How to Defeat the Challenges of Conversion Optimization

Stephen Da Cambra

Stephen Da Cambra

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s Digital Marketing 101: online marketing success requires three things. First, you need a presence, which is your website, landing page, social profiles, etc.. Second you need to attract people to your site, which you do through search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising (PPC), social media, content, etc.. Third, you must convert those people, which you do with conversion rate optimization services.

Considering that if any one of those three things is missing, the rest of your digital marketing effort will be in vain, it can be said that each are of the similar import. (Your web presence is actually the most important because you will have zero results without it; while you might still get some results with it even if you have no devices of attraction and/or conversion optimization.)

If the above is a lesson in basic digital marketing, why does it seem that so few have learned from it?

maze with question mark

Estimates of the percentage of digital marketing budgets devoted to conversion optimization generally range from 1% to 5%.

In this 2015 Online Marketing Trends survey by Hubshout, SEO and web development are the top 2 online marketing services predicted to be most in demand this year. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) doesn’t even earn a mention. Website Analytics, a basic element of all CRO campaigns, comes in last at 10%. Yes, some web development, social media and content marketing could (should) have CRO elements, but the astonishing imbalance between how much of our marketing budgets are devoted to generating traffic and how much goes to converting that traffic is glaringly visible.

chart of top digital marketing services in demand for 2015

Even if you don’t agree that conversion should be an equal budget partner with presence and traffic-building, it’s a sad waste of your budget to spend only 1% of it to convert the people on whom you spend 99% of your budget getting them to your site.

The good folks at Unbounce show that for every online business’ digital marketing budget, there is a conversion optimization sweet spot. While it is different for each company, in every case there is a lowering of cost-per-acquisition (CPA) that corresponds directly to an increase in CRO budget, at least until you reach the sweet spot.

In their example, which is very plausible, the lowest CPA, or highest ROI for the digital marketing budget in question, occurs when 30% of the budget is spent on CRO (Isn’t it interesting how that corresponds to the idea we put forth earlier that CRO should be an equal budget partner with presence and traffic!)

chart showing the conversion optimization sweet spot

Three Reasons Why is CRO Doesn’t Get the Respect (and Budget) it Deserves

The fact that CRO delivers clear bottom-line benefits, but doesn’t get its fair share of digital marketing budgets leaves just one question: why?

The reasons are many, but they stem from the following:

  1. Web Marketing Departments and Companies – With ecommerce sales accounting from an ever increasing share of overall retail sales, a relatively low cost of online customer acquisitions and the efficiency of online lead generation, digital marketing budgets no longer suffer the uphill c-suite battles they endured in the past. Companies of all sizes and stripes are actively promoting themselves online.But digital marketing remains a victim of perhaps the greatest advantage it offers over more traditional marketing and advertising. Deep analytics means even neophytes are conversant with conversion rates, cost per clicks, bounce rates, etc.. Where we used to be happy when print advertising got more impressions, without any way of knowing exactly how and if that translated into increased sales or leads, we now demand detailed proof of direct bottom line results from anything we do online.That puts pressure on digital marketers to prove performance. The idea that more traffic means more sales is very simple, easy to consume and true. When pressed to demonstrate that what they do is worthwhile, digital marketers quickly point to traffic numbers. And they push SEO and PPC stats at you because it is so relatively easy to show success through an uptick in traffic.web traffic meme
  2. CRO Mystique – The over-emphasis on SEO and PPC creates a vacuum of information and knowledge about CRO. Eager to get you to accept traffic as the exclusive benchmark of achievement, web developers produce landing pages, blogs, videos, webinars and all sorts of other content that sings the praises of search engine marketing, and precious little about conversion optimization. The result is the aforementioned familiarity most people have with generating traffic and the sad lack of understanding how to convert that traffic.
  3. CRO is Massive and Infinite – To be fair, it is far easier to explain and demonstrate traffic increases with SEO and PPC than it is to do the same for CRO. The conversion funnels, cognitive progressions and persona development that are among the many devices of CRO are not always easy concepts to convey. It’s also difficult to know where to begin your CRO and no one has ever reached the end.

Three Ways to Make Sure You Get the CRO You Need

CRO tactics are the vitamins and nutrition in your digital marketing diet. They keep your marketing healthy and give it energy. And here’s how to get a more balanced marketing diet that includes all the CRO goodness your company needs:

  1. Find a Web Developer or Digital Marketing Company that Prioritizes CRO – It may not be as easy as finding those who will show you lots of great traffic performance, but if you hear them talking about conversion rates in their pitch, they are worth listening to.
  2. Give CRO the Budget Space it Needs to Breathe – If your digital marketer or marketing department spends 5% on CRO, specify that you would like to see a larger proportion of the budget devoted to CRO. How much is up to you and, as we saw earlier, the CRO “sweet spot” varies in each case. If you are using the average 5% now, doubling it to 10% is probably a good start. Make sure you track all the changes, including loss of traffic due to reduced search marketing and increases in conversion rates and decreases in acquisition costs due to more CRO.
  3. Make CRO the Basis of Everything You Do Online – This sounds like a giant leap with the potential for an over emphasis on CRO. But when CRO is part of everything you do online, from your sitemap and navigation paths, to the wording of your PPC ads, instead of worrying about where to start, you’ve already begun and it will be much easier to set-up and manage an active and ongoing CRO program.

CRO is not a magic pill that instantly produces results. But it has that potential. A potential that you will never realize unless you give CRO the chance to work.

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Stephen Da Cambra

Stephen Da Cambra

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