The Ultimate CRO Checklist – How Every Business Should Approach Conversion Rate Optimization

Apr 13, 2022 | TIPS & TOOLS, PODCAST

How do you convert more website visitors into customers? Is your revenue not scaling with your ad spend? Are you trying to figure out why people are abandoning your mobile app or website? In this episode of Digital Dames’ mar-tech podcast Conversion Path we focus CRO – aka, Conversion Rate Optimization.


Listen in to learn:

  • The basics of conversion rate optimization
  • Who is CRO for?
  • What is a marketing funnel and how do you measure it?
  • How to define ‘success’ when it comes to CRO.
  • Where do you start when implementing a CRO program for your business?
  • At what point in your business should you start implementing CRO?
  • Our top tips for success in CRO based on hundreds of on-site and mobile app experiments.
  • The common CRO mistakes that businesses make, and how to overcome them.


Resources mentioned in this episode:

Listen to the Full Episode

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[email protected]

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See the full transcription of this week’s episode below.

The Ultimate CRO Checklist – How Every Business Should Approach Conversion Optimization

J: Welcome to Conversion Path, a mar-tech podcast about data and growth for your online and mobile business, by Digital Dames. We gather every week to talk about how to amplify your product, message, or service. I’m Jaclyn Hawtin.

M: I’m Mani O’Brien. In this episode, we are discussing, “How to Approach Conversion Rate Optimization as a Business.” This is definitely an area that we talk about all day, all night, in our sleep.

J: One of our favorite topics, for sure.

M: It is. We are so excited to dig into it. We are a CRO marketing firm, meaning we specialize in conversion rate optimization. The majority of our consulting and services revolve around CRO. I feel like there’s been this threshold where CRO is all of a sudden becoming more mainstream. Would you agree with that, Jaclyn?

J: A lot more people definitely know of or have heard of the term, for sure.

M: But not everyone necessarily knows how to approach it. In today’s episode, what we’re going to do is run through some of the common definitions, we’re going to lay a foundation for what CRO is. We’ve outlined some common questions that get asked, and we intend to dedicate the next four episodes to CRO. In this episode, we’re getting really foundational with the basics: who is CRO for, what it is, and all that good stuff. Let’s dive in. Jaclyn, you’re a business, you have an online business.

What is conversion rate optimization exactly?

J: In the simplest definition, it’s basically the process of improving your conversion rate at every step of your marketing funnel.

M: And it’s really for anybody who conducts business online. CRO can be for a service-oriented business, it could be for a product-oriented business, if you sell a product to people, it’s for b2b, b2c, it’s for SaaS, it’s really anybody.

J: Anybody that needs to have something optimized. It could even be offline as well. But generally, the term is used for online businesses, too.


What is a marketing funnel?

M: So, if the goal of CRO is to improve conversion rates for your marketing funnel, then we should really break down what a marketing funnel is. How would you define the marketing funnel, Jaclyn?

J: I would define it as a series of steps that your customers are taking to execute a specific goal for your business or your organization. Usually, the final conversion is going to be something like someone making a purchase or signing up for your service.


How do you measure success in conversion optimization?


M: If you’re thinking about how to define success in conversion rate optimization, let’s dig into what that looks like. What we’ve mapped out in our framework is that it, always starts with the customer persona. Knowing your customer is very, very important.

We won’t go into customer personas, but we have touched on them before. Most organizations have a sense of a customer’s persona, but when you’re thinking about your marketing funnel, it’s so important to have that persona in mind, down to the point of naming your ideal customer, giving them a name and a face, and even if it’s just a pretend person, just having them at the forefront.

J: It changes your thinking; having your customer at the forefront of your mind, for sure. It’s impossible to be in the same state of mind without having a personality there.

M: When you’re thinking about defining success in CRO, customer persona is number one. Number two is the driver– what is bringing your visitors to your website? It’s so important to think about the environment through which people are coming. If they’re being referred to your business by a trusted adviser or friend, their mindset is so much different than somebody doing a more general search on the internet for services that you offer, and they’re more in that research phase.

