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?
- 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.
- Figure out the most important metrics.
- 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
- Make a list of monthly priorities.
- Measure, rinse & repeat.
But before we dive deeper, a quick note about our approach.
With website CRO, there are essentially two approaches to take:
- Make bold changes that will drive more profit and you get fast, measurable results.
- 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.
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:
- Revisit our competitors and value props
- Use conversations with our audience to get better
- Study Google Analytics — common paths and top pages
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.