The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Learn how to use CRO to turn more of your website visitors into potential customers

Have you ever visited a website with no intention of subscribing or buying anything but somehow found yourself entering your personal information moments later?

This recently happened to me. I'm not much of a makeup lover — or wearer, for that matter — but I heard about a new skincare and makeup brand with products that are lightweight, natural, and easy to apply. I was certain visiting Glossier's website would be a waste of time, but I did so anyway and, within about 15 minutes, I had received my email order confirmation number for my new highlighter stick.

How did this happen?

Glossier has researched its target audience's wants and needs and optimized their site accordingly. The site makes it easy and enjoyable for visitors to browse and buy their products, subscribe to their email newsletter, navigate the site, and learn about their brand.



Now, what if I told you there was a way to ensure your target audience felt just as excited about completing your business's desired actions — like browsing and buying your products, learning about your brand, and signing up for your email newsletter — upon visiting your website, too?

There is — it's a process called conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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This guide is a resource for you to better understand CRO, how to get started with CRO, and what CRO looks like in action so you can implement CRO strategies at your company. To start, let's take a step back and look at conversions as a whole.

As you can see, conversions are critical to your success — without conversions, your business wouldn't have customers, prospects, or leads. Let's cover the two major types of conversions: macro conversions and micro conversions.

Macro Conversion

Macro conversions are the main goal of your website, which is to turn interested leads, prospective customers, and website visitors into paying customers. Examples of macro conversions include:

  • Buying one of your products
  • Requesting a consultation or quote for your service
  • Subscribing to your service
  • Application form completion
  • Phone call
  • Contact form completion
  • Member sign up
  • Paid subscription sign up

Micro Conversion

Although micro conversions don't necessarily mean you've sold a product, closed a deal, or gained a new customer, they're still a large part of your business's bottom line and overall success. That's because micro conversions are the steps visitors often take prior to becoming a customer to learn more about your brand, determine whether your products or services are right for them, and to simply warm up to your company prior to completing some type of macro-conversion. Examples of micro conversions include: 

  • Signing up for your emails
  • Subscribing to your blog
  • Creating an account on your site
  • Viewing a product page
  • Beginning the checkout process
  • Reaching an application or sign up form
  • Watching a promotional video
  • Frequently visiting a web page

In addition to the term conversion, you may have also heard the term conversion rate before. Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your site and convert in some way (this includes both micro and macro conversions). For example, if your website has 100,000 visitors during the month of August and 2,000 of those visitors converted and bought one of your products, then your site's conversion rate for the month is: 2,000/100,000 = 2%.

Now that we've covered conversion basics, let's take a look at conversion rate optimization.

What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of testing and analyzing different aspects of your website to increase the percentage of visitors on your website who convert, or complete a desired action on a webpage.

Use the 8-week Conversion Rate Optimization Planner to begin improving your conversions within 60 days.

CRO requires research about how your existing website visitors experience your website. The goal of this research is to understand how users behave, where they navigate, what they click on, and what makes them convert (or not).

Now, you might be wondering why conversion rate optimization is necessary and whether or not it's really a worthwhile investment. Let's take a look at why CRO is a critical part of your online success.

Why does conversion rate optimization matter?

CRO drives results — simply put, it means more leads for your business. It helps you streamline your customers' interactions with your business to help you boost conversions.

For example, if your landing page gets 2,000 monthly visitors and generates 60 leads per month, then your landing page has a 3% conversion rate. (Why? Because your conversion rate is leads generated divided by the number of interactions. So, 60 leads/ 2,000 visits = .03, or 3%)  If that same landing page is optimized over time via user research and CRO and generates 140 leads, then your conversion rate becomes 7 percent.

Lifting your conversion rate from 3% to 7% is a 133% increase in leads — that’s the power of conversion rate optimization.

Now, let's take a look at the steps you'll need to follow to optimize your website for conversions as well as various optimization tactics to help you do this.

1. Perform User Research

The first step in the CRO process is user research — this is vital to creating informed solutions to your user problems and to optimizing your pages to the best of your ability.

It's important to remember you'll never know every variable that impacts the reasons a visitor chooses to convert (or not to convert). Maybe your visitor's WiFi went down at the moment they were clicking your CTA or they received a call from a friend that caused them to abandon your page. The goal of user research isn’t to know everything — it’s to know as much as you need to start building solutions and optimizing your web pages.

You can divide your user research work into two main categories quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative User Research

Quantitative user research represents data about user behavior. It speaks volumes about the flow between your web pages, the interactions your visitors have on these pages (and even specific parts of these pages), and how different variables, such as traffic source, impact those flows.

