CRO: from psychology to measurement

I have almost finished the first part of the CRO mini-degree course and I took a sneak peek of the lessons ahead. You see that the course transition towards the heart of the matter: how to optimize for conversion, or, better yet, how to optimize for growth.

You finish the first part by analyzing the psychological aspect of the consumer/user and how you can optimize her experience on your website or landing page. You start by considering a web page from a completely different perspective: colors, titles, layouts are not just what you see on the page but take on a completely different, and broader, meaning. You start to understand why at the beginning of the course you are told that CRO activities are, in theory, never-ending: you can optimize the performance of a website from so many perspectives that you really can see so many opportunities for improvement, you need to start prioritizing. It hurts, really: if I think about the websites of our company and how, for years, where just websites we used to show our products and write some articles, without specific rules, apart from three or four SEO-related rules you pick up from a YouTube video and a couple of articles on the topic, your head starts to spin.

And you understand how much money you have left on the table. You understand why you did not feel in control of your own website: because you did not know even the basic principles of its performance. You chose the design of the website just because you liked them and it looked professional, without much consideration about conversion, user experience, organic growth and the like. In the first part of the mini-degree you study how people perceive, interpret and react when they see a webpage and how you can use this knowledge to build a better page: not a page that you like – well, also a page that you like – but, especially, a page that converts.From the basics, you delve into specialized topics like social proof and how to best use it. This is scary if you think about it: a whole chapter of the course dedicated to nothing but reviews and how to use them. Endless possibilities, and your head spins. Anyway, once you understand how to use social proof, you study neuromarketing, cognitive biases and more techniques you can use to further optimize your website. You start wondering “why didn’t I study this before!” and, a bit annoyed, “why didn’t the web agency we hired tell us about this??” and you want to learn everything, even though you are perfectly conscious that the filed is huge. In the course there are small, very focused chapters that leave you with few, specific rules you can apply immediately. One that I particularly enjoyed is the chapter on the development and test of an emotional content strategy: a simple yet effective framework to use emotions and their appeal by analyzing your communication, values and brand personality and those of the competitors.

It is a short chapter, only 30 minutes, but dense with concepts and examples you can immediately apply: yet another opportunity for improvement you now understand you have completely missed.

After this chapter, there is an almost abrupt transition to the main topic of the course: experimentation and testing, with a 9-hour course on Google Analytics. Or, I should rephrase it: with the best-taught Google Analytics course I have ever taken. Explanations are simple yet effective, you understand immediately all the functions of a not-so-simple and especially enormous platform and you start to understand why the heck everybody is talking about Google Analytics so much. The course starts by analyzing all the components of Google Analytics, one by one, but not just with usual list of buttons and their functions. You really understand their importance and why you should use them, and you immediately understand how to best use the whole platform without drowning in a sea of buttons, categories, events and actions.

I must say, this is not the fun part: the explanations are great, but it is still an analytical tool: either you love playing with numbers and statistics, or you recognize where the course is heading (and the sneak peek I referred to earlier helps a lot): you have to learn to be a web statistician, you need to be able to see past the layouts and the colors and measure events, actions of users and a bunch of terms like bounce rate and click through rate. Terms you have probably already heard, maybe through your web agency r while reding an article on how to improve your sales online, which now take on a very different meaning.

In the neuromarketing course the school shows a video of a speech about CRO activities and neuromarketing: it is the first real encounter, you have never had one, with CRO activities and their world and I found it very interesting. Although not technical, you understand the philosophy behind CRO activities and the potential cognitive traps even CRO professionals fall into while trying to optimize a page.

I highly suggest not to skip the video: you do not become a CRO expert watching it, but you start to understand their challenges and potential pitfalls and you will surely remember them when you analyze CRO events more in depth.

Even if you think “I do not want to become a number-crunching Google-analytics lover”, I think it is important to be fully aware of the possibilities: a web agency does not tell you everything. Nor they should: they are an agency, not a digital academy and their goal is to analyze and optimize for you. That said, digital marketing is becoming more and more competitive and more and more companies are advertising online: these tools are now essential to at least know which decisions to take with your team in terms of optimization efforts. You know what to focus on and you know where to look for answers. You start seeing optimization opportunities on your website, from different points of view: the Value Proposition is not clear, the button is not visible, the layout is not effective. And you start seeing also the behind-the-scenes, with GA: you will become a well-rounded CRO expert that sees opportunities where others see only a layout.

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