5 Surprising Conversion Rate Optimization Lessons [Case Studies]

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Last updated on January 5th, 2018

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) isn’t just a passion for the CrazyEgg writing team; it’s how you can get more value from the traffic coming to your Web page. And there’s no better way to learn this than from those who are already doing it.

Here are some CRO tips and techniques gained from recent case studies. As you’ll see, the results are sometimes surprising.


Image: Pixabay

1. Create a Responsive Design to Retain Mobile Traffic

We’ve talked before about the importance of using responsive design to provide a seamless experience for mobile device users. Mobile-first design usually results in a faster site that works better for everyone, and with more devices being used than ever before, this is now essential. Here’s a case study from Website Optimization on the effects of changing to a responsive design on the Philadelphia Orthodontists website.

In April 2013, Philadelphia Orthodontists had a static website design, but noticed that the site was getting more traffic from mobile device users. The company created a new site based on WordPress (instead of the previous Dreamweaver) and then measured the effect on traffic. The stats showed that:

  • within one month of launch mobile traffic increased by 24%, and mobile and tablet traffic combined rose by 21%
  • 18 months after launch, mobile traffic increased by 70% and mobile-tablet by 56%

The responsive site also meant more people stuck around, with an 80% increase in session duration for mobile traffic and a 39% increase for all traffic. The reduction in page load times was perhaps also a factor in enhancing the site’s appeal.

2. Remove the Focus on “Free”

Free giveaways are all the rage in marketing, but as this next case study shows, that’s not always the way to get the best conversions. Devesh Design presents a case study on WedBuddy, which lets people design their own wedding website with a 14-day free trial.

WedBuddy’s original home page had three references to the free trial, and a long list of features, but it wasn’t converting as the company expected.  Devesh thought that the reason was that the buttons on the home page emphasized the fact that customers would have to pay someday, missing the site’s real selling point.

The redesigned home page shifted the emphasis away from the free trial, shortening the home page and removing the word “free.” Instead, the home page copy highlighted how quick it was to create a site and that users could try it for themselves. The result was a 139% rise in clicks and a 73% rise in signups.


The case study showed that emphasizing benefits and encouraging visitors to play with the software was more important than focusing on cost.

3. Reduce Visitor Abandonment with an Exit Overlay

People leave your website for reasons that range from slow page load speed to not getting the information they need. That situation can be even more acute when you’re offering a service that’s completely new to your customers.

A Rooster case study shows how YourMechanic struggled to get prospects to stick around long enough to understand the benefits of its mobile mechanic service, something many of them had never used.

The goal was to get visitors to sign up for a quote. To grab those who were leaving without doing so, Rooster used an exit overlay that highlighted how quick and easy it was to get one. It claimed that visitors could get a quote in 73 seconds and included an orange button with a “get a quote now” call to action.

The result: 7.16% of those who had been going to leave the site ended up getting a quote. That showed the importance of giving visitors a second chance to say yes to the offer.

4. Make Navigation Clear to Entice Exploration

All the advice on conversion optimization says that navigation plays a crucial part in conversions. The following case study shows how true that is.

Harvard Business Services wanted to get more people to buy their service to help people incorporate businesses in Delaware, but when they tweaked their website navigation, it wasn’t converting as they expected. A Visual Website Optimizer test helped the company identify and test some tweaks to improve their conversion rate.

One of these was changing the labels on the key tabs they wanted visitors to click on. In particular, the “compare” tab was renamed “compare prices” as price was a huge competitive differentiator for the company. Other changes included:

  • renaming the “get started now” tab to “form a company,” highlighting the action they wanted visitors to take
  • adding a “how to incorporate” tab instead of the previous sidebar link
  • reducing the overall number of navigation tabs


The simpler navigation worked well. The A/B test recorded:

  • a 382% increase in visits to the “how to incorporate” page
  • a 66% rise in visits to the price comparison page

The company also saw completed orders rise by 15%.

Visual Website Optimizer’s analysis showed the importance of educating and informing customers before the purchase, and keeping on-screen options unambiguous and authoritative.

5. Use Storytelling and Clear CTAs

Storytelling is a big marketing buzzword, but does it really have a place in conversion optimization? Yes, it does, especially if you tell the right story. Adept Marketing had a non-profit client whose fundraising page needed some improvement.

Visitors to the old campaign page couldn’t always get a clear sense of what the key issue was and what the non-profit wanted to achieve. In other words, the old page didn’t do a great job of telling the story and making the audience care. Adept Marketing changed that by making several tweaks to the page. As well as making it shorter, with more white space, Adept:

  • Added a clear description of the key issue at the top of the page
  • Told the story of the key issue and illustrated it with appropriate visuals
  • Gave people two places to make donations
  • Included a progress bar so people could see their donation was making a difference

That made the site work well both for the non-profit’s existing donors who were already inclined to donate and new potential donors who needed to learn more about the situation. The fundraising page was more successful than it had ever been before, helping the non-profit to raise $31,000 in 10 hours, exceeding its target.

The combination of a compelling story, multiple CTAs and a clear path through the information resulted in improved conversions.

Now you

All the techniques shown above made a difference for the brands implementing them. They can also help improve conversions on your site. But it’s important that you test to know if these same tactics will work on your site with your users.

Have you tried any of these tests in your own marketing? What’s working best for you?

Read other Crazy Egg posts by Sharon Hurley Hall.



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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.


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  1. Dave says:
    June 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Love reading the scenarios. Great cases and advice Sharon! Thanks for sharing.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      June 28, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Dave.

  2. Anonymous says:
    May 31, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Hey there, You’ve done a great job. I will certainly digg it and personally
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  3. Henry Choi says:
    March 27, 2015 at 4:13 am

    Helpful! This post is really helpful for me. I’m still new to business that’s why I’m still reading lessons and tutorials about it. I’ve read from Lionleaf that CRO should work well with SEO and conversions in mind. But I don’t know where to start! But each of these lessons that you’ve shared really simplified and answered mostly of my questions. But I guess, it really need some effort and time, right?


    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      March 27, 2015 at 9:27 am

      It does take time, Henry. I’m glad you’re finding the answers you need.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      March 27, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Glad you found this useful, Henry. Keeping working in it; put in the time and you are bound to see results.

  4. Most Shamsun nahar says:
    January 17, 2015 at 5:34 am

    Thanks for your nice post. I am really happy to read your post.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      January 17, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  5. Sarah says:
    January 15, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    These are great suggestions Sharon, and I particularly resonate with your second point.

    I can’t believe how much free content is available throughout the web. Most of it is, unsurprisingly, not great content that adds a little bit of value. And chances are, if I’ve got my wallet at my side ready to spend money (I’m terribly frugal), I want something that will deliver a high ROI on that money.

    And frankly, I’m more willing to trust sites that confide enough in themselves to ask for money. That implies value, and many of these deliver exceptionally well.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      January 16, 2015 at 5:33 am

      Thanks for your input, Sarah; it confirms the results of that study! 🙂

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