Why (and How) We Spend $35,000 on Website CRO Each Year


We spend $35,000 a year on our website. That’s more than every other marketing tactic combined. 

For a big company that might not sound like much but for Tuff it’s a big deal. 

And as the owner of a growth marketing agency, it’s a tough call to make. Especially when I could reinvest that back into my team and the people responsible for our growth. Or use it to supercharge our reporting. Or build out a new service. 

So, with full intentionality, website conversion rate optimization (CRO) is something we prioritize because it’s the one tactic that has consistently grown our business. 

Disclaimer: we’re by no means claiming that we have the best or most highest-performing website on the block (or even that our process is perfect). But what we are saying is that we dedicate significant time and resources to continually improving our site because it works. Applying this process to incremental site improvements has shown us real, measurable results. And we hope this process can help you do the same!

How We’ve Grown Tuff (and our clients) By Focusing on Website CRO

When it comes to growth marketing, there are two types of tactics we’re focused on: acquisition (getting the right traffic) and conversion (getting that traffic to do something). 

Acquisition channels help you get traffic, which is great. Then what? 

Increasing traffic—especially when that traffic is composed of relevant audiences—is a huge part of your early growth goals and the strategies you put in place to achieve them. Once you’ve figured out the traffic equation, half the battle is over. But that does mean half the battle remains, and that comes down to conversion rate optimization, or CRO.

So when it comes to CRO, we focus in on two main things: 

  • Our website (currently at a 1.09% CVR) 
  • Our sales process 

More to the point:

  • Once someone gets to our website, what happens next?
  • How do you get site visitors to do something?

And also:

  • How do we do our best to answer prospects’ questions in the sales process?
  • How can we give them all the information they need to make an informed decision?

Our 5-Step Website CRO Process

While our website CRO process is now a well-oiled machine, it took us a few years of in-the-weeds hard work to hone and refine it. And, while it still requires a concerted effort to make notable impacts on our CRO month after month, it’s so incredibly important. 

Even if your website is significantly different from ours, or you exist in a totally different industry, this battle-tested process can help anyone improve their site whether you’ve got $35k a year to spend or not. 

  1. Figure out the most important metrics.
  2. Identify areas to optimize.
    • Revisit your competitors and value props 
    • Use conversations with your audience to get better 
    • Study Google Analytics – common paths and top pages 
  3. Make a list of monthly priorities. 
  4. Execute 
  5. Measure, rinse & repeat.

But before we dive deeper, a quick note about our approach. 

With website CRO, there are essentially two approaches to take: 

  1. Make bold changes that will drive more profit and you get fast, measurable results.
  2. Make small, continuous tweaks each month to keep your site strong and lead to incremental increases in conversions over time. 

Both have merit, but the second one is the one we at Tuff are passionate about. Small, ongoing adjustments, implemented fast, give you better CRO results. It’s the one we’re going to focus on for this post. 

Let’s dive in! 

1. Figure out the most important metrics

Before you start outlining updates for your website, make sure you’ve set clear goals you’d like to achieve – even if you don’t have much data to base them on.

For Tuff, we focus on the below metrics and study them monthly: 

  • Conversion rate (CVR): this can exist at numerous stages of the customer journey, but in this instance we’re talking traffic to conversion. Examples include: traffic to purchase (eComm), traffic to sign up (B2B, tech, SaaS), traffic to install (mobile app), etc.
  • Time on site: duration of site visits.
  • Bounce rate: how fast site visitors leave.
  • Entrance page/user journey: which pages get the most entrances? This helps you understand which pages are providing traffic (service pages, blog posts, etc.). You can find common paths and determine which pages to improve as a “first impression.”

CVR is such a key metric because it allows you to reduce costs by getting more out of the traffic that’s already coming to your website. By improving your conversion rate you can increase revenue per visitor and lower your overall customer acquisition costs. Ultimately, there’s a CVR threshold you’ve got to get to in order to be profitable. Part of the challenge is honing in on what exactly that is. 

website conversion rate from google analytics

But let’s start with the basics. Here’s how to measure the impact of increasing your CVR:

  • If a website has a conversion rate of 5% and receives 5000 visitors a month, then the website will generate 250 conversions per month. 
  • If you can improve the conversion rate to 7% by making regular improvements, you jump up to 350 conversions from the exact same amount of traffic. 

It can be hard to know what a “good” conversion rate is and honestly it depends on your stage, service, and revenue but to help, we put together a spreadsheet with the conversion rate for some of the businesses we work with to give you a starting point. 

Once you get familiar with this kind of data, it will help you interpret your own.

2. Identify areas to optimize

The next step is to get your team together and build your user acquisition channels list – write it down, type it out, drop it into Google Sheets, whatever you want to do. Don’t worry if it’s unorganized or sporadic, you can swing back in and restructure it later.

We generate ideas by going to a handful of different places for inspiration: 

  1. Revisit our competitors and value props 
  2. Use conversations with our audience to get better 
  3. Study Google Analytics — common paths and top pages 
    • Entrances!  

Revisit our competitors and value props

We start by pulling up our competitor websites and studying how they articulate their services with copy and design. These findings help us inform/bring detail to:

  • How we position our offering (copy) 
  • How we weave in our value props visually (design) 

Then, we revisit our value props (here’s our value proposition spreadsheet if you want to use it as an example). While our value props don’t change on a monthly basis (we update yearly), we do this because it reminds us of the unique ways we solve a partner’s “problem” and how to stay true to that. 

Use conversations with our audience to get better

This comes pretty easy to us because I manage our website and run our sales team. We get between 50-60 leads per month and have conversations with anywhere from 8-10 of those leads. During these calls, we ask a ton of questions and get asked a ton of questions. 

After each sales call, I write down the major questions and look for patterns. If the same group of questions continues to surface, we start to think about why and then look for ways to incorporate those learnings into the site so that our language reflects what our target audience is actually saying (vs what we think they are saying). 

