A CMO’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) in 5 Minutes or Less

Checkered flag for user conversion on a website.

SEO without CRO is like running a race but never crossing the finish line. Sure, you have traffic, but are they converting into leads and revenue?

The ultimate goal of a successful digital marketing program is sales. It starts with driving traffic through many digital channels, like organic search, and ends with more revenue. If you’re a CMO interested in conversion rate optimization, keep reading.

In this post:

What Is a Conversion?

A conversion is when a visitor to a website completes a desired action that either brings them closer to a sale or to an actual sale. Micro conversions include small steps, like downloading an ebook, while macro conversions create revenue, like purchasing a product.

Examples of a micro conversion:

  • Sign up for an email list
  • Download a content asset
  • View a video

Examples of a macro conversion:

  • Request a service quote
  • Buy a service or product
  • Subscribe to a service

In the SEO world, we want to know what conversions happened as a result of the organic search channel. This could be newsletter sign-ups, or revenue from sales, or other. Whatever the desired action, SEOs need to quantify how much the organic search channel contributed.

By the way, according to BrightEdge research, the average share of revenue from the organic channel is now more than 50% for B2Bs and tech companies and 36% to 41% for others.

Research on organic share of revenue.

No matter how much companies invest in building websites, no matter how many engineers they hire, no matter how much money they invest in driving visitors to the website … if visitors do not convert, none of that matters.

–Khalid Saleh, CEO of Invesp and Bruce Clay Inc. CRO partner

What Is a Conversion Rate?

Conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors that have completed the desired action out of the total number of visitors.

To calculate a conversion rate, take the total number of conversions divided by total website visitors. So say you had 100 visitors, and 10 of them bought a pair of jeans. You’d calculate the conversion rate as 10 / 100 = 0.10, or 10%.

A good conversion rate varies based on the type of marketing channel and industry. My sources at Invesp shared data that shows the following conversion rates on average per marketing channel for enterprise ecommerce sites:

  • Paid ads, branded: 7%
  • Email: 6%
  • Organic: 3.8%
  • Paid ads, generic: 1.5%
  • Social: 0.8%

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization & How Does CRO Relate to SEO?

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is the practice of optimizing websites so that more visitors convert.

SEO and CRO have a symbiotic and cyclical relationship. Conversion optimization can help SEOs:

  • Maximize the opportunity of traffic
  • Get insights about how webpages are performing from search
  • Create trust among an audience, a key criterion in Google’s E-A-T
  • Improve rankings

Wait, did I just say CRO can actually improve search rankings? Let me explain. When you drive organic traffic to a webpage that does not offer a good user experience, your chances of converting those visitors are slim to none. What you do have is a good chance of their leaving your site rather quickly.

This high bounce rate, in turn, may cause search rankings to suffer, thanks in part to Google’s RankBrain. RankBrain applies machine learning to determine the best search results based on a variety of factors.

And clicks to a webpage along with engagement on that page could, over time, impact rankings. The question Google is trying to solve is: If no one is clicking on a result or not many people are staying on the site, is it a good search result worthy of top rankings?

So SEOs are concerned with driving clicks and keeping people on a webpage, too. That’s where having a whole-SERP SEO strategy to get more visibility in the results (more chances for clicks) or optimizing meta tags for a better click-through rate can help.

How to Get Started with CRO

A good place to get started with CRO is by looking at your most important or high-performing pages. Which pages drive the most traffic? Which pages are key to conversions?

Then you’re going to dive into a four-step process that you can read more about in our conversion rate optimization tutorial.

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Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay, Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and other social networks from Bruce's author page.
Comments (4)

4 Replies to “A CMO’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) in 5 Minutes or Less”

You have very logically explained how conversion rate optimization can have a positive impact on search rankings as well. Having a good user experience can increase leads and also improve rankings.

Search Engine Optimization play an important role to increase your CRO.

I need good conversion rate for my Income Tax business website. This should help me with my local SEO.

Owner CEL Financial Services
IRS Registered Tax Preparer
Registered bonded California CTEC Tax Preparer

Your Dummies book took me from dunse to doyen in just over a week, or perpahs that’s a little pompous of me. On SEO you are great. What you’re touching on here is marketing because converting is all about combining content with meaning and quality with a vistors preconceptions, which vary with people and markets. A lightweight be profound (and old) book covers this nicely – Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind Ries/Trout. It is not the whole story – site needs to give not just take. I like the work you do. Haven’t used your principles on my site – not a good example – going to be working on it.

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