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This is a mini-course on how to do a CRO audit.

If you’re at your wits end wondering where and how to start your conversion optimization tests, this course will light the way for you.

Before you hastily start changing your landing page, before you apply another hack that promises to increase conversions, learn how to audit your pages first.

This gives your CRO tests a better chance of success.

This is what you’ll learn to do

We’re going to cover a lot of things. So grab a cuppa’ and let’s get into it.

What is a CRO audit?

A CRO audit is a research and data-based assessment of the state of your site. It’s like pointing a magnifying glass at your website to find weak links and elements that cause anxiety and friction. You do this so you’ll find the bottlenecks that stop people from converting.

By doing a conversion rate optimization audit, you won’t be making wild guesses when you optimize your site. Every little test you do is personalized to your website’s needs, historical data, and your visitors’ motivations.

Is a conversion rate audit really important?

Let me take a wild guess.

At some point, in your efforts to improve conversions, you’ve changed a CTA button color to red because you read a blog post about it.

That’s perfectly fine. We all have to start somewhere. In fact, there are some great blog posts and case studies that can help you start on the right foot.

But let’s face it:

When you apply a generic solution to a specific problem, you can’t expect it to work all the time. That’s why if you’ve tried all the best practices yet you still haven’t seen any significant lifts in conversions, then I say go back to the starting line.

And by starting line I mean a site audit. This is the only way you can guarantee that any CRO tests you do are tailored to your business.

The Conversion Rate Optimization Audit Process

Here are the steps to a website conversion audit that works

  1. Know your goals. This includes both your business goals and CRO goals
  2. Identify which pages to optimize.
  3. Know the who, what, where, when of your website visitors
  4. Evaluate and audit your landing page
    • Audit the user experience
    • Evaluate the copy
    • Find the causes of friction and anxiety

Are you ready?

Great! Let’s get this show on the road

I. Goal Setting: Know your goals 

Resist any desire to make changes to your websites right now. Before you touch one pixel on your site, know your goals first.

With goals, I mean 2 things.

The first are the goals of your business.

It’s important that whatever CRO tests you do, they are in line with the goals of your company. Which I assume you already have.

Secondly, identify what you want to accomplish with this audit.

There are many things you can change that affect conversion.

You can do them all in one swoop. If you want to go batsh*t crazy, that is. If you want to keep your sanity, I recommend taking it slow and working on one thing at a time.

So. Identify a goal you want to achieve with this audit.

For example, if you’re a SAAS company, your one goal may be to increase trial subscriptions. If you’re an eCommerce site, your one goal may be to increase sales. If you run an affiliate site, your one goal may be to increase Amazon conversions.

Here are some more examples of goals.

  • Increase sales
  • Generate more leads
  • Increase newsletter subscribers
  • Get visitors to fill out a contact form
  • Get target customers to go through the conversion funnel
  • Increase affiliate sales
  • Download a piece of content
  • Request a free trial
  • Increase upgrades from a free trial to paying account
  • Increase subscriptions from monthly to yearly
  • Increase chatbot conversions
  • Increase webinar sign-ups

II. Page Identification: Know which pages to optimize

My goal with this tutorial is to make it simple enough so you can quickly implement some changes.

One of the ways you can do this is to first only audit a few of your site’s pages so you can immediately work on them.

Here’s how you do this.

Pick 5-10 pages that directly contribute to the success of your goals.

For eCommerce sites, this could be the product pages. For affiliate sites, this could be the pages that target buying keywords. For lead generation sites, this could be a signup form.

If you’re not sure which pages to work on, a good rule of thumb is to find high traffic pages. Or the pages that target visitors who are at a higher awareness level in the buying cycle.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t optimize the rest of the pages. But if you want quick wins, start with the pages that directly affect your business. You can have more goals with other audits at another time. But for now, let’s take it slow.

III. Customer Analysis: Know the who, what, where & when of your website visitors

Conversion rate optimization is about understanding the psychology behind what makes your customers buy. This means that your site visitors drive the direction of your CRO tests.

This part of the audit gets you up close and personal with your customers.

Listen. Don’t skip this. This is the beating heart of your CRO audit. If you don’t do this, you’re better of going to the beach and drinking a mojito.