If the team or person managing your website isn’t close to your sales team or in a position to talk regularly to your target audience, change that! 

Study Google Analytics — common paths and top pages

As a growth marketer, I’m in Google Analytics at least 10 times a day. Every time we get a notification that someone has submitted a form on our website, I jump into GA and take a look at two things: 

  • Where they came from (source) 
  • What they did

This helps me understand how traffic from different sources behaves as well as the most common paths to conversion. We have over 300 pages on our website and we can’t afford to optimize all of them so I use this information to decide what the priority pages should be. 

website entrances from google analytics

We also always look at the entrances (vs pages with the most sessions). This is really important for us because it helps us understand what pages people see for the first time. Is it a blog post? Is it a landing page? Is it our homepage? Again, with this information we can prioritize what people see first and how to guide them through different funnels and paths on the website.  

Using the above information—competitor research, value props, conversations with prospects and existing clients, and Google Analytics—we build a big list of optimization ideas and put those down on paper each month.  

3. Make a list of monthly priorities

So you have a big list, now what?

Even lean testing means an entirely new suite of copy, design, dev resources, and outputs, so it’s important to be intentional about how you and your team spend your time on your website.  

One way to manage your monthly optimization tests and increase the chances of success is to spend time upfront evaluating each proposed update—the idea is to test and get early access to good opportunities, but you can’t do everything.

So we take our list of ideas and ask: 

  • How likely is it to increase our conversion rate?
  • How easy is it to implement the test?
  • Will it have an impact on our site traffic? 

Once we’ve prioritized the 6-7 tasks (one big one and a handful of smaller optimizations) for the month, we add the tasks to our Website Trello Board. 

website optimization trello board

Then, we divide and conquer the work. Right now, we have someone responsible for each of the below roles: 

  • Strategy & Project Management: Responsible for identifying the areas to optimize, prioritizing to-dos, and keeping us on schedule 
  • Copy: Responsible for helping us write copy for the site that captures our value props and tone 
  • Design: Responsible for taking the copy and visualizing it (we use InVision to build wireframes and mocks) 
  • Development: Responsible for building out the mocks in staging and then pushing live

4. Execute

When it comes to website CRO, or any growth marketing tactic for that matter, even the best strategies can fall flat if you don’t see it through with solid execution. We take a very disciplined approach to website CRO and keep our entire team accountable to a schedule that helps us produce higher quality optimizations on a monthly basis. 

Here’s an example of a typical timeline looked like for last month’s website optimization: 

  • Identified June priorities by May 21 
  • Met with web team to review on May 24
  • Finalized copy by June 1 and added to Trello
  • Built wireframes for each optimization 
  • Held first staging period from June 7 – 11 
  • Mid-month check in
  • Held second staging period from June 21 – 25 
  • Identified July priorities by June 22 
  • Final review of June edits 

5. Rinse and repeat

We follow this process every month because we believe action produces momentum and you can speed things up by actively making updates (small and large) each month. It’s a lot of work (it’s more of a time commitment than a financial one) but right now, for us, it’s worth it. 

website wireframes

I also feel like we’re only really scratching the surface and as we grow we will look to iterate and expand on our website CRO process. Here are some of the new things I’m excited about implementing this year that we aren’t currently doing: 

  • Talking to people who came to the site but didn’t fill out a form 
  • Asking people (not people that work at Tuff) to review our competitor sites and give us feedback 
  • Building out wireframes and getting feedback from existing clients before pushing live 

I’d also love to hear what website CRO process your team has been using. What has worked well for you? 

Thanks for reading! I hope you picked up one or two new tips and tricks for your website CRO process. If you want to bounce some ideas or learn more about the process outlined above, let’s talk. 

Planning a website update on a white board.

Increase Your eCommerce Conversion Rate with 72-Hour CRO Sprints

Planning a website update on a white board.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and examples for you to use! 

When you sell services, products, or platforms online one of the most important metrics is your website conversion rate. It tells you what percentage of your site visitors are converting to customers. 

Despite the importance of a website conversion rate, in our experience, the metric can get overlooked.


For Tuff, website conversion rate is one of the first places we turn – whether you’re a subscription-based business converting Free Trial Users to Paid Subscribers, a brand selling your product online, or a SaaS platform looking to grow – we undoubtedly will look at the percentage of customers converting. 

The reason: you don’t need to increase your ad spend to convert more. You just simply need to know how to optimize your conversion rate. At Tuff, a tactic called Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is at the heart of everything we do. From constantly testing paid ad campaigns across the internet to figuring out why more leads aren’t turning into customers, CRO is at the forefront of our learning and results.

eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization

For eCommerce businesses we typically look at the eCommerce Conversion Rate to tell us how traffic is interacting and converting through the eCommerce sales funnel.  

When our eCommerce clients at Tuff ask us how they can grow their online business without increasing their budget, we usually take a deep dive into what’s driving their eCommerce conversion rate

For starters, take a look at the table below showing how much you can increase revenue when the only metric that is increased is eCommerce Conversion Rate.

Full MonthTarget
eCommerce CVR
Average Order Value$1,143.96$1,143.96

In the above example, our client can increase revenue by 110% by simply optimizing their conversion rate from 0.19% to 0.5% (a 163% increase). 

That’s a $120,115.95 revenue increase from pure optimization – no additional resources or ad spend needed!

Website CRO Test Sprints 

A computer measuring ecommerce conversion rate.

To increase your conversion rate you will need to learn what factors contribute to your existing CVR.  

At Tuff, an analysis we might use to learn more about your current CVR is to find out what percentage of your website visitors are getting to your checkout conversion funnel, which traditionally has three stages:

  1. Added to Cart
  2. Initiated Checkout 
  3. Purchased

By analyzing your checkout funnel, we can use our analysis to make a series of hypotheses about what is preventing a higher conversion rate – we then use those hypotheses as frameworks for our tests. Maybe there are frictions in your checkout process that stops visitors from purchasing or maybe it can be increased with a different type of product or service page or completely different user journey. 

