Running your own small enterprise is usually stressful. Even if you think you’ve discovered a small, profitable niche in the market, if there’s no one around to benefit from that niche, your new business simply is not going to bring home the bacon. This is why so many smaller companies and businesses concentrate so much upon getting their message out to as many people as they can. It hardly seems like rocket-science – the more potential customers you attract, the more money you’re likely to make. It does sound logical, but it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all of making your small business flourish. Becoming successful is not just about gaining customers, it’s about keeping them as well, and treating them right.

No doubt you’ve embraced the digital era and have your own website. Whatever your web-site sets out to achieve, be it making sales, advertising your products or services, or getting customers to subscribe to your newsletter or email marketing campaign, you need to attend to your conversion rate. A conversion happens when you convert a first-time visitor to your site into a customer, or they perform an action that your web-site is aiming for them to perform. The more conversions you make, the more revenue you will acquire. This article will look at ways to optimize your conversion rate – a process known as conversion rate optimization, or CRO for short.

The following topics will be discussed:

  • CRO – why is it so neglected?
  • Why small businesses need CRO
  • Three reasons why small businesses need to embrace the CRO route
  • Ten brilliant CRO tools for small businesses
  • Why CRO is cost-effective
  • After CRO – what are the next steps?

By the time you’ve finished reading this article we hope that you’ve been convinced – CRO is the way forwards when it comes to your small business.

CRO – Why Do So Many Companies Neglect It?

It’s a bizarre truth that companies on average spend one hundred times more on attracting customers to their web-site than they do in actively keeping them. This information is provided by a study conducted by Forrester Research. If this was mirrored in real life, how long do you think such a company would survive? It’s like them having a business where they get one hundred inquiries a day, yet only one of those inquiries makes them any money.

There’s another study that suggests that eight out of every ten company marketing personnel admits that their web-sites simply do not do enough to convert these precious site visitors into even more precious customers. Even huge corporations are willing to admit that they do not do enough, despite them possessing the financial muscle to pump money into CRO campaigns. This begs the question – if business giants can’t convert visitors into customers, what hope is their for small companies?

It does seem like these businesses are wasting money. Getting internet users to notice your site in the first place is difficult enough, unless you’re a high-street brand. The first step is to bring your site to the internet’s attention, which you do by traditional methods such as pay-per-click campaigns, search engine optimization, using avenues such as Facebook and Twitter, paying writers to fill your site with authoritative content, and forging links with other, well-respected sites. Once you’ve paid all the invoices for these services, if you’ve then no money left for CRO, it’s money you’ve largely just poured down the drain.

The tide does seem finally to be turning, and companies are beginning to realize the importance of CRO when it comes to their overall marketing campaigns. The numbers cannot be argued with – three out of every four CRO campaigns have been found to boost revenue, whilst roughly the same figure concerning companies who have invested in CRO were so amazed by the results they immediately increased their funding towards future CRO enterprises.

If CRO pays for the big guys, then it only goes to follow it’ll pay for the smaller guys as well.

Why Small Businesses Needs CRO

  • Small businesses take time to become established
  • Eight out of every ten small businesses fail, according to
  • It’s not all about acquiring customers – it about keeping them, and from the beginning
  • SEO is expensive
  • Small businesses have less to spend on SEO when compared to their larger competitors

Three Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs To Get Serious About CRO

  • Getting to Know Your Customers Really Reaps The Rewards

There must be something that turns a first-time visitor to your site into a customer. Most visitors walk away without performing a desired action, such as making a sale – so the question you have to ask is “what turns a visitor into a customer” ? Once you have an answer to this question, you’ll be able to apply the same tactics to other visitors, with the reward being an increase in conversion rates and therefore sales. You need to find out how first-time visitors react to your site, how they spend their time there and what you can do with the data you’ve gathered to help you make better business decisions.

  • CRO Allows You To Understand Marketing ROI better

By 2015, it’s thought that over six out of every ten CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) will consider that ROI (Return-on-Investment) is the key metric to use when calculating how successful a marketing campaign has been. Unfortunately, there’s a definite woolliness when it comes to a marketing department’s definition of ROI, meaning it becomes a difficult measure to accurately calculate. CRO helps a small business to pin down ROI as a metric, as the ROI increase generated can be specifically linked to certain areas and campaigns associated with a site.

  • CRO = More Sales and Higher Leads

The beauty of CRO is that it increases your revenue without the need of increasing your traffic. If you get one hundred visitors a minute, but only one of those visitors makes a purchase, your site has a conversion rate of 1%. If you take steps to improve your conversion rate to 2%, you have just doubled your revenue! If you do nothing to increase your CRO to get the same results you’d have to double your traffic to two hundred visitors a minute, which is of course expensive.

