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How to perform a successful CRO audit of your website in 9 steps

If your website has 10,000 monthly users and converts 3% of them, a single point increase in your conversion rate would bring in 33% more paying customers every month. Boosting your conversion rate means more revenue per user, fewer customer acquisition costs, and an improved product affinity. 

But where do you start? Running a conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit will show you how to fix bottlenecks, meet user needs, and improve your site’s conversions.

Last updated

1 Dec 2022

This guide will take you through a step-by-step process to help you conduct a customer-centric CRO audit that gets results.

Enrich your CRO audit with user-focused insights

Understand your users’ needs—and blockers—using Hotjar, and watch your conversions soar.

How to prepare for a CRO audit

A conversion rate optimization audit is a 360-degree evaluation of the user experience (UX) that tests how your webpage is performing, identifies factors that could be hurting your conversion rate, and helps you prioritize improvements.

The best time to do a CRO audit is after launch; be careful not to dive into a full-scale audit too early, before you’ve had a chance to optimize your marketing strategies and understand your customer journey.

Set internal milestones for when to run a CRO audit: for instance, after a certain number of purchases (if you’re running an ecommerce store) or paying customers (for agency or SaaS owners).

Identify clear parameters and bake them into your launch strategy. For example:

  • CRO audit after 250 direct site purchases

  • CRO audit after 50 client signups

  • CRO audit after $5,000 in ad spend

Large, established enterprises also benefit from CRO audits beyond the launch stage, using different benchmarks—for example, when you reach 10,000 monthly users, or at regular intervals, like every three or six months.

As well as deciding when to run an audit, you need to determine which conversion rate to aim for to see which product pages are hitting the mark: “We like to go by the average of 2.63–4.31% as the conversion rate for a well-converting website,” says Tomas Heligr-Pyke, director at Tomedia

“This obviously depends on factors like demographics, customers, region, products/services, etc. But sticking to around 3% helps us understand how well a website is doing. If you're above 3%, you probably need to focus your time and effort elsewhere. If you're below 3%, it could be a good time to start doing some CRO.”

9 steps to perform an effective CRO audit

So how do you spot real product opportunities for improvement and find the user paint points that are dragging your conversion rate down? The best CRO audits are focused on deeply understanding your users and finding ways to meet their needs, rather than identifying superficial changes that boost conversions but don’t improve UX.

Use this step-by-step process to run a comprehensive, customer-focused audit to inform your CRO program:

Step 1: define key conversion actions

Before you jump into your CRO audit, take some time to assess which conversions your business needs to track for your customers and your organization, and set clear conversion goals. 

Conversions are user actions that bring them one step closer to being a paying customer. For an ecommerce store, conversion rate typically refers to the percentage of users who check out and buy a product, while for a SaaS business, it generally means trial signups or other goal completion metrics—like lead magnet signups or webinar registrations.

Consult with a range of stakeholders to determine exactly what conversions mean across your organization. As well as macro conversions, like purchases, subscriptions, and signups, determine which micro conversions—like users adding a product to their wishlist or cart, or watching a demo video—you want to track across the entire customer journey.

For an effective CRO audit, look at your entire funnel, from visitor > purchase funnel > completed purchase. Check for drop-offs at each stage and see if there are gaps you can optimize. It’s better to start there than to focus only on getting more traffic into your funnel.

Laura Wong
Associate Growth Product Manager at Hotjar

Step 2: focus on priority pages

Follow CRO best practices by running your audit on pages with the most potential to impact your conversions. Narrow down your list of priority pages by considering how much traffic the page gets and where it fits in the user journey.

Aim to audit pages that are both conversion oriented and have healthy traffic numbers to see results much quicker and determine whether your optimization efforts are headed in the right direction. Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content, which helps businesses create awareness about their product, tends to get a lot of traffic, but doesn’t lead to direct conversions since it’s positioned at the start of the customer journey—so don’t make TOFU your main audit focus. 

For example, a blog post that’s aiming to rank for an informational keyword may have tens of thousands of visitors but very little direct sales impact. But blog posts that link to conversion-focused product pages help you run an effective CRO audit to make changes that get you results. 

Prioritize pages that act as key touchpoints in the customer journey—like specific landing pages designed to convert, or pages where users sign up for demos or download whitepapers or ebooks.