Let’s pretend this is your checkout funnel for a month’s worth of visitors.

Visitors% of Total Visitors
Added To Cart5442.25%
Initiated Checkout4922.03%

Based on this data, we know that a low percentage of total website traffic ends up adding a product to their cart, which will effectively produce a low number of conversions. 

In addition, the amount of visitors decreases by 10% between Added To Cart and Initiated Checkout stages in the funnel. Between Initiated Checkout and Purchase, the decrease is 20%. 

Therefore, hypothetically a solution for us to increase the conversion rate with the above metrics is to increase the initiated checkout percentage.  

Now that we have our hypothesis, we must find a way to test it. 

Developing a Test 


Our hypothesis is – if we increase the number of visitors adding to cart then we will increase the conversion rate. 

A simple way to find out if this is true is to run a test that gets more people adding to cart by providing users with a discount code in exchange for information that is valuable to you. 

For many eCommerce websites, a piece of information that is extremely valuable is an email address. 

To find out if our hypothesis is correct, a lean and easy to implement 72 hour CRO Sprint test would be to ask for an email address (or other desired action) in exchange for an offer code. 

This type of test’s results are easy to track because you can see how often the promo code is used through your eCommerce platform. Removing this test is also easy should you find that it’s not working or is causing more problems than it’s solving in your customer checkout funnel.

Implement The Test

A team of marketers sitting at a table with computers.

To implement, the test needs to contain a time-sensitive offer, which will increase the likelihood that the offer is used at a faster pace than one that is not time-sensitive. 

Here are two examples of time-sensitive offers:

  • 15% off your purchase when you order in the next 10 minutes. 
  • Limited Time Offer: Free 2 Day Shipping Today

Create the pop-up through your email service provider (ESP) so that it is triggered when a visitor has been on a specific product page for more than 50% of the average page session duration.

If your average product page session duration is 30 seconds then the offer should open at 15 seconds. 

Do not set it to trigger when someone lands on the homepage. You want the visitor to be more qualified than a unique visitor. 

The offer should contain an email signup field and clear copy that compels the potential customer to use the offer within a specific amount of time. 

Best Practices

Be advised that a best practice for this is to provide the promo code to the customer on the form after they provide their email address and click submit. You can provide it in a separate email as well, but you want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to get the code and continue on their customer journey. 

Once you have the test launched, then set it to run live for 72 hours, but don’t just forget about it. 


Data to measure your ecommerce conversion rate.

You’ll need to closely monitor it. You must make sure that the test is either perpetuating your average conversion rate or increasing it. If it decreases your conversion rate then you will want to abandon the test and return the variables back to their original flow. 

Once your split test is complete then you can take your learnings and create a new test to run. Remember, you only want to run one test at a time or else you risk changing too many variables at a time and not being able to point to what works. Realistically, you don’t want to run more than 2 tests per week. 

Website CRO Test Templates

Here are a list of 7 more website CRO tests you can do to increase the percentage of visitors converting to customers:

  1. Landing Page Offer
  2. Navigation Header Menu Organization 
  3. Homepage copy change
  4. Homepage creative change 
  5. Increase Site Speed 
  6. Exit Intent Offer Popup 
  7. Referral Widget  

If you’re curious to learn more about our process, or want to chat about your CRO potential, schedule a free strategy session with our team. Our team will analyze your marketing, website, and business and present your top CRO opportunities in a PDF.

Sketching website landing pages.

How To Write, Build, and Test Landing Pages

Sketching website landing pages.

Like a strategic blog post series or email marketing drip campaign, landing pages should be a part of any startup, eCommerce, or enterprise business’ online marketing toolkit.

From creation to testing, tweaking, and more testing, this conversion rate optimization process can help to increase conversion rates when done correctly.

Too many founders and marketers create landing web pages and forget about them. Even more frequently, marketers do one or two tests only to move onto another marketing initiative because they feel that they’ve learned all they can from their website visitors.

Think of your landing pages as a dynamic process. You should be able to learn from them on a recurring basis and leverage your winning results. Even after you’ve found scalable results, the landing page process will allow you to test those positive results and optimize further.

You can use your landing pages to qualify leads, test lead generation concepts with potential customers, and, of course, increase conversions. To do all of this and more, you’ll need a process.

Here’s the complete Tuff guide to help you write, build, and test landing pages.

Step 1: Landing Page Design Structure  

Landing page strategy sketch.

Before you start writing copy or considering your image assets, it’s incredibly important that you design a landing page structure that is the right fit for your industry and audience.

Depending on if you sell a product or a service, your landing page structure will be different. For eCommerce product companies your landing page might feature an offer discount for your product and for startup tech or Enterprise SaaS your landing page might be collecting email addresses through an email signup form field.

Figuring out the basic building blocks of your landing page is the first part in landing page design. When you have that plan, then you are ready to begin your design layout.

A great way to layout your design is through a process known as wireframing.

Wireframes are a blueprint to define the information architecture and layout of your landing page.

For each landing page, you create, you should have multiple versions, but you’ll want the structure of the landing page to be the same across all the landing page versions. Being disciplined with this part of the process will allow you to learn faster during the test phase.

Step 2: Write The Landing Page Copy

Writing copy for a landing page.

Now that you have the structure of your landing page design you can begin the process of writing your landing page copy. For each section of your wireframe, you will want to create a landing page with 5 different versions of the copy for you to use during the revision and testing stages.

For example, all landing pages have a headline, description, and call to action. For each copy component of the landing page, you will want to write 5 different versions – 5x headlines, 5x descriptions, and 5 calls to action.

Remember that your copy should be human, original, and succinct.

With a landing page, you’re focusing your user’s attention down to one goal – to take the call to action (email signup, demo booking, purchase with an offer).

