Conversion Rate Optimization: What Is It, How It Works & Top CRO Tools

Updated: October 27, 2023
conversion rate optimization

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Conversion is an essential part of Digital Marketing. Even if you use various digital channels, the transition from lead to customer is very likely to happen on your site.

With that in mind, it’s important to create a strategy focused on optimizing website conversions over time to always achieve good results.

The name of this strategy is CRO. No matter the size of your business or your niche, CRO can help you dramatically increase your marketing ROI.

Follow along with this comprehensive guide to discover how you can master CRO!

In this guide, you will see:

    What is CRO?

    CRO stands for “Conversion Rate Optimization”, a strategy based on the constant improvement of website elements to attract and convert more users.

    For example, within your Digital Marketing strategy, it’s more likely that your site will serve as a prospecting and sales channel, where leads can request a quote or even hire a service.

    But of the total number of visitors, how many are actually becoming your customers? This number is your conversion rate.

    The underlying idea of CRO is to optimize your conversion rate. In other words, it aims to make your sales process more efficient, thus generating more money.

    This is mainly achieved through tests that help you understand what best encourages site visitors to take the desired action.

    There is a wide range of elements to test, as well as different ways to reach this goal. 

    However, the objective is always the same: to convince more people to reach the end of the purchase process.

    Why is CRO important?

    It is essential to understand that traffic to your site, even organic, has a cost. Thus, knowing what to do with your visitors is very important to achieving your marketing and sales goals.

    CRO exists to help you ensure that as much of that traffic as possible results in a sale and valuable opportunities are not lost because of errors in the conversion process.

    Here are three reasons to value what CRO can offer your company.

    Saves time and money

    It’s easy to see the impact that CRO can have on a business regarding the time and money spent to achieve results.

    After all, the higher your conversion rate, the less time it takes to reach your revenue goals.

    Increased results without increased work

    Consider the following scenario: you offer a SaaS product that costs $29.90 per month, with a conversion rate of 5% and a monthly average of 1,000 visits.

    This means that, for every 1,000 visitors who access the product’s landing page, 50 become customers, generating a monthly revenue of $1,495.00.

    After performing an A/B test, you discover that you can increase your conversion rate to 8% simply by changing the page’s background image. 

    What does this represent in financial terms?

    For every 1,000 visitors, you now have 80 new customers. This translates to $2,392.00 in monthly revenue, an increase of $897.00.

    Average ticket increase

    As it’s easier to sell to someone already using one of your products — the famous cross-sell —, you will soon see other opportunities to increase profits through CRO.

    Rather than simply thanking the customer for their purchase, a few tests and refinements to the checkout pages’ flow can help you provide useful recommendations to customers.

    In this case, a purchase may even double in value through a few small changes in how the products are presented.

    How does a CRO strategy work?

    Like any marketing strategy, CRO follows a method. The more committed you are to each step of the process, the better the results.

    Here are the basic steps to correctly apply CRO in a relevant way to your marketing strategy.

    Collect information

    Tests need to be performed based on collected data, not mere guesses or assumptions.

    Spend considerable time researching and gathering information that is useful for making the right changes and preventing your tests from failing to identify what works.

    There are several ways to collect this data, such as:

    • monitor metrics through analysis tools;
    • conduct user surveys on the page itself;
    • interview current customers about the product and purchase process;
    • perform usability tests.

    All of these options are useful for providing quantitative and qualitative data that will make your tests more accurate and successful.

    Look for opportunities in the data

    After collecting enough data, you still need to know how to interpret it to find opportunities to improve your conversion process.

    In other words, don’t just look at numbers, but try to understand what they say about your potential customer’s wants and needs.

    Why do users behave this way? What improvements could you make on the page to best suit them?

    Create tests to define the best solutions

    Once you have collected data and thought about improvement opportunities, testing — so important for any optimization — becomes much easier.

    A/B tests are a very straightforward method to identify what works best. The research done beforehand will increase the odds that these tests will generate useful data for your company.