What could happen if you skip this? You’ll go down a rabbit hole of optimizations targeted at the wrong market. And you know what happens after that? Pages with dismal conversions and a river of broken dreams.

Ok. I got a bit melodramatic there. But that’s how important this part of the audit is. No pressure.

Ready to jump in? Let’s get to it.

If your business has a target customer profile written down, great!

You’re already making efforts to attract the type of people you want to serve.

However, when you do a CRO audit, you go deeper than this general customer profile. This time, you analyze their behavior. You dig into what they do when they’re on your site. Instead of what you think they’ll do.

You stop relying on your ideas. You get out of yourself and hand the baton to your customers. Let them do what they do and you learn from their behavior.

How do you do this?

Tools… This is where they come in.

CRO tools 

If you’ve never used this before, it may seem daunting. Using new tools and digging into Google Analytics is not exactly many people’s idea of a fun day. But many of the tools I show you here are simple to use even for the beginner. Plus, I’ll be here the whole time. So you’re in good hands. 😉

  1. Measure user behavior using heatmaps such as:
    • Hotjar
    • Heatmap.me
    • Optimizely
  1. Know your site’s metrics with Google Analytics (or any analytics tool)

What are Heatmaps

Heatmaps analyze user behavior. It gives you some insights on your users such as:

  • their clicking behavior – What do they click or not click?
  • how far they scroll down the page
  • what they look at on the site

And why do you need to look at these behaviors? Because they give you insights into

  • what frustrates your users
  • what they engage with on the site
  • the actions they take before clicking the add to cart button
  • the actions they take before they leave without engaging with you

As you can see, it has a lot of data that you can use. That’s all well and good. The only problem with heatmaps is that it doesn’t show you the why behind a behavior.

To help you with that, you can do customer surveys or interviews. 

This may take some time to organize, but surveys and interviews can give you a window into the why behind your users’ behaviors.

It’s not easy to conduct surveys on people who didn’t convert. But you can give it a try with an exit-intent popup.

For visitors who’ve become customers, get in touch with them and ask questions related to your CRO audit goal. So if you run an eCommerce business, you can ask questions about:

  • how easy the page was to navigate
  • how long it took them to decide to buy from you
  • how they found out about your company
  • whether they’d buy from you again

With that said, let’s not forget that surveys do not always lead to the real why behind user behavior. This is because sometimes people say what they think you want to hear and not necessarily what they really feel. This can affect your data. So don’t use surveys as the only basis of your CRO audit.

Google Analytics

Many of you use Google Analytics for SEO purposes. But it’s also a goldmine for conversion rate optimization (CRO).

So today, you’re going to look at this tool in a different way. You’re going to have a look at it through the lens of a conversion optimization analyst.

First things first. Is your Google Analytics properly configured to track user behavior and conversions?

Here’s the problem. It’s a great tool with lots of features. But out-of-the-box, it’s limited. You need to do some customizations to it. So make sure you’ve got everything properly set up. And you’ve customized it to include the metrics you need to track conversions.

The important key metrics to analyze are:

  • Age breakdown
  • Gender breakdown
  • New users vs. returning users
  • Device use
  • Page speed
  • Source of traffic
  • Conversion by acquisition
  • Landing page performance

Also, you should customize your analytics for some useful CRO insights. Set up the following:

  • Goals and funnel visualizations
  • Campaign tracking

With all these set up in your analytics, you’ll have a lot of data to go through to analyze user behavior. You’ll find some conversion opportunities, too.

IV. Website Analysis: Evaluate your landing page layout and design

All that research will now give you a better set of eyes to optimize conversions.

Here are some things you should have some data on at this stage:

  • Which are the highest traffic pages on the site
  • Where visitors spend a lot of time on a given landing page
  • Where the audience gets stuck
  • Which part of the page they bounce
  • The difference in conversions for age demographics
  • Which elements on-site are they clicking
  • How far are visitors scrolling down the page
  • The source of traffic and their conversion rate. Social media? Ads? Organic search?
  • Differences between desktop and mobile conversions
  • Pages visited before they get to the landing page
  • Exit rate

Knowing these things will help you decide where to focus your optimizations. You should gather data on all these things for every web page you audit.

