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.

Use Google Analytics to Optimize Advertising Spend


When you think of Google Analytics, what do you think of?

You might think of website metrics, like visits and users. You might think of website usability – bounce rates and time on site. You might even think of goal tracking – transactions and revenue.

Google Analytics does all of that, and more. Which is why it is such a great tool for marketers at companies large and small.

However, most marketers don’t think of Google Analytics as a tool to help you optimize your advertising spend. But it can do that too.

How to Optimize Your Ad Spend with Google Analytics

First, did you know that you can import cost data into your Google Analytics account? You can link your Google Ads account so that all of that data gets pulled in automatically, and then use this article to learn how to add all your other ad spend.

Once you have cost data included in Google Analytics, you can use various ‘Acquisition’ reports to dig into the performance of all your advertising channels. From paid social campaigns like Facebook and Instagram ads, to search ads on Google and Bing, to email marketing and display – you can learn more about how visitors behave on your site when they come through one of these paid channels.

You can see the number of sessions, and calculate the cost for every new visitor to your site. You can see where they go on your site, and how long they stick around. And you can see transactions, including conversion rate, revenue, and cost per transaction. In that way, you can even calculate your return on ad spend (ROAS) for each campaign – that is, how much money is this campaign delivering in revenue for every dollar you spend in advertising.

At this point, you will have a better idea which channels are working and which are not. And you can optimize your budget to spend more in those that are working, and press pause on the campaigns that are not.

But that’s not all.

Take things one step further and learn how to improve performance within each individual campaign with audiences and segments. You can identify specific behaviors in each of these visitor groups (based on the traffic source or campaign) that will help you create better onsite experiences.

Looking at landing pages, bounce rates, conversion funnels, and ecommerce data, you can collect vast amounts of data points to help you better understand how people are interacting with your site. Find the gaps, and work on improving the overall conversion process – whether its for that single campaign or all of the above.

This conversion rate optimization work – that springs from observing traffic patterns and user behavior in Google Analytics – will help you optimize your advertising efforts even further, by improving the ROAS across the board. If you get more conversions for each dollar spent, your ROAS goes up. That means greater marketing contributions and a happy boss.

To Get the Most Out of Google Analytics, First Understand What It’s Telling You

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Arguably the single best free tool available to marketers is Google Analytics. If you know how to use it, it can tell you so much about your customers, how they are using your website, what they’re interested in, and what is causing them issues.

However, no tool is perfect. And no tool can do everything you need it to. Even something as impactful as Google Analytics must come with a few words of warning.

To get the most out of the tool, you have to first understand what it is telling you. And with a tool as powerful as Google Analytics, the biggest fear is in assuming everyone will read the data in the same way.

One Statistic, Multiple Interpretations

Let’s look at an example:

Your team is reviewing the most popular conversion paths on your website and you find that people landing on one specific page are returning to the previous page at a high rate. This is something that Google Analytics can show you quite clearly. You can see the click paths, and so you know where they are coming from and where they are going next.

It’s obvious, in this case, that there is a problem worth correcting. Something about that page is not working.

One member of the team raises his or her hand and says, “I see what’s going on here. They are clicking on a button expecting one thing and they are seeing something else. We need to more clearly explain what they will see if they click that button.”

Someone else than counters, “No, no, no. That’s not it. It’s the page they are landing on. It’s ugly and it turns people off. We need to redesign it.”

Still a third person, who can barely wait to speak, announces, “what are you talking about? It’s clear that if they’re not finding what they’re looking for, we need to give it to them. The content of this page is the problem.”

In that example, who is right? How do you know?

Inferring the Why

Google Analytics is great at telling you WHAT is happening. It’s not as good at telling you WHY.

And in the example above, each team members is inferring the WHY based on the WHAT. They may all be right, to some degree. But they may all be wrong as well. What we know for certain is that the Google Analytics data alone does not lead to any of those conclusions. Each person is taking the data presented to them, and applying their own subjective interpretation to determine what is going on.

How to Resolve the Conflict

Data, by itself, does not solve problems. It helps people make more informed decisions.

For marketers charged with improving the online experience for a company’s customers, we need both data and opinion. We need people to develop theories based on the data so that we can design new solutions and test them.

The danger is in mistaking opinion for fact. In the example above, it is a fact that people are landing on the page and then going back to where they came from. The three conclusions drawn are opinions, each worthy of exploring in more depth.

To resolve the conflict, and improve your website, you need to go further than Google Analytics. At this point in the process, after the basic theories have been established, we need to figure out how to proceed.

Do you conduct experiments with live subjects? Do you assemble a focus group? Conduct a survey? Take votes? Or simply go with the person’s gut who is in charge at the moment?

All of these are viable options. And as long as your team agrees on the facts, the opinions can and should vary. That’s what makes a healthy team, people bringing a variety of experiences and skills to the table to find a solution to problems.