There's hardly a single website owner who's satisfied with their conversion rate. But in the pursuit of surpassing either your site's average or established industry conversion limits, it's quite easy to get disappointed in all those best practices the internet repletes with.
Raising conversions is truly an uphill battle. Hence, what you need is a solid, thought-through strategy with data-informed decisions. It means conversion rate optimization always starts with an audit. It's a sizeable chunk of work, and no wonder so many skip this phase while trying to optimize conversions. But, frankly, it's mandatory.
We're here to lighten this burden. We've dissected this huge task and compiled a universal 7-step CRO audit checklist fitting any type of website, be it an online store or landing page for a service, SaaS products or online courses, B2C or B2B segment, etc. If you are to carry out your own CRO audit, this is a ready-made plan to follow. If you're more inclined to get professional assistance, you'll know what to expect.
Table of Content
1. What Is a Conversion Rate Optimization Audit?
Achieving a higher conversion rate is a centerpiece of any optimization strategy. And if you succeed in CRO, then other KPIs improve too: the cart/checkout abandonment rate drops, the revenue per user increases, customer acquisition costs go down, and so forth. Of course, if you identify page CRO opportunities right.
Here comes the need for a comprehensive conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit. Basically, it's a 360-degree scrutiny of the user experience, performance, and content to detect what exactly hinders website visitors from converting. It's also about getting to know your prospective customers better, creating hypotheses, and prioritizing them to perform CRO as effectively as possible.
1.1 Why not Use CRO Tips from the Internet?
Some conversion rate gains may happen even if you apply some random tips and tricks. It just strengthens the urge to skip such a labor-intensive part as an audit. But we strive for significant and sustainable results, right?
Boosting the user experience is a top measure to improve the CR. So CRO is pretty much about a profound understanding of your potential customers in all aspects: demographics, preferred touchpoints, on-site behavior, needs, and pain points. It's data analysis that makes this bigger picture clear and helps opt for tactics tailored for a concrete website and its unique audience.
Don't get us wrong; conversion rate optimization guides can be extremely useful. We also have them on the blog to bring new ideas and inspire businesses to explore their options: e.g., check out this one on. The thing is, we always propagate how vital the initial research is.
1.2 Advantages of a CRO Audit
So, what definitely happens in the course of an audit is many revelations auspiciously affecting the business. Taking examination seriously grants you opportunities to:
- Detect conversion hurdles;
- Outline a successful optimization process;
- Reduce the number of risky business decisions;
- Look at the website data from a fresh perspective;
- Identify your site's strengths and weaknesses;
- Portray buyer personas with more clarity;
- Create a more precise customer journey;
- Come up with new technical, marketing, and content ideas;
- Invest money in the right solutions;
- Improve the customer retention strategy;
- Cut acquisition costs;
- Stay competitive in your niche.
1.3 Which Websites Don't Need a CRO Audit (for Now)
A primary prerequisite for a CRO audit is a sufficient dataset to analyze. That's why there's no use in running full-fledged research for these two website categories:
- Brand new sites that haven't accumulated considerable data array yet;
- Small sites with not enough traffic to draw data-based conclusions.
A good starting point for a CRO audit is 10,000 monthly users and more for several consecutive months.
1.4 How Often Should I Conduct a CRO Audit?
It takes a systematic approach and ongoing monitoring to further improve the efficiency of the conversion funnel. Experts recommend running conversion rate audits and optimization cycles once every 6-12 months. Does it seem too often? Well, consider these arguments in favor of such a schedule:
- The market landscape is ever-evolving: new competitors, products, technologies, and tools emerge all the time, and companies need to keep up with it.
- Your business goals are shifting: after introducing new products or services, developing new site features, adding promotion channels, or correcting major objectives, you also need to revise the way you boost conversions.
- The target audience is changing: it concerns its habits and preferences as well as the audience structure itself. Some segments might no longer be interested in your brand, while others can join the customer base.
- You're keeping tabs on the site's key performance indicators: audits help to be perfectly aware of how it is going with your site's metrics, UX, and performance.
2. How to Perform CRO Audit?
Like any other optimization, CRO doesn't bring about overnight success; it improves conversions incrementally. The more we're mindful of each step, the better conversion rates we reach down the road.
2.1 Define Goals and Metrics
First and foremost, we have to determine what we're aiming for conversion-wise and what we'll be measuring at the start and after the CRO is done to track the progress.
Let's talk about desired conversion actions, so-called micro and macro conversions. Surely, your ultimate goal should be increasing the number of closed deals. But we advise not to overlook those smaller ones: completing them is nice as it signifies your leads get warmer and closer to the main conversion goal.
