Crummy conversion rates got you down? Reduce bottlenecks and boost your bottom line with this CRO audit guide.
Here, you’ll find:
- What a CRO audit entails
- CRO audit tools
- CRO audit steps by month
- When to do a CRO audit
- What not to do when running a conversion audit
- How long a CRO audit typically takes
- Bonus tips from our expert
So, your paid search and search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns are working great.
Well, sort of.
You’re pulling in website traffic left and right. Prospective leads and customers end up on your landing pages. But at the end of the day, you’re left with a whole lotta noncommittal visitors.
In other words, the traffic is there — but the conversions? Not so much.
If this sounds a little too familiar, it’s time for a conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit.
What is a CRO audit?
A CRO audit is a full site analysis to determine how often website visitors take a desired action (i.e. convert). This audit assesses a website’s ability to facilitate the customer journey through:
- Intuitive navigation
- Website design
- Site speed
- Call-to-action (CTA) buttons
- Content quality and relevancy
- Messaging (like your value proposition and tone)
- Mobile responsiveness
- Trustworthiness (think testimonials, social proof, and case studies)
- Overall user experience
While there’s no exact formula for a perfectly optimized website, CRO audits are scientific in that they require data collection, A/B testing, and a strong understanding of user behavior. Using this data, you can make optimizations that encourage your visitors to take action — like make a purchase (for ecommerce sites) or sign up (lead generation businesses).
CRO audit tools
Before you can start your audit, there are a few tools you’ll need at the ready. These can help you collect more concrete data and perform more impactful optimizations.
1. Reporting tools
To pinpoint issues and deeper insights.
Common reporting tools include:
2. Survey tools
To understand customer product awareness and mismatches between your target audience and copy
Common survey tools include:
3. Heatmapping tools
For visibility into how page visitors navigate your website
Common heatmapping tools include:
4. Usability testing (UI testing) tools
To test the functionality of your site with all devices and browser versions
Our favorite UI testing tool is:
5. A/B testing tools
To test different page elements and designs based on hypotheses.
Common A/B testing tools include:
Pro tip: We’d normally add Google Optimize to the above list, except that it was sunset in September 2023. Here’s our advice on what to do in its absence.
6. Wireframing tools
To create quick mockups and communicate with your dev team.
Common wireframing tools include:
Ready to get into your CRO audit?
Let’s take the process bit by bit, with wiggle room to set up new tools and accounts as well as time to collect enough data to make informed decisions.
CRO audit: Month 1
Step 1: Define your top conversion actions
Which conversions matter most to your business? For ecommerce stores, this will be customers who complete a purchase (landing on the confirmation page of the site), whereas lead generation and SaaS businesses will likely look for a subscription or sign up of some sort.
That said, there are plenty of smaller, less valuable conversions a user can make that are still “wins” for your site. Consider what conversion points push potential customers further down the conversion funnel and are worth tracking and make a list.
Step 2: Identify impactful webpages to evaluate
Which pages should you audit first?
If you aren’t sure, take some time to assess which pages receive the most traffic (and conversions). Then, determine which pages have high bounce rates. As it stands, these pages have the greatest impact on your overall conversion rate.
CRO expert and HawkSEM Senior SEO Manager Vane Velkov advises starting “with a lot of funnel pages (transaction pages, forms, checkout) to make an instant impact.”
Next, think about which pages should have the highest volume of traffic and conversion, if they don’t already — think product pages or service pages, your homepage, or pricing pages.
Make a list, then move onto the next step.
Step 3: Set up & review conversion tracking
What are your conversion actions for each webpage? What are your most important conversion points overall?
If you already have Google Analytics set up, make sure all those important conversion actions are being tracked on your site. (Here’s a quick tutorial on adding new conversions to your Analytics account.)
Consider creating additional tags for CRO analysis down the road, such as link tracking and scroll depth tracking.
Pro tip: This is also a great time to install heatmapping tools to gauge how users interact with your website going forward and survey tools to gather feedback from real-life visitors.
Step 4: Create Google Data Studio report (now Looker Studio)
Now called Looked Studio, you can connect your Google Analytics account to this free reporting platform to visualize your data.
This step is optional, but if you’re a marketing manager, it will prove to be helpful when presenting findings to your team.
CRO audit: Month 2
*Or continued from month one if you already have a robust amount of tracking data inside Analytics.
Step 1: Research existing landing page performance
Using the existing data inside your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts, conduct a quantitative analysis of your current landing page performance — taking special note of metrics like bounce rates and conversions.
Step 2: Review landing pages for key messaging & design
Landing pages should answer your visitors’ questions, reinforce their motivation, and address any barriers or concerns they may have.
With that in mind, visit your key landing pages and make sure there is a clear value proposition, features and benefits, social proof and credibility, and plenty of CTAs.
Here are some questions we ask at HawkSEM when reviewing a client’s landing page messaging:
- Are you being as clear as possible about what you’re offering and why?
