Here is Why Conversion Volume Optimization is better than CRO

Last Updated: May 26, 2022

Conversion volume optimization (CVO) is a web analytics term coined by yours truly in 2012 which focuses on optimizing conversion volumes of a marketing channel rather than the conversion rates.

While the rest of the world is busy in optimizing conversion rates (which you can’t optimize anyways), I am more focused on optimizing conversion volumes and suggest you to do the same.

280% Improvement in Conversion Rate

Does that sound familiar?

Q1. Do you have any idea, how this 280% increase in conversion rate impacted the business bottomline? Is the company who experienced such an uplift now a multi billion dollar enterprise or are they still struggling to pay their utility bills?

Q2. Is this a Goal conversion rate or ecommerce conversion rate?

Q3. Is this conversion rate in aggregated form or segmented?

Q4. How this conversion rate was calculated? Using sessions, unique visitors, by spending 280% more on marketing campaigns….

Q5. When this conversion rate was calculated? peak session, off-peaks season, during agressive sales campaign, during rapid decline in traffic…..

With so many questions to answer, it is hard to measure the performance of service providers who advertise their success in the form of conversion rate improvement.

Issues with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

I have discovered following issues with the traditional CRO approach:

  1. Data Collection Issues
  2. Data Interpretation Issues
  3. Data Reporting Issues
  4. Data Optimization Issues

#1 Data Collection Issues

The manner in which web analytics tools like Google Analytics collects conversion rate data is misleading and downright wrong.

For example as mentioned earlier:

#1 Google Analytics add the Goal conversion rate of each individual Goal and then report the sum as the overall Goal conversion rate of the website. So if you have set up 5 goals for your website and the conversion rate of each goal turned out to be 20%, then Google Analytics will report 100% conversion rate for your website.

#2 Google Analytics puts each and every visit to your site in the conversion funnel while computing goal conversion rates and ecommerce conversion rates. But this is never really the case. Not every visit leads to conversion.  So following traditional definitions of conversion rates are downright misleading and incorrect:

Goal Conversion Rate = Total Goal Completions/Total visits to the website

E-Commerce Conversion Rate = Total e-commerce transactions/total visits to the website

#3 There are many ways of calculating conversion rate metric. You can calculate it by using: total website sessions, website sessions only from the target market, unique sessions, users or unique users as denominator.

Consequently you can come up with different values of conversion rate for same website goal.

#4 When (i.e. period or event) the conversion rate was calculated, can also have a big impact on its value.

For example value of conversion rate varies when calculated in the peak season, off peak season, during aggressive sales campaigns, during major news about the business, during rapid decline or increase in website traffic.

Consequently you can have different values of conversion rate for same website goal.

There are ways (data segmentation) to get around these issues but it is still a pain in the butt.

To know more about these issues, check out this post: What is fundamentally wrong with your Conversion Rate

On the other hand conversion volume has no such data collection issues.

You get what you see.

If Google has reported 455 conversions through Google organic search than you have really got that many conversions through organic search.

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#2 Data Interpretation Issues

Since conversion rates calculated by analytics tools like Google Analytics do not represent the true conversion rate of a marketing channel, it is very easy to misinterpret them (unless you are a data segmentation junkie).

Another factor which contributes towards the misinterpretation of conversion rate data is its ‘ratio metrics’ nature.

Ratio metrics are the metrics which are computed as ratio.

For example, Bounce Rate is a ratio metrics as it is computed as: number of bounces/number of entrances.

So what is the issue with ratio metrics?

Ratio metrics provide muddy analytical insight and can therefore horribly mislead you.

For example consider the following scenario:


Your transaction volume has increased by more than 7800% in the last 5 months but since the focus is on e-commerce conversion rate there is virtually no improvement (flat 0.5% conversion rate as reported by Google Analytics, unless off course you bother to segment the data).

Consider another scenario:

another scenario

Your transaction volume has increased by more than 19,900% in the last 8th months but since the focus is optimizing on e-commerce conversion rate there has been a sharp decline.

Since conversion volume is a ‘number metrics’, you can never misinterpret it. 300 conversions mean 300 conversions.

It is as simple as that.

#3 Data Reporting Issues

When you report conversion rates in aggregate form like 0.5%, your client has no idea what does that means.

  • Is it 5 conversions out of 1000 visits or 50 conversions out of 10000 visits?
  • Whether we are making any progress and how this progress can be translated in monetary form?

Since ratio metrics like conversion rates provide muddy analytical insight they can’t effectively communicate your marketing efforts to senior management/ client.

 Businesses understand numbers more than ratios.

This is because numbers means money ££££ and if you can’t show them the money; you will have a hard time getting anything done in SEO, PPC or any form of marketing.

Your client will be happier if you tell him that number of orders on the website has doubled in the last 3 month than reporting him something like, your site e-commerce conversion rate has improved by 0.431% in the last 3 months.

Even if you report the ratio, your client still needs to know the impact on the bottomline, in the form of ‘number of orders’.

Conversion volume is a number and it communicates really well.

Any person regardless of his background can easily understand that when his website got 300 orders in first month and 410 orders in second month, his online business is making progress.

#4 Data Optimization Issues

It is not very practical to optimize conversion rate since it is a ratio metrics.

You can’t set achievable targets for conversion rate like improve the e-commerce conversion rate of the website by 1% in the next 6 months.

This is because:

1. You can’t lead every visit and/or visitor to your website to convert, no matter what you do.

2. You will always get some/lot of traffic which won’t convert, no matter what you do.

3. Your website traffic will always increase (ideally it should) and it won’t always increase in proportion to conversion volume.

4. Any person working in the marketing field long enough knows what one 1% increase in the conversion rate can do to your business bottomline esp. at the enterprise level. It can be a difference between making £1 million and £10 million.

Conversion volume on the other hand has no such data optimization issues.

Since conversion volume is a number, you can easily set numerical targets for it.

For example, our target is to get at least 500 orders in the next 6 months.

Our target is to generate at least £50k a month in revenue in the next 6 months.

“Conversion Volume is total number of conversions or total monetary value of conversions in a given time period.

A conversion can be a macro conversion like transactions, revenue, leads etc and/or it can be a micro conversion like number of newsletter signups, file downloads etc.”

In Google Analytics, conversion volume is called ‘Goal Completions’.

In Google Analytics standard reports, you won’t see conversion volume in the way you would like to see for each traffic source.

So you need to create a custom report which list conversion volume (aka Goal Completions) for each traffic source:

conversion volume

Here I have created a custom report and then I am viewing the data in pivot table.

To know more about pivot tables in Google Analytics, check out this article: The Super Duper Guide to Google Analytics Pivot Tables.

Should you discard the conversion rate metric?

No. I am not saying to discard the conversion rate metrics.

Conversion rate is a good indicator of quality of traffic to your website and to determine website issues.

If you really want to use this metric then use, report and analyze conversion rates in analytics nerd style, in segmented form and along with conversion volume, not as a standalone metric.

So the smart questions to ask now are:

1. How many orders I got through Google organic search in the last one month and how much conversion rate conversion volume has improved?

2. How many leads I got through email campaigns in the last one month and how much conversion volume has improved?

3. How many orders we should aim for in the next 6 months?

In the end conversion volume is what matters the most to a business because it speaks the universal language (the language of money) loud and clear.

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About the Author

Himanshu Sharma

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  • Over 15 years of experience in digital analytics and marketing
  • Author of four best-selling books on digital analytics and conversion optimization
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Awards for Excellence
  • Runs one of the most popular blogs in the world on digital analytics
  • Consultant to countless small and big businesses over the decade
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