The Science Behind CRO

  ●   September 22, 2021 | Analytics
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September 22, 2021 | Analytics

This article is focused on common misconceptions around Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and how some businesses have a narrow view of what it can achieve for their business. If you haven’t done so already, I’d also recommend reading my previous article “What is CRO? And Why Do You Need It?”.

CRO Misconceptions

Now, to start off with some misconceptions I have put some common phrases below and why they are incorrect:

  • “CRO is about manipulating users to do what you want them to” – Generally speaking I’d say this is incorrect.  In reality, it’s easing the journey of those users that are already engaged with your website. You are aiming to make their lives as easy as possible so they reach your aim in the most logical and easy way possible.
  • “You have to be a developer to run a successful CRO tests” – CRO tests can range in complexity from simple A/B tests of button text and colour, to full scale page template redesigns using multivariate testing. We now have platforms available such as Google Optimize where anyone can make simple changes and for free!
  • It would be beneficial to learn a bit about JavaScript and HTML but initially it’s not an absolute requirement.
  • “Our site converts really well, we don’t need CRO” – CRO is not something you can “complete”. There will always be new insights and developments which can be reviewed. Over time your audience interactions may differ significantly, so adapting to this is important. Always review and listen to your data!
  • CRO doesn’t work, it’s just all coincidence” – You can approach CRO in a few ways and they have varied levels of success in our experience. Some approach it with gut feeling; we prefer to approach it with a bit more science. Psychology plays a role in everything we do, to support this we have listed some of our favourite “CRO Laws” that apply to our approach but you can read more here:
  • Aesthetic Usability Effect: When using a website, an aesthetically pleasing design is seen as more usable. Put simply, by making your site more appealing, more users will want to stay.
  • Hick’s Law: The time it takes to make a decision increases exponentially when complexity is increased and options are added. e.g. Complex navigations will have a negative effect on your users. Keep things simple!
  • Jakob’s Law: Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the others. Lessons can be taken from all sites and should be integrated where possible.

In summary, CRO can be a cost effective and easy way to improve your user experience across the site. You do not need to be a coding genius to run some tests but learning some additional code and some CRO principles will only benefit you in the long run.

SEO Considerations

Now when discussing the benefits of CRO, everyone I have spoken to focuses on the onsite benefits and don’t really consider the wider ramifications of their efforts on SEO. With the changes Google has made to their core algorithms, user experience and accessibility have become more and more important. Some considerations for this have been listed below:

  • Mobile First – First of all, Google has made their ranking algorithms focus on the mobile version of your website. This means if your mobile site is underperforming from an experience perspective you will see a negative impact in the SERPs. A common issue analysts run into is they never segment their data by dimensions such as device which means key issues can be missed.
  • User Reaction – In addition to your site setup, Google is also looking to understand how users are engaging with your website when they click through to your site from a SERP. If Google sees a number of users clicking on your site and leaving instantly back to the SERP, they will see that as a negative signal which feeds their algorithm. 
  • Additional Algorithm Influences – Google have stated UX is fundamental to a number of their new updates and algorithms besides their core algorithm (Page Experience Updates e.g.  June 2021 & for E-A-T signals). This continues to show how Google wants to ensure their users find the right content in ways that are easy and do not want to show difficult or underperforming content.

Getting The Data You Need

Now we’ve discussed CRO and why it’s important for SEO. I also want to give you some ways of how you can monitor your site and see how Google and your users are seeing your site. To help you get the data you need so you can prioritise your CRO efforts and analysis below I have shared some useful sites and platforms you can use:

  • Web.Dev Using web.dev you can get tangible results which will outline the issues you have with your website. This will take into consideration a range-elements including; How fast your website loads, how optimised your images are & how much additional javascript is included within the site. By resolving these issues, you will not only rank better but will also drive users to your site for you to take insights from.
  • Page Speed Insights – Page Speed Insights is another extremely powerful tool which Google have released to help webmasters to understand how their site is performing in a technical sense. Highlighting issues such as unused CSS, server delays and redirect issues you can gain some insight into key issues you need to address. Improving your result out of 100 here can generate invaluable organic improvements. You can also split these insights by device.
  • Hotjar – Hotjar is an extremely powerful tool to understand what users are doing on your site. By generating session recordings and heatmaps you can see what pain points your users are finding. By understanding this you can inform priorities for how you need to improve.
  • Google Analytics/Adobe Analytics –This is a bit more generic, but having a tracking solution in place to record data about your users is one of the most important elements of working on your website and it’s UX. Making data driven decisions is only possible with data. Diving into your collection of data by overlaying filters will help you find issues from your users so you can react effectively. 
  • Search Console –  Seeing your site from Google’s perspective, albeit a small sample, can be especially useful. Seeing your CTR for your top keywords can also help you prioritise your efforts for where you should start improving. You will also be able to get a light indication of rankings which can complement other platforms such as GetSTAT to understand if you have been negatively impacted.

Final thoughts

As final comments, it is extremely important to consider what else UX can influence. By understanding Google asigns weighting to sites with high performance you will be able to assign the required resource to bring in the expertise to improve on every aspect of your site from SEO content experience. 

A common issue we see, is very text heavy SEO optimised pages that are at the detriment of UX. Considering the big picture of an omni-channel approach is something that should always be considered.

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