- Did you make sure that your page’s hero copy (above the fold copy) is closely aligned with the copy that compels most users to click over to the page (ad copy, SERP copy, etc.)?
- Did you overwhelm the reader with awesome value? Would someone read your page and think “This is an amazing opportunity that would make my life so much better”?
- Would your copy stand up to and clearly address a skeptical prospect’s two questions of “So what?” and “Prove it”?
- Did you remove dull, abstract, or generic descriptions with copy that paints a picture?
- Does your copy explicitly call out things that should be noticed in your imagery?
- Does your imagery explicitly support the messaging of the copy?
- Have you cut out everything that isn’t doing at least one of the following tasks:
- Reflecting/matching your reader’s motivation?
- Conveying/clarifying value that’s being offered?
- Proving a claim?
- Addressing an anxiety?
- Adding authenticity or memorable specificity?
Step 3: Formulate a hypothesis
Now, you’ve got plenty of data in front of you (and some theories on how to improve your messaging and design). Next, you can identify what changes you could make to improve customer experience and conversion rates.
Step 4: Wireframe & build out a new page
Using your wireframe tool, outline a new landing page to send along to your development team. When writing fresh copy for this new page, consider:
- How can you be more clear and empathetic with your reader?
- In what ways can you address their concerns and pain points?
- How should you convey features and benefits?
Step 5: Create A/B tests
Once you have your new page designed with your improvements, set up A/B testing to compare performance between the two.
Then, it’s time to wait.
CRO audit: Month 3
Good scientific methods feel pretty redundant. From here on out, your team can regularly:
- Analyze data and hypothesize improvements
- Buildout landing page variations
- Form interaction and drop-off analysis
This cycle can repeat itself often enough to ensure optimal performance — but it’s best to avoid “over-optimizing.”
When should I do a CRO audit?
As Velkov puts it, “Honestly, any time is a good time because it’s so impactful on profit and revenue.” That said, a CRO audit cadence depends on the business.
Worst case scenario? When conversion rates are dropping, it may be time to audit.
If conversion rates are flat for a while (say more than six months), or when paid channels are getting more expensive and the return on investment (ROI) isn’t quite cutting it, then that’s a great time to focus on improving conversion rates to improve the cost per customer.
Common mistakes: What not to do when running a conversion audit
As a CRO agency, many brands come to us with poorly converting websites as a result of common CRO auditing mistakes. Velkov walks us through what not to do when conducting a CRO audit.
- Don’t use low sample sizes for tests: “Make sure you have enough sample size to conduct a test for a page,” explains Velkov. “No visits mean long testing cycles and an inefficient testing program.”
- Don’t just trust your gut: Back up the hypothesis with data, eliminate your bias
- But don’t forget to pay attention to emotional cues:Understanding your audience’s pain points, demographics, motivations, and fears are critical for effective messaging to convert site visitors into customers.
- Forgo focusing on the overall conversion rate: Instead, have separate rates for each website action (transaction, email, etc)
- Don’t disregard inconclusive tests: Instead look at segments ( paid users, organic, direct) > Testing is also a way of building an internal knowledge database for the website and its users
- Avoid “fuzzy” conversion goals: Not having clear goals in CRO programs
- Don’t conduct your audit without North Star metrics: Your KPIs should always contribute to the overall business goals.
- Don’t phone in your GA4 & tracking set up: Goals and events
- Avoid overlooking internal customer data: Support tickets, customer sales calls, surveys
- Don’t forget about the sales engine: Not knowing whether sales team needs quality or quantity of leads
How long does a CRO audit typically take?
The duration of a CRO audit “depends on the size of the website and how well the site is optimized already,” explains Velkov.
Big website? That’ll require more time to go through all page types and templates and identify opportunities.
Further, websites that were designed poorly will have more issues to identify and create hypotheses.
Bonus tips from our expert
Before diving into your CRO audit, we asked Velkov for some extra advice when it comes to conversion optimization.
“First, put yourself in the shoes of the user,” emphasizes Velkov. “Start from the top traffic channels and do the journey yourself, take notes of everything that feels off.”
Also, you don’t have to solely rely on heatmapping, surveys, and a slow trickle of data to gauge improvement opportunities. “Share your website or pages to friends, coworkers, and family and ask questions to see how easy it is to navigate and understand what the site is about,” he says.
And finally, Velkov suggests visiting Google Scholar for a little extra guidance: “Search for specific studies on whatever you feel is wrong with the site: button colors, visual hierarchy, contrast. You’d be surprised how much information there is backed up by data.”
Worried about trudging through scholarly articles on top of everything else you have on your plate? No worries. “Copy and paste summary of study in ChatGPT to get a shorter summary that you can understand.”
Look, regular CRO audits don’t need to feel daunting. Velkov reminds us that above all, “always focus on clarity and reducing friction for the user on the site.”
Most CRO efforts are about making it as easy as possible for the visitor to understand if they’re in the right place, what your offer is, and what to do next.
If you understand what motivates users, you’re halfway there.
(But if you need a little extra help? We got you.)