How do you know a conversion rate optimization expert when you meet them?  Here are ten characteristics of a true conversion rate optimization expert.

1) A CRO expert relies on data, not personal opinion.

We all have personal opinions, but when it comes to the conversion rate of your website, personal biases don’t increase your conversion rate. Data is king. A CRO expert must be analytical and have a passion for data analysis and statistics and to be able to draw a conclusion from the data.

Keep in mind that data can be bent to provide the conclusion we want to see. Look at political polls, for example. It is important that all the data is looked at together (tests, heat maps, analytics etc) and analyzed in an unbiased way. If there is more than one conclusion from the data, then both should be presented. This often leads to creating a test to determine which conclusion is correct.

CRO experts need to know how to use analytics tools. They need to understand statistics, statistical significance and probability. Most importantly, after the data is collected and analyzed, it must be turned into actionable insights. Perfect data analysis is nothing unless you have a way to take action in order to achieve a goal.

2) An expert in conversion rate optimization knows the ins and outs of A/B testing.

A/B testing is the process of splitting your website traffic into two or more different test pages or variations. After a period of time, the test pages are analyzed to see which one had the best result of the desired goal. I dedicated an entire chapter to A/B testing in my Conversion Rate Optimization Guide.  Why is it so important for a CRO expert to know A/B testing? You may be surprised to learn that nobody can predict exact conversion lift without testing.

A CRO expert can walk you through this process with proven testing strategies and testing processes that avoid false positives, which are common in testing. Often a test can look positive in the beginning of the test. There can also be other factors which cause an incorrect analysis, such as uncontrollable events surrounding the test and types of devices.

Here is an example of how an A/B test works:

AB testing3) Conversion rate optimization experts have a knowledge base of what has worked and what has not. They also have no ego.

You can never take a test and apply it to another site and assume the same lift in conversion. What worked for one website may not work for another. Each website audience is unique, and you must consider each conversion process as unique, too. The knowledge base of past tests works as a creative reservoir for new ideas. A CRO expert can show you case studies or clients test results and explain why the test did or did not work. Knowing what didn’t work is just as important as knowing what did work.

It’s critical that your CRO expert is not driven by ego of winning every test. They must care more about increasing conversion throughout your whole conversion funnel and sales funnel with the goal of increasing the revenue of your business. Increasing the conversion rate of part of the funnel will not have the greatest effect on revenues.

Being a CRO expert requires courage – courage to admit failure and that they were wrong about a predicted outcome. If they expected the test to come out a certain way and it didn’t, they have to be willing to let it go, to learn from failure and try again. On average 1 out of 7 tests will show a positive result.

4) A CRO expert recognizes that conversion rate optimization is more than A/B testing, landing pages and button colors.

They need to understand the client’s marketing and target audience personas. You need to know how users are coming to your website and what marketing tactics are used to drive users there. Plus, you need to know how to market to those users’ expectations when they arrive.

Knowing all the factors and variables of the test, and whether or not they can be controlled is something that a CRO expert should be able to explain to you. They should have a comprehensive understanding of the client’s marketing plan and sales strategy as well as past and present conversion rates throughout the sales funnel.

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5) Conversion rate optimization experts understand buying psychology.

What motivates a user to click your CTA? What frustrates a user about your page? Customer buying psychology must be forefront in the mind of a conversion rate optimization expert. Part of knowing your target audience is knowing why they buy.

This is a broad topic that covers everything from cognitive and consumer psychology to behavioral economics to neuroeconomics. Here are 15 infograpahics on the psychology of online sales and marketing.

In conversion rate optimization, some things to consider are the psychology of pricing and color, images and image placement, calls to action and how to present your offer. I wrote a blog about the psychology of pricing you may also enjoy.

6) Conversion rate optimization involves the conversion funnel.

Without understanding the conversion funnel you are driving with your headlights off. A CRO expert understands how to keep prospects in and push them down the funnel to reach a final purchase conversion.This includes advertising, re-marketing, exit capture, email sequences as well as your landing page/site design, messaging and more.

You want to know which page is losing money and where to find the hole in the sales funnel. It is critical that you find out where users are leaving the site and why. A conversion optimization expert can not only identify the holes but show you how to fix them.

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7) Web technology and programming.

These are critical elements on which a CRO expert will be fully versed. You have to understand the technology of the internet and have a basic understanding of web page development and tracking technology such as cookies and tag manager.

A conversion optimization expert also needs to be in the user’s mind to see how they interact, read, click, search and miss elements on a web page. A CRO expert walks a tightrope between the technical and the creative when it comes to conversion rate optimization.

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8) What about creativity?

Yes, this is important because a creative thinker will take all of these elements into consideration before offering a solution. They will figure out the problem from the outside in and create an alternative experience to test. I know I keep talking about testing, and the reason I have repeated this topic is because testing is critical to finding out what works and what doesn’t work. Never assume, always test. Keep in mind that the ideas of what to test can come from anywhere and anyone. Everyone in the company, no matter how silly the idea, can find new things to observe in their industry, and even ideas from an unrelated field can be useful test subjects. Your CRO expert inherently knows this and is open to new ideas to create innovative tests to improve your conversion rate.

Sometimes it seems like finding the perfect solution to create a conversion lift is like randomly digging holes. But we know that dogs don’t randomly dig in any spot and it requires patience to dig multiple holes.  A conversion optimization expert can create tests that have a higher likelihood of creating lift, and they also have the patience and persistence to not get discouraged by the results.

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9) Usability and user experience.

The key to coming up with a creative solution includes a solid grasp of usability. Usability is obvious once you have the solutions, but can be very difficult to solve when you are in the middle of the process. There are many tactics to improve the usability of a page or process. The key is to put yourself in many users’ personas and tap into your creativity to find the solution.

10) A CRO expert knows that they don’t know everything and they need to test everything.

Even the experts are surprised by outcomes from A/B testing, and that is what makes the field so fascinating. If a CRO expert tells you to never presume and always test your pages, and if they can step back to look at all the variables to evaluate your whole conversion funnel, and if they can provide ideas to improve each step, that is the sign of a qualified expert.

Greg Ahern
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