Quantitative user research requires the support of a website analytics tool, such as Google Analytics or HubSpot. With these tools, you can take a deep dive into data including things like how long your visitors stay on your page, whether they're reading your content or bouncing immediately, and how they're finding your page online (organic or referral visitors). You can also determine which visitor and/ or lead sources provide you with the best lifetime value (LTV).

Qualitative User Research

Qualitative research answers the "why" behind your users' behaviors on your site. It refers to user data derived from channels like customer interviews, review websites and forums, and focus groups to understand why they do what they do on your site.

Whether you interview your customer support team to understand what questions and concerns new customers typically have or conduct user research by watching video of first-time visitors navigate your website, this type of research is about documenting behaviors and ideas about your website and the interactions your customers are having with the various aspects of it, and then extrapolating broader observations from them.

2. Optimize Your Lead Form

Optimizing your lead form is a great way to test what your audience members respond best to and see what increases your number of conversions. Based on your hypothesis for what you believe will work best for your target audience, you can determine how you'll optimize your lead forms. Here are a few ways to optimize your lead form:

Add an Incentive to the Offer

Try adding an incentive to your offer. You can tell your visitors they'll receive discount codes if they subscribe to your email or you can send a piece of swag to anyone who purchases their first product from you. This gets visitors excited about converting.

Reduce the Number of Form Fields

Web forms can be tedious and overwhelming if there are a lot of fields. Try reducing the number of form fields to the bare minimum — this will make them look manageable and less time-consuming for your visitors. Reducing the number of fields in a form has been consistently been proven to increase conversions.

You can also try implementing smart fields — HubSpot uses smart fields to remove form fields that a returning lead has previously completed.

Make Your CTA Attractive

Another great way to optimize your conversions is by enhancing your CTAs. Color has been proven to make CTAs more effective — there's no doubt color effects us psychologically. Try testing different CTA colors to determine what attracts the most leads on your site to your forms. Additionally, some companies assume they should avoid large CTAs because they may come off as pushy or aggressive. However, this isn't the case — larger CTAs have been proven to be highly effective in boosting conversions. Test out larger CTAs to ensure your visitors don't skim by or miss it while browsing your site.

3. Enhance Your Page Copy

You can also enhance your page copy to optimize conversions. Here are some common ways to do this:

  • Simplify your copy by removing any extra fluff. 
  • Be positive and upbeat in your tone to motivate visitors to convert. 
  • Use action-oriented phrases such as "Limited-time offer" or "Save now" to create a sense of urgency.
  • Be personal so you write directly to your reader and visitor. 
  • Use the term "Free" wherever you can — because let's be honest, who doesn't love free products and services?
  • Make your visitors feel good — pat them on the back — and then explain how your product can make them even better.
  • Be assertive, especially in your CTAs, to tell your visitors what to do in a confident and convincing way. 
  • Incorporate excitement to make your readers 
  • Be direct to make your intent obvious to your readers. 
  • Use data to support the reasons why your visitors should convert on your website. 

4. Vary the Location of Your Conversion Opportunities

Try moving your conversion opportunities around on your web page. Depending on how much content you have on a page and what type of page it is (landing page, checkout page, subscription page, etc.), you can test your conversion points in different areas.

Here are some locations to test your conversion opportunities on your web pages:

  • In the header
  • Above the fold
  • Below the fold
  • In a form
  • In the middle of written content

4. Run Tests

When running tests to determine which optimization tactics are most successful in improving your conversion rate, there are two important factors to consider: What order to run your tests in and how to run your tests.

In what order should you run your CRO tests?

As mentioned in the previous section, your time is valuable — you don't want to waste any unnecessary time or resources when it comes to your CRO testing. So, the order in which you test matters. If you run your first test and realize it's working exceptionally well, maybe you want to go with that solution for the time being because you're already well on your way to achieving your goals. This is where the PIE framework comes into play.

PIE Framework

How do you know which conversion optimization tactics to test first? Well, it’s as easy as pie!


The PIE framework (Potential, Importance, and Ease) is used for prioritizing solutions. By scoring each of your possible tests by Potential (the potential improvement from your solution), Importance (the value of the traffic to that page), and Ease (the resources needed to build and test the solution), you can quantify and order your list of possible solutions and hypotheses to ensure you work through your experiments in a way that works for your specific company and situation.

In order to score each of these areas, be sure to have clear success criteria. You should be able to state that, “If this solution is successful, [some quantifiable metric] will change by [some measurable amount]." Your success criteria need to be the same in order for you to prioritize solutions by the likeliness that they achieve that criteria.

