Every business needs conversion rate optimization (CRO). Optimization is important whether you’re selling products over your website, encouraging users to sign up for services online, or just converting prospects to leads through premium content, newsletters, and other methods.

The problem is that small businesses are often unable to afford a full CRO service. There is a misconception that this means you are unable to have any optimization strategy. In fact, it is far better to put a basic strategy in place than to have none at all.

What Can You Do If You Want to Optimize But Cannot Afford a Full-Fledged CRO Program?

Get the Analytics Straight

The first thing to do is sort out your website analytics. Without the correct analytics, it will be impossible to see where you currently stand and where you need to make improvements.

You have a variety of website analytic tools to choose from, but a top choice is Google Analytics. It provides you with all the website analytics metrics you need — and it’s free. Plus, it allows you to check the analytics of a website straight out of the box. However, the defaults alone are unlikely to tell you everything you need to know about your CRO. To get analytics for the website that have meaning for you, create custom reports like the following.

Browser Reports

A conversion by browser report will tell you if conversion rate is lower than average for a particular browser. If this is the case, you can test how the website appears on this browser and then make the necessary changes to correct the issue.

Another browser report to create is site speed. You may find that some browsers are experiencing a slower loading speed than others.

Mobile vs Desktop Conversions

A mobile vs desktop conversions report is similar to the conversions by browser report. You can also use such reports to find out if a particular device is seeing lower conversions. It is best to do this by looking at screen resolution, as Google Analytics sometimes has gaps in its data about the exact model of device.

Content Timing

The day and hour you post your content makes a difference to how many people see the post and how much engagement the post receives. Although you can find tips about when to publish content, this is less accurate than looking at your data.

Site Search

Finally, it can be useful to see what types of users are searching your site most often. There tends to be a correlation between the number of searches and the likelihood of a visitor converting. For this reason, site search data can tell you more about your ideal customers.

Conduct User Research

Another way to find out about conversion rate is to turn to user research. This falls into two categories: qualitative user research and quantitative data.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research can be a user research questionnaire or a usability testing survey. To run a successful survey or interview, you need to think carefully about the questions you ask and how you ask them. Consider specific questions you have, especially with issues where it would be difficult to find the answer with data alone.

Another way to approach interviewing is to start with a potential solution and ask users what they think of it. Again, it should be something that would be challenging to assess with quantitative data.

Bear in mind that you need more than just answers to your questions — you also need to know who is responding. This will ensure that the data you are collecting is coming from users who make up your target audience. Plus, you may want to categorize responses according to user characteristics, demographics, or interest in a particular product or service. It may also be useful to know whether the person is a current,.former, or potential customer. For this reason, you should start every survey with user analysis questions.

When creating a survey, make sure that questions are easy for the user to answer and will provide you with actionable information. Multiple choice questions work well for this. In addition, you’ll want at least one open-ended question to allow users to provide you with additional feedback.

You can use the findings from your research to make improvements to your website as a whole and to key pages, such as landing pages. You can also use it as a starting point to run better-informed A/B tests.

Quantitative Data

One way to gather quantitative data through usability testing. This is important because one of the most common causes of a low conversion rate is poor usability. If visitors to your site struggle to find what they’re looking for or have trouble carrying out an action, they are going to give up and leave. Running a website usability analysis test allows you to pinpoint factors that are diminishing user experience.

At a minimum, you need to test usability in regard to:

    • Navigation — It should be obvious how to move from one area to another.
    • First impressions — Users should know what a site is about and where to go from any given page in five seconds or less.
  • Capability to take action — The call-to-action should make it obvious what you want the user to do. In addition, it should be easy for the user to take action, whether this is to make a purchase or download content.

In addition to usability tests, you need to locate any technical problems with your site. Often, these are fast to fix and make a big difference to conversions. Things to look for include broken links, errors in code, and slow-loading pages.

Conduct “Low-Hanging Fruit” Tests

After you’ve run usability and error tests, it’s time to move on to “low-hanging fruit” tests. These show you places where you are missing out on conversions that could be yours with very little effort. You can choose from a variety of website testing tools — free and paid (including many low-cost options).

Website Optimization

A top free tool to use for website optimization is Google Optimize. For instance, you can use the tool to find out how to make simple changes to pages. You should begin with pages that receive less traffic, leaving places like your homepage and key landing pages alone until you have developed a good understanding of how to run experiments. Test various elements on pages, including colors, placement of elements, and wording of copy.

Next, move on to other features of your site, such as:

    • Navigation — order, design, and hierarchy
    • Search — whether results should open a new page and if you should include an advanced search option
    • Trust — icons, testimonials, and social proof
    • Forms — the fields you include, as well as which fields are required, and design
  • Videos — autoplay, auto sound, and size

Web Applications

Web application penetration testing will show you how well-prepared your web application is to withstand an attack. This requires specific penetration testing tools to ensure accurate results — accuracy is key if you want to maintain trust from users.

You should run a variety of tests multiple times, especially when examining any concerns you already have. Areas of concern tend to be entry points where the application accepts user input and generates dynamic content. Vulnerabilities lie in input validation and authentication. Look out for issues like session manipulation and information leaks.

Internal Vulnerabilities

Finally, you should conduct an internal vulnerability assessment. There are numerous online tools to achieve this. Again, you’ll need to ensure that you choose a high-quality tool to minimize the risk that something goes unnoticed. A security breach is a great way to lose future business with both current customers and qualified leads. Be sure to scan you site for malware, trojans, viruses, and other weaknesses.

Begin with Incremental Baby Steps

Starting your CRO strategy is all about progressing toward ultimate optimization goals. Making 50 improvements that just increase conversions by 1 percent add up to big gains in the long run.

Include Experts on Your Team

Service or no service, you cannot do CRO completely alone. At a minimum, you need a web designer to make visual changes that you can test, a developer with knowledge of coding to find errors on your site, an analyst to interpret data from your website, and someone with experience in creating surveys to gain the right information from users. You may find some of these skills in the same people — just make sure that you are sufficiently covered.

Set Appropriate Goals

When it comes to CRO, there’s no one-size-fits-all for goals. You need to think about what will mean progress for your business. Without a clear idea of targets, it is impossible to know what metrics to focus on and how to set a suitable strategy.

Use A/B Testing Correctly

You want to optimize your site as soon as possible, but trying to find out too much from an A/B test will only slow you down. Each A/B test should have just one variable and it needs to run long enough to gather sufficient data. Without this, the conclusion from the test will be unclear. Furthermore, you need to remember that it is far from bad news if your test reveals that a change will not lead to improvements. The whole point of testing a hypothesis instead of relying on intuition is to make effective changes.

Use a sales conversion calculator to find out your current conversion rate and to keep tracking as you implement more CRO tactics. The average online conversion rate is just 2.35 percent, but a good rate is anywhere between 5.5 percent and 11 percent (depends on the business). Right now, you should aim to achieve at least the average conversion rate. You’ll know that your strategy is working if this rate consistently increases, even incrementally. Set an aim to reach that will mean full-service CRO is affordable for your business.