What Is A Conversion Rate?

Here's a breakdown of what conversion rates are and how they're calculated.


Some marketing departments want all the data. It can be difficult to determine what is actually working for your customers when you’re swimming in numbers. With this guide, you’ll learn to use conversion rate optimization to focus on the right data.

What is a Conversion Rate and What Good is It?

A conversion rate measures the number of people who take a desired action on your site out of the total number of visitors. Such actions might include submitting a form, downloading an ebook, or signing up for an email list.

Conversion rate optimization is a process of improving that percentage. To start, you’ll want to dig into your analytics to establish your benchmark conversion rate. You can run A/B tests to determine the best ways to reach your customers. By measuring the increase or decrease in conversions, you can prove (with data!) the effectiveness of a design change or new campaign.

How is Conversion Rate Calculated?

Here’s a simple conversion formula:

conversion rate = number of desired actions / number of units

A desired action will vary based on the type of site. It could be a purchase, a download, or a registration. For example, let’s say your goal is for people to register for an event. If 2,000 people view your event landing page and 80 people register, your conversion rate is 4 percent.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimization is a process to increase the number of people who complete your goal action. Say a landing page for a new ebook has a 2 percent conversion rate. If you make some changes to the page layout and get a 3 percent conversion rate, you have helped to optimize the page.

Wait, did you think you were finished? Sorry, nope! CRO is an ongoing process. As you learn more about your customers, you can continually refine and make adjustments. Even a simple website has many elements to optimize:

  • Design
  • Layout
  • Online forms
  • Headlines
  • Microcopy
  • Color/contrast
  • ...and much more

CRO is not about getting someone to click a “Buy now!” button. It is a process of making the user experience better so they can find what they need.

Online Form Optimization

Optimizing online forms can be a fun process. First, review your current form data to establish your benchmark. Evaluate your abandonment rate. How many people ditch your form? Do you have bottlenecks? These are fields where users would rather leave the form than submit the required information. Note your current conversion rate to establish your benchmark.

Determine which area(s) of your form you would like to test. You might want to add smart features that automatically respond to how your users are filling out the form. You could test a very short version of the current form. Compare your before and after rates to determine which was the most successful at converting customers.

How Do I Know if I Have a Good Conversion Rate?

You’re going to have to ignore what your mom told about not comparing yourself with others. Formstack recently released a benchmark Form Conversion Report, which reveals how online forms convert. For example, contests are the highest-converting forms at 28 percent. Contact forms are the lowest at 3 percent.

The Form Conversion Report also indicates online conversion rate by industry. The average form conversion across all industries is 11 percent. By comparing your conversions with others, you will gain a better sense of how well your forms are performing. If your forms are converting below industry norms, you’ll want to implement some changes to improve your conversion rates.

Conversion Rate Optimization Tips

Let’s summarize how to increase conversion rates step-by-step. Here is a basic CRO process:

  • Set a goal. How are you determining a conversion? Choose an action you can measure.
  • Know your customers. Understand what they want so you can get it to them better.
  • Find the friction. Where are you losing potential customers?
  • Have a plan. Collect benchmark numbers. Detail your test process and the data you will collect.
  • Get buy-in. Not all higher-ups like testing. Having a clear goal and numbers will help you make your case.
  • Test, test, test. ’nuff said.
  • Analyze the data. This is the fun part. It’s not just knowing which test “won.” Instead, think about why it won. Did it reduce friction? Was your copy clearer? Were your buttons better?
  • Keep testing. Remember, CRO is ongoing.
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