    Optimize your strategy and track results

    As soon as you find the most effective variations in attracting customers, don’t delay putting them into practice. But once you do, continue to follow the results closely.

    Wrap up the test, choose the winning setup, and, where necessary, ask your web developer to implement any changes on the site.

    Repeat the optimization cycle

    Even if the whole process has been followed step-by-step, the market changes quickly, and the solution you have tested may only be efficient for a short time.

    Just because you’ve hit upon a variation that works today, it doesn’t mean that you should keep using it forever. Monitoring must be an ongoing process to ensure that you continue to achieve good results.

    With that in mind, a CRO strategy is not a one-off action or a temporary event. Rather, it is a consistent and permanent effort.

    The 10 essential concepts of CRO

    Contrary to what some people think, Conversion Rate Optimization is a science. Therefore, it must be tested and proven, not simply relying on guesswork.

    With that in mind, we’ve selected 10 concepts that will help you create pages that increase conversions. Don’t take our word for it; try them yourself!

    1. Elements that directly influence the conversion rate

    When presenting an offer, it’s necessary to call your visitor’s attention so that they feel safe and end up converting. 

    Unsure how to proceed? Just follow these tips:

    • value proposition: a person performs a cost-benefit analysis before taking any action on a page. So, ensure the value of what’s on offer is very visible;
    • clarity: there’s no point in having the best product in the world if users don’t understand what you are trying to sell. So make sure your visitors can clearly understand your solution as soon as they read it;
    • relevance: is the user really looking for what you are offering them? Ensure your offer is relevant to solving their problem;
    • anxiety: avoid elements that cause friction and insecurity for users. They must feel safe to convert;
    • urgency: with so much information in our daily routines, people’s attention ends up divided. Therefore, creating a sense of urgency for your offer is crucial for users to take action at the moment and not leave it for later;
    • distraction: there is a general tendency for people to feel terrified of blank spaces, a phenomenon referred to as horror vacui. When creating a page, avoid elements with no purpose, which can distract users and impede their conversion.

    2. Roberval balance

    The Roberval balance is a weighing device named after its inventor Gilles Personne de Roberval, a French mathematician, and physicist.

    Consider a scale, where each side corresponds to a page, and the goal is to maintain a balance.

    When making big changes on one side, there will be a large discrepancy between the two sides. It will lead to a decrease in conversion on the second and, consequently, a drop in the conversion rate of the experiment.

    Roberval balance

    3. Paradox of choice

    The paradox of choice is a theory created by the American psychologist Barry Schwartz.

    The idea is that too many choices can lead to individuals making less effective and satisfying decisions than they would have if they had fewer options from which to choose.

    So when creating a page, focus on offering only one option to the user. 

    That prevents them from falling into the paradox of choice, unsure of which course to take, resulting in leaving the site without taking any action.

    4. Loss aversion

    In general, people tend to be more sensitive to losses than gains.

    When presenting a customer with an offer, make it clear that, by not buying, they are risking losing money

    This has a greater effect than demonstrating that purchasing the product brings benefits.

    5. Immediate effect

    Due to our busy lives, people tend to prefer solutions that are immediate and quickly solve their problems.

    Thus, a clear and objective message can achieve a better result than a long one that requires careful attention.

    For example, simply listing the benefits of a product is likely to be more relevant than in-depth, descriptive paragraphs.

    6. Anchor effect

    When receiving information, people use it as a point of reference to make judgments about the following information.

    So, when you present a concept or an offer to a visitor on your website, that is likely to be interpreted as a fact. This directly influences the following decisions.

    For example, if a person asks you to repeat the word “white” several times, and then asks you what the cow drinks, the most common response is “milk”, instead of “water”.

    It demonstrates the impact of the first statement as a basis for answering the question.

    7. Serial position effect

    The serial position effect reveals that the first and last items in lists are more easily remembered than items in the middle.

