What are the Steps to Conversion Rate Optimization (And How Can You Ace Them)?

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

The quick definition:  conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of testing various variables on your website in order to improve the rate of conversions.  

In more detail, CRO is a step-by-step process you should go through on your website, especially when you’re trying to optimize your landing pages, in order to get more visitors to become leads or customers.   

Because a conversion can be anything – from filling a contact form, to downloading a case study, to chatting with a chat bot, and more – optimizing your conversion rate just means increasing the number of website visitors who complete the desired conversion action. It’s not about trying to get more people to visit the page, it’s about getting more of the people who do visit to convert into leads. 

For example: You are a SaaS company that offers a 1-month Free Trial of the Premium Version of your software. People can sign up for the Free Trial through a form on a landing page on your website. In this case your CRO process would involve a few tests to figure out how to get more people who visit your landing page to request the Free Trial by filling the form. You would test one variable at a time, until you found out what change works.  

Keep the SaaS company example in mind as you read – we’ll revisit it as we go through the steps to conversion rate optimization.  

What are the Steps to Conversion Rate Optimization?

There are five essential steps to CROas defined by HubSpot, that you should be doing in order:

  1. Define an Objective 
  2. Establish a Baseline
  3. Form a Hypothesis
  4. Design some Tests
  5. Analyze the Data 

Here’s a little more on each of those steps.  

Define an Objective

The first step to improving conversion rate is to define the conversion you’re looking for and everything you’ll need to make that conversion happen. This will help you make important decisions about upcoming changes and updates in your CRO process.  

If you’re the SaaS company, the conversion you’re looking for is someone filling in the form to request a Free Trial. This is your objective. Now that you know it, it’s also important to consider all of the elements you need to make that conversion happen. To get people to the stage of filling in that form you’ll might need Google ads, a series of emails, a CTA on your website, a blog post or two, or any other activity that might lead to the conversion.

Establish a Baseline 

You can’t really know what conversion rate optimization means to your business if you don’t know what your current conversion rate is. Before you start any optimizing activities, make sure to get an accurate measure of where you stand currently. This will help you to make more informed decisions about what rate of improvement is reasonable and achievable.  

Interested in finding the baseline for not just your conversion but your entire marketing program? Take our Marketing Diagnostics Quiz to see where your organization stands. 

Form a Hypothesis 

Once you’ve figured out what your current conversion rate is, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to improve it. What you’ll need now is a hypothesis stating what exactly you’re going to do to increase conversion and why you think it’s going to work.  

To form your hypothesis — start by doing some research on what makes a good landing page (or form, or pillar page, or even Inbound website) and figure out which elements your page might be missing. Then, combine that with your objective to come up with your statement. Of course, you might have more than one hypothesis if you aren’t quite sure what elements are in need of optimization.  

Let’s jump back to that SaaS company again. One of their hypotheses might be something like:  

“By limiting the number of required fields on our Free Trial sign-up form, we will increase the conversion rate because it will make signing up easier and reduce the risk of visitors being deterred by a lengthy or complex form.”  

Finally, (just like in Science class) you set out to prove that statement is true through testing.  


Design Some Tests 

One of, if not the, most critical steps to conversion rate optimization is the design of the tests. This is the point where you look at your hypothesis and come up a test you can perform on your landing page to prove that it will work.  

You’ll want to test at least one element per hypothesis, and some will require multiple tests, so suffice it to say there are countless tests you could come up with. Using A/B tests can help you to keep your testing organized and efficient.  

From the hypothesis in the last example, here’s a possible test design. Create two version of the Free Trial landing page (A/B test) that have all their content and imagery the same. Keep one a longer form, with 8 required fieldsand change one to contain a short form with only 4 required fields. Have the A/B test show them randomly to visitors.

Analyze the Data 

Now that you have your hypotheses created and your tests designed, it’s time for the fun part!


While the types of tests you might perform vary, there are a few general rules for testing you should try to stick to to ensure you get accurate data:  

  • Only run one test at a time 
  • If you test more than one element on the page, it will be difficult to know which one is causing the results.  
  • Keep the original version as a control variation 
  • Don’t make changes to the other elements of the “campaign” during testing 
  • Avoid changing the ads, emails, or other elements leading to conversion during your tests as changes to these can impact traffic and audience which could edit your data.  
  • Let your test run for enough time  
  • Don’t panic and shut the test down in a week if you’re not seeing results right away. Sometimes it can take a little time for a new system to start working.  

With this criteria in place, you can properly analyze the data from your testsGo back and check your conversion rate on the test pages using the same formula as before. If it’s higher – great! Implement those changes permanently. If you aren’t seeing any change, go back and have another look at the tests you could do.  

To do it right, you’ll want to repeat the steps of conversion rate optimization many times, on a semi-regular basis. As we all know, the world of marketing is ever-changing so this kind of process is an important aspect in keeping up. If you have questions about CRO, we’d love to help out! You can reach out to us at any time, or ask an anonymous question to our monthly advice-column blog!