Here’s what you need to do now for each page:

  1. First, open a new spreadsheet. Then on the first column, write the URL of the pages you’re auditing. In the second column, write the goal of each page. For the third column, write questions related to the page goal:
    • If the goal is to make more sales, your question might be, “Why are visitors not buying the product?”
    • If the goal is to get newsletter subscribers, your question might be, “Why don’t visitors subscribe to this form?”
    • If the goal is to get more paid users, your question might be, “Why are trial users not converting to paid users?”
  1. When you’ve done that, look at your analytics. Then on the fourth column, write the possible behaviors that may be stopping the goal from being reached. So for example if you’re auditing an eCommerce product page, you might write things like:
    • 95% of visitors bounce
    • Only 5% of visitors scroll below the fold
    • Only 2% of visitors who get to the CTA button click the button
    • 40% of buyers who click the button abandon the cart
  1. When you’re finished, write down possible reasons for the behavior you’ve listed on the third column. This is where it gets tricky. There’s no right or wrong answer here. You’ll have to use a bit of critical thinking to find possible reasons behind the visitors’ behavior. It may take a lot of thinking if this is the first time you’re doing it. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So if the data shows that the bounce rate is 95%, you can write in this column possible reasons why such as:
    • no message match between marketing and the headline
    • the value proposition is not clear
    • not easy for a visitor to understand what the page is about
    • it’s taking a long time to load
    • looks too cluttered

V. Collate data from your analysis

Got data and spreadsheet ready?

You’ve now got a spreadsheet of all the data you gathered.

But you’re not done yet. Now it’s time to audit the layout and design.

At this stage of the audit, you’ll look at three things:

  • SEO elements that affect CRO
  • UX Analysis
  • Copy
  • Sales Funnel

SEO elements that affect CRO

Some SEO elements also affect conversion rates. I’ll mention two that people often overlook :

  1. Site speed
  2. Meta title and description

Site Speed

Slow site speed doesn’t only affect your Google ranking but it also affects conversions. People no longer wait for slow-loading sites. And people who haven’t seen your page, don’t convert. So if your site has serious loading problems, work on that first.

Meta Title and Description

Meta titles and descriptions need to match the content on the page. If it doesn’t, people bounce as soon as they arrive. But when there’s a message match, people know as soon as they land on the page that they are in the right place.

UX Analysis

Optimizing user experience isn’t merely changing the layout and the structure of web pages. At the core of it is understanding the psychological experience of the reader as he navigates your site.

Good UX generates trust. It makes people feel safe and comfortable. And it encourages visitors to engage with your page.

Your Task

With that said, let’s get going with the website audit.

The question is, “When you optimize a page for user experience, how do you know which elements to change?”

Here are my tips:

  1. Go through each page you want to optimize.
  2. Look at the spreadsheet you made earlier.
  3. Now it’s time to analyze user behavior. This is an art and a science, so it’s not the easiest thing to do when it’s your first time. But it gets easier the more times you do it. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you analyze each page. Write answers to these questions on the next column of your spreadsheet:
    • Is it easy for a first-time visitor to understand what the page is about?
    • Is the experience smooth and fuss-free?
    • If a person leaves as soon as he arrives. What could the possible reasons be? Is their continuity from the ad to the landing page? Does the headline make it clear what the page is about? What type of first impression does the page create? Is it easy to scan the page?
    • Do people get to the bottom of the page where the call-to-action is without clicking? Why? Is there anything around that area that causes friction? Is it missing information to encourage trust like badges, testimonials or guarantees
    • Do they click the CTA but abandon it? Why? Is the shipping info clear? Is it clear what’s going to happen when they click the button? How about after they click the button?
  4. After you take a long hard look at your site pages, visit at least 5 competitive sites in the niche. Check out their site layout and design. Specifically, look at the following elements.
    • How do they organize their navigation? Can you find a common theme?
    • What do their forms look like? How much information do they require?
    • What are the different ways people pay on these sites?
    • What’s the payment process like?
    • What common elements do all the sites have?
    • Where do they put their reviews and testimonials?