How should you run your CRO tests?

Once you have determined the optimization tactics you're going to implement, test, and prioritize based on their potential, importance, and ease, it's time to decide how you'll actually run your test.

The most common way to test CRO hypotheses is with an A/B test because you can easily compare the various factors your testing among your target audience. If, for some reason, your business is uninterested in running A/B tests or if you believe they aren't suited for the CRO variables you're testing, you might consider testing your hypotheses through a survey or usability test.

Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to run your experiment to validate your final CRO solution. Run your experiment for as long as you need to produce a statistically significant result. The more visitors flowing through an experiment, the more quickly your results will become significant.

5. Measure All Results

Once you've run your tests, you'll need to measure your results to determine which CRO solution you're going to implement on your website to improve your conversions. There's a chance there's a clear "winner" in terms of your tests — meaning one solution was significantly more effective than the others. But, there's also a chance a few different solutions brought promising results.

Either way, it's important to measure and analyze your results to better understand why things worked (or didn't) for your target audience so you can apply this information to your future optimizations and to better understand your target audience.

You can use website tracking tools as mentioned earlier as well, such as HubSpot and Google Analytics, to review different variables related to changes in your macro and micro conversions, such as page views, time on page, subscriptions, purchases, sign-ups, and more. These tools are especially helpful for measuring quantitative data and user behavior.

In addition to reviewing your measurable data, you should always ask yourself questions like:

  • Did the outcome of my experiments uncover any interesting behaviors worth analyzing further?
  • Can I contact a particular user that demonstrated some interesting behavior? (If you believe this would be helpful.)
  • Did the findings from my tests change the way I would score my future solutions in the PIE framework?
These questions are especially helpful for reviewing and analyzing your qualitative user data.

Now that we've reviewed the CRO process, let's take a look at it in action so you can get a better understanding of how you can implement this process at your company.

Example of Conversion Rate Optimization

To see what CRO looks like in action, let’s look at an example of what one company did to convert more of their website visitors on their pricing page.

BaseKit, a website builder, decided they wanted to improve their pricing page to increase conversions, as the current page wasn't allowing them to meet their goals. They were able to use CRO to make necessary changes to their pricing page, which resulted in an increase in their conversion rate by 25%.

Here's what their pricing page initially looked like:



BaseKit looked at quantitative user research to determine the behaviors of their current website visitors and customers on their pricing page. This research included factors like:

  • How long visitors were staying on the pricing page
  • What visitors' interactions and clicks looked like while on the page
  • How long it took for visitors to either convert or leave the page altogether

From there, BaseKit was able to make a goal that stated they wanted to significantly boost their overall percentage of conversions on their pricing page. Then, the company hypothesized on what changes they believed would work best on their pricing page for their customers and to achieve a boost in conversions.

They optimized and tested the following variables on their page:

  • Colorful CTAs
  • Larger CTAs
  • Different pricing modules
  • Organizing the written content differently (with bullets)

BaseKit tested these variables with the A/B testing method. They were able to compare the results of these changes against each other to see what their audience members responded best to and which options created the most conversions.

The tests that worked best included:

  • Bright green CTA buttons
  • Colorful pricing modules
  • New visual for the currency selection
  • Minimal amount of written content organized into bullets

Once BaseKit had this information, they implemented the new page design on their site and saw the 25% boost in conversions.


BaseKit was able to take away a few major points regarding their CRO and target audience/ customer base. Examples of a few of these BaseKit CRO takeaways include information about their audience's preferences:

  • Clean, straightforward design is ideal
  • Colorful and eye-catching key information and CTA buttons are more effective
  • Organized pricing modules with bullets are preferable to read written content
  • Less is more in terms of overall design
They can refer to these findings as their business continues to grow, when they update their pricing page and other website pages in the future, and as they work to reach their target audience in numerous other ways online.

Begin Optimizing Your Website

Conversion rate optimization is an integral part of any business's online success. By following the CRO process we covered above and implementing CRO strategies at your company, you'll learn more about what it'll take to boost your macro and micro conversions. CRO helps your bottom line and overall profits, but it also helps you foster relationships with early-stage leads and interested website visitors who need a little more information and time prior to becoming a loyal customer.

So, initiate the CRO process at your company so you can begin researching your customers and target audience, testing your hypotheses, and implementing the tactics proven to help you optimize your website and boost conversions.

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  • kristen-baker-hubspot

    Kristen Baker

    Content Strategy @ HubSpot

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