Integrating a CRO Strategy Into Your PPC Advertising Campaigns

Peg board with Pay per click on it (PPC concept)

When you work in marketing, one of your primary goals is likely to drive traffic to your business website. You may cross your fingers and toes hoping that those website visitors convert to customers or qualified sales leads. When you focus on conversion rate optimization (CRO) for your digital marketing efforts, you can confidently take action. 

What Is CRO in Digital Marketing?

When you focus on CRO, you make digital marketing decisions based on whether or not you’ll convert website traffic into qualified leads. You may think you have to bring in new customers to create qualified leads, but that’s not entirely true. 

Maximizing CRO for your business means making the most of current traffic and new visitors alike. Current website visitors may not be converting, but that can change with a few tweaks to your efforts. In fact, it can catapult your business into success because current website visitors are already invested in your brand. 

Simply put, a conversion rate is the number of website visitors that turn into qualified leads for your business. Before calculating a conversion rate, you have to define the action you want website visitors to complete. You may have one, or you may have several. Examples include:

  • Filling out a web form
  • Signing up for your newsletter
  • Making a purchase 
  • Scheduling an appointment
  • Applying for a service

If you have a strong conversion rate, it means that your efforts are paying off. Things that contribute to CRO include:

  • A user-friendly website
  • Clean design
  • Clear formatting
  • Tailoring to your target audience

There are also website factors that can hurt your CRO, and these include:

  • A long loading time
  • Poor formatting
  • A choppy design that is confusing or busy
  • Broken links

How Do You Know If Your Conversion Rate Is Good?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to website conversion rate optimization in digital marketing. So many factors go into developing a digital marketing strategy. Instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, spend time assessing your past results and strive to make improvements. Be better than you were last year and last quarter. 

If it helps you to have benchmarks for comparison, consider these conversion rate statistics:

  • In Q2 2021, retail had an average conversion rate of 2.8%
  • Search had the highest conversion rate among marketing channels at 3%, while social media only offered a conversion rate of 1%.
  • In Q1 2021, restaurants and catering had the highest median conversion rate at 9.8%. 

As a reminder, you should not base your own conversion rate goals on these industry standards. Instead, use them as a small part of your larger digital marketing strategy for PPC advertising and other efforts. 

If your business has a lower conversion rate than you expect, review best practices and look for ways to improve your strategy. You don’t have to overhaul your marketing plan completely to see success. Small changes can add up gradually over weeks and months.

Tips for Calculating a Conversion Rate 

The mathematical formula is simple, even if the strategy isn’t. Divide your number of website conversions by the total number of visitors and multiply the result by 100. You can calculate a different conversion rate for each type of conversion or by web pages on your site. 

For best results, look at your conversion rates from all angles. You may first assess webpages, finding that one webpage performs much better or much worse than others. At the same time, you can compare your various activity goals to see which ones your customers gravitate toward. 

For example, you may have three goals on a single webpage. Which one do more website visitors complete? You may have the same goal on multiple web pages. Which one receives the most traction? What time of day are website visitors most likely to complete one of your goal actions? What about the days of the week?

You can get very granular on assessing your CRO. Establishing trends helps inform your digital marketing strategy. It’s important to see what isn’t working just as much as what is. For the most accurate results, make a single change to your strategy at a time. See what changes, if anything, before making additional adjustments. 

If the details don’t matter as much, add up all of your conversions and your total website traffic to determine an overall conversion rate. 

How Does CRO Apply to PPC Advertising?

Just like the name suggests, pay per click (PPC) advertising means you pay anytime a person clicks on your advertising link. An ad can be designed and written perfectly, offering a click rate that would impress anyone in the industry. But if those clicks aren’t converting into customers or leads, then you’re really just paying for an interactive digital billboard. 

A strong conversion rate helps you justify PPC ad spending because you can report on the final results. How much does each conversion cost you based on the number of clicks you pay for? Part of your digital strategy may include driving down the cost of clicks so that your conversions cost less on average. 

What Happens When a PPC Lead Reaches Your Site?