Step 3: understand user behavior

By now, you should have a firm understanding of which conversion actions and pages you want to audit and optimize.

The next step is to analyze real user behavior to understand how visitors are engaging with your site and get insights on whether or not they’re converting—and why. Use goal conversions in Google Analytics, enable event tracking, and analyze whether your users are taking key conversion actions like making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or registering for a webinar. 

Then, use Hotjar’s Observe tools to get more granular: Heatmaps give you a visual representation of where users click, move, and scroll on your site to help you pinpoint which conversion elements—like CTAs—are getting attention and which are being ignored.

Next, watch Recordings of users scrolling, moving, u-turning, and rage clicking throughout their customer journey on your site. This shows you exactly where they’re dropping off, getting frustrated, and failing to convert.

When used together, Hotjar Heatmaps and Recordings give you an end-to-end view of user behavior, unlocking key insights on which web pages and site elements are driving—or blocking—conversions.

# A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most
A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most

Step 4: gather voice-of-the-customer (VoC) insights

Go beyond quantitative user data in your CRO audit and seek to understand what users really want and need—in their own words. Use customer interviews and research to understand your users’ motivations to convert and the blockers stopping them from becoming customers.

Hotjar’s Ask tools give you qualitative user insights to take your CRO audit to the next level. See what users really think about different elements of your site with Feedback tools, and use Surveys to discover more about your customers.

Are you noticing that users add products to their cart but abandon them when they reach checkout? Ask your users why they’re leaving—perhaps they’re not finding what they need, and you need to improve your navigation design and search filters. Or maybe they feel shipping rates are too high or delivery times are too long, and adding a fast shipping offer will make them more likely to convert. 

Surveys can help you figure out:

  • Product market fit: understand whether your product satisfies market needs

  • Exit intent: learn why users are leaving and see what you can help with

  • Pricing plans: see if users have all the pricing information they need

#Hotjar's exit Surveys give you user-backed insights into the user experience
Hotjar's exit Surveys give you user-backed insights into the user experience

Step 5: identify easy fixes

Combine qualitative and quantitative data by tracking user behavior and collecting VoC insights to get a nuanced understanding of user satisfaction, objectives, and concerns, and find out what’s blocking conversions.

Based on your new CRO audit insights, identify ‘quick wins’ or easy fixes to implement on your page, with a focus on removing friction points. 

For example: if you’re driving paid traffic to a downloadable resource like an ebook, how many form fields do users have to fill out to access the resource? Maybe user feedback and recordings show they’re put off by having to input their name, email address, and a bunch of other personal details before getting to the ebook. A quick win here would be to eliminate unnecessary fields and make the process as quick and easy as possible.

If you're an ecommerce store owner, be on the lookout for bugs, blockers, and opportunities to streamline the checkout process. To do this, compare recordings of users who drop off before checkout and those who complete a purchase, and do a run-through of the checkout process yourself to understand possible points of frustration in the journey.

Here’s a handy checklist you can use to find other quick wins in your CRO audit. Check if your core product and service pages are missing any of the following:

  • An attention-grabbing headline 

  • A clear value proposition

  • High-quality images

  • Liberal use of white space 

  • Social proof through testimonials, case studies, and user-generated content

  • Compelling offers like a free trial or money-back guarantee

  • Easy ways to get in touch with you either via live chat or a contact form

  • Clear, consistent CTAs

Check out our landing page optimization guide for more quick-win ideas.

Step 6: form a conversion hypothesis 

For bigger product changes, create a specific hypothesis to test that helps you understand which improvements will make the strongest impact on your conversions. 

Based on what you learn through user and product research, zero in on particular pages and site elements you can optimize to better meet user needs and boost conversions.

For example, if you see that time-on-page is low and bounce rates are high on a key landing page, get more user insights to find out why. Maybe you discover your messaging isn’t resonating with your audience. Next, you’ll create a hypothesis: if we include use cases that are more relevant to our target audience, the conversion rate on this landing page will improve by 2%.