J: Right, different messaging for different groups of people.

M: Another factor to think about with CRO is your goal– what do you want your visitors to do?

This one is tough for businesses sometimes. Because so often, business owners have more than one thing that they want to do, more than one thing they want to offer, or more than one customer persona.

J: I also think that sometimes business owners get cognitive overload when trying to think through the lens of technology on this question. It’s hard to imagine what is possible in terms of tracking goals.

They’ll start by asking themself What limitations do I have with the techs that I’m using?

Sometimes that can create a little bit of anxiety and you can get lost in the brainstorming.

I think it’s better to approach this by just throwing that kind of thinking out the window and acting as if you could track anything you could imagine writing that down.

Start by thinking “In a perfect world, I would be able to measure all of these steps.”

Then, later on, you can go back through that and make decisions based on limitations. You need to have that first perfect vision of your marketing funnel in mind and finished in order to track back to find ways to measure it.

Marketing Funnel Breakdown


Let’s walk through these steps we’re talking about with the funnel and the goal for the business owner.

Obviously, someone comes to your website, and there’s something you want them to do. The next thing is granularly breaking out every single step they would take.

Step 1: Step one might be seeing your advertisement on Instagram.

Step 2: Then they click on the link included in that ad.

Step 3: Now they’re on your website homepage.

Step 4: Then from the homepage, you want them to click a button, hopefully, one button, or one very clear call-to-action – we’ll get into that.

Step 5: Then they click on the “Shop All” button.

Step 6: Then from there, your visitor is on the product feed page where they see a selection of products.

Step 7: Then they’re going to choose one product and probably look at the product detail page.

Step 8: And after that they’re going to click the “Add to Cart” button, and then

Step 9: they view the cart page, and then…

Step 10: eventually complete the purchase.

Many people will probably have even more steps in there. 

How Do You Realistically Measure Each and Every Step?

M: As you said, Jaclyn sometimes business owners can get a little bit overwhelmed and have barriers in their thinking, wondering, “Oh, can I even track every single step?” But at this point, you’re just brainstorming the minutiae of the marketing funnel and that’s okay.

Then once you’ve broken out the steps, you need to measure the funnel. I guess that’s where the technical challenges come in. But it’s important to have the brainstorming first. What’s your approach typically, Jaclyn, when you’re thinking through a case? Someone mapped out the funnel and they’re saying, “It’s 50 steps.” And then you’re like, “Sure, how do you measure this?” What’s our approach in that case?

J: You’ll probably be surprised when you’re working with somebody that regularly sets up the goal tracking and the technical setup for these processes. There are a lot of tricks to the trade, where you can simplify things by using different scripts that have been developed for solutions like this.

After you have mapped everything out, the next step is to talk to a Mar Tech expert. Somebody that understands data and analytics and google tag manager. The things that come with a strategic plan of action: making sure you have your taxonomy set up, and that it’s easy to understand what’s being tracked across your different platforms, and they’re all communicating correctly.

M: Two things I would add: one is that there is so much that’s possible.

Almost anything is trackable. Now, whether or not you’re willing to invest or ready to invest in every single step of measurement, that’s another question.

With our clients we always approach things from an MVP perspective (a minimum viable product).

We’ll ask

Can we turn 50 steps into five core steps?

Can we address how many people are dropping off after they add to the cart, to final conversion?

J: Yes, you start with what you can afford, what is the most important step out of these 50? Let’s do that first. Then let’s do the second most important step. You might find along the way that the other ones don’t even matter as much in context, and you don’t even need to invest in building them. It depends on the experiment.

M: But it is amazing how much can be tracked down to that granular level if you have dynamic forms that are based on logic or button color and insights that you want. There’s so much that can be produced and it’s pretty exciting.

