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Top 5 CRO Tools For Shoestring Budgets

August 11, 2016

Conversion Rate Optimisation is still playing catch up to the rather more ubiquitous digital marketing acronyms such as SEO and PPC, and with less than 5% of marketing budgets being spent on conversion optimisation, it’s easy to understand why. Not surprisingly, CRO is all about optimising your conversion rate, but it’s about so much more than looking at those couple of digits in your Google Analytics reports and willing them to move in the right direction.

When you take the words ‘conversion rate’ away (which is perhaps the most guilty part of the phrase when it comes to tech-talk), it’s really all about optimisation. Making your website better. Growing your business. Growth.

Unfortunately, CRO seems to have a bit of a stigma for being overly complex, outrageously expensive and with a high barrier to entry; however, those things simply aren’t true, and having recently been asked to recommend some free / inexpensive software and tools to get started with CRO, I thought I’d put my suggestions into a blog post.

So here goes…

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics? You might ask…
What’s that got to do with Conversion Rate Optimisation?
Well, before you can begin to optimise you first need to analyse. Understanding your conversion rate and getting to grips with the data, figures and levers that effect it has to be your starting point.

How do different traffic sources convert?
Which pages of your site do people look at on their way to a conversion?
Which pages or areas of your site are causing people to leave?

Every CRO project we embark on is rooted in Analytics; it’s where we begin to understand our client’s website, audience, customers and opportunities for growth.

Head on over to Google Analytics and start your CRO journey now…

2. iPerceptions

One of the most simple, and yet most effective, things you can do as part of a CRO project, is ask your website users a few questions. Questions, more often than not, lead to answers. And once you have enough answers you can start to formulate a plan for improving your website.

iPerceptions helps organisations become customer-centric by leveraging the voice of their customers in the format of an opt-in site survey. The FREE version of their impressive tool uses the 4Q Framework, whereby you can use site visitors four questions:

  1. What did you come to our site to do?
  2. Did you manage to do it?
  3. If not, why not?
  4. How can we improve

This qualitative research offers real insight into why people are using your site, what they’re looking for, and how you can make it better for them.

Go to the iPerceptions site and you could be up and running in less than 5 minutes…

3. Optimal Workshop

Optimal Workshop is one of two recommendations in my Top 5 that offer a smorgasbord of tools all under one roof.

The 4 main products that the guys at Optimal Workshop have to offer are:

  1. Treejack: Information Architecture Validation Software
    (Translation: Test if your site structure and navigation makes sense)
  2. OptimalSort: Online Card Sorting Software
    (Translation: Ask users how you should organise your site)
  3. Chalkmark: Online Screenshot Testing
    (Translation: Super-quick feedback on designs)
  4. Reframer: A qualitative research tool
    (Translation: Collect, discover and share user feedback)

Sign up to their FREE plan to give you a taste of what their various tools have to offer…

4. Usability Hub

The other Swiss Army Knife of CRO Tools is Usability Hub, which offers one more product than Optimal Workshop:

  1. Five Second Test: Optimize the clarity of your designs by measuring people’s first impressions
  2. First Click Test: Analyse how users interact with your interfaces so you can tweak and improve your designs
  3. Question Test: Collect and analyse user feedback for your mock-ups and wireframes
  4. Navigation Test: Analyse how people navigate through your websites and applications
  5. Preference Test: Choose between two design variations by asking users which one they prefer

You can gather responses from testers that you invite (your customers, perhaps?), and to do that will cost you nothing. Responses ordered from UsabilityHub’s testers cost 1 credit each (which cost $1 each), so it’s definitely one to try out.

Find out more about Usability Hub and begin testing today…

5. WhatUsersDo

My Top 5 CRO Tools, regardless of budget, would not be complete without one of my favourites; WhatUsersDo (and why they do it). In a nutshell, What Users Do offers a turnkey solution for organisations to embark upon Remote User Experience Testing. Huh? Remote What? Essentially, it offers a window into what real people do on your website.

You begin by setting a task (or series of tasks), a scenario, if you will. For example, if you’re an online retailer you might ask a tester to imagine they were looking for a particular product on your site; they should start at the homepage, attempt to navigate to the product via your menu, perhaps search for the product, compare it with other products, add it to basket, and continue their journey up to the point of payment.

The totally amazing (and incredibly insightful) thing about all of this, is that those testers are recorded performing these tasks – you get to see their screen and their mouse as they speak their thoughts aloud. You get to hear their frustrations, understand their confusion and wince at them not finding that piece of information that you thought was so obviously placed.

I cannot recommend UX testing highly enough, and although it’s not strictly free, it is worth every penny (and it only costs from £23 per user video).

In fact, they even offer a FREE trial now, where you can test out the product with 5 complimentary videos…

Bonus Point: Visual Website Optimizer

No Top 5 list is quite complete without a bonus 6th offering. And in at number 6 for me is super-simple A/B testing software, Visual Website Optimizer. A/B testing allows you to easily create a carbon copy of a particular page on your site, tweak it, and test if your tweaked version outperforms the original.

It requires some tech-help to get the necessary code on your site, but the tests themselves can be set up and managed without the need to call up your web development company or twisting the arm of your resident code-wrangler. The straightforward drag-and-drop interface allows you to re-position elements on the page (think ‘Add To Basket’ buttons, Headlines, Calls to Action etc.) in order to test if users are more likely to perform the desired action with the Control (original) or Variation (your new version).

You can set the tool to send half of your traffic to each version of the page and let them fight to the death when it comes to conversion rate; if we’re going to get really nerdy then ideally you should aim for statistical significance when it comes to selecting a ‘winner’, but however you get there, it’s a very satisfying experience when your newly designed page far outperforms the original, and even more satisfying one when you’ve managed to prove the HiPPO wrong!

Sign up for a FREE 30 day trial, which gives you a 1,000 visitor limit and get testing…


Marty’s Final Thoughts…

A couple of final points to consider when embarking on a CRO project (no matter how big or small the budget) are:

If you have a lead generation website…

Remember that your site is (or should be…) your best salesperson.

  • How do they generate leads?
  • How do they close leads?
  • What questions do they get asked by prospects?
  • How do they encourage prospects further down the sales funnel?

Answer all of those questions and then ask the same questions of your website. Now go and test, optimise and iterate your website so that it’s as good as, if not better than, your best salesperson.

If you have an e-commerce website…

Forget about the digital world for a moment. Let’s strip it all back. You have a shop. You want the customers in your shop to buy something.

  • How do you do that in the real world?
  • Do you make it more complicated than necessary for people to get from your shop door to your till?
  • If a customer asks you a question do you answer them, or ignore them?
  • Do you hide your best-selling products away in a forgotten corner of your store?
  • Do you demand that all customers who want to buy something must first commit to letting you email them every week?

Imagine that your online store is a bricks and mortar store and begin to treat your online customers as if you were serving them face-to-face and you’ll begin to make great strides in CRO very quickly.


Hopefully that’s whetted your appetite for a budget CRO project. After all, no matter how small you start, once you’ve started you’re already on the way to optimising your website and growing your business. If you have any other tools to suggest, then feel free to do so via the comments.

If you’d like to know more about our approach to Conversion Rate Optimisation, and find out how we’ve helped organisations such as NewcastleGateshead Initiative, The Pen Shop, House Buyer Bureau and Bond Dickinson become more customer-centric, foster a culture of optimisation, and optimise their digital experience then get in touch.

Written by Andy

Andy is Venture Stream’s Chief Operating Officer and has over 15 years’ experience in ecommerce consultancy, design and retail marketing.

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