Power Digital Announces Creative Affinity.

Learn More Here
Blog Post

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a CRO Agency

February 7, 2017
Table of Contents

Is your site not getting the sales you expected?

Or maybe you’ve got a great brand, but no one’s signing up for your mailing list.

If you’ve got a healthy website with plenty of traffic, it may be time to think about conversion rate optimization.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Any time a website visitor takes an action on your site, that action is called a conversion. Downloading content, signing up for a newsletter or placing an item in a shopping cart are all examples of conversions.

Related: What Does CRO Mean and Stand For?

Conversion rate optimization is a method to get more of your existing web traffic to take the actions you want them to. CRO specialists perform a variety of tests on specific elements of a webpage to determine how to get more visitors to convert.

CRO uses both quantitative data, like analytics, and qualitative data, like customer feedback, to create a plan for improving your site’s performance. A good plan is systematic in its approach, and the whole process works like a long-term science experiment.

Since every site is different, there is no one specific set of actions that will work for all webpages. Every plan is personalized to your website’s objectives. An ecommerce website will have very different goals than a service business. But even two ecommerce companies may have different goals.

Related: Basic CRO – Page Elements & Testing Opportunities

The two most common types of tests are the A/B (split) test or multivariate test. A/B Tests use two versions of your webpage (Version A & Version B) to see which converts better. Version A will be identical to Version B except for one element.

Multivariate tests include multiple versions of the same page, with entirely different combinations of elements to see which version converts higher.

CRO services

CRO Test Elements

CRO tests various elements on a landing page to increase the actions a website visitor takes.

Here are a few elements that your CRO specialist is likely to look at:

  • Call-to-Action (CTA): This is where you ask your website visitor to take a specific action. It’s most likely a button, though it could be a link or line of text. A “Call Now” button is an example of a typical call-to-action.
  • Image: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand conversions. Changes as subtle as swapping one image for another can make a difference in your site conversion rate.
  • Headline: This is the large line of text at the top of the page to grab a reader’s attention.
  • Subheading: Slightly smaller line of text under the headline to further draw the reader in.
  • Button: A small graphic element that users click on to begin the conversion process. Buttons are usually part of a CTA and have text on top.
  • Copy: Also called body text, copy is a group of words on a page between the headline and CTA.
  • Form: A group of fields a user has to fill out in order to convert on a landing page. CRO tests the relevance of the required fields as well as the length of the form.
  • Color: The entire color palette of a page as well as the color of specific elements like buttons are tested to increase conversions.

When Should You Invest In Conversion Rate Optimization?

Before you go out and hire a CRO agency, you should have a decent amount of traffic coming to your site. If you have a new site, you may want to invest in other digital channels like SEM or SEO (rather than CRO) in order to drive more traffic to your site.

This doesn’t mean you won’t continue with SEO and SEM after hiring a CRO agency, but without traffic there is nothing to test. Start by building backlinks to your site, creating high-quality content, investing in opt-ins and lead magnets, as well as working on your on-page SEO.

Related: Top Practices in UI/UX Design

Once you have a steady stream of regular visitors, determine your site’s conversion rate by consulting Google Analytics. Divide the total number of conversions by the amount of visitors to get this number. If your site has 1000 visitors and 10 conversions, you have a 1% conversion rate.

If you run an e-commerce site and your rate is less than 2-3%, you need to work on your conversions. Now would be the time to get an agency involved.

Why Hire An Agency Instead Of An Employee?

Some of you may think it’s better to hire an internal employee devoted to CRO instead of the expense of hiring an agency.

But hiring a CRO specialist is difficult. It takes a unique set of skills including copywriting, data analysis, and testing knowledge to be successful. CRO specialists also possess uncanny people skills, including empathy, to be effective. It can be hard to find an employee that can marry the creative and analytical sides of the process.

In addition to the difficulty in finding the right person, you’ll have to provide benefits and pay taxes. So the seemingly high rates charged by a CRO agency are nowhere near what you’d pay an employee.

When you consider how much more revenue your company will make with a well-optimized website, the rates are justified.

Agencies work in teams, so a person who may be lacking specific skills can work with team members who possess the ones they don’t have. While there is no one perfect person, teams can leverage their strengths to come up with a more balanced CRO process for your site.

The CRO Agency Interview

When shopping for a new CRO agency, there are a variety of questions you can ask to determine if they will truly come up with a personalized solution for your site. Some CRO agencies apply the same process to every account. While you may see some wins, over time the results will not be any better than you can achieve on your own.

The following considerations will help you narrow down your choices to a CRO agency that will work for you.

Ask How They Work

This first question will give you insight into what the agency does. If they focus on what they would do and not the process, chances are you’re not going to get the level of service you need.

You can ask for suggestions immediately, but don’t be surprised if your agency tells you that they need more information to get started. That’s a good sign.

Expect an explanation of the process, including what kind of information they will need access to in order to create a plan.