J: Yes, basically, any interaction a user takes on your website, or your mobile app, can be tracked. It just has to be coded as an event and sent to the analytics platform. It’s easy.

M: The other basics are measuring and gauging success in CRO.

You know your customer,
You know where they’re coming from,
You know the steps in your funnel, and
You’re able to measure the steps.

Then comes the fun stuff. It’s like, all right, now I can measure and now I get to test and learn.

And ideally, what CRO looks like, it’s really like a website testing program or mobile app testing program.

And I’m saying website a lot, but this also applies to any component of marketing, including advertisements, email marketing, or SMS.

The idea is just to test different ideas and see what performs best, right?

J: Absolutely, testing every point of interaction with your customer.

M: The only other two definitions that are important when it comes to CRO and part of our framework is this concept of HOPs, meaning, how are you persuading your users to act? What are you offering them in exchange for taking the steps that you want them to take? And then something else too, is the idea of barriers. When you take a look at your CRO success, and you find that there’s a certain place in the marketing funnel, where users drop off, you do want to think about the barriers, where and why are they abandoning your marketing funnel? It could be something you’re doing, it could be something completely external. There’s a reason people are hesitant to take action. Maybe they do more research, there’s missing information, or what have you.

J: A lot of times, it might be you’re attracting the wrong audience and you don’t even know it. Using phrases that are being used in a similar industry and you haven’t heard that and that happens a lot on Google ads.

M: I think there is a disconnect between – and obviously, we do both – between the marketing, and messaging. Then once you get on the site, there’s a disconnect, because in advertising, you have a certain goal in mind there. You’re thinking, “Click on the ad.” And when the person comes to the website, then they’re like, “Whoa, what is happening? This is not what I was looking for.” And you got to close that gap.

J: One example would be our law client that is working in a specific type of disability. But most people just type in, “I need a disability lawyer,” and she doesn’t serve both sides of the disability. But most of the clients are coming from that other side, because it’s just a bigger pool. And so they’re not able to find what they need on her site, because she doesn’t serve them. But it’s a situation where it’s impossible to know, it’s the general term.

M: Then on a top-level, it might appear as if the conversion for those website visitors is bad. But if you get into the relevant search terms, you’d find that the conversion is probably a lot better. That is the nuance that you get into with the beauty of CRO. Let’s get into the next step. Commonly, when customers come to us, our clients typically have gotten to a point where they have scaled the business, they have money coming in, they have customers coming into the website, they’ve got ads running, and they’re trying to scale. They’re getting to the point where they’re thinking, “Oh, well, when I scale my ads, it’s not necessarily scaling in revenue.”

Another situation might be that they find they have an engaged audience. The website traffic is there, but they’re just not getting the returns that they would expect from a revenue perspective. When you’re thinking about that situation, where’s a good place to start?

J: That is going to be different for each organization. Also considering, is this an E-commerce company? Or is this more like a social media platform that wants to get more users, you’re going to approach that process in a very, very different way. I think the first recommendation I would like to make is to do a strategic brainstorming session to recognize and label all the points in your funnel with a value system. Then determine what place is most valuable for us to increase conversion rates in our business, and then start there. But it’s going to be different for every single organization.

M: To give an example of a product-oriented business, would you recommend targeting the products that give you the highest return on ad spend, for example, as a priority one?

J: But only if you have the volume in those products, you might get a better return on ad spend for products that sell in less volume. You need to look at a couple different variables there.

M: You can’t do everything at once. That’s a good segue into some of our next questions. What should I be testing? And what should I test first? What do you think is the best approach? I guess that’s exactly what you described is thinking strategically about what’s going to best serve the organization? What should you test first, probably the area that has the biggest opportunity, once you have your marketing funnel, then you’ve got conversion rates for every step of that funnel. And you can see a pretty clear drop-off most times.