Important Note: You’re not copying blindly here. You’re figuring out what works at the moment. It also allows you to use layout elements that are common in your industry. When you use these familiar elements on your site, it helps lessen your customer’s cognitive load. And that’s always good for conversions.

Copy

The copy is the meat and substance of any page.

You can only give birth to great copy when you do your preliminary research and get to know your customers well. When you know their motivations, then it’s easier to address them.

Initial research will give you an idea of where any doubts are possibly lurking. You’ll see where they get frustrated, stall, or leave.

As you do the audit using CRO tools, you’ll get some insights into their behavior. But tools can only go as far as telling you what your visitors do. It’s up to you to find out why.

To help you with this, let’s look at the elements of a page and what possible problems may be preventing conversions.

The headline/product title

Let’s say the visitor leaves as soon as he arrives.

This could mean a mismatch between the marketing copy (PPC ad, organic listing, social media post) and the copy above the fold.

If the ad says, “Learn Spanish in Tarragona!”, for example, the headline shouldn’t say, “Learn Spanish in Spain” without mentioning Tarragona.

Here are other potential questions to ask about an immediate bounce:

  • Does it clearly show the value proposition?
  • Does it clearly show the benefits?
  • If it’s an eCommerce product listing, is the title relevant to the product?
  • Are you attracting the right type of customers? This requires looking at your inbound strategy.

The Description

The visitor needs to know what he’s getting. Strategically place benefits and features in your product descriptions.

When the description clearly states what the person’s getting, you open the gates that take him to the conversion. So. Go through your product description and ask these questions:

  • Are the benefits clear?
  • Are the product features listed, too? Features get a bad rap. But when a person is at a much higher awareness level, he will want to know the features. If I’m buying a microscope, for example, you can tell me all the benefits all you want. But at the end of the day, I would still need to know what the magnification is.

Social Proof

When a visitor is at a higher level of awareness, social proof is important.

Third-party product reviews give a potential buyer the confidence needed to push through with the buying decision.

  • Is it easy to read the customer reviews?
  • Do the reviews support the main points/benefits of the product?
  • Are there trust badges and return guarantees?

The Call-to-action

Just because you’ve done the convincing doesn’t mean he’s going to buy from you. This is when your CTA button and the area around it gets to do some work. So don’t just slap it on as an afterthought.

  • Does it have elements around it that solidify trust?
  • Does it stand out from the rest of the page?
  • Does the copy tell the person what’s going to happen when he clicks it? Let’s see. Submit is not an ideal CTA button. Download My ebook would be much better.

Copy Audit Checklist

As you go through each page that you want to optimize, have a look at all the elements on the page. Particularly, observe and analyze these:

  • Is there an ad & landing page message match?
  • Does the page have one goal?
  • Do the headlines, subheadlines and descriptions clearly state what the page is about? Does it have your value proposition?
  • Are the forms easy to fill-in?
  • Is the Call-to-action clear and compelling?
  • Is there enough credible social proof?
  • Does the guarantee clearly communicate that there is no risk to the buyer?
  • What is the checkout process
    • Are there any personalization options available? Are there too many? Too few?
    • Is shipping information clear? How many days? What carrier? How much does it cost?
    • Are there any hidden fees?

Make the Conversion Rate Optimization Plan: Proposed Actions & Recommendations

Now you have everything you need. You’ve had a great look at the top 5-10 pages of your site. You’ve also got a list of the potential causes stopping people from converting.

You’ve already got in your hands all the things you need to make your conversion rate audit report. There are many ways to present this. But here’s an example of what each page might include.

The Goal

Increase the number of products sold

The problem:

The value proposition is not clear.

Hypothesis:

By making the value proposition clear, the customer knows what the page is about and how it benefits him. This will increase the likelihood of him scrolling further down the page to read more about the product.

Proposed Action:

Change the headline copy. Rewrite the headline to make the value proposition clear.

Moving Forward

So that’s it! Don’t you think you deserve a pat on the back for doing all that work?

You’ve got in your hands a data-backed CRO audit of your site.

Now you can take this audit to somewhere awesome. Don’t just leave this document in one of your computer’s folders never to be seen again. Let the real work begin. Start your A/B tests with a bang!

Author: Kurt Philip

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