Conversion types (and the metrics, respectively) differ depending on the industry you represent. Let's take eCommerce sites, SaaS providers, and lead-generating platforms as examples.
An eCommerce site
- Macro conversions: transactions.
- Micro conversions: creating accounts and wish lists, newsletter subscriptions, sessions with product views/adding items to a cart/moving to the checkout page.
- Some metrics to track: conversion rate, cart/checkout abandonment rates, exit rate, average session duration, and customer lifetime value, among others.
A SaaS site
- Macro conversions: transactions, subscriptions, or app downloads.
- Micro conversions: demo requests, trial sign-ups, lead magnet engagements, webinar registrations.
- Some metrics to track: conversion rate, bounce rate, exit rate, and average session duration, among others.
A Lead-generation site
- Macro conversions: form submissions.
- Micro conversions: calls, live chat/chatbot conversations, lead magnet engagements, webinar registrations.
- Some metrics to track: conversion rate, bounce rate, exit rate, and average session duration, among others.
Okay, but what target conversion rates should you bear in mind? It, of course, largely depends on your ambition, current site's figures, and readiness to invest time and money in the audit and, later, the CRO itself.
One more factor is the indicators across industries that fluctuate quite considerably. For instance, take a look at what conversions are like globally in various B2C eCommerce sectors (Statista, 2023). The average website conversion rate ranges from 0.6% to 3.1%. Besides, conversions noticeably vary depending on the region and device type. Take it all into account when deciding on the target macro CR.
2.2 Focus on the Sale Funnel's Bottom
Most websites have a multipage structure, but does it mean you need to revise all pages? Actually, no. If it's a single landing page, it's simple. For the rest of the cases, CRO experts recommend highlighting several pages and starting backward: not from the top but from the bottom of your sales pipeline.
It's pretty reasonable. Owing to this approach, we'll find (and later eliminate) more costly hindrances, preventing leads with higher intent from converting. We'll see the first results faster as well.
What are these impactful web pages?
- Landing pages as they promote your products/services and are meant to convert;
- Product pages as they hugely influence the purchase decision;
- Cart and checkout as they're the very last steps before the conversion.
Having enough resources, you can expand efforts on other web page types too:
- Home pages and others bringing the most traffic;
- Pages with the highest bounce/exit rate;
- Pages with the worst conversions (including micro ones).
2.3 Explore Google Analytics Data
Many website owners feel overawed by this epic part of the audit. We feel you: it's super easy to get lost in all these metrics, reports, and options. But since data is essential for this undertaking to be successful, let's try to figure out what to do with all this stuff.
So, Google Analytics is indispensable for obtaining insights. Here are some essentials to monitor and investigate:
- The site's health index: all the major KPIs and compare the performance with the previous time periods.
- The user flow: how leads move down the funnel and where they unfortunately stop.
- Touchpoints' and devices' performance: which are better and worse at converting.
Remember, we were talking about small but important interactions with the website. To make tracking micro conversions easier, set them as goals in Google Analytics. Here's what you can make a goal:
- Visiting selected pages (for instance, a product page):
- Visiting a certain number of pages per session (e.g., more than 3);
- Spending a significant amount of time on the website (for example, more than 1, 5, or 10 minutes);
- Interacting with a site in a specific way (it's called an event): scrolling 30% of the page, pressing a button, clicking on the link, playing a video, etc.
You'll see how often site visitors perform these actions. And if the numbers are lower than expected, you'll know there's a need for changes in the given areas.
There are a couple of extremely helpful reports to delve into as well. These are the Path and Funnel reports:
- Path exploration (also known as behavior flow) is a powerful user behavior analysis technique visualizing the user journeys of your site visitors from the session start till the drop-off.
- Funnel exploration is the report focusing on your established pipeline and demonstrating how many users finally convert, how many bounce, and at what stages.
2.4 Do the UX Research
This phase of the CRO audit allows us to get more well-versed in the intricacies of the user journey. If Google Analytics shows off WHAT'S going on, the UX audit methods can shed light on WHY website visitors don't convert. User behavior research helps us decipher these reports more effectively and offers fresh insights into what prospects experience while browsing your site.
- Heat mapping
Heat, click, scroll, and mouse movement maps collect data on real user experience on the given landing pages/site pages. These maps visualize the areas of the highest and lowest interest. Therefore, they help address questions like "Do people notice CTAs and links?", "How far do they scroll down product/landing pages?", “Which page content/areas draw the most and least attention?”
- Session recordings
Another highly effective CRO audit practice is studying user session videos. You can observe how actual prospects perceive the site, how they act, what confuses/irritates them, where and why they diverge from the expected conversion funnel, and so on. Watching footage may prompt something is wrong with your navigation, option selectors, or checkout structure.
