Conversion Rate Optimization in WordPress: It’s Not That Simple

Conversion Rate Optimization in WordPress: It’s Not That Simple

It doesn’t matter if your WordPress site sells digital products, physical inventory, subscribable services, or something else entirely. If your site was built for the purposes of selling something, then you should be making sales from it.

In terms of what a good revenue baseline is for a WordPress site, or even what percentage of visitors you need to convert, that I can’t tell you. Margins for success are different for everyone. However, you should have a goal in mind that not only helps you break even with the costs of the website and all the marketing efforts to support it, but that also make the business profitable.

If your e-commerce sales aren’t meeting that goal, well, then you should look into conversion rate optimization.

Conversion rate optimization (or CRO) can be a tricky matter in and of itself. It’s not as though we don’t know how to optimize an e-commerce site for conversions, it’s more that the winning formula can differ from website to website. So it’s often difficult to know what needs to be updated in WordPress in order to increase your conversion rates.

That’s why I love case studies. They’re a great source of inspiration if you’re unsure of where to begin your testing and optimization efforts (especially since you should never go blindly into this). Let’s first look at what kinds of elements you might want to turn your attention to during the CRO process and then delve into some case studies that demonstrate how tweaking just one element can make your conversion rates skyrocket.

Conversion Rate Optimization: What WordPress Developers Need to Know

Search engine optimization, performance optimization, and the hardening of security in WordPress are hot topics for WordPress developers. And that makes perfect sense. These three pieces are traditionally what lead to an optimal experience for visitors and will get you the best results in search.

For those of you who develop e-commerce websites in WordPress, you also need to familiarize yourself with conversion rate optimization.

Moz defines CRO as:

“…the systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action — be that filling out a form, becoming customers, or otherwise.”

The key word in this definition is “systematic”. Unlike SEO, performance, and speed optimizations, conversion rate optimization needs to be done as incremental A/B tests in order to really hone in on your e-commerce website’s winning formula. And that’s what can make this so hard and oftentimes frustrating for WordPress developers. Especially when you see statistics like these from Monetate’s E-commerce Quarterly.

Based on their data, they found that add-to-cart rates averaged 9.03% worldwide:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Add-to-Cart Rates
Add-to-Cart Rates from the Monetate Q1 2017 report.

However, the average e-commerce conversion rate is 2.48%:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Ecommerce Conversion Rates
e-Commerce conversion rates from the Monetate Q1 2017 report.

So, what’s happening to the 6.5% of people who are excited enough to think about converting, only to drop out before doing so?

This is where the systematic approach comes in handy. The problem is, where do you start?

Well, let’s consider the different areas of an e-commerce website that may require your attention in order to optimize the conversion process.

Home Page

First impressions are a big deal with customers, so even though they’re most likely there to get to the good stuff (i.e. information about your services or goods), they still want a solid introduction to it all. This means wowing them with a website header that has an eye-catching and relatable design, clear value proposition, and easy-to-follow CTA. Without these elements securely in place, visitors may be left confused or disgruntled.


Another part of the e-commerce website that may need optimization is the navigation menu. Again, it’s essential to reduce confusion. This means building out a logical navigation structure that’s easy to find.

In addition, e-commerce websites also benefit from the inclusion of search bars and breadcrumb navigations. Anything you can do to help customers get to the desired product or service more quickly and browse around at others more efficiently, the greater the chances they’ll convert.

Also, don’t forget to look at where the cart icon is placed in the navigation–especially on mobile. If it’s hard to find and doesn’t instantly signal to visitors that they have items sitting in their shopping carts, you could be missing out.

Product or Service Pages

Next, drill down into the products or services pages. These are obviously a key part in selling visitors on moving into checkout, so you could save a lot of conversions just by tackling the structure or content found on these pages.

If you haven’t done so already, review the best practices for designing e-commerce product pages. You can use these tips whether your site sells physical or digital products. It’s simply about including the key elements visitors need to see to be convinced to make a purchase.


Obviously, the checkout is a major problem area for websites, as evidenced by the Monetate report. If the average site loses over 6% of potential conversions at checkout, then this may be the first place developers should start the systematic conversion rate optimization process at.

You should look at things like:

  • The payment gateway
  • User checkout options (e.g. create an account, log in with Facebook, pay through PayPal, check out as a guest)
  • Simplicity of checkout or a clear breakdown of each step of the process
  • Checkout form ease of use
  • Transparency regarding final costs, shipping, taxes, as well as a return policy
  • Placement of security trustmarks
  • Customer support options


Study the channels through which converted visitors came to your e-commerce site from. Do social media visitors convert more than email referrals? Is organic search more effective than paid search? It may not even be your site that needs optimizing. It may be where you focus your marketing efforts.

Converted Customers

Is there a certain quality about your converted customers that they tend to share? If so, does that match the target user persona you’ve developed your site’s design and experience around? If not, this may mean a redesign is in order to capture more conversions.

Conversion Rate Optimization Case Study Ideas

While I could show you older case studies that you’ve likely seen before (from Basecamp, Walmart, etc.), I don’t know that they effectively demonstrate modern design strategies for conversions. And, so, I want to keep this simple.