Someone is doing a quick search online for a product or service, and your ad appears at the top of the page. Intrigued, they click to learn more. One of two things happens:

Outcome One: Your website is loud, confusing, and difficult to follow. The visitor may scroll down out of curiosity, but they don’t see exactly what they’re looking for. They don’t take the time to search your site for the product or service they want. Instead, they tap the back button, review other search results and click on another one. 

Outcome Two: Your website has a clean design, and the product they’re looking for is right there. The visitor reads more about it, scrolls through pictures, and even reads a few customer reviews. They commit to the purchase, and in a few clicks, they check out completely satisfied with their choice.

OK, so in reality, there are dozens of variations of these two scenarios. But the bottom line is, the first outcome is your worst-case scenario, and the second is your best-case scenario. 

So how do you bridge the gap between well-written, well-funded PPC advertising and strong CRO? There are six key factors to consider.

1. Prioritize CRO Above All Else

You read that sentence, and then you immediately started developing your ‘but’ list. But are click-through rates just as important? The bottom line is, no. Clicks don’t mean a thing if the people clicking don’t turn into customers or leads. Your entire PPC strategy should revolve around optimizing conversion rates on your website. 

2. Set Realistic Goals

Do you want 100% of your website visitors to convert and become life-long customers? Of course! Is that going to happen? Probably not. Instead, set a realistic conversion rate goal for your website. Define your goal in the most specific terms possible so that there are no doubts about how you’ll calculate results. Prioritize web pages and desired actions, so you know what’s most important to your business. Hint: It’s probably what’s most profitable to your business!

Divide conversion rates into two categories: micro and macro. Micro conversions are smaller goals you want to achieve, but they aren’t the big end goals you have in mind. Micro conversions often lead up to macro conversions over time. They include downloading resources and filling out web forms. Macro conversions are your ultimate website conversion rate optimization goal because they’re profitable. They include making purchases or signing up for services you offer.

3. Understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

It’s important to understand the role SEO plays in getting ad clicks. When your website has the right keywords to match a digital ad and a user’s search, your ad appears higher in search results organically.

That’s great, but does it help you achieve your CRO goals? Take a step back and think about optimizing your website from a conversion rate perspective. Then define which search terms are most important based on your optimization. Finally, tailor your ads to meet the needs of a select audience group that is most likely to convert once they reach your site.

As a reminder, clicks don’t mean a thing if your conversion rate is low. 

4. Mobile-First Design

Did you know that nearly half of all online browsing comes from mobile devices? If your website doesn’t have a mobile-first design, then you’re losing before you even set up a PPC account and create your first ad. Your website may be glorious on desktops, but if it doesn’t deliver for mobile users, then you may be losing half or more of your potential conversions.

We’ve all visited a website from our phone that just doesn’t render correctly. You can pinch the screen, reload the browser, and even rotate your phone to try and get a better result, but nothing changes. The bottom line is, your website visitors want the easiest experience possible. If they have to work even the tiniest bit to navigate your website, they’re tapping the back button and finding another option. 

5. Digging Deep Into Data Analytics

If you’re not good at crunching numbers and using analytics to inform your strategy, find someone who can help. Without definite numbers, your CRO strategy is a good guess at best. Data doesn’t lie, and when you get everything you can from it, you elevate your CRO strategy to a new level.

When it comes to data analytics and PPC advertising, it’s important to remember that your solution isn’t one and done. You need to reassess your strategies weekly, if not daily, depending on the size of your business and your CRO goals. 

6. Adaptability

Technology is advancing so quickly that it’s already outdated as soon as you put a digital marketing campaign together. You must be ready to pivot and make changes immediately. Sometimes this means trashing an entire plan that you worked really hard on because it’s just not going to deliver the results. That’s OK. 

And it’s not just about technology. The 2020 pandemic is another example of why it’s important to be adaptable. Circumstances can change at any time, making your campaigns irrelevant. You have to expect the unexpected and be ready to brainstorm new goals and trajectories for your business in the face of uncertainty. 

Actionable Steps for Increasing CRO

You understand website conversion rate optimization best practices, you have clearly outlined goals, and now it’s time to put your plan into action. It’s not enough to hope that your CRO improves just because you put in more effort. Instead, use these tips to gain a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t for your brand. 