The call to action should be clear and concise, the user should have no problem understanding what you want them to do and what they get in return using the copy you have provided.

Step 3: Build 5 Landing Pages and Add Images

By step 3, you should have your landing page section structured with 5 sets of copy assigned to each section. The next step is to build 5 landing pages with the sets of the copy.

We recommend using a tool to help facilitate your build. This process should be pretty straightforward since you have already done the planning.

If you have a habit of making changes in the middle of a process, don’t. If you can’t help yourself, then have someone else on your team put the landing pages together using the building blocks you already designed and defined.

Now is not the time for you to try to guess what will resonate with your audience – we’ll get to that in the next step.

Once you have your five versions of your landing pages built, then you’re going to pick two of them to use in your first round of tests. We recommend getting feedback from your internal team on what they think will be the most effective two versions to test against each other.

Remember the structure and goals of the two landing pages should be the same, the only variables that should be different are the copy and creative.

Step 4: Landing Page Testing

Woman biting pencil.

To effectively drive traffic quickly and learn efficiently which landing page converts best, you will create a test campaign with two ad sets that contain the same budget.

Each of the ad sets will contain identical ads to the other ad set, the only difference will be the destination that you send the audience to in each ad.

For example ad A will direct to landing page v.1 and ad B will go to landing page v.2.

Run each ad for the same duration.

After the ads have completed their tests, then measure which one is the winner. You can do this by measuring your lead generation results or overall conversions.

You now have a baseline to build new tests off of to optimize your landing page, but you’re far from done. The only real result that you have is that you know that the winning landing page performs better than the loser.

Next, you will need to put your land page winner up against an even better competitor to learn and optimize.

Step 5: Optimizing Landing Pages 

You will need to set up a new test where all the variables are the same except for one. Maybe you’ll choose to test a new headline or call to action in your second test.

To do a new headline, you would take your winning landing page and duplicate it, then change the headline to the new copy. You would then test the winning landing page from your first test against the new iteration.

For each new variable you test, you’ll need to do a new test. Once you have tested all the variables from your baseline winner then you should test against a new structure.

Finding a new structure will require you to repeat steps 1 – 4 to create a new landing page with a new structure and test it against your winning landing page from round 1.

To be successful at the landing page process you need to be disciplined at following the steps. Skipping them or combining too many tests at once within the process will result in a lack of understanding of what is driving positive results.


Website Conversion Rate Optimization: a webinar recap

Hit play above to watch a recording of the webinar. Or, you can read the transcript below. 

What you’ll learn in this webinar

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of a webinar held Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018. It’s a conversation between Ellen Jantsch, founder and digital marketer, Emily Belyea, founder and designer, and Matthew Morek, founder and product designer. 

Here are a few topics we go more in depth on below: 

  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) feels like a fancy acronym. One way to think about it is to ask yourself everyday “how do we make it as easy as possible for the user to say ‘yes’ to what I’m offering them?”.
  • How to use design and analytics in unison to improve your site. 
  • What questions to ask when you’re looking to work with a designer on your site. 
  • What you can do with limited resources to make a big impact on conversions. 
  • Executional design tips you can implement to help achieve different goals (i.e. establishing legitimacy, getting more sign ups). 
  • Why conversion rate, bounce rate, and time on site are valuable metrics. 

To stay in the loop on future webinars or to receive thoughtfully written content on similar topics, check out the Tuff newsletter.  

The Transcript


Ellen: Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining today’s webinar. We’re really excited today to talk about website conversion rate optimization for you or, potentially, for you clients. We’re lucky, we invited two really, really smart individuals both experts when it comes to web design, user experience, and conversion rates. So, I’m going to ask both of them to hop off mute really quickly and give an update on who they are and where they are today.

Emily: Awesome. Hey, everyone! My name is Emily and I run a design studio called Emily Belyea Creative. I help entrepreneurs basically take their idea from concept to creation through all-inclusive digital services like web design, brand identity, development and launch support. 

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matt. I run a small, one man design shop called Mad Bit. I hail from Manchester, UK. What I do is help my client’s solve the right problems. So, basically, identify what really their audience needs are and prioritize the design strategy and execution to a point where we solve only those things that need solving and leave everything else aside. 

Ellen: Great, and I’m Ellen. I work at the team here at Tuff. For you that don’t know, we’re a growth marketing agency that works with fast growing small businesses, start ups, and marketplaces to help them find traction and scale through a variety of different tactics. Tactics that include a few things like Facebook ads, Google ads, YouTube, Bing, SEO, Content Strategy, Email campaigns and more recently web design and development. And, that’s why we’re here today because a question we ask all the time, not just on the Tuff website, but with our clients is ‘how can we make our websites stickier?’. How can we make sure user’s our coming to our site and taking the action we want them to take? Whether that be filling out a form, calling our business, if you’re ecomm making a sale directly on site. Or, if your conversions are more like engagement metrics, so you want somebody to spend more time on your site — you want them to spend 2 minutes instead of 30 seconds. Or, if you want them to go to more pages on your site, you want them to go to 5 pages not just 1. And so, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Our conversation is broken up into three different sections: the problem, personal stories from Emily and Matthew, and actionable advice you can apply to your site. We’ll have time for questions at the end as well. 

So, let’s dive right in! 

Part 1: The Problem

Ellen: The first thing we want to tackle is breaking down this problem. So, what do we mean by optimizing your website for conversions? Emily, let’s start off with you, do you have a good example of how you’ve done this with a client recently? How you’ve tackled a project where you’re optimizing their site from the start, for conversions?

