CXL Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Mini-degree Review (Part 1)

This is the first of a twelve-part review of CXL's Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) mini-degree.

The CXL institute offers a scholarship which makes the course free in exchange for 12 blog posts.  For me, it’s a great way to review the material I’ve learned.  

I'll also be discussing CRO concepts and directly relating them to websites I see in the wild.

Win-Win all round!

Why I’m studying a CRO Mini-degree

My goal with One Founder Business is to help solopreneurs make more money from their online business. A foundational part of this is performing a comprehensive audit of their websites. 

In addition to technical SEO issues that I find, I also point out user experience (UX) issues that can be improved.

However, it bothers me that this is largely based on intuition. Unlike with SEO, I do not have the experience, the case studies, and the supporting data to back up my recommendations. 

cro meme

And also unlike SEO, improving a website's CRO is something that can have an immediate effect on the bottom line. This makes it easier to propose changes and dare I say it - sell.

So learning more about CRO seemed like a great idea. But it was something I put on the backburner.

That was until one night I was on Twitter and got caught up in a thread about mini-degrees. I first heard about mini-degrees through Glen Allsopp when he mentioned them on his Marketing Inc forum. 

I didn’t know they existed for CRO, and what also caught my attention was that Joel Kettke was one of the instructors.

Joel is an entrepreneur and “CRO Copywriter” (among other things) and has written landing pages for businesses I admire like Traffic Think Tank, Siege Media, and Hubspot.

From there, I checked out CXL’s website and saw the other high-level instructors and I was sold.

Who Are CXL?

The founder of CXL is Pep Laja, a highly-respected expert in the field of CRO. After running a CRO agency for 5-years, he started the CXL Institute.

From what I gather, the training side of the website went live in 2019, so I think it is still relatively new. This part from their about page resonates with me:

We get the absolute best practitioners in the world – the top 1% – to teach you their craft. Learn from the best to become one.

What does their CRO mini-degree cover?

The CRO Mini-degree is split into 5 sections or “tracts”:

CRO syllabus

There are 82 hours and 9 minutes of video across these sections. They say with 10 - 15 hours a week of study, you can finish the course in three months.

After studying for the last week, I’d say this is accurate. You can speed the videos to get through them faster. Each video is also transcribed and these are a bit hit and miss (they look machine generated).

However, what I love (and hate!) is the excellent supplementary resources and videos provided with each lesson. I always go through these and take notes as they really add depth to the topics.

The problem is this eats into the 10 - 15 hours so I need to block out more time going forward.

What have I covered in Week One?

Intro To Cro - Brian Massey

The instructor for the “Introduction To CRO” module is Brian Massey. Brian runs the Conversion Sciences agency and has a well-reviewed book on Amazon. In short - a great instructor to have.

The biggest take away I got in week one was that CRO is about ideas and not necessarily tests. However, there must always be some sort of measurement / validation to your ideas.

I enjoyed learning the ICE framework and how it relates to CRO. If you haven't come across ICE before its:

I -   Impact of change / idea
C - Confidence or proof of the idea
E - Effort of the change

This framework can be used to grade and therefore prioritise ideas when awarding each component a 1-5 score. 

What was especially useful was the template that was given to put this framework into action.I have used something similar for SEO work before, but I enjoyed this mix of the qualitative with the quantitative to make better decisions.

One thing I didn’t enjoy so much from the first module was the information on the slides. I found it better to make my own notes than use the ones provided. 

Best Practices - Pep Laja

Next up was the “Best Practices” module which I am currently a third of the way through.

The subjects I’ve covered include Webforms, CTA buttons, and e-commerce sign ups.

I was really impressed with the material and how it is presented. A lot of the stuff that is shown as a “bad example” drives me nuts. One of these things is having to log in to purchase something online.

This actually happened to me this week. I was trying to buy a plugin for one of my WordPress websites. I got right to the end, gave over my payment details and it didn’t go through.

It took me a second to realise why (shown below).


This relates directly back to this infographic that Pep shared in the course.

ecom infographic

In the case of the plug-in I was trying to buy, I also forgot the password and username. I used another email address to complete my purchase because I really needed it.

As shown in the infographic above, 92% of the time prospects will leave instead of resetting or recovering login information.

Gaining insights like these is is one of the main reasons I joined the course. My intution tells me this is not best practice, now I have some relevant case studies and statistics to back up my reasoning.

As Pep points out - you should always have the option of purchasing something as a “guest”.

How long should a sales page be?

Another module I covered this week was on above/below the fold and content length.

An interesting question was posed: How long should a sales page be?

Pep says it should contain at least as many words as you’d use when selling your product or service face to face.

That’s because you don’t have the luxury of being able to ask for objections, so your page needs to address all of the most common objections.

This makes perfect sense to me, especially if something is self-explanatory because there is no need to pad it out.

An "Above-the-Fold" lightbulb

It seems pretty rudimentary (to me) that important information and a CTA should go above the fold.

However, just this week I was auditing this homepage:

online biology

So it can - and does - happen. And I'm guessing it happens a lot.

This week, I also learned a really succinct way to describe the purpose of above-the-fold content in just two points:

1. It clearly explains the value proposition
2. It signals that there is more valuable content below the fold.

Does the home page from above meet these two conditions?I don’t think so!

More importantly, does your home page…?

Check out your above-the-fold content visibilty using this freel tool.

What's Next...

I’m still working through Pep’s “Best Practices” module and have 2/3rds to go…

As mentioned earlier, it’s only meant to take 90 minutes, but with the supplemental reading it’s more like treble this amount.

After this is a module on “Conversion Copywriting” - which I do have some previous training and real-world experience with. So I hope to have started that before my next weekly blog post.

Got any questions about this CRO mini-degree? I'd love to see them in the comments section.

Until next week!

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