you need to learn about sample sizes. Specifically, you need to know how many visitors have to pass through your site during a test before you can consider the test valid.

The answer to that is a complicated statistical formula. Fortunately, you can ignore that formula and use a tool that gives you the answer.

Screenshot of Optimizely A/B test sample size calculator with figures resulting in need for 14,000 respondents per variation

Day 11: Learn About How Long You Should Let Tests Run

Once you know how many visitors you need for your test, you need to determine the length of your test in terms of time.

The rule of thumb is to run your test for at least one business cycle. Preferably, though, you should run it for two business cycles.

Keep in mind: if it takes your site two business cycles to go through the number of visitors you determined you needed from the previous step, then your test should definitely last that long.

On the other hand, if your site goes through that many visitors in just a day or two, you’ll still need to let your tests run longer. Usually, there’s no harm in getting a sample size larger than what’s recommended by your tool.

Day 12: Schedule and Run the Tests

By now, you have at least one hypothesis (probably several) and you’ve determined how long the test for each needs to run. It’s time to schedule some testing.

Get out your calendar, meet with your development team and map out a test schedule for the next several weeks.

You’re ready to click “Go” on your first test. Everything you’ve learned up to this point has given you the knowledge and resources to engage.

There’s no stopping you now.

Conclusion

If you follow this schedule, you’ll be joining the ranks of CRO masters. And at 12 days, I’ve built in time for you to put out a fire or two along the way and still get this done within two full weeks.

My goal in creating this guide was to take you from square one to the point where you’ve actually gotten your hands dirty in the practice of conversion rate optimization.

The practice of CRO is where the real value of the research and study begins to be seen. The cycle of testing and analysis bears fruit — big time. Over time, as you rinse and repeat, two things will happen:

  • Your knowledge of conversion rate optimization will dramatically skyrocket.
  • Your website’s conversion rates will dramatically skyrocket.

The better you become, the greater success you’ll have. And the greater success you have, the more you’ll be motivated to learn.

You’ve taken the first step in a very exciting adventure.

Happy learning. Happy optimizing.

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