Emily: Yeah, absolutely! So, I mean, the way I think about optimizing a site for conversions is as simple as “how do we make it as easy as possible for the user to say ‘yes’ to what I’m offering them?”. I think as a marketer and designer that’s always the question we’re trying to answer. It’s always in testing and trying new things. Recently, an example I can go over, is specifically around the use of a CTA (Call to Action). So, I think that one of the simplest things you can do from the start and writing copy and designing your site is to make sure your call’s to action are specific. A recent client and their website,, prompts the user to ‘get an offer’. This sounds super straightforward but the primary reason their user’s are on their site is so they can get an offer on their house. And, they want to know how much they can sell it for. So, by giving them a form where they fill out their address and making our primary CTA right there in front of them ‘get an offer’, we’re basically asking them to do exactly what they came for and it’s also crystal clear so the likelihood of them clicking on it is really high. 

Ellen: I like that. Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO, is such a fancy little acronym and I think the way you approach design with “how do I get a user to say ‘yes’?” feels like a very simplified version that’s easier to ask yourself every single day. Matthew, how about you?

Matthew: To me, like you said, CRO is a weird acronym. But, what it means to me, is really based around reducing the friction in the customer acquisition process. That’s what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to get a lead to do something meaningful. Like you said before, there’s a couple of actions you can take. And, a recent story I’ve got from the trenches really is a simple site I’ve designed and built for a client. It was a small, indie software developer who created an app for Mac and Windows and he wanted to improve conversions and lead generation primarily. What we did was asses what was wrong with the current website, why people were dropping off and we build a completely new website using story telling principles. And that way we basically removed most of the call to actions at the top and moved them to the bottom. We created enough engaging content to help people keep scrolling, keep reading the content, keep engaging with it. We put an ask right at the end of it which worked out great and we achieved 122% improvement in conversion rate. 

Ellen: That story is good for our next question, you talk about removing friction. You two look at websites every single day. When a client comes to you whether they’re saying ‘I need to improve my conversions, not enough people are picking up the phone and calling me or not enough people are filling out my form’, where do you start? Is it purely visual or do you hop into Google Analytics and start looking at the numbers so you know where to tackle first? What is your process so you know if a website needs to be improved to increase conversions? 

Emily: I’m a designer so, for me, visual is what leads things for me. So before I even get into data, I take a step back and look for one thing ‘What is the ask?’.  And sometimes it’s easier because people are coming to me and asking about their site and I haven’t been staring at their site for a long time. I have a unique perspective coming at it with fresh eyes and if I can’t figure out what the ask is, then chances are that’s our starting point. The first thing is we need to put our ask on the site and we need to make it crystal clear. If you do have a clear ask and you’re still not converting, then I take a look at ‘what is standing in the way of the ask?’, ‘What is our roadblock?’. That’s where I get into design and really looking at the user experience. First of all, ‘Is our ask right for our consumer?’. And, ‘Is our website responsive?’, maybe there’s literally a technical issue preventing the user from understanding what we’re trying to tell them. We could go into this very deeply but does your website have a color palette and a type scheme that makes it easy for the user to just show up and be able to get the information they need without having to make their way through all the clutter. That’s where design plays a role, as well as your messaging and copy. I’d say after looking at all of those surface things, that’s where I’d get into the data. 

Ellen: Building on that Emily, would you say that often when you work with clients on web design is it common for people to have one ask? I can imagine situations where there are multiple priorities for a site. What’s the best process for drilling into what the primary ask should be without losing some of the secondary CTAs on the site?

Emily: Absolutely. It’s not common for people to come to me and understand exactly what their ask is, that almost never happens. Frequently when I ask people what their ask is they say ‘For them to contact me?’. They kind of ask the question back to me.  I think determining what your primary ask is involves taking a huge step back and looking at what the journey and evolution of what your business goals are. If you’re just launching a consulting business for the first time, you have no idea what experience to share with people, you have no blog posts, or really a lot of content that leverages you as an expert in your field. Maybe, instead of your ask being to get clients to sign up for a session with you it should be to sign up for your newsletter. Then, you get into their inbox and can start talking to them and build that relationship from there. It depends on the business owner but I think it involves taking a really good look at your strategy and where you see yourself in the next 12 months. 

Ellen: Matthew, Emily has expressed that she’s quite visual. Do you feel the same way? When you’re looking at a website to think through ‘how can I improve conversions?’, is it data or visuals first? Or, a combination? 

Matthew: I usually start with conversations with clients. We get on the phone, video call, or meet in person and basically we discuss the issue and ‘what are we trying to achieve?’. With that context, I’ll do a brief visual assessment. Some things are very easy to spot like Emily said. You may have to dig a little deeper but most things are evident from conversation alone. Then, if you need more information, you can ask for access to analytics if they have them. If they don’t, then you’re going off of visuals and I usually recommend they install Google Analytics to make sure we have some quantifiable data that we can assess. Normally, conversation first, analytics second, and visual is really a confirmation that we’re correct. When data is pretty solid, all you need is to go to a website and spot the visual and content problems. Start with the goals, move on to identify problems using all tools at your disposal. 

Ellen: It’s interesting because sites are so visual and both of you have been talking about the process and design has been almost the last element of that equation. Can you guys talk to me a little bit more about when you approach a website or project and you’re trying to design it from day 1 to boost conversions and be a really efficient website, what are some of the preliminary steps you take before you even have a conversation with a designer? 

Emily: One of the first questions I ask when I bring a new client onboard is ‘what is the single most important action you want the user to take?’. That response is what drives the strategy for the first step in the process – the wireframe. The wireframe is not the mockup, it’s the bare bones grayscale layout. It’s job is to figure out exactly what the user paths look like. Are we meeting the goals of the user? Our goals? Do we have all of our CTAs and opt-ins? Taking the time to A: understand the number one action we want the user to take and, B: understand who this user is, and putting it in the wireframe is something I would not be able to do my job without. The mockup design, the part where we make it look pretty and add type and colors, and the brand development are also extremely necessary but they come later in the process. Strategy discussions and wireframe are so important. For anyone out there looking to work with a designer, I would say you should ask them questions about their process right up front, and you really should be looking to hear those words ‘strategy’ and ‘wireframe’. Without that they might not be taking the time to understand your goals the way you need them to. 