J: Yes, a good method too is to take a look at your analytics platforms and look at the drop-off rates and compare those to an industry standard. Then if there’s a big variation, you’ll see the opportunity right away, like, “Oh, we’re below industry standard here, we could afford to kick this up a notch.” If you’ve already been doing conversion rate optimization for a while, one strategy might be using more sophisticated tools to break out your different customer personas, and then really analyzing those drop-off points for the individual channel groupings of different customers, because those numbers are going to look different. And that’s a space where the magic starts to happen.

M: I love that. I would also say that it is a multi-step process. To give an example, you have a situation in which nobody leaves the homepage. If you’re only getting a fraction of people to take action beyond that homepage landing step, then everything else might not even be statistically significant enough for you to make decisions. You can’t say that the checkout is not working, because, at this point, your primary goal should be to increase click-through from the homepage to the product pages.

J: Absolutely, you have to make sure you have the numbers and enough users on every single page where you’re trying to increase optimization.

M: I always find it to be fun when you find people who have the homepage traffic, people are then visiting the product page and then they get to the add to cart, and then it’s a steep fall off a cliff. Then you might think, “Okay, this is a great opportunity here with one little tweak.”

J: For ecommerce clients, that’s generally the case. When you’re in the cart and the cart page always sucks, I don’t know why, most platforms don’t pay attention to the cart page and it just looks lame. It’s generally difficult to update and add pretty testimonials and videos and stuff and so it becomes a blog. That page is so important. If you’re an ecommerce company, we recommend looking there first, probably.

M: I was going to add to the comment I made first. If you are an organization where you are trying to improve the click-through rate from the homepage, you can’t expect too much beyond that, the goal should be increased, click-through to the product page, but you’re probably going to have to address additional steps in the funnel before you can see the revenue coming in. It’s good to have a testing program where you’re like, step one, homepage fixes, and let’s all feel successful after you’ve gotten more clicks. And it’s okay that it’s not revenue-generating immediately, because it’s going to be a process.

J: When you’re launching an experiment collectively as a team, you have to choose the point of interaction that you’re measuring. And if you’re at the end of the funnel, measuring profit, that’s fine, but it doesn’t have a direct relationship to that particular experiment. If you’re just trying to optimize the click-through on a button at the beginning of the funnel. It’s not a fair assessment, because you’re not optimizing anything else in that funnel. It’s important to understand what the KPI is, for that particular experiment. It’s not how much money is being made at the end of the funnel, it’s the increase in conversion rate on that particular button.

M: It reminds me of when I used to run Instagram accounts in my early career, and you’d get this false expectation of, oh, we got more Instagram followers, but where’s the money? I thought, “Well, fix your website first. I can’t be responsible for that as the Instagram manager.” When do you think is appropriate to start optimizing your funnel, Jaclyn?

J: It’s appropriate to start optimizing the funnel right away. If you’re a new company, you probably are going to want to start at the beginning. If you’re an E-commerce company, you probably want to start optimizing that checkout process right away too. But if you’re an organization that’s just starting out, and you don’t have a lot of traffic, then maybe CRO is not going to be a priority for you, maybe you’re more in this stage of getting your data set up integrated. You could also just begin to start tracking what people are doing on your website.

Usually, organizations that are getting into the arena of CRO are going to have enough experience to understand generally, what users are doing on their website, and have their data strategy in place. That’s when you get into using AB testing tools and split testing your page designs and your headlines and that sort of thing.

M: Once companies scale to the point where it’s appropriate to be conducting on-site AB testing, and they have a significant amount of data coming through, what is typically a recommendation for how many tests that should be conducted?

J: This depends on your team and how much time you have available to put into this process. When you’re just starting with CRO, I don’t recommend doing more than one or two per month just to get into the mode of doing it, getting everybody habituated to the process. It takes developing the culture of experimentation within your organization to make something like this work and setting the right expectations. On average, with a CRO experiment, you’re not going to see an improvement until you’ve executed about six tests.

