CRO: Top of Funnel vs. Bottom of Funnel Changes

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, you already know that there are an infinite number of tests you can run. The only constraint should be the amount of time, money, and other resources you can devote to improving the overall experience.

Because most companies don’t have an unlimited budget to throw at CRO, you will be forced to prioritize. And those marketing teams who are best able to prioritize their efforts will win on two fronts:

  1. Early successes will have greater impact on the business

  2. Because those early successes will add value, your efforts will get noticed by those that can pour more resources toward future improvements

So how do you start to prioritize the work? You have a couple of different options. You will want to find a way to estimate the potential impact of your changes. And to do that, you should start to categorize those changes into Top of Funnel or Bottom of Funnel changes.

Top of Funnel Changes

Top of funnel changes are going to be made very early in the conversion path. These are things like the ads that someone would click on, or the landing pages that they are taken to.

Changes at the top of the funnel have a simple goal – get more people into the funnel. The theory goes that if you can get more people into the funnel, assuming a constant conversion rate, you will get more sales.

Marketers who choose to focus on the top of the funnel see that as the greatest opportunity because it represents the largest possible audience. The nature of the funnel is that the widest audience exists at the top, with more people falling off with each step in the journey toward that ultimate sale.

The more people you get into the top of the funnel, the more people will be left over at the end.

Bottom of Funnel Changes

Bottom of the funnel changes are going to be made nearest to the end of the conversion path. Often, this would involve changes to the product pages or the actual shopping cart experience of an ecommerce website.

Changes at the bottom of the funnel are aimed at getting more people who start the checkout process to finish. The theory goes that these people are the most qualified, and if you lose them at this point in the journey, it’s like throwing money away.

Marketers who choose to focus on the bottom of the funnel know that it can difficult to reach a wider audience. And so it is better to focus on those prospective customers that have already expressed a high level of interest in your products or services.

The more of them you can keep from leaving the process altogether, the more sales you will generate.

Which One is Better?

Neither. Sorry to disappoint. Both are important, and I know people who can make a strong argument for one or the other.

The argument for starting with the top of the funnel is that there are often easy ways to add more people to the funnel. And if we assume that the overall conversion rate once they are in the funnel remains constant, every new person you add will grow your revenue.

The argument for starting with the bottom of the funnel is that there is often low-hanging fruit opportunities to improve the checkout process, essentially plugging the holes in your funnel so that you lose fewer people in the crucial final steps.

If I am forced to pick one or the other, I pick the bottom of the funnel. The reason is a simple one. Once you plug the holes, any improvement you can then make at the top of the funnel will have greater overall impact.

But the choice, for your company, is yours.

CRO: Small Improvements Can Lead to Huge Wins

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is the process of making changes in the many different places and ways that users interact with your company’s digital content in order to improve the overall experience and convert more prospective customers into paying customers.

There are so many changes you can make, and so many places you can start. That is, naturally, both a good thing and a bad thing.

The Good

The good thing is simple – there are so many steps that you can take to improve the conversion rate on your site that it’s hard to fail. Any person or team taking the steps necessary to run A/B testing on the site, user experience studies, or any other kind of user testing aimed at increasing the conversion rate, should find pockets of opportunity and success.

The Bad

The bad thing is that there are, for some people, too many changes one could make. It becomes a problem of where to start, and how to prioritize. So much time is spent up front trying to figure out how to begin, that many teams never do.

Let’s address one common issue that many teams tasked with conversion rate optimization run into. That is the myth that only major changes can have the impact your leaders require.

In an effort to impress the people at the top of an organization, CRO teams feel like they need to find the biggest issues and solve them first. They assume that in order to add value, they need to make big changes, and that those big changes need to lead to huge growth in conversion rate. After all, managers and executives are responsible for allocating resources, and unless a CRO team strikes gold, they may be shut down.

And while I’ll admit that there are not enough high-level marketers out there that fully embrace and understand the benefits of conversion rate optimization, we all would do well to disavow ourselves of the “big changes only” myth.

Small Improvements Can Lead to Huge Wins

The best way that I know to demonstrate that is with an example.

Imagine a CRO team working for a startup in the health industry. This company’s mission is to make it easier to find and book and appointment with a specialist. Their website and app aims to allow users to search, filter, find, and learn about specialists in their area, and shows them available dates and times to make appointments.

The CRO team knows there are a lot of different tests they can run, so they brainstorm ideas and put a big list together. It’s not clear where they should start, but they know they have to.

They decide that the first test they want to run is a simple one. When someone lands on their search page, instead of showing all the filter options up front, they create a simplified search and hide the other options under an “advanced search” button.

The test goes live and after about 30 days, it is clear that the new design is beating the old design. There is a 5% increase in the number of searches and a 2% increase in the number of appointment bookings. And while those may sound like small numbers to the outside world, 5% more searches and 2% more bookings on a site that draws 300,000 visitors each month means 6,000 additional bookings every month. And over the course of a full year, if a booking is worth $5, that is $360,000 in new revenue. For one small test!


Yes, your assumption that some tests will add more value to the business than others is correct. However, that is no reason to procrastinate or argue about where to begin. Simply begin. Because the successful tests will build upon each other, and will grow in the value that they add over time. And the sooner you start, the sooner you will find a result like the one above.

For every month you delay, you are costing your company $30,000.

Spend Less, Sell More

How do we sell more?

Ask this question to a group marketers and you are liable to get a bunch of different answers. However, you will find some common trends.

One solution that is used all too often is – spend more money. The thinking goes like this:

If we spend more in advertising, we will drive more leads, and some of those leads will turn into sales. Hence, if we spend more, we will sell more.

It’s not wrong. Statistically speaking, most companies can grow revenue by growing their advertising budget. But there is a limit to that. Besides the fact that many companies simple can’t afford to spend more money today for revenue that may or may not come in tomorrow.

Good thing for them that there is a better way. You can actually sell more by spending less. How, you ask?

Conversion Rate Optimization

Today, you drive people to your website. And I am willing to bet that most of those people leave without ever buying anything from you.

Why is that? Were they unhappy with the prices? Did they get lost on your website? Did they want to review your competitors first?

We don’t know for certain, but we can test new approaches to find out.

Conversion rate optimization is a tactic for marketers who want to sell more without spending more. It is a tactic for turning more of your existing visitors into sales.

By focusing on improving the overall conversion rate of your website, you can grow your revenue without growing your advertising budget. And that does wonders for your bottom line.

Check out our recent series on conversion rate optimization tips and get started today.