Or perhaps your ‘book a demo’ page is converting poorly, and users tell you they’re not signing up because they’re unclear on the time commitment and logistics involved in the demo call. Your hypothesis might be: if we add clear details located above the fold on how long the demo lasts and what it’ll look like, twice as many users will book

These hypotheses will form the basis of your A/B tests, which brings us to our next step.

Step 7: run A/B tests

Once you’ve identified clear hypotheses, start the final part of your audit: launching A/B tests to evaluate their success and make data-informed CRO decisions. 

First, set clear outcomes and goals to measure the outcome of your tests. Use an A/B testing tool to help you with setting up effective experiments—Google Optimize, Optimizely, VWO, and Omniconvert are all good options. Once you’ve set up a test page and control page, split traffic between the two versions and let the experiment run until you have a critical mass of data to decide the winner. 

Then, use Hotjar (we have integrations with Optimizely, Google Optimize, and Omniconvert!) to dig deeper into your A/B test data, find out why your customers prefer different page versions, and see the user journey across a full session on your site. 

Let's take a look at how different teams could form their hypotheses and run A/B tests:

Scenario 1

Problem: users abandon checkout because shipping costs are too high.

Hypothesis: if we add a free shipping tier above a certain order size, checkout rates will improve.

Proposed action: place a clear message above the average fold (the part of your webpage users can see without having to scroll down) that tells customers they qualify for free shipping when the amount of their order is above $75.

Desired impact: increase conversion rate to 5%.

Here, the team creates an A/B experiment with a control version of their checkout page, and a new version with the free shipping message above the fold. Then, they track how effective the new page is at boosting conversions. 

Scenario 2

Problem: users aren’t signing up for a demo call, despite plenty of traffic to the sales page.

Hypothesis: if we add more social proof through testimonials, users will be more likely to sign up for a demo.

Proposed action: ask existing customers across a range of customer segments for quotes, and add two case studies relevant to our ideal customer profile (ICP).

Desired impact: go from ten demo calls a week to fifteen, without increasing ad spend.

The team will run an A/B experiment to check whether their hypothesis is correct, testing out whether adding customer quotes and case studies to their demo call page will increase bookings.

Step 8: put your learnings into practice

The next step is to implement the insights you’ve gained from A/B testing, key page audits, and product experience (PX) research.

Maybe you discover that your experiment delivered your conversion objectives—in which case your hypothesis was correct and you’re ready to roll out the changes.

If your optimization plan doesn’t deliver the results you want, gather more user data and go back to the drawing board to form a new hypothesis.

Make sure you share your CRO audit learnings with your team and stakeholders to achieve alignment on where to focus your optimization efforts moving forward.

Pro tip: Hotjar's Highlights feature lets you quickly share key user and product insights throughout your organization to get buy-in on your CRO plans and make sure all your team members are on the same page.

Use Hotjar Highlights to organize all your meaningful insights in one place

Use Hotjar Highlights to organize all your meaningful insights in one place and easily share them with your team and stakeholders

Step 9: schedule your next CRO audit

A CRO audit isn’t a one-time exercise. 

In six months, you might have new competitors with new products and offers. Or your own product or market might have changed—maybe you’ve added new pages and features, or expanded into new market segments or industry verticals. 

The best companies and websites are always evolving to solve new user and market problems. 

Run regular CRO audits to make sure your site reflects both internal updates and changes in the external environment. Frequent CRO audits help you understand your customers and identify opportunities to improve their user experience and give them everything they need to convert.

CRO audit checklist

To recap, a CRO audit involves the following steps:

  • Define key conversion actions

  • Focus on priority pages

  • Understand user behavior

  • Gather voice-of-the-customer insights

  • Identify quick wins

  • Form a conversion hypothesis

  • Run A/B tests

  • Put your learnings into practice

  • Schedule your next CRO audit

Drive more conversions with a customer-centric CRO audit

86% of customers say they’re willing to pay more for a great customer experience. So if you don’t offer a great product experience on your website, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to provide value that impacts conversions.

Run a customer-centric CRO audit to better understand your users’ needs, see which aspects of your site are maximizing conversions, and test out possible improvements. An effective CRO audit is the first step to solving your customers’ problems and meeting your organizational goals.

Enrich your CRO audit with user-focused insights

Understand your users’ needs—and blockers—using Hotjar, and watch your conversions soar.

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