Mastering CRO: Insights from a Decade of Experience

I have tested, improvised, and developed hypotheses in conversion rate optimization (CRO) for over a decade, focusing specifically on cybersecurity, IT management, and home automation fields. The experience I gained over the 2000 unique tests I have run with my team has taught me a lot, with the most important lesson being: Always rely on data.

Everything a business needs all comes down to leads and conversions. In the context of CRO, when I say “leads,” I refer to website visits, email recipients, etc. Conversions, on the other hand, are the success rate of how these leads become the “expected engagers” (form fills, checkouts, you get the idea).

You may have all the traffic in the world, but without an ideal conversion rate, you are just never going to survive as a business. This is why understanding the importance of CRO becomes critical.

Understanding Conversion Rate Optimization

First, let’s start with what CRO is not, as, in my experience, businesses waste most of their time and money because of these misconceptions.


  • A better CTA
  • Better content
  • Lower bounce rate
  • A faster website
  • Optimized funnels

CRO is: Optimizing all of the above for higher conversion rates, meaning that the rest might be meaningless unless approached holistically.

Key Principles of Effective CRO

I am all for gut feelings in many things in life. I really believe in its power and have witnessed its many benefits. But there are things in life where acting upon gut feelings is just too risky, especially when it comes to data-oriented decisions such as financials, medical, or accounting. CRO is one of the areas where you need real-life metrics to make educated assumptions.

The user experience (UX) is literally the foundation of CRO. As the business owner or CRO expert, you might have a beautiful experience on the web funnels, but this doesn’t mean that your website aligns with your potential buyers. A good design doesn’t always necessarily mean good CRO.

Understanding the Existing Visitors

CRO is about getting the maximum benefit for your business from your visitors. Most businesses unknowingly make the end conversion difficult for their visitors. Use CRO as an enabler first, meaning that initially, your optimization doesn’t have to convince those who visit your website but don’t intend to buy from you. First, make sure that you optimize to seal the leaks for visitors who want to be a conversion but get frustrated and leave without being one.

Take a picture of “what it is” before working on “what should it be”.

Remember, if your conversion rates are not at the level you expect them to be, your initial goal should be to make incremental progress. Here are some tools you may utilize to take a snapshot of how your existing CRO performance is:

The tools below are for identifying your current CRO posture and not to start implementing CRO. We will get there later.

Google Analytics 4: Validate your traffic and its sources. Where do your visitors come from? What percentage of your visits are real vs bots?

SEMRush: What keywords do your site visitors type into the search box to land on your website? What pages do they land on? This is critical because the keywords your users search to land on your data are super valuable. When you group these keywords and apply them to the content of your landing pages, you will see an incredible impact, as I call it, a “breadcrumb” impact. When a user uses a keyword phrase, it gives away their current buying trance. When the buying trance (keyword searched) matches what’s on your landing page, this minimizes friction and maximizes relevance, hence further engagement is a likely outcome.

AI-Based ChatBot: This tool will enable you to start listening to what your visitors say and what concerns they have. Most of them work great. The one I used for my company is “ChatSimple”. A chatbot AI can be trained about your offerings as quickly as simply adding your URLs and marketing/sales documentation. You can also train the bot to capture leads for you.

Thought Process in CRO

I will just go ahead and say it: Text-based content should influence the visuals (not the other way around). When a user perceives a web page, the elements on the page should complement each other to minimize the average time spent by the visitor to comprehend the context (friction). Be mindful of how you use your visitors’ mental efforts initially because you are going to need it a few seconds later for conversions.

Think of it this way: Your page loads with $1 credit and you lose 20 cents every second. How would you use these precious 5 seconds so that your user doesn’t only perceive your message but also decides to take action? You may ask, “I have so much content; how do I prioritize them to be consumed in 5 seconds?” Take a look at how AIDA works.

I believe there is no such thing as content that is too long or too short in the context of CRO. It’s just how you organize them within a planned thought process. Keeping the sections to complement each other yet giving the freedom to each section for users to take action will assure that your website always gives the option to users to become a customer.

Relevancy to the Buying Trance: Don’t Be Tone Deaf

Imagine saying the perfect things at the wrong time. You made a statement that was 100% accurate and kind, but it came across as tone-deaf. The best way to eliminate the risk of being tone-deaf is to know where to apply relevant value propositions. A value proposition is a broad term, and I will review it in this article in the context of CRO.

I categorize value propositions in three dimensions:

  • Brand Level Value Proposition
  • Solution Level Value Proposition
  • Action Level Value Proposition

Brand Level Value Proposition: Your messaging emphasizes why your target market should choose you (as a brand) and not another brand offering the same or similar solution. At this level, you don’t promote your solution specifics, features, or pricing, etc. Ask yourself, why would anyone trust, respect, and buy your product because it’s you (the brand) selling it?

Example of a brand-level value proposition:

“At [Brand Name], we offer more than solutions – we offer a legacy of trust and innovation. With over a decade of industry expertise, our brand stands for quality and reliability. Choose [Brand Name] for a partner who understands your needs and drives your success.”

Emphasize credibility. Regardless of what you are selling, you build trustworthiness by showing you know what you are selling because you have been producing it for many years.

Here is an example: You work on a project with your team and make excellent progress by putting in extra hours and your weekends to make the deadline.

Your boss: “The deadline just moved up by five days. We need to move the needle to make this new deadline. I am aware that this might be challenging, but we must accommodate it.”

Your team member: “Everyone on the team has committed to doing a great job. We have a great team mindset and the outputs are excellent.”

Tone-deaf. Why? Because although it’s kind and accurate, it dismisses the immediate concern (the stress that comes with the moved-up deadline). Don’t let your website come across as tone-deaf.