Ten CRO Tools for Small Businesses

The benefits of CRO are obvious. The results are faster and more profitable than throwing all your resources at SEO. It’s certainly the best way to boost your ROI.

Plus, CRO is based completely on data. You don’t have to make “best guesses” on what would work for your site, and what would not. There are lots of areas in which SEO experts will advise you, but there is never any guarantee that the changes they suggest will actually do anything for your business – in fact some changes may even damage your ranking. With CRO, you are not under the influence of sites and companies like Google and Bing. What you do with CRO, you do for yourself, and once it starts working, it keeps on working. With SEO, you may pay thousands to get your site right up there on Google, but once Google makes the latest set of changes to its ranking algorhythms, you could find yourself in a worse position than before you started your SEO campaign.

CRO is not expensive at all. The internet is awash with brilliant tools that will not bite huge chunks out of your marketing budget (please see the extensive list below). If you use them right, your site and your business will both benefit immensely. Before we go through the tools, let’s look at how your business should best approach its CRO campaign.

Why “Trial And Error” is the Best Approach

Sometimes, you can try too hard. If you strive for perfection, on many occasions what you actually achieve is simply not worth the amount of effort that has been expended upon it. How many times have you been on a long, expensive journey only to find out the destination, when reached, was not really worth hassle and cost of getting there?

A “trial and error” approach to CRO is a much better option. By trial and error we mean finding a solution that is not necessarily optimum, but is perfectly acceptable in relation to the amount of effort spent in finding it. Your initial steps with CRO should consist of simple techniques, based upon user experience. You have to evaluate your site via human eyes, and not wholly on data. Listen to the consensus of the voices you ask about your site (not everyone is right!) and see if you’ve enough data to back up what you’re hearing.

There are plenty of ways in which you can conduct a “trial and error” review of your site. Why not kick things off with a brain-storming session with members of your own team, for instance?

The next steps you take need to deal with the following critical issues:

  • How Clear Is Your Site’s Aim?

What is it – precisely – that your site is there for? Is this clear to a visitor, and how long will it take them to figure it out? If it’s longer than four to five seconds, then your site is failing. If the first thing a visitor encounters on your site is a video or animation that takes a long time to load, then don’t be surprised when the majority of your visitors vanish before the thing has finished loading. Your site needs a clear and precise call to action.

  • How Easy Is Your Site To Use?

When a visitor wants to do something on your site, such as make a purchase, is it clear how they can do it? If you need details, such as a delivery address, can these details be saved, so the next time they visit they don’t have to fill everything in again? Are there any short cuts that minimizes the need for information? Are there multiple payment options, or do you force your customers to use a credit card? Do your customers receive assurances that their transactions are safe? Is there an FAQ section, or live help channel – somewhere your customers can turn to if they get stuck?

  • Are There Any Distractions?

You need to attract customers, not distract them. In the late 1990s, animated sites with amusing gifs and zany graphics were very much the rage. Now if your site has them you will be laughed at and pitied. A smooth slide-show of images is about as animated as you now can get. There’s a simple rule of thumb – if your site doesn’t need it, then it shouldn’t be there.

  • Does Your Site Appear in an Instance?

When a visitor clicks on a link to your site, the clock starts. You have four seconds, on average, to snare them. If your site takes longer than four seconds to load at typical broadband speeds, then you’ve had it. You also need to have as many compelling reasons as possible for someone to stay on your site, once they have arrived there.

  • From Where Does Your Traffic Originate?

Visitors rarely stumble upon a site by accident. Instead, they’ve come from a search engine query or web directory. That means they’ve come with a very definite purpose in mind. You need to make sure that your site is designed so to enable them to fulfill that purpose, and as swiftly and as easily as possible.

  • In Your Face or Step Aside? You Decide!

You need to take into account the purpose of your site when it come to deciding how “pushy” you can be. If your site is designed to push one product or service, then it’s perfectly fine to ramp up the sales talk and do everything you can to sell that product or service to your visitors as soon as they arrive. If your site has a multitude of products or services, it’s best to stand back and allow your visitors time to browse before going in with the pitch.

When it comes to CRO, the points made above are the ones you need to deal with the most. Now you know what to do, you just need to know how to do it! Below you will find a list of the top ten tools to use when running a CRO campaign:

[1] Testimonials

The one thing that will really help enhance the standing of your site is a healthy section devoted to genuine customer testimonials. The internet has really strengthened the arm of the consumer. Word-of-mouth recommendations have gone global, as a customer from Santiago can now read and reflect upon the comments and experiences of people from Tokyo, Chicago and Johannesburg. People want to enter your site armed with the knowledge that they will be treated well, and will be treated right.