    Putting relevant information at the beginning or end of a sequence can have a better effect than at the center.

    8. Mere-exposure

    This theory reveals that an individual’s positive action can be induced through familiarity.

    Imagine that, whenever a person sees a red car, they fondly remember their childhood because of the red car their grandparents used to drive to pick them up from school.

    As a result, whenever they see another product besides a red car, they tend to have a positive opinion of that product.

    This is often applied in beer commercials, which associate drinking with physically attractive individuals. 

    9. Conversion heuristics

    The conversion heuristic is an equation developed by the MECLABS Research Institute to explain how this process works. The formula that represents it is:

    C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) – 2a


    • C = conversion probability;
    • m = user motivation;
    • v = clarity of the value proposition;
    • i = additional incentive for action;
    • f = friction element;
    • a = anxiety element.

    This equation can be used to analyze whether a page meets users’ expectations for usability, with the ultimate goal of conversions.

    It’s worth remembering that, while important, heuristic evaluations should never replace tests., an institution focused on increasing knowledge of website usability, listed the advantages and disadvantages of using heuristic assessments, summarized in the table below:

    Conversion heuristics pros and cons

    10. Zeigarnik effect

    The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological phenomenon where incomplete tasks tend to receive more attention and stay on people’s minds longer than completed tasks.

    This is linked to the cliffhanger effect, a desire to know how a situation will end.

    Under the Zeigarnik effect, there’s a constant feeling of something you haven’t finished.

    In turn, the Cliffhanger effect causes you to keep thinking about how a sequence of events would have ended. This effect is common in soap operas, films, and TV shows.

    But for all of these concepts, it’s always important to run tests to prove their impact.

    The biggest mistake for CRO professionals is to think that there’s some magic formula so that any old practice can work. But for Conversion Rate Optimization, the maxim is: “No data, no talk.”

    Now that you understand the importance of the concepts listed above, it’s time to apply them to optimize your site’s conversion rate.

    How to optimize your conversion rate?

    Let’s put the theory into practice to optimize the conversion rate on your site.

    The following list contains 6 simple yet effective tips that can dramatically increase your results when applied correctly.

    Test versions of your landing pages at the same time

    Testing different versions of your landing page at the same time is certainly the best approach. After all, it allows variations to be tested under similar circumstances.

    When a test is performed sequentially with one version, then another, across all of your visitors, two main issues arise:

    • results can be influenced by an external factor and point to a conversion rate that does not reflect reality;
    • visitors may perceive the change as inconsistent, especially if tests are performed regularly on the page.

    Create a lead qualification process

    Lead qualification is crucial to increase your conversion rate. Conversions don’t happen overnight, especially if the goal is to sell.

    But in some cases, all a visitor is looking for is someone who can show them how the product works without having to go through the entire nurture process.

    Present this option through links and CTAs to chat with a sales representative or test a version of the product — if your business has a self-service model.

    Optimize your posts with the most traffic

    Your most popular posts are an excellent asset to attract more traffic to your blog, so make sure to use them to offer visitors something more.

    For example, creating a CTA relevant to the topic of the post — but also aligned with the main objective of your strategy at that moment — can help to increase your conversion rate.

    Use chatbots to improve service

    Chatbots are among the hottest trends in digital transformation. Companies willing to invest in this form of interaction can expect great results.

    Besides automating an important part of any company’s routine — providing help to interested parties — chatbots can handle this 24/7.

    Having “someone” helping and answering questions throughout the conversion process on a page is one of the best ways to navigate. That makes a huge difference in the visitor’s final decision.

    Automate workflows

    Creating automated interaction workflows for visitors and leads through marketing automation tools is another important way to ensure that the conversion rate keeps growing.

    Interactions, such as sending an email after a person takes a certain action on a page, help guide them through the buyer’s journey.

    Engagement will be much greater if leads are led through logical steps to discover that your product is the best option for them.

    Use remarketing to help keep the interest alive

    Retargeting is an incredible tool that allows a website to reconnect with a visitor, even through other pages.