Let’s go with a web page example of being tone-deaf.

User searches: Hire a fractional CMO for a B2B SaaS project.

User clicks on a search result and lands on a globally known fractional CMO’s main page.

Headline: Unlock Your Company’s Potential with My World-Class CMO Services.

There is nothing factually incorrect about the headline and it even compliments the CMO being “world-class,” but the buying trance of the searcher is focused on “B2B SaaS project.” The disconnect between the user’s search and the headline they are exposed to is called friction.

The CMO could have created specific pages showcasing case studies for each field, such as SaaS, e-commerce, etc. Imagine what the engagement would be if the page had this headline:

“Expert Fractional CMO Services for Your B2B SaaS Success.”

CTA: Call to Action and Using the Whole Content as a CTA

The famous “CTA.” Marketing or non-marketing people love using this term. The CTA (call to action) is often used to refer to a button or clickable objects and, in some cases, text content around the actionable items. When you approach the term CTA as the call to action for your business, you will see how each piece of your content can be part of it.

CRO Process:

1. Identifying the Goals:

The same data might mean different things based on the perspective set per goal. Clearly define what you want to accomplish with testing. Depending on your current business model or long-term goals, you may have one of the following goals:

  • Improved engagement
  • More leads (form fills, calls)
  • Sign-ups
  • Transactions

2. Building Hypotheses:

Once you identify your goal, it’s time for the most critical step: building your hypotheses. This is one of the most controversial steps in the CRO industry, as many confuse “gut feeling” with “educated, data-backed guesses.” The method of developing data-backed, educated hypotheses is principally the same: check for the basics first. Let’s specify this with an example:

You want to increase the percentage of sales from your visitors. You have identified that you receive enough traffic (minimum observant sample size met) to your product pages. You also have identified that you make sales but not enough (if you have traffic but no sales, you may need to look into technical glitches before you start testing, such as page speed, broken links, buttons, traffic source (bot vs real), traffic location if you target a specific country).

Checklist for an Optimized Ecommerce Funnel:

Below is a list of general industry standards. I cannot give you specific advice on a variable cluster without seeing your website.

1. Trust: Security logos, badges to show users they can trust you with their personal data such as credit cards, and physical address.

2. Shipping transparency: Setting the right expectations upfront so that visitors have an idea of when to expect to receive the product once they buy from you.

3. Credibility: How many times has the item been bought, and what are the reviews from buyers?

4. Product feature transparency: Specs, features, compatibility, and so on. Leave no unanswered questions and if possible, develop your content to a point that no visitors should have to contact you for clarification.

5. Visuals: Use as many high quality as you possibly can. Never underestimate the power of visual buyers.

6. Pricing: Make sure that your pricing is not significantly higher than your competition. If your product is better or different than the competition, your visitors may not be aware of this and maybe comparing apples to oranges. Communicate clearly what sets you apart to justify your pricing.

Start with Incremental Testing:

If you are missing or weak at one of the above, you have a super clear hypothesis to get started.

Incremental testing allows you to capture data on a specific variable (i.e., adding reviews from your buyers).

Don’t test it all at once, as this may give you confusing data for what contributed. You will need this variable cluster data when you go on the factorial testing method (more on this later).

3. Testing Methodology: In the beginning, I am all for A/B (split testing) methodology. With split testing, you will show versions A and B 50% of the time during the same testing period. I like this initial method because it eliminates external effects such as seasonal or day of the week, where buyers can make drastically different decisions regardless of your version of a page.

4. Gathering the Data: Raw data is just an unprocessed version of information. Processing the captured data into accurate, actionable information requires a completely different approach compared to gathering it. When it comes to CRO, there is no such thing as failing. If the version you develop with your hypothesis is defeated by the original version, then you have just gathered data telling you what to eliminate and how to alter your hypothesis.

5. Using the Data: Acting on the data is what makes it valuable. Have a process in place where you can store every single one of your test results (yes, also the ones where your version didn’t win).

Data gathered from winners: If your hypothesis delivered results that drive higher conversions, you may have a base principle where you can apply the same or similar improvements on your other pages, categories, and, depending on your test, maybe even in your email marketing.

Data gathered from losers: When you collect enough of this data, you may have a base for what doesn’t relate to your target audience. Sometimes, removing variables can also mean victory in testing.

Storing your data now will give you a great advantage when AI is ready to take on CRO. You can use this data to train AI with your test results to better understand your visitors without waiting to reach a sufficient number of observant sample sizes.

The Future of CRO – My Predictions

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence have brought several practical uses in marketing. I discuss this in more depth in my article, “Adopting Marketing Departments to AI.”

Trainable chatbots can now communicate with website visitors to provide technical support, capture leads, and even feed your funnel by providing relevant links. I predict that in the near future, these bots will be able not only to understand and analyze user behavior but also to develop hypotheses based on the past and current data they store and process. I also predict that in the near future, AI will be able to execute the hypotheses it develops in the form of content placement/replacement and designs. This can get as serious as real-time content replacement, where AI can alter the destination page content based on user engagement on current pages they are at, such as clicking a certain button or filling out a form.

Remember, technology will always evolve, and the industry will adopt it sooner or later. The key principle of CRO is to have a testing culture in place. Companies that understand the power of data will almost always be the ones that first adopt innovations and new technology.

Categories: Blog

Ugur Gulaydin

Visionary Chief Marketing Officer with a profound quantitative background excels in leading transformative marketing strategies across competitive B2B sectors like cybersecurity, managed IT services, home automation, and cloud security. Specializes in assembling and guiding elite teams to pioneer performance marketing techniques, focusing on measurable, scalable outcomes. Follow me on LinkedIn


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