First off, you have to be committed to doing this ongoing because just launching a CRO experiment for one month, it’s not going to probably yield any significant results. you want to look at committing to at least a six-month plan and likely more if you can. But once you have the culture of testing setup, and you understand, okay, this is the amount of time that this part of my team is going to have to dedicate to managing the relationship with our CRO agency, then you’ll know, okay, we could launch four to 12 tests per month. We can handle that. But it just really depends on the organization and it also depends on your traffic.

If you have a large corporation and you have hundreds of thousands of people visiting your site every month, then you could potentially do multivariate testing instead of just split AB testing. There are a lot of opportunities here, it’s just dependent on where you are as an organization.

M: I love that you just touched on the culture of experimentation. I think what’s so exciting about experimentation is that you’ll find that things get a little bit more efficient when you have a culture of experimentation, because everyone’s a little bit less precious about all the details that go into a website page. You know that the content is not set in place forever, the plan is that you’ll test it with an actual audience.

I find working with clients that are more “legacy” and maybe grew up in the analog era where you’ve got to get the copywriting exactly right and being very precious about the images that you select and the colors and all that stuff. It becomes a little bit more fluid because you can just test multiple things with actual users, and it’s less contingent on a few people within the organization making this decision. It’s pretty cool, but it takes a mindset shift, for sure.

I know we’ll be digging into this some more, but let’s talk about some top-level tips for success and CRO. I’ll give a top-level recommendation from a design perspective. We have a great framework that we use when we are recommending design tips and user experience and user interaction like UX/UI tips for our customers. There’s a big checklist that we use for every page of your website. We look holistically at the website, and think through every step of the funnel, and make sure to hit those marks.

I’ll talk about top-level categories, but you want to make sure that you are presenting information that’s highly relevant to the customer and where they’re coming from. You need to make sure you’re building trust through social proof, through building authority, showing trust, and logos on the website. Orientation is a category we look for. That means to make sure that you are presenting the information in a way that’s very clear to the user. For example, where they need to be clicking and what action they need to be taking.

J: Choose one per page, a call to action.

M: Simulation is another category. That’s part of our framework. That means, how are you incentivizing people to take action now? Security, of course – you need to make sure that you’re establishing a sense of security for your website users and helping them feel like you’re a trustworthy person, you could take action without feeling insecure about that. And then convenience – making sure that everything is conveniently located, easy to find. Then finally, confirmation – this is mimicking regular human behavior. If you think about a customer walking into an elevator with me, and I’ve got a few minutes to chat with them about what I do, what does that conversation look like?

J: These are all based on human psychology and interpreted through the lens of technology to make somebody feel comfortable as an individual in taking action. It’s pretty straightforward when you start thinking about it. Thinking, “Oh, yeah, I go through all of those processes.” But it’s a lot of things to think about when you’re looking at it through the lens of digital technology. Because you’re not talking to a person you’re talking to a website.

M: It’s so funny when you look at that and we factor in all these human psychology basics. And once you know the framework, you’re like, oh, my gosh, all of my decisions are based on this framework, like, oh my gosh, every person I trust, every time I bought anything, I check the boxes.

J: It’s kind of magic.

M: Then what about from a data perspective, Jaclyn? I know, we’ve touched on this a lot, and we’ll dive further into detail, but what are your top tips from a data perspective for success in CRO?

J: In a super basic form, you just basically have to have your goal that you want to be tracked accurately through technology. You have to have a script on your mobile application or your website. That is passing information from the application to an analytics setup, where you’re tracking those specific goals that you’ve predetermined or are important steps in your marketing funnels. You can measure whether or not things are increasing in conversions, or decreasing in conversions for your experiments.

As long as you have those things in place, there are a lot of different tools that you could be using. You’re generally going to be using a CRO platform on top of that data set up to help you to launch experiments. Of course, you can get more sophisticated with a customer data platform. But for now, I think that’s enough.

M: If you’re new, you could get the basics using free tools like Google Analytics. A lot of that is just a wonderful foundation to start with, so don’t be scared.