You should make as much respectful effort as possible to gather genuine customer testimonials and exhibit them on your site. DO NOT be tempted to write fake testimonials. Fake reviews stand out a mile and once you’ve been “outed” as a site that uses fake testimonials, the damage your reputation can suffer is something you simply may never recover from. Make your testimonials brief and to the point. Make sure they are “signed” by whoever wrote them – first name, initial of surname and residence should do, and a photo if possible.

Have a look at for a decent tool that allows you to manage your testimonials.

[2] Ratings and Reviews

If you type in the name of a specific company into Google, when the results are returned, you’ll notice that customer reviews are now returned as part of the search engine listings. This means that if a customer finds your site, the first impression they’re likely to get is based upon how other users have rated it.

To this end, it’s best if you grab the bull by the horns and add a review and rating functionality to your site. It helps build confidence in your products and services if you’re willing to allow your customers to say what they think about you. If you do everything you can to make every customer experience a positive one, then you’ve nothing to worry about when it comes to letting your public be your judge. Anything on your site that gives visitors confidence when it comes to parting with their money can only be a good thing.

You’ll find a great tool to help you manage reviews and ratings at

[3] Usability Feedback

Feedback is always a great way to see where your site is going wrong, or is going right, but the source of your feedback should always match the type of consumer your site is designed to appeal to. If you sell children’s apparel, for example, you really ought to source your feedback from people who have children, rather than your work colleagues, who may not. The best ideas are more likely to come from those people for whom your site is designed.

You should take every opportunity you can to respectfully ask your users for their opinion of your site. Are there any areas of the site’s functionality they found confusing? Did the site fail at any stage? Did anything lead to frustration? Are they any areas that really need a lot of work, and quickly at that?

There are plenty of decent usability review tools around. See for some examples.

[4] A/B Testing

A/B Testing is where the original version of something (the “A” version) is compared to a new version of something (the “B” version). If you make changes to your site, you simply must test them. Even if everything points to the changes you’ve made to your site being amazingly successful, there is never any guarantee that it will be. You might be amazed when the changes that have been suggested by users to your site actually make your site perform worse. This is why A/B Testing is so crucial.

There are many good A/B Testing tools available. They allow you to have two versions of your site, the original “A” version and the new “B” version. Users are randomly directed to either one of the two sites. By having the two versions, you can compare them before you make the final decision to adopt the new version as the final one. One of the best A/B Testing tools available can be found at

[5] Web Chat

Naturally, your website needs to have a web chat function if at all possible. Instant answers to consumer concerns is a brilliant way of reassuring customers that there’s help on hand should they need it. However, you should use your web chat as another way of sourcing customer opinions regarding your site. Once a web chat representative has finished helping a customer, it’s a great idea to get them to then politely ask the customer if they wouldn’t mind answering a few questions. You could always chuck in the added incentive of 5% off their next purchase if they complete the questioning. A banner that advertises this once your web-site loads is a great idea as well.

Ask the customer how they have found using your site, if they experienced any difficulty or delays in making their purchase, or if they have any suggestions about how the whole experience could be improved. People often enjoy having opinions asked of them, and make sure you only use open questions to allow a customer free reign to fully express their thoughts. You never know what diamonds you could uncover, and you might find that one tactic that really gives you an edge over your competitors.

Check out for ideas.

[6] Surveillance

We seem to be surveyed and monitored everywhere we go these days, and the internet is no different. However, if you are a web-site owner, you can use monitoring to your benefit. All monitoring involves is using tools to see how your users behave whilst they are on your site. By doing this you will gain insights into why some visitors are motivated to make purchases, whilst others aren’t. You can use these tools to record all their interactions with your site – mouse clicks, pages opened and pages scrolled, for example. It will allow you to see the impact that any changes you have made to your site have had, and it will leave you in a much better position to make the best decisions for your business.

  • Mouse Tracking

Mouse Tracking tools allow you to create click, scroll and attention heat maps. They’ll show you which areas of your site are the hot zones, and which are neglected. It can be hard to make generalizations from the data you get back, especially if you only have relatively small sample sizes. It’s best to use tools that use complex algorhythms to extrapolate information from the date they’re given. Such tools that do this include LookTracker, EyeQuant and Feng-GUI.

  • User Session Replays

Recording user sessions is really one of the best ways you can learn how users typically interact with your site. There are plenty of tools around that allow you to do thus, such as Clicktale, SessionCam and Inspectlet. Once you have a record of a user-session, you can review how visitors do actually interact with your site.