Ellen: What about you, Matthew? Is that the same for you?

Matthew: It’s similar, definitely. My approach is based on strategy and analysis. I usually run a discovery stage with my clients. Some don’t need it, depending on the stage they’re in. Most of the people I interview in the initial assessment are in need of some discovery. By discovery I mean defining the attributes of who they are as an organization, their voice that comes through in copywriting, anything that speaks visually later on. That’s one part. Another part is identifying the goals. The company working with me, needs to have some sort of objective generally primary and secondary. In the case of a project I was currently working on, the primary goal was to download the free app. The second was to make a purchase. This was unusual because most of the time you want the purchase to happen as the primary action but it wasn’t the case because most people were coming from the free version of the app and going through an upgrade path. Things need: goals and attributes, user journeys, knowing how people want to use your site and what they are after. Identify the outcomes your user wants and align them with your business goals. So, if your business goal is to sell more products you need to identify why people are looking for the products you sell. You create a product and tailor it to an audience that already exists, you can’t solve a problem that doesn’t exist. You need to try and find out what your audience is looking for and align your goals with it. Then, I’m sure you’re going to be close to uncovering that way to makes sure your website converts better. 

Ellen: I think you both touched on something that feels relevant to a story Tuff has. You’re talking about strategy, you’re talking about goals but you’re also talking about user experience and how you expect someone to interact with your site. That, to us, feels critical to designing a site that’s going to convert. Oftentimes we have to remind ourselves that how we interact with a specific site as marketers might be very different than how a traditional user or target audience does. User research is a big part of that puzzle. I like to hear that, maybe, 80% of the work you two do is non-design. It’s understanding users, mapping out process, coming up with strategy and business objectives to make sure the output is a beautiful design. Speaking of which, I’d love for us to transition into the stories section of the webinar. 

Part 2: Personal stories from Emily and Matthew

Ellen: As a team, we’d love to get your feedback on our landing page for this webinar. A non-designer put together the landing page: 


See the site live, here:

Looking at this page, is there anything tangible, concrete, that you would update right away that you think would increase conversion rates for this webinar? 

Emily: There are two things that immediately come to mind are. First, it’s very text heavy right off the bat. Matthew, you were just saying features are useless to people so are ‘about’s’ and paragraphs. I want to know what I’m going to get out of it, what am I going to walk away with. So, bullets might be helpful with a quick ‘what am I going to get out of this’ would be great. Also, let’s get that register button above the fold! You’re making people work for it and I think we could use the space up top a little better to have users see that form and button right away. As a designer who does landing pages a lot sometimes people will come to me with tons and tons of content, plus a form, and button, and all of the fields and ask for it to be above the fold. One trick you can use if you can’t get your button above the fold is just ask a register button above the fold and have it link down to your form or to a pop up. 

Ellen: So it sounds like less text, or prioritize your text, and make sure your CTAs are always above the fold. I think you’re right, we’re looking at this on desktop but if we think about mobile that’s a pretty long scroll to get someone down to register for the webinar. Matthew, would you echo what Emily said? Or, any other insights on this page to make it better and more conversion rate friendly?

Matthew: Some of it, yeah. Text usually isn’t the problem when it’s the right text. Like Emily said, features can be meaningless. You could convert the big paragraph into a few points to better explain what people can get out of this, some actionable points to convey the idea better. The headline is spot on, it gives you the value proposition which is the most important part. I’m not used to landing pages for webinars but I’m used to landing pages for events, which a webinar is a form of event. The type of people that might be looking at this page will wonder ‘when does it happen?’. You need to make the time critical events clear, the time, the date, the timezone in this digital age. You need to make sure people understand exactly when and where it happens. I agree about the call to action. In the case of this very sweet and very short page, it should be above the fold. I’m not a big believer in the mythical fold because you can structure the landing page to tell a story, it doesn’t have to be a properly written epic but at least the principles. You can make people scroll, read, engage and put the ask at the end where they’re convinced — or not, not everyone is going to be up for your value proposition. These are just a few quick ones, generally I agree with Emily. 

Ellen: You guys were generous with your feedback, I designed this page. A word we talked about a lot in this was ‘landing page’. Talk to me about this, we work with a lot of clients who are running high scale, very expensive Google Ad campaigns. We have this discussion a lot, when does it make sense to send a user to a landing page vs. sending someone to a full blown website? Or, is this something you should be conversion testing with an A/B perspective all the time? When someone comes to you how do you guide them through that decision of a landing page with no navigation or a full blown website? 

Emily: Typically, the way I use this decision making process is: are we trying to get them to do something very very specific, say in preparation for the launch of the website?, ‘are we trying to get them to sign up for an event, like a webinar?. Something where you don’t need to redo the whole page. Again, very specific asks that are secondary to what your ask is as a company. If we don’t want to clutter our websites with a third request, a landing page is a great way to do that because you can market it in the same you would send out a link to your website but you don’t have to add it to your site. 

Matthew: Yeah, I agree. Generally a dedicated landing page is great if, for example you launch a new product line and you want people to know about it. You get a subdomain for your main domain and send people to a specific site. Another thing might be, like Emily said, events. These are perfect for landing pages. I think it’s really down to the context of what you’re trying to sell. If it’s something already available on your website and you’re looking to promote it, it wouldn’t be too difficult to manage the traffic for a service already on your website. 

Ellen: At Tuff I feel really lucky because we work with both of you and you get to field questions for us all the time. For people on the call who are looking at their website or working with a client and don’t have design in-house or someone they can go and brainstorm with, if resources are limited, where would they start making small improvements that feel feasible? 

Emily: What I always tell people is if you don’t have in-house design, there are a lot of tools on the internet you can use to put something together. 

Ellen: What are some of your favorites? 