Focus On The “How”

A good CRO agency will focus on how they work, instead of what specifically they do.  Their response to your first question should go into great detail about:

  • What the first meeting consists of
  • The data they will need access to
  • Tools they use
  • How long it will be before seeing any results
  • What happens when things “go wrong”
  • Frequency of contact
  • Reports you’ll receive and how often
  • Exit strategy
  • Maintenance period after optimization is “complete”

Conversion expert Peep Laja says:

“How would you [the agency] do it? Your answer will tell me everything about your optimization know-how. If you start by mentioning tactics – “I’d make XYZ bigger” and “I’d change this and that” – I will instantly know that you’re an amateur. Because amateurs focus on tactics while the pros follow processes.”

Look At Related Case Studies

Case studies showing success from other sites are not a guarantee of success for your site. As a matter of fact, looking at related case studies aren’t about the results at all.

It’s more about looking at how the agency documents their successes, their investigation methods, and how they used data to back up their conclusions.

While you shouldn’t expect a CRO agency to give away all their secrets in the case study, look for a thorough explanation of the results and conclusions. Results are usually written as percentages, and should include the period of time that these changes occurred.

While numbers are important, look for clues that customer feedback was also present throughout the process.

Data-Driven Approach

Good agencies will start by asking you about traffic and current conversion rates. In order for tests to be accurate, you’ll need to have a healthy amount of traffic. A handful of visitors a day won’t cut it.

Most agencies will request access to your analytics as well as use their own CRO tools to get further information about your traffic.

Other numbers you’ll need to know are:

  • Bounce Rate: The number of visitors who leave almost immediately after looking at one page. A high bounce rate shows users don’t find what they’re looking for and quickly leave.
  • Exit Rate: The percentage of people that leave on a specific page. Each page has its own rate. A high exit rate on certain pages is expected; after placing an order a user is likely to leave from the confirmation page.
  • Average Time on Site: The amount of time that most users spend on your site. This engagement metric is also available for each page.
  • Average Page Views: How many pages visitors look at when visiting.

In addition to focusing on hard numbers, your CRO agency should ask about qualitative data. User surveys and customer feedback provide insight into what real website visitors think about your website design and structure that numbers can’t provide.

User testing is a great way to get continual feedback about how your website changes affect a user’s overall experience. The more positive the experience, the easier it is to convert visitors, assuming your traffic is coming from the right places.

Focus On Long-Term Results Over Quick Wins

Like SEO, conversion rate optimization takes time. It may be several months before you see any changes at all.  This doesn’t mean your agency isn’t doing its job. Any CRO agency will be upfront about the fact that tests will not immediately materialize an increase in conversions.

Quick wins are not the goal of CRO. The goal is to create an experience that guides visitors to take the action you want to take. Steer clear of agencies that promise speedy results.

Transparency And Honesty

CRO is not magic, and shouldn’t be shrouded in mystery. While you shouldn’t expect a play-by-play of everything your agency does, it shouldn’t be hidden from you. A client has the right to know what tests are being performed and how often.

Many agencies provide periodic reports. Ask what type of communication you will receive while your site is being optimized.

Always Asking Why

Good CRO specialists always ask why and investigate. Not only should they know what happened, but what change caused it to happen. They are not satisfied with the result until they’ve found the data that supports their conclusions.

Use Relevant Tools

Just like every craftsman has a set of tools he prefers to use, CRO experts have a digital arsenal of helpful software to aid in the process.  CRO tools fall into one of the categories:

Related: VWO  – A Foolproof  Tool for Your CRO Needs

User Testing

True user test tools allow you to get feedback directly from site visitors. These tools use real people and give insight into how easy your site is to navigate and convert. Popular user testing tools include:

  • UserTesting.com
  • VerifyApp.com

Other user testing tools use heatmaps and click density to determine where visitors are paying the most attention. These tools include:

  • CrazyEgg
  • Click Tale

Concept tests allow your agency to create test versions of your site and get feedback. Some popular options are:

  • Balsamiq
  • Cacoo
  • Browsershots

Split testing and multivariate testing tools allow your agency to test several versions of webpages against each other. These tools are:

  • Unbounce
  • Optimizely
  • Google Content Experiments
  • Visual Web Optimizer

User Surveys

In addition to testing websites, user surveys gather qualitative data by asking a series of questions.  These tools include:

  • SurveyMonkey
  • Qualaroo
  • PollDaddy
  • Survey Gizmo


While almost everyone is familiar with Google Analytics, a new analytic tool seems to appear every day. Some tools most often used by CRO agencies include:

  • KISSMetrics
  • Sumall
  • Chartbeat
  • Mixpanel

Wrapping It Up

Now that you have an understanding of what conversion rate optimization is, it will be much easier to choose an agency.

Remember to look for an agency that focuses on process rather than tactics, is focused on long-term success and is open and honest about what they are doing for you. Keep these things in mind, and you are well on your way to finding the right agency for your needs.

Empowering you to break the mold.

Kind of like a full-service agency, kind of like an in-house CMO. Elevate your brand's presence with custom strategy, channel expertise, and flawless execution.

Learn More