Mark Auyoung

Mark Auyoung

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Foundations

You can increase your conversion rate by following a free online checklist. 

But this isn’t CRO.

If you’ve follow any digital marketing blogs or are familiar with the digital marketing space, you are bound to have stumbled across the term Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). 

Unfortunately because many marketers (including myself) use CRO best practice checklists as a freebie, the initial impression of CRO is that that is all there is to it. But this is because the rest of the discipline cannot be summarized in a 5-page PDF. 

It takes time, an audience, analysis, patience, and more importantly it is unique to every business.

To clear up the misconception that CRO is just a checklist here is an overview of the different parts of CRO, how to implement the testing process, and what to test so you can effectively use it for your business. 


* Here’s some preliminary jargon definitions if you’re starting out: 

  • CRO: Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Conversion: A desired action you would like a user to take on your page/website
  • Conversion rate: Conversions/Page Interactions (typically users or page clicks

Conversion Rate Optimization: The iterative process of tailoring your website or landing page based on user data, with the objective of increasing a conversion action. 

Phases of CRO

A basic CRO process is broken into several phases:

  1. Audit (Assuming you already have a page/website)
  2. Data Analysis
  3. Hypothesis Formulation
  4. Prioritization
  5. Testing 
  6. Insight Gathering 
  7. Implement
  8. Iterate

Although these are typically broken down into timelined phases, CRO is iterative. I believe a better visualization would look something like this: 

conversion rate optimization process

Now we know the different parts of a typical CRO process. How do we start these different steps?


Although CRO is an iterative process that is unique to each business, there are still general best practices that could be applied to build a starting foundation. 

It is not necessary to start completely from scratch.

We can utilize an altered version of Aarron Walter’s Hierarchy of User Needs. 

The hierarchy breaks down the foundations of a great webpage. The questions to consider are:

  • Does the page function as it should?
  • Is the page accessible to all types of users?
  • Are there any usability issues?
  • Is the user experience intuitive?
  • Is the page persuasive?

The functionality & accessibility portions can be accomplished by relying on conventional items that are expected from a website. 

The question of does the website function, should be answered by your developer and be part of the initial webpage building process and is not something that should be tested by users. 

A typical checklist for accessibility can be done using the WAVE tool. 

As for the levels of usability, intuitiveness, and persuasiveness each of these are subjective to your websites user needs. 

Data Analysis/Insight Gathering

Use existing data from your analytics sources to start determining your initial hypotheses. Are there any areas that are suffering? Are there any particular areas that are doing extra well? Dig into your current data set to help save time. 

If you’re having trouble analyzing your data check out this blog that highlights a framework on how to interpret data

Hypothesis Formulation

Determining what you’re testing is just as important as determining why you’re testing. By gathering your insights from current data, you have a starting point to craft your hypotheses. 

But what is a hypothesis? A hypothesis in CRO consists of an insight, a theory why a user is not taking the action you expect them to, a proposed solution, and the expected effect. An example of this could be:

84% of users are immediately bouncing from the landing page rather than further exploring down the page. This could be due to our copy not being visible above the fold. We should test the placement of headlines to determine whether this has an effect on scroll activity.

Having a solid hypothesis will set the foundation for actionable insights later on. Generate as many hypotheses relevant to your business objectives as possible. 


Which one of these hypotheses, if you answered would propel you closest to your goal? Although there are countless items you could test on your website, make sure you are first testing the hypotheses most likely to provide you the biggest boost. An easy way to look at this is to use the Pareto Principle

“What are the 20% of the things I can accomplish that will result in 80% of the results?”

Make a list and sort your hypothesis in order of importance and what you expect to result from each of them. This will help you organize and prioritize your list. 


Testing is a core foundation of CRO. Although it may be tempting to jump in and immediately start testing there’s a series of questions you need to answer first to determine what type of test you should run.

  • How much insight do I want to pull from this?
  • How many variables do I want to test?
  • How quickly do I need these results? 

The answer to these questions will inform you what type of testing you will conduct. The primary methods of testing are A/B Testing and Multivariate testing. 

A/B testing focuses on testing a single variable with two variations. This type of test is quick and does not require many users until you reach a statistically significant result. Although because there is only one variable tested, the amount of insight gleaned from the test is less than its counterpart. 

Multivariate testing focuses on testing variations rather than specific variables. This can be a page with multiple variables that have been modified. This test takes a bit longer due to the fact that there can be so many combinations of variations depending on the number of variables being tested. This type of test takes longer but yields more insights. 

Phew! That’s a lot of information. Here’s a chart to help you quickly decide what type of testing works best for you based on your needs:

Number of Variables TestedHow Much InsightHow Quickly Results Received
A/B TestOne at a TimeLessFast
Multivariate2 or MoreMoreSlower

Now that you know what type of test you’d like to run, what are you testing?

The simple answer is typically design, copy, imagery, and structure. The matter of how you test them depends on again on which method of testing you chose and what is important to you. 


CRO is a multi-disciplinary process. It touches aspects of design, development, and user experience. With this in mind, implementing the insights you found should involve all aspects of your team. Make sure everyone is in the loop. Maybe there is a reason things are formatted the way they are. 

As a marketer and CRO it is our job to communicate the benefits and find a compromise that works across the board.  


Collect the data from your tests and document the conclusion you’ve reached and what you learned from the test. This allows the results to be utilized for future use cases. Are the results what you expected? If not, draw another hypothesis and test again. 

After you’ve finished testing your variable move on to the next variable you’re trying to test or re-analyze your data for further insights. At this point you’ve once again reached the Data Analysis and Insights phase. 

Although it may seem tedious there is always room for improvement. Markets are ever changing and so are the needs of your users. This is why it is essential to always be testing and iterating versions of your webpages to keep up to date with customers expectations and needs. 

Tired of flashy numbers and useless reports? Make sure your AdWords and SEO campaigns aren’t wasting you money. Take this step-by-step checklist to make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing budget.

SEO & PPC Checklist



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