A/B Split Testing for PPC

Testing two different ads or landing pages is a great way to see what intrigues your website visitors. Examples of factors to test in PPC ads include:

  • Service or quality guarantees: A/B split test one ad that offers a guarantee against another that doesn’t. Find out what happens when you use phrases like “money-back guarantee” or “100% satisfaction guarantee.” Some customers respond well to these phrases while others don’t. 
  • Appeal: Try including a phrase that calls potential customers to take a specific action. Examples include “click to learn more” or “order now.” 
  • Trustworthiness: Are you BBB accredited? Have you won special industry awards? Do you have any unique certifications? Have you been in business for a long time? Do you have an impressive number of returning customers? Highlighting these factors in your PPC ads can help you stand apart from the competition.
  • Unique URLs: You don’t have to display a long-tail URL on your PPC ads. Create a unique subdomain that redirects to your landing page to entice potential customers. An example may be selling cars and using a URL “/dreamcar.”
  • Special Offers: You can offer special bonuses and rewards to customers who buy or join through a PPC ad. Test offering a specific dollar amount off versus a percentage off. For example, “25% off today’s purchase” versus “save $50 today!”
  • Ask a question: You can say the exact same thing a different way and catch someone’s attention. Instead of saying “click to learn more,” ask, “are you ready to learn more?”

Once you determine which PPC ads your audience responds to, you can begin A/B split testing PPC landing pages to see which ones gain the most conversions. If there are things that work in your PPC ads, they’re likely to help increase website conversion rates, too. Examples of additional factors to test on your landing pages include:

  • Styling: This may seem too simplistic, but try different font styles, sizes, and ways of displaying information. Do you get more conversions from well-written paragraphs or bullet point lists? What about breaking up information using headlines and subheads? 
  • Message delivery: Test out different tones for your writing. You may assume that a serious tone fits your business, but your potential customers may respond well to wit and humor. 
  • Visual elements: Stock photos tend to be unsuccessful because website visitors recognize that they aren’t “real” photos. Try other visuals like brand designs, photos you took, product photos, and even well-chosen stock photos.
  • Layout: Sometimes, where and how you place page elements makes a difference. Remember to keep your pages as simple as possible so they are easy to follow. If you have a unique brand, you may be able to try a more complex design, but A/B test it before committing. 

Taking the Human Element Into Consideration

Data is fantastic because it is finite. When utilized correctly, data doesn’t lie. But data also doesn’t provide the “why” behind a website visitor’s choices. It’s equally important to have qualitative data to help you understand why some things work and others don’t. 

Try hosting small focus groups or partnering with a third-party agency that can host focus groups on your behalf. Learn more about your target audience and their behaviors to better inform your digital marketing strategy. 


When you invest your time and effort in website conversion rate optimization, you save money on PPC ad campaigns over time. You’re able to narrow your digital marketing strategy down and get well-qualified leads and customers that are loyal to your brand. 

Implementing a CRO-first digital marketing strategy creates a cycle of growth. You learn from results and implement better solutions. Then you try new things, pivot, adapt and continue learning about your customers. This growth cycle becomes second nature to how you approach digital marketing. Soon you won’t even remember the “old way” of doing things. You won’t have to hope for good results because you know exactly how to achieve them. 

And the CRO-first strategy helps to inform other marketing decisions. When you understand how your target audience responds to your PPC ads and landing pages, you can take the knowledge and apply it to other marketing channels. Learn more about CRO on our blog.

Picture of Written By: Wes Davis

Written By: Wes Davis

Wes is a seasoned marketing expert with over two decades of experience in the industry. His extensive portfolio includes working with some of the biggest players in the business world as well as small and family-owned business, devising effective marketing strategies to boost growth. He is driven by a passion for helping businesses of all sizes reach their full potential and has a proven track record of delivering measurable results. Outside his professional life, Wes is a devoted family man, a passionate dance dad, and coaches high school baseball. He enjoys traveling and photography as well, capturing moments that matter across the world.

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