- User feedback
Customer support cases and conversations are precious, adding more depth and clarity to your UX audit. You can also try and carry out surveys on what can be improved on the site. But don't rely too much on this means because people are typically reluctant to engage in such activities.
- Usability testing
Basically, it's when UX/UI specialists observe how users from a previously formed focus group navigate the site and complete different tasks. One more technique of this kind is user interviews.
- Your own user journey
A good exercise for your team is going through the funnel yourself. It helps to look at the website from users' viewpoint.
2.5 Redefine the Target Audience
This item on a list might surprise you. Like, of all this stuff, your clientele is the most well-studied thing you're confident about. But is it? When was the last time you made customer segmentation? Do you have buyer personas described in detail? And what about the customer journey map (CJM)?
Your customer base may change over time, so revising it once in a while is wholesome for the business. The more granular your analysis is, the more accurate the following CRO and the higher ROI of conversion improvements will be.
Personas are segments of your typical customers sharing some characteristics: demographics (age, gender, income, etc.), interests, goals, needs, desires, and fears. If you understand these peculiarities correctly, you build a more seamless pipeline. Otherwise, your optimization efforts in UX/UI design, marketing, tech, content, and SEO aspects will be pretty much in vain.
A CJM models a user journey for each client group and considers the whole funnel, from awareness to a completed purchase to granting customer loyalty. Each step is described in terms of:
- Customer goals;
- Customer actions;
- Thoughts and feelings;
- Customer issues/fears;
- Ideas/opportunities for improvements on each step.
Last but not least, when investigating your target audience: don't forget to zero in on traffic channels and used devices. Google Analytics will be your best ally throughout the process.
2.6 Run a Technical Check-up
Next up on our CRO audit checklist is the tech audit. From a visitor's perspective, there's no point in tolerating your site's lags and glitches if they can easily turn to the next website in the SERP. Here are two aspects worthy of the closest attention:
- Does the website pass the
CWVs account for three essential dimensions of the UX: loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability. So, being optimized for CWVs, your landing page or site will provide a better customer experience. ?
- Is the website mobile-friendly?
Sites tend to perform worse on smartphones than on PCs and laptops. In the meantime, global mobile traffic exceeded that on desktops years ago. So, almost all websites simply don't tap into its potential. See how Ikea's mobile performance falls behind compared with the desktop version.
By the way, we have a guide ondiscussing paradoxical statistics, our CRO experience, and opportunities for mobile sites to win more customers.
2.7 Analyze Website Content
The content itself may be the reason why users don't turn into customers on your website. So, what potentially poses a threat to conversions?
- Mismatches between the promo messages and actual offers;
- No strong message match between the message and the audience it's meant for;
- Unclear CTA wording;
- Weak value proposition;
- Unstructured, bloated product descriptions and other copy;
- Images of poor quality;
- Lack of social proof and/or case studies;
- Insufficient SEO work.
Each piece of content must consistently uphold the overall concept of your brand so that people don't perceive your website as a hotchpotch of messages and offers.
At this stage, your CRO audit is pretty much over! Now, you won't act on a hunch. Instead, you can confidently ramp up your efforts and complete conversion rate optimization successfully. Lastly, let's discuss the further optimization process.
3. Next Up: Ideate, Prioritize, and Test Hypotheses
These are climax moments on this enthralling CRO journey. The data collected and processed during the adit nudges us in the right direction, helping to form viable hypotheses: fact-based ideas that are yet to be proved.
Here is an example. Let's say your online store experiences a high checkout abandonment rate. The CRO audit revealed that X percent of potential customers start to fill out the first form and bounce before moving to the next page. Then your hypothesis might sound something like this: "If we replace a multipage checkout with a one-page structure, we'll increase conversions at least by X percent".
Sure enough, you'll come up with dozens of ideas. However, it can be quite costly to test and implement them all at once. Then comes the need to prioritize them, primarily by an anticipated effect and then by needed investment and complexity.
Besides, a perfect conversion optimization implies conducting A/B or multivariate tests of an altered product/checkout/landing page against the old one. Split testing results further deepen knowledge about your leads' behavioral patterns and help choose a better solution for implementation.
Do Not Skip Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Audit
If digital presence is crucial for your organization, you're always on the lookout for new conversion strategies to boost sales and customer satisfaction. But conversion optimization can't be an impromptu undertaking if you're aiming at results beyond mediocre; a structured CRO audit must be an integral part of the process. It's even more vital if you see conversions falling, try to raise them using random tips, and want to get out of this vicious circle. In case you're ready to entrust pros with data collection and analysis, Onilab'sare at your disposal.