The 23 Best CRO Tools in 2020

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

What we call conversion rate optimization is actually an expansive suite of distinct functions that blend together to form this art-and-science craft of CRO.

CRO includes components of digital analytics, experimentation (A/B testing), user psychology, project management, copywriting, design, and UX research.

Nowadays, I look at it as “website product management.”

Because of that complex combination of multiple crafts, the conversion optimization tools you have access to and use matter a lot. The methods at your disposal have a direct implication on the insight you can glean and the optimization you can accomplish.

We’ve all got our preferred products, and this list is no different: it’s largely based on my own extensive experience optimizing website experiences.

Some of these will include affiliate links, which if you click and sign up for the product, might result in me getting paid. This is a win-win, because you get a good new tool and I get paid. I promise I won’t change my list based on how well these affiliate programs pay.

The 23 Best CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) Tools in 2020

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Google Tag Manager
  3. Amplitude
  4. R & SQL
  5. HotJar
  6. Qualaroo
  7. TypeForm
  8. Google Forms
  9. Balsamiq
  10. Convert
  11. Optimizely
  12. Conductrics
  13. Google Optimize
  14. PlanOut
  15. Evolv
  16. Instapage
  17. UserTesting
  18. CopyTesting
  19. 5 Second Test
  20. Pingdom
  21. CXL Institute
  22. Proof
  23. CRO Books

1. Google Analytics

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At the core of optimization lies measurement. While you can get a good read on weight loss by looking in the mirror, website optimization benefits from a bit more precision, a proverbial scale.

Digital analytics is an old industry with a graveyard of historical solutions, most of which lead to the nearly ubiquitous use of Google Analytics today. It’s used widely because, in its basic form, it’s free, and the free version offers an immense level of value.

Beyond that, it’s also somewhat easy to understand out of the box, and the advanced features can satisfy the esoteric end of analytics purists.

If you’re a conversion optimizer, it would be foolish not to learn and understand Google Analytics. Learn its data model. Learn the lexicon and how the data is being tracked. Learn the basic building blocks of a set up, like goal tracking, event tracking, and advanced segmentation.

Not