J: Google even has a free AB testing platform that can be utilized. It’s not as nice as some of the paid platforms, but you can do a lot with it if you know you take the time to dive into those tools.

M: To wrap up, let’s highlight some of the top mistakes that we usually see organizations making at the beginning. And we’ll get more into these in the future. But what are the top mistakes, Jaclyn?

J: I love being able to have this conversation before organizations get started because it saves so much time. My primary one is, do not try to build a bunch of funnels at once. Just do one simple funnel at the beginning, if it’s your first one, and launch a very basic AB test. Don’t try to track too many goals at once. Make it just a three-step funnel and start there and get good at it. Because that’s the thing, you have to get that experience and understand what it takes. Then once you have it, you can replicate it, but start with one.

M: I love that. What else? Not having the right data strategy. We’ve talked about that a lot.

J: Making sure that you have a data strategy in place at the beginning, and that you’re able to understand the results of your experiments based on the technology that you’re using.

M: Speaking of technology, another top mistake is not making the right technology decisions out the gate. That’s a challenge. I remember meeting with a customer and it was a fairly large organization and they were still using Squarespace, which is a wonderful builder platform. If you’re an entrepreneur or just starting, it’s a launch platform, but it’s not something that you can scale a CRO program with. It’s just not as flexible and open and it’s not the right choice. Sorry, no offense Squarespace users. But just having that consultation early on with a CRO expert is key when you’re making big decisions if you intend to grow and scale the technology that you have.

J: Even broader than that, if you’re going to have an online business and you want it to be scalable, having those conversations when you’re building your stuff from the beginning.

M: I’m laughing because our copywriters always say, “You guys say way too much.” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Okay, the last mistake is, approaching CRO at the wrong point of the funnel.

J: There could be a lot of steps to your funnel and it’s important to know, which one of these has the highest value for my organization, you don’t want to waste time optimizing a step at a part of the funnel, that’s not going to yield a significant result for you in terms of what you’re trying to achieve. make sure to just do that strategic thinking at the beginning of the process, so that you know what’s most valuable and is important.

M: I love that. All right, with that, we’ll wrap up our show. Thank you so much, Jaclyn, anything else to add?

J: No, I think we covered it.

M: Well, thank you so much for listening. I’m Mani, Director of Marketing and my lovely cohost is Jaclyn Hawtin, Director of Technology. And we’re the founding partners of Digital Dames. We are so grateful for our team. Our podcast project manager is Lora Kurtenbach. Our show producer is Alyssa Holderbien. Our show art is designed by Mari Salonga and our audio engineer is J.C. Capparelli. We are also giving away some air pods, exclusively for our podcast listeners. Thank you so much for listening all the way through.

Visit Or you can send us a DM on Instagram using the word podcast and we’ll send you a link to sign up to enter our contest for our air pods giveaway. We’d also love to hear your thoughts and we welcome your questions, feedback, and podcast ideas. You can email us at [email protected], keep up with us across the web, or on social media, our username is Digital Dames on Instagram, Tik-Tok, and LinkedIn and we’d love for you to leave us a review and subscribe to us on Apple, Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts. Until next time, thank you so much for listening.

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Post Contributors

Jaclyn Hawtin

Jaclyn Hawtin

Senior Data Architect

Over a decade of experience in product management, devops, startups, and agile methodologies. Track record of simplifying complex technical processes for cross-functional teams. Proficient in user centered design, UX, IX, UI, IA, user research and data analytics for responsive web, mobile and tablet applications. Incredibly adaptable, fluent with both people and machines.

Mani O'Brien

Mani O'Brien

Conversion optimization manager

Mani is a senior marketing manager with roots in storytelling. She nerds out on everything data, technology, human behavior and design. Chat with her about UX/UI, marketing funnels, conversion and goal tracking, marketing experimentation and astrology (she’s a Virgo Sun, Aries Rising).

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