Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): What is it, and how does it work?

Conversion rate optimization work is sometimes viewed skeptically, due to its association with the sometimes misunderstood world of marketing. In this series of articles, we will examine this emerging marketing specialty and hopefully shed some light.

In the engineering-driven culture of silicon valley, when engineers move into a marketing role it’s often viewed disparagingly as “crossing over to the dark side”. This is because marketing is a softer science with less direct accountability to the practitioners, at least in the short term. Over the past decade, that has changed with the arrival of the digital marketing techniques referred to collectively as, “Conversion Rate Optimization” or “CRO”.

CRO is a body of digital marketing knowledge and testing methodologies that can be learned and applied by business owners, stakeholders, executives, and web professionals of many stripes. The common thread for those who are most successful with CRO is that they are skillful marketers. CRO techniques bring marketing into the modern digital business ecosystem, where results can be measured.

Marketing Made Measurable

When applying marketing principles to website and web pages, the impact of marketing is measurable — marketing results become quantitative. Because you can directly measure the impact of a CRO “marketing experiment”, marketing ideas can be treated as “theories” until they are proven in practice. This is similar to developers of integrated circuits or computer software quantitatively measuring the performance of their designs. Marketing moves closer to becoming a hard science, to the extent that is possible since it deals with human behavior.

Halleluja! So much for “crossing over to the dark side”.

There are still critics of CRO, of course. But it becomes difficult to criticize the effectiveness of techniques when their effectiveness can be objectively measured.

This point is driven home by thought leaders in CRO who a bit provocatively refer to conversion rate optimization methods as “CRO science”.

How CRO came about, and where to learn more

Conversion rate optimization specialists possess a working body of digital marketing know-how and techniques that have developed over roughly the past decade.

Anyone with a role or stake in the success of a business lead-generation or e-commerce website can benefit from a working familiarity with the fundamentals of CRO.

There are a number of industry leaders who have pioneered a better understanding of CRO over the past decade. Some of the best early work was done by founders and employees at CRO pioneer Unbounce. They publish an excellent blog on the topic.

One of the best books on the topic: “Making Websites Win“, was written by Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson, with forward by Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google.

Through experience, we’ve learned and tested many conversion rate optimization methods. That is the focus of this series of articles.


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