Emily: Well, I use the design tools. A lot of my clients will use Canva to make their own graphics. Or, a really easy Adobe program (don’t be intimidated!) is Adobe Experience. It’s a drag and drop design tool. I’d encourage anyone to check it out. Those are two right off the bat. You can use those to create little things. In terms of where to start, if you can get into your Google Analytics and look at your data, great! If that feels like too much then, again, look at your site, think about the user experience and ask yourself ‘what can I add to [fill in the blank], legitimize me, invite users to engage with our content and hear our story?’. What are the pieces that are missing? A general checklist of things I usually go through with my clients to fill these gaps is: adding a press bar with ‘as seen in’ to legitimize, adding client logos for social proof to let people know you’re in business and serving similar business, look at your call to action button colors and copy, add blog posts to your homepage to give people a preview, a chat widget if you want people to instantaneously engage with you, an FAQ page if you’re having trouble with people understanding. Ask, what is my immediate issue I’m trying to solve and go through the checklist to see if any of these executional items could help. 

Ellen: It sounds like you’re encouraging people, even if they’re not a designer, to explore and experiment. As long as you’re not going to break your website, hop in and try things out. There’s so much to learn from whether it’s short term improvements or long term. A tool I want to add to your list that I’d say is a bit easier than Google Analytics is HotJar. HotJar is a recording software so you can record sessions on your site to see where people navigate, how far down they scroll, where people might be getting stuck, how do they interact with a form. For me, I’m a more visual learner so seeing how people interact in real time can help brainstorm ideas to make improvements. Matthew, what would you say to people who don’t have a lot of resources or in-house design to make improvements to a site?

Matthew: I would start with more of a broad overview. Instead of applying some bandaids, I’d take a broad overview on the pages you’re looking to improve. Figure out whether your value proposition is right, whether your market fit is right, whether you’re reaching the right people. You might be paying for traffic irrelevant to your site. You know more about driving traffic. Before you start driving traffic from paid advertising and social media, you need to make sure your value proposition is on point. You need to make sure your call’s to action are good. If they’re not working or there’s some piece of javascript getting blocked you’ll end up with a page that’s disabled. Another thing to check is the content, is it relevant and engaging? How is it structured on the page? I’d recommend that before jumping into visuals and testing, start with a broad overview to figure out if your page is achieving it’s goal. If you don’t have a budget, you should still talk to your customers. Find 1, 2, 5, 10 customers and ask if they have 10 minutes to tell you about their recent experience. If you have past customers that used the site you’re looking to improve, talk to them. Talk about their frustrations or if they even remember the process. This might give you a better idea than trying to shift around boxes. Let’s be honest, unless you’re using tools like HotJar, you’ll be blindfolded on making the page work better.

Ellen: I love the idea. Even if you can only talk to a few people, get on the phone and talk to them or email. That’s something we could apply more at Tuff because learning from your actual users is going to be so much more relevant than an idea you have in your own head. You can get validation from people who you’ve built your site for. Before going into actionable advice, do either of you have a very specific story of a small update whether it was color, type, removing a page, adding more whitespace, that you felt had a really drastic impact on conversions or site experience?

Emily: I would say one of the smallest things that can be done, at least that has had such a big impact for my clients, is organizing or refreshing their brand identity in way that contributes to their website. A lot of entrepreneurs bootstrap their branding from the start. They might pick a few colors, have their cousin design a logo, and get a site up. I admire that, it’s a great way to start and then maybe later on invest. A lot of times what happens is, because you don’t have these type schemes, color layouts, and organizational systems for your identity, everything is a little disorganized and all over the place. What this is doing is confusing the user’s brain and it’s a little harder for them to wrap their brain around what you’re asking them to do. A lot of time, we’ll do a brand refresh where I’ll strip everything down and organize it like a professional organizer might do with a closet. Throw out some things that are random and not contributing to the brand and goals and bring some things in that are. I’ll give them a style guide that organizes everything and lays out ‘here’s what your primary call to action button looks like’, etc. A little structure with branding goes a long way. 

Ellen: Sounds similar to what we talked about earlier, wireframes are critical as is user research. Design isn’t important yet. Matthew, what about you? Any examples of making a small edit you saw a significant impact from. 

Matthew: Yes! I have a good one from last year. I was working with an ecommerce client and we were trying to optimize their checkout process. It was good but we saw an opportunity to make it better and more efficient. Instead of diving right into visual design we decided we needed to dig a little deeper. We spent about a day going through the check out steps and we identified that the delivery and shipping options available were far too many. There were about 6-7 delivery options. What I did was ask one of the staff members to talk to a few customers and confirm that they did get confused by all the options and that next day delivery would be spot on. We researched what delivery options were most important to people and we narrowed it to standard delivery, next day delivery, and in-person collection at the store. This improved conversion rates by about 60%. We tested the change over 2 weeks and didn’t touch anything else. Narrowing down the options made a big impact. 

Ellen: That’s a huge upgrade! It’s cool to hear you guys put on your investigator hats and got curious. Again, that’s not necessarily a design exclusive trait. As marketers and consultants, being curious and digging around in data and looking at the numbers can really have a massive impact. You stripped options away instead of adding more and that made a big impact. 

Part 3: Actionable advice you can apply to your site

Ellen: That brings us to the last section. As a business owner, if you fire up your Google Analytics (and, it depends on the business objective), what would you say is the most important metric? If you’re thinking about your website, wanting people to spend time on your website, or say yes to something, what metric do you guys go back to on a daily basis. What is your desert island metric that everyone on this webinar should be tracking today. 

Emily: I’d say every time all the time, the conversion rate. Look at the visit to sign up percentage. It allows us to look at the funnels performance as a whole and then we can narrow down on a certain area. The landing page where that sign up needs to happen, is the page designed to make that easy? Is the CTA to the form written in a way that promotes action? When we start to figure out what is working and what is not. Another piece to zero in on is CTAs, where are they appearing? Is my tone and voice consistent through out the whole funnel. A lot of marketers struggle with sounding a bit to sales-y rather than authentic and real. 