Below, you will find 4 very recent conversion rate optimization case studies that zero in on one of the elements previously mentioned. These are here to help you find inspiration in your own CRO attempts and aren’t necessarily meant to be a list of A/B tests or permanent revisions you should make (as, again, every website is different).

If you find yourself looking for further tips, I would recommend you check out these 7 simple, no-brainer experiments for A/B testing.

1. Home Page Value Proposition

When Worship Digital took on the task of optimizing the CORGI HomePlan website for conversions, they encountered not necessarily an issue with the site design, but more an issue with the industry they were in, in general.

CORGI provides customers with coverage in case anything happens to the heating, plumbing, or electrics in their homes. However, Worship Digital discovered that customers looking for this kind of coverage did not trust the companies providing it. So, they focused all their attention on the home page’s value proposition.

This is what the top of the home page originally looked like:

Conversion Rate Optimization - CORGI Home Page Original
What the CORGI HomePlan home page header used to look like.

And here is what the home page looks like now:

Conversion Rate Optimization - CORGI Home Page Updated
What the CORGI HomePlan home page header looked after the A/B test.

With the newly implemented red trust bar placed directly under the navigation, CORGI’s website experience a 30.9% surge in conversions.

2. Product Page Checkout Button

This is a very interesting case study as it involves a website you’re likely familiar with: Creative Market. Basically, their goal was to increase conversions on the Buy Credits landing page. Here is what the original design looked like:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Creative Market Credits Original
The Creative Market credit page pre-testing.

They surmised that if the checkout button were placed above the fold, more visitors would convert as there’d be no confusion as to where to take the next step nor would there be frustration over having to scroll down to find it. So, they redesigned each of the credit boxes to include a PayPal checkout button:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Creative Market Credits Updated
The Creative Market credit page post-testing.

In a surprise twist they did not see coming, the updated landing page actually led to a decrease in conversions, from $45,000 to $40,000. The redesign also led customers to spend less as there was no longer a colorful indicator to point them to the best value package.

3. Pricing Tier Reconfiguration

You’re familiar with the modern design of pricing tables. You highlight the same set of features and then pit them against one another to demonstrate how much value customers will get from each tier. Simple enough.

Now, the director of product at Powtoon had a suspicion there was one element in the pricing table that was throwing off visitors’ ability to make a quick purchasing decision. And what it boiled down to was the word “Unlimited”:

Conversion Rate Optimization - PowToon Pricing Page Original
Note how the storage limit on the Business plan says “Unlimited”.

Each tier included a value for the amount of storage customers would receive with their software. However, it was the Business plan’s allocation of “Unlimited” storage that proved to be problematic. After all, what does that really mean to the layman? If the Pro plan is 2GB, how much more storage would they get with Unlimited? And would they even need that much if the rest of the plan’s features were nearly identical?

So, the pricing page was updated:

Conversion Rate Optimization - PowToon Pricing Page Updated
The pricing page now has a defined storage amount for all plans.

To resolve the perceived issue, they set the Business plan’s storage limit to 10GB. And guess what? There was a 27.9% increase in conversions on this page as customers now had a better grasp of the difference between the two premium pricing plans.

Interesting side note: if you look at the current version of the Powtoon pricing plans page, you’ll see that they learned their lesson well as they have an Agency package with an actual storage amount listed. Also interesting to see is that there is now an indicator that shows that the Pro+ (formerly Business) plan is the most popular.

4. Landing Page Description Addition

The people behind RuneScape, a free MMORPG (online game), worked with the team at Jagex to try and improve the user experience on the pages closest to the checkout process. Specifically, they set their sights on the Treasure Hunter page, which was where they were to go in order to purchase keys for the game.

This is how the page originally looked:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Treasure Hunter Page Original
The original version of the Treasure Hunter landing page.

After clicking on the Continue button, users would then be taken to a very plain-looking and unbranded payment gateway page where they could select one of the packages.

However, after reviewing heatmaps from the home page as well as the Treasure Hunter page, it became clear to Jagex that customers were really interested in finding out more about these keys. They hypothesized that placing information about the keys on the pre-checkout landing page would speed up the conversion process. And it did.

This was the revamped design:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Treasure Hunter Page Updated 1
The first A/B test saw the introduction of the key packages available.

As a result, conversions increased by nearly 10%.

In their attempt to get the most out of this redesign, Jagex decided to test one more design option:

Conversion Rate Optimization - Treasure Hunter Page Updated 2
The second A/B test put emphasis on the plan they strongly recommended as having the best value.

This one put an emphasis on the recommended package to more effectively draw attention to it. When compared to the first redesign, this new one led to a further increase of 6% in conversions.

Wrapping Up

It’s not enough to have a theory and go with it when it comes to conversion rate optimization. You need to take time to dig into what the user experience on your WordPress site really entails. Then, decide if that’s really the optimal experience that inspires conversions by incrementally testing individual elements one at a time.

Of course, it also helps to have the right tools in place from the get-go. A trusty e-commerce plugin, a kickass security strategy, and performance enhancements galore will give you a strong base to start from. Then you can focus on optimizing the conversion pipeline.

Do you offer A/B testing as part of your WordPress services? Why or why not?
Suzanne Scacca
Suzanne Scacca A former content manager and implementer, Suzanne Scacca uses the knowledge acquired while working as a professional desk jockey to craft content that helps users do WordPress better.