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How a Strong CRO Audit Improves Your Optimization Process

The strongest and best-fit conversion rate optimization audits will include these 15 benefits to your optimization process.

Which would you say is most likely to provide the deep, expert data analysis you need to guide your ecommerce website optimization process: a freebie audit from a jack-of-all-trades marketing firm, or a paid audit from a conversion rate optimization specialist?

Here’s a puzzle: Most agree that “You get what you pay for” is an accurate statement. Few of us would choose cheaply made boots as the footwear of choice for a backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Yet, many of those same conscientious shoppers will fall for one of the biggest traps of all— they will take the bait and opt for one of those freebie audits that full-service marketing companies often use as “lead magnets.”

Here’s why: Many marketers aren’t sure what an “optimization process” is, so they’re lured into believing a free audit is the real deal.

Here’s the problem: Those free audits barely skim the surface. They’re primarily based on results from a mechanized crawl, and their primary purpose is lead generation for the company offering them – not conversion rate optimization insight for you.

If I sound too bold, so be it. I’m tired of seeing companies that genuinely need professional CRO assistance get waylaid by a free audit and drawn into a cycle of activity that does nothing more than waste time and money.

Are you with me? Have you been there and done that?

Here’s the solution: Don’t settle for less than a genuine CRO audit. It will provide a firm foundation for your conversion rate optimization process. But how do you tell a “fake audit” from a true audit? That’s exactly what we’re going to cover today.

Don’t settle for less than a genuine CRO audit. It will provide a firm foundation for your conversion rate optimization process. Click To Tweet

I’ll clarify what a genuine CRO audit really is, I’ll explain why they’re important to the conversion optimization process, and I’ll provide a list of specific insights you can expect to gain from the optimization process steps a genuine website audit illuminates.

So, what is a conversion audit?

A conversion audit considers the complete data-backed conversion status across an ecommerce website, then provides a detailed report on the findings.

A quality conversion audit is always worth the price. It’s a 360-degree assessment of your path to sales and the stuck points keeping you from getting more conversions.

A quality conversion audit is always worth the price. It’s a 360-degree assessment of your path to sales and the stuck points keeping you from getting more conversions. Click To Tweet

Why are website audits essential to the conversion process?

A proper audit should be the foundation of the conversion process. During an audit, you should be catching any data collection bugs, correcting any analytics issues, and then collecting a wide breadth of data to inform insights across your website experience – including but not limited to analytics, user testing results, heat map results, click map results, and such.

The problem is there are no simple “right” answers for most web design questions (at least not for the important ones). What works is good, integrated design that fills a need—carefully thought out, well executed, and tested - @skrug Click To Tweet

15 benefits you can expect from a strong CRO audit

I’m told that bank tellers learn to identify counterfeit bills by carefully studying the real thing. That’s an excellent idea. The promises and deliverables you’ll find for counterfeit CRO audits are plentiful.

Before you register for a free audit, compare the results it promises to the list below. If the individual or agency can’t confirm their freebie audit will provide these benefits, it’s not worth the time it will take to provide data and fend off aggressive sales tactics during the follow-up.

Strong CRO website audits:

  1. Help clean up your data and discover errors. For example, a common mistake that skews data is not filtering out internal traffic from the observed results. The many times each day your marketing staff accesses your website should not be counted along with visits from prospects. Unless those visits are properly filtered, you’ll have an erroneous view of what’s actually happening.
  2. Establish a baseline for your optimization process. Let’s say you’re driving from your office to a vendor’s office, and you want to know how far one is from the other. To do that, you need to record the beginning mileage or set the trip odometer to zero. Otherwise, checking mileage on our arrival at the vendor’s location won’t be of any value. In the same way, it’s imperative to record accurate, trustworthy metrics before beginning the CRO optimization process. Otherwise, you won’t be able to verify that your CRO work is actually helping your business.
  3. Allow you to understand what’s going well, and what could be improved. It’s never a good idea to throw the baby out with the bath water. You want to know what to keep and what to change. The true CRO website audit shines a spotlight on performance.
  4. Provide insight into trends by channel, device, region, season, and more. CRO professionals will bring in analytics data to inform the optimization process. That data will be broken down into the components vital to your ecommerce success.
  5. Enable you to identify behavioral characteristics of your best prospects. Learning about your visitors is central to a winning optimization strategy. The more you know about their problems and desires, the better you can serve them.
  6. Help you develop countless ideas for tests. Not only will you learn where your stuck points are, you’ll get the information you need to develop potential solutions to free up the flow and get more prospects down the path to the checkout process. Proper testing procedures will prove or disprove those theories.
  7. Enable you to reduce risk in business decisions. Experienced marketers are prone to make gut decisions, but flying by the seat of your pants can be risky. We provide counsel to clients to support those sixth-sense perceptions with hard, proven data. Once the two are working in concert, amazing things can happen.
  8. Allow you to identify unknown waste. The Pareto principle says that 20 percent of your efforts bring in 80 percent of your revenue. Wouldn’t it be great to know which is which? It’s easy to major in the minors. I’ve seen ecommerce VPs pouring money into a marketing problem that is inconsequential while ignoring the things that could bring them a huge return on investment. Don’t be that person.
  9. Chart an effective roadmap for the best course forward. When driving somewhere you’ve never been before, you’d be wise to consult a map before leaving. True CRO audits produce a map you can use to turn more visits into sales.
  10. Reduce internal tension by creating consensus among stakeholders. Everyone has an opinion, but the audit provides facts which those opinions can be evaluated against. Throw in testing, and you have hard data to prove or disprove any theory. It’s easy to argue against an opinion, but difficult to argue against the facts.
  11. Are the answer to “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” When your optimization process audit strategy is in full swing, you’ll be able to answer naysayers with “I do measure. Not only that, but I measure the right things. How about you?”
  12. Smooth out the trail to turn visits into dollars. Leveraged correctly, a CRO audit can multiply your conversion rate to increase revenue without the time and expense needed to increase traffic.
  13. Keep you afloat in a competitive niche. If the competition is savvy about conversion rate optimization and you’re not…your chances of winning the battle are slim.
  14. Work hand-in-hand with your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. The effectiveness of your PPC efforts is influenced by the landing page the ads point to. If that page has been through an optimization process, results will multiply accordingly.
  15. Give you peace of mind. You no longer must rely on instincts and guesses. You can justify your decisions with a full array of data to back those decisions up. You can enter sales and marketing meetings with greater confidence.

Use these key benefits to make sure you embark on a genuine optimization process

Strategic design often flows best when you begin with the desired results and work backward to develop strategy and tactics.

Follow suit with your optimization process using the 15 key benefits listed above, and you’ll undoubtedly discover that those freebie website audits aren’t sufficient. Your participation in them will only get you bombarded with sales calls, and potentially cost you large amounts of time and money.

There’s no shortcut to success in the hyper-competitive world of ecommerce. Take a deep look at your data, do the hard work of uncovering the truth, then back up your wisdom, experience, and gut-level inclinations with data-driven nuggets of insight.

A genuine optimization process is well worth the time and investment. A freebie audit only serves the company offering it.


About the author: Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.