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Conversion Rate Optimization: The Gateway to a Truly Iterative Website

dollar bill folded up into an arrow pointing up and to the right

As marketers, we hear it all the time—websites should be evolving. Iterative. Improving. And we agree. An iterative website not only keeps up with your audience, but it also saves you massive cash in the long run. Complete website overhauls are no joke, after all.

So if we know an iterative approach to a website is beneficial not only to your site performance, but to your brand as a whole (no one wants to see a stale brand on an old, 90s-esque website), why don’t we actually practice what we preach? How do sites get so dated so fast?

Instead of talking about why marketers don’t implement consistent updates, let’s talk about a solution to the problem—conversion rate optimization, or CRO.

What’s CRO Got to Do With It?

You likely know what conversion rate optimization is, but in case you don’t, it’s simply testing elements on your website to prove—or disprove—a desired result. For example, you might test the color of a button on your checkout page, or the images you show on a landing page. By doing so, you can verify whether or not these small tweaks can lead to incremental gains, like a 13% increase in leads across targeted pages.

You might be thinking, “Okay...great. But what does this have to do with iterative website improvements?”

Good question. I’d argue a lot—that by embracing and committing to testing site elements through conversion rate optimization, you’re actually committing to iterative website improvements, whether you know it or not.

The Benefits of CRO for Website Improvement

Now, some of you out there might be under the impression that you can have an iterative, evolving website without CRO. And really, you can—especially when it comes to the technical stuff like plugin updates and hosting solutions.

But for a number of reasons, I think it’s really hard to make changes to your site if you’re not constantly testing.

Benefit #1: CRO Testing Forces a Testing Cadence...Which Forces Action

Let me ask you this: if you were required to perform a chore, but nobody ever checked in on whether or not it got done, how likely is it that you actually do the thing every single week? For most, not very likely. Especially if you weren’t even sure why you were doing the chore in the first place.

For many, website improvements fit into this category.

The good thing about conversion rate optimization is that it requires you to build a road map—an organized list of all your tests and hypotheses, set to a specific cadence (which helps keep all parties accountable). After you run your test for a predetermined amount of time, you come away with something that you know either worked or didn’t, backed by data.

Which brings us to…

Benefit #2: Key Learnings Lead to Smarter Changes

Making iterative website improvements without data to support the changes is shooting in the dark. And I don’t know about you, but going through the pain of updating a website only to do so without rhyme or reason sounds exhausting—especially if you’re reporting to the higher-ups who care about the bottom line.

Conversion rate optimization testing gives you access to data that you can’t really replicate through platforms like Google Analytics because it’s not as focused and intentional. Sure, you can get crafty with the data and make some assumptions, but because CRO forces you to make a hypothesis (i.e., why you’re choosing to test the element on your site, and what do you think will happen?), you can test specific site interactions to make a case for larger, sitewide improvements.

Benefit #3: Overhauls Aren’t Always Necessary

First off, there are definitely a few major changes that would warrant a website redesign. But if you’re diligent with your testing, you’ll find that overhauls become less common. Not only does this happen for the obvious reasons (your testing cadence means that changes to the website could be made after each test wraps up), but also for less obvious reasons—CRO is a tool you can use to help get the website results you’ve been looking for.

Think about it like a pair of your favorite jeans. If you somehow get a hole in them, you can throw the jeans out and buy a fancy new pair, but that new pair of jeans may or may not fit as well as your go-tos. OR, you could try and patch them up—add something new to improve what’s broken. Sometimes the patch works, sometimes it breaks again and you really do need to invest in a new pair. But testing in the short term could lead to really cost-effective solutions.

Benefit #4: You Can Stop Assuming Things About Your Audience

Do you actually know, without a doubt, how your users would respond to certain elements of your website if they were to be changed?

For example, it seems obvious that a CTA that stands out (whether that be through color or size) would perform better than something more subtle like an in-text link. But in reality, these assumptions aren’t always true. In fact, we designed a test to determine the most effective CTA on a page for one of our clients, Airstream. We intentionally made one CTA much more vibrant and noticeable than the other CTA. But when we tested it, the subtle CTA actually performed much better than the one we thought would earn more clicks.

In short, leave your assumptions at the door and test instead.

Benefit #5: Sharing Your Results Helps Everyone Evolve

One of my absolute favorite things about testing is that you can take the results, share them with your team, and watch new, better work hit your website.

For the implementing developers, they suddenly understand why they’re being asked to tweak the site. For writers, they have a better grasp of copy that resonates with the audience—where they can lean into the aspirational, brand-building language, and where they should be straight to the point, stupid simple.

Bottom line: everyone becomes a better marketer for your brand, because they have user data delivered by none other than the CRO tests you’ve been investing in. It’s not only how websites grow, but how marketing teams grow.

Want an Iterative Website? Invest in CRO.

To keep up in today’s market, an iterative website is a must. It’s simply not possible to stay modern with complete website overhauls at the pace the web changes now. But your iterations can’t be guesses. You can’t simply rely on your marketer’s intuition. You have to know. You have to have data. Honestly, you need conversion rate optimization. Start testing, if you haven’t already, and make iterative changes as soon as you have data that backs them up. Your website performance will soar.