Ellen: It sounds like you can look at conversion rates along the entire ecommerce journey. Looking at the entire user journey, if a conversion rate is low at a specific step, you can work on that one rather than a blanket conversion rate. Matthew, what about you in terms of your desert island metric?

Matthew: I wouldn’t stick to conversion rate because it’s very subjective. The same client I talked about before with the delivery options, had a completely different website in 2012. He had it for very few years and the conversion rate was around 2%. That was good for them. When we introduced the new website, the conversion rate jumped to 8%. It’s a little too subjective. The metric I turn to is bounce rate and drop off rate. This is when someone has come in from a referral website and leaves within a few seconds without interacting with the content. Drop off rate is when they don’t go anywhere else but they close the browser. These are similar and they give a good indication on if your content is engaging and relevant. It gives an indication in product market fit in terms of what you’re offering. For example, if you’re driving traffic from PPC and your message doesn’t ring a bell you’ll have a large drop off. Usually it’s not the PPC traffic, it’s the fact that the landing page or your home page is not really well crafted in terms of value proposition. PPC offers you such a narrow window and you need to follow through with that on your website. You need to instill confidence, trust, and relevance. That’s where drop off and bounce rate is helpful. To give you some context, if it’s around 70% – 75% that can be really normal. If it’s anything above 80%, you’ve got a big problem. 

Ellen: What’s nice about bounce rate is if you are running paid campaigns you can integrate your accounts to see what campaigns have a high drop off rate and which ones don’t and allocate your budget accordingly. It sounds like conversion rate and bounce rate. One I’d add to the mix is time on site. We look at that a lot at Tuff because we want people finding the content valuable and relevant. 

I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface but I want to open up time for questions. 


Tune into the webinar at :50 minutes to hear what questions the audience asked and how Ellen, Emily, and Matthew addressed them. 

We’d also love to hear any questions you have. Shoot us an email at! 

How to say hello and continue the conversation

We’d all love to say hello and answer any lingering questions!

If you’d like to dive even deeper and talk about how to apply these learnings to your own site, schedule a 30-minute Free Growth Strategy Session with Tuff!


We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.


How Wireframing Will Improve Your Landing Page Conversion Rate

We sometimes get questions about how other clients work with Tuff to reach their growth goals — so we’re sharing some stories to help bring our services to life. Meet Xendoo.

Xendoo is an online accounting and bookkeeping service partnering with small business owners to take on their business financials and accounting with a dedicated team of CPAs. They give small business owners time back to focus on their business and give them peace of mind by knowing their books are being done correctly. Founded in 2016, Xendoo received an initial round of funding in 2017. We were lucky to start working with them later that year.

“Not only are they a true pleasure to work with, they achieve phenomenal results. Highly recommend the team to people that are committed to growing their business. When you hire TUFF, prepare to hang on for a great ride.” – Lil Robets, CEO, Xendoo (View our reviews on Google & Facebook)

We partnered with Xendoo to improve their landing page conversion rate and as a result, they had their highest client acquisition month ever with:

  • 35% increase in conversions MoM
  • 82% Increase in new clients MoM

Why Xendoo Focused On User Experience

A website is one of the most powerful user acquisition channels for businesses today, and for good reason. If you build it right, your website can be the best and most cost-effective marketing tool you have. Especially when you’ve done the research to know which complimentary user acquisition channels are going to drive the most growth for your audience.

For a fast-growing startup, it’s common to outgrow the early versions of your site. As you scale, your positioning will evolve, your brand identity will become more established, and you’ll hone in on your ideal users.

As this happens, it’s critical that your site also evolves. If you put consistent effort into improving the user experience of your website and everything that goes with it, you can consistently improve your conversion rate and scale your user acquisition.

Xendoo launched their site in late 2017 with two core goals in mind: client acquisition and fundraising. The site needed to serve and secure new clients, but it also needed to attract investors. We launched our paid client acquisition efforts in January of 2018 and immediately started growing a slow, but steady, client base. As Xendoo gained more traction throughout the year, the site data started pouring in and areas of improvement were easily identified.

So, how did we double their conversions (yes, that turned into almost twice as many clients per month!)?

Let’s dive in and take a look.

Xendoo’s Playbook

Customer Research

Designing a great user experience requires understanding the problems different visitors have and then working to solve those problems. Before we worked on the structure of the website, we leveraged Google Analytics, LiveHelpNow (live chat), and CallRail (phone calls) to identify hurdles that stopped people from moving through the conversion funnel.

Three distinct themes surfaced:

What services does Xendoo offer exactly?
Ideal: When someone lands on this page, they should immediately know how it’s going to help them.

What services do you integrate with?
Ideal: This should be quick and easy to understand.

How do I start a free trial?
Ideal: Consistent language and visuals around one primary CTA.

Clear CTA

Leaning on the data we turned our focus to the site structure, designing the primary CTA first. Making the CTA the first element you include in your skeleton layout will ensure that the rest of the website supports the CTA and isn’t buried on the page. When working on user flow, you need to ask yourself “What is the number one thing we want users to do?” and “What value does our service or product fulfill for the user?” The intersection of these answers is your primary call-to-action. For Xendoo, this CTA was a month of bookkeeping for free.


Once we had the CTA’s identified, we built the site wireframes. Wireframes are a blueprint to define the information architecture and layout of your website or product. They allow you to take a step back from the design and develop a clear understanding of all user paths throughout a site. This is one of the most essential, yet overlooked, steps in creating a high-converting website.

Mock Up

The final step in the wireframe process was to develop a sample mock. It’s a common practice for designers to use “Lorem Ipsum” while wireframing and designing mockups. But, when it comes to increasing your conversions your content is equally, if not more important, as your layout and design. Once we had the copy down, we were able to work it into an illustrative mock that set the tone for the entirety of the site design.


  • Best client acquisition month ever!
  • 35% increase in conversions MoM
  • 82% Increase in new clients MoM

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.