What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action — be that filling out a form, becoming customers, or otherwise. The CRO process involves understanding how users move through your site, what actions they take, and what’s stopping them from completing your goals.

What is a conversion?

A conversion is the general term for a visitor completing a site goal. Goals come in many shapes and sizes. If you use your website to sell products, the primary goal (known as the macro-conversion) is for the user to make a purchase.  There are smaller conversions that can happen before a user completes a macro-conversion, such as signing up to receive emails. These are called micro-conversions.

Examples of conversions

Macro-conversions:

  • Purchasing a product from the site
  • Requesting a quote
  • Subscribing to a service

Examples of micro-conversions:

  • Signing up for email lists
  • Creating an account
  • Adding a product to the cart

What is a conversion rate?

Your site’s conversion rate is the number of times a user completes a goal divided by your site traffic. If a user can convert in each visit (such as by buying a product), divide the number of conversions by the number of sessions (the number of unique times a user came to your site). If you sell a subscription, divide the number of conversions by the number of users.

Conversion rate optimization happens after the visit makes it to your site. This is different from conversion optimization for SEO or paid ads which focuses on who clicks through to your site from the organic search results, how many clicks you get, and which keywords are driving traffic.

How to Calculate Conversion Rate

If a user can convert each time they visit the site:

Imagine we own an ecommerce site — Roger’s Robotics. A user could make a new purchase each session. We want to optimize so they make as many purchases as possible. If a user visited the site three times, that would be three sessions — and three opportunities to convert.

Let’s closer at our user’s three sessions and how they behaved:

  • Session 1: No conversion — user was familiarizing themselves with the site and poking around.
  • Session 2: User bought a shiny new antenna. This is a conversion!
  • Session 3: User came back and bought a new set of gears and a blinking light  — another conversion!  Even though they bought two items, this is a single unique order and thus counts as a single conversion.

To figure out our conversion rate, we would take the number of unique purchase orders and divide it by the total number of sessions.  

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