One aspect of your site you really need to pay close attention to is form-filling. Google Analytics can give you data about how many forms are filled in, and where are the hot points at which form filling is typically abandoned, but often this data is tough to interpret. By actually observing the form filling process “as it happens” you can gain a greater depth of understanding. Perhaps your data shows that many customers start filling in a particular form then abandon it halfway through – but the data doesn’t show why. By watching the forms being abandoned you can learn the issues people are having with them.

[7] Website Surveys

Most web users find website surveys a bit of an annoyance, but they can still be useful if done properly. Useless questions such as “would you recommend us to a friend?” should be avoided – most people simply answer “yes” because that’s what they feel is expected of them, or “no” just because they’re having a bad day. When you put together your own survey, make sure you actually think about what you are asking, and how likely the answers are to be of use to you. Never use generic questions – ask specifics about specific areas of your site. If you need some ideas about how to go about this, you can use survey tools such as Qualaroo to help you.

[8] Accredited Business Seals

Don’t think your potential customers will take pity on you because you’re a small business. If you were to open a burger joint right next door to McDonalds in your local shopping mall, you might attract the odd curious visitor or two in your first week or so, but generally people are going to stick with what they’ve been using for years.

To inspire visitors to become customers, you need to show them that you intend to be here for the long haul, and gaining accredited business seals will go a long way to showing your users your intentions of becoming successful. If you can gain accreditation with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, you can then prominently display their seal on your site. A VeriSign security seal is another great boon as it shows customers that their transactions are going to be perfectly secure.

Gather together as much accreditation as you can. Everything you can muster that helps strengthen your legitimacy will go a long way to improving your visitor’s confidence in your business. You can check out for some ideas.

[9] Browsers & Resolutions

A decade ago, if someone browsed the internet, nineteen times out of twenty that person would be using Internet Explorer to do so. Fast forward ten years, and that figure is now down to around one in five. Other browsers – and in particular Chrome, Firefox and Safari – now have a real stranglehold on the browser market. In an ideal world, all browsers would display your site in the same way, but the truth is, they don’t, and if your site doesn’t function properly in any one browser in particular, then you run the risk of losing a fair segment of your potential consumer audience.

The same goes for screen resolution. Your site might look brilliant at 1600×1200, but what about those with net-books with small screens? Or seven inch tablets? Or an iPhone? You site needs to make considerations for all of these, or again you risk losing customers.

The great news is there are sites when you can test your web pages across multiple browsers and resolutions. Just head to to find out how.

[10] Say Hello!

People generally like to be treated with friendliness – unless they’re having a particularly awful day. Staff in shops, bars and restaurants are taught to be friendly, and not just to get extra tips! A positive customer experience simply leads to more custom.

If you can get your site to greet your customers, it’s the first step towards content personalization. If your customer has filled in their details on a previous visit, and they agree to your site’s cookie policy, it only takes a bit of simple coding to issue them with a personal greeting on their next visit. You could also inform them of new deals that are available. A quick animation is a great way of greeting your customer back to your site.

You don’t need something that’s flashier than a CGI movie. Have a look at the tools available on to see what you can come up with.

CRO Shouldn’t Eat Up Your Budget

You may have noticed a common theme about many of the tools listed above – they’re either free or extremely cheap. This goes to show that CRO will not simply strip you of the entirety of your marketing budget. If you put together your CRO campaign using the tools that are listed, or any others you may find that are free or inexpensive, you’re well on your way to upping your conversion rate in as cost-effective a fashion as possible.

When You’ve Done, Sit Back and Watch

Once you’ve completed all your CRO efforts, and made the changes to your site, it’s always best to perform one single roll out. Users can get annoyed if they find that a site is constantly changing, little by little. Whilst a major overhaul will still engender a few complaints, users soon get use to changes as long as they understand that the site isn’t going to keep on changing. Getting used to something radical in one swoop is often better than getting annoyed by tiny change after tiny change.

CRO works faster than SEO. With SEO, you’re relying upon web spiders visiting your site to re-rank it, which they only do so once every three months or so. Results from CRO-inspired changes happen much faster, but you still need to be patient. Don’t forget to take seasonal factors into consideration, though. If your sales traditionally dip during summer, then don’t expect your CRO figures to rocket through the roof if you implement your changes at this time. It’s important that you compare like-for-like i.e. compare your figures for the month following your CRO changes to the figures for the same month of the previous year.

Are You Convinced?

If you’re not convinced … why not? CRO is extremely cost-effective and typically generates excellent rises in sales and revenue. If you have the traffic, but not the custom, CRO will really help you in raising the number of customers you have without the need of raising the number of visitors. If you make good use of the tools listed in this article, there’s little doubt you will soon be increasing the amount of revenue your carefully-tailored new style site brings you.