    Suppose a visitor reached your landing page but, for some reason, did not accept the offer at the time.

    Through retargeting, they will be reminded of the offer when they access their favorite social networks or other websites. That can revive the possibility that they will return to your site and convert.

    All of these actions are practical and can be applied without great difficulty on your website or blog pages. Good CRO planning and patience are enough to successfully test any of these hypotheses.

    The 5 mistakes even experts make

    The benefits of CRO are clear, and you surely can’t wait to increase your conversions by applying the tactics listed above. But take care to avoid the mistakes they can lead to.

    Certain actions can quickly sabotage your strategy and undermine efforts to optimize results. Start by avoiding these 5 mistakes.

    1. Overestimating the reach of the CRO

    CRO is an incredible way to improve the conversion process. However, it cannot fix structural problems within your business, such as a bad product or a bad reputation in the market.

    To imagine that all of your company’s problems could be solved through A/B tests would be to overestimate this strategy’s scope, leading to eventual frustration.

    Try to understand if the reasons for low conversions have to do with factors on your site or deeper factors. That will help you determine if the issue can be resolved with CRO or not.

    2. Not having patience when testing a hypothesis

    Testing variations for a short time is like jumping the gun in an important race — you’ll need to start from the beginning and start all over again.

    Don’t rush to make decisions or changes, as missteps can lead to wrong changes and future losses.

    When the necessary time is taken, it’s possible to see if any differences found are consistent over time or only caused by an external event that changed the results.

    3. Not performing simultaneous tests

    Testing a variation for one week and ending it, then testing another for another week — this is a bad idea. A lot can change between test periods, and proper analyses require a reliable structure.

    The best approach is to run experiments simultaneously. Thus, all interactions occur in the same period, and the scenario is the same for both variations.

    4. Testing several variables at once

    You may think that testing several variables at once will increase the chances of optimizing the conversion rate or saving more time, but it’s not a good idea.

    If you change more than one element per test, how can you know what influenced the conversion? Instead, test only one change at a time.

    5. Applying tests from other sites

    What works for others won’t always work for you.

    As interesting as it may be to learn from competitors’ tests or other references in your niche, be careful not to imitate them.

    If you do a good job collecting your own data and researching how visitors behave, you’ll have all the resources you need to create good tests.

    The best CRO tools

    CRO tools should not be underestimated, as they will directly impact the information you will be able to collect.

    We have separated tools into 3 main groups that summarize the CRO process: metrics, research, and tests.


    1. Google Analytics: the best known and most widely-used metric analysis tool, it even offers its own A/B testing feature, called “experiments”;
    2. Mixpanel: Mixpanel offers a set of solutions to monitor user engagement, perform A/B tests, and understand how leads move through the sales funnel;
    3. Kissmetrics: Kissmetrics is a complete solution to identify why users convert — or not — and how to solve problems.


    1. Qualaroo: create targeted surveys for your website users to understand what they want and design your conversion process accordingly;
    2. SurveyMonkey: one of the most popular tools for creating user surveys, SurveyMonkey offers various features.
    3. Zonka Feedback: a powerful platform to create surveys and forms that enable you to measure CX metrics like NPS, CES, and CSAT and improve conversion rate.


    1. CrazyEgg: using heat maps, this software from Neil Patel offers a straightforward approach to understanding how users behave on-page;
    2. Optimizely: few alternatives compare to Optimizely when it comes to creating tests and personalizing the browsing experience to increase conversions;
    3. Unbounce: if your focus is to perform A/B tests on landing pages, Unbounce is the right tool for the job.

    Implementing Conversion Rate Optimization requires planning and patience. But it is certainly worth it when you consider the incredible results it can bring to your business.

    With this complete guide, you already have everything you need to get your hands dirty and start with everything!

    And if you’re looking to continue evolving your approach to conversions, download our interactive ebook and see how to rock your lead generation!


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