If you’ve been in the digital marketing space for a while, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about conversion rate optimization (CRO).
But the question is, do you get better results from CRO or traffic optimization?
So…is popular opinion right? Should you focus on conversion rate optimization over tweaking your pay-per-click campaigns?
Sure, if you can do both, go for it. But if you’re anything like the average marketer, time and money are limited, so if you can only pick one, which should you choose?
Advantages of PPC and CRO–Which Should I Choose?
Just like the guy on the bachelor, the only way to know what’s right for you is to get really familiar with all of your options.
Let’s do this with a hypothetical business scenario—you’re putting out some paid search ads. Most of the time, paid search clicks cost between $3.00-$6.00.
So, a campaign that generates 5,000 clicks at $5 per click doesn’t sound bad, right? Just look at all that beautiful traffic!
Isn’t it glorious?
Unfortunately, things aren’t always as they seem. In fact, the average paid search account wastes 76% of its budget on the wrong search terms!
The wrong search terms will bring in the wrong traffic and it’s hard to convert someone who’s not interested in what you have to offer.
So…if ~75% of your budget goes to clicks that don’t convert, you have a problem.
Maybe they accidentally clicked your ad. Maybe they thought you were selling something else. Or…maybe you could have been bidding on the wrong keywords.
Regardless, with 75% of your budget going towards the wrong clicks, that means only 1,250 of your 5,000 visitors were really interested.
This means your potential customers really look like this:
Now, you’re a bright marketer, so you did some A/B testing with that traffic. That should solve your problems, right?
Unfortunately, you’re only testing 25% of your traffic. That other 75% isn’t interested, remember?
So, you think your tests look like this:
But they really look like this:
But that should all be fine, right?
Now, if you get 100 conversions in your control (the A variant in your A/B test) and 120 conversions from your other landing page (B variant), that means your test was a success—your conversion rate just went up by 20%!
At $5 per click, your cost-per-conversion just went down from $31.25 to $26.04. That’s pretty nice! Time to celebrate, right?
But wait a sec…those 1,250 relevant clicks aren’t the only ones you have to pay for.
You have to pay for all 5,000 clicks.
In reality, your test results look like this:
So what gives?
Unfortunately, while you were only testing your interested traffic, you weren’t just paying for interested clicks.
If you include all of that pricey, uninterested traffic, your conversion rate results drop down to 4% (from 16%) and 4.8% (from 19%).
But hey, you still have a 20% improvement in conversion rate right? Unfortunately, just like a doughnut on a table covered in cockroaches, it just doesn’t look so great anymore.
And really, your biggest problem is this—your fully tested, totally optimized cost-per-conversion is $104.17.
Now, you might be thinking, Wait, Jacob, you just said our unoptimized cost per conversion was $31.25! Now you’re saying it’s $104.17?
Well, remember, your cost-per-conversion was only $31.25 for relevant traffic…
If you include all of your irrelevant traffic (that you spent 75% of your advertising budget on), your “optimized” cost-per-conversion ends up being 3X higher than what you would have paid per conversion if you were only paying for relevant traffic.
It looks like it might be worth your time to fix your traffic, eh?
Even though your A/B test lowered your CPC, it didn’t lower it nearly as much as it could have if you had the right traffic.
The moral of the story? Testing can’t fix traffic.
Improve Your Traffic
Now, here’s what happens to cost-per-conversion once you stop squandering your budget on traffic you don’t want.
Guess what? Your cost-per-conversion goes down dramatically when you stop wasting your ad spend on the wrong clicks.
For this client, decreasing their wasted ad spend by 23% lowered their cost-per-conversion by 65%—and we did it in just a few weeks.
Traffic and Testing
So, when it comes to PPC and CRO…which should you use?
To be honest, it depends.
If your PPC campaigns are bringing in the right traffic, some good A/B testing could help you get the most conversions from your clicks.
Conversely, if—like the majority of businesses—you’re driving the wrong traffic to your site, then traffic is what you should work on.
Start with the following:
- Determine your audience. Know your “right” audience. Understand their key pain points. Take the time to create buyer personas. Ensure that your ads make sense and connect with your audience’s pain points.
- Inspect your targeting. Make sure your targeting matches your buyer personas and target demographics. When using paid search, bid on keywords your audience will actually use when they’re buying.
- Utilize your analytics. Find out if your clicks are bringing in conversions. Determine if your ads are reaching the right demographic. Again, when using paid search, consider your costs for search terms and keywords that don’t convert.
So, if you want to get the best results for your time, start with your traffic. Once you’ve got that optimized, move on to testing your site.
That way, you’ll be testing the right traffic and you’ll actually get meaningful results.
I’ve been combining testing and traffic to get great results for a while now and I really do love both. Still, CRO is probably better if you’ve already got good traffic.
But, if your marketing performance needs to improve and you’re only able to focus on one area, start with PPC campaigns.
Do you agree with this analysis? Do you prioritize your traffic or your testing? Why or why not? Leave a comment so we can discuss.
About the Author
Jacob is passionate entrepreneur on a mission to help businesses achieve online marketing success. As the Founder & CEO of Disruptive Advertising, Jacob has created an award-winning, world-class organization that has helped over 2,000 businesses grow using pay-per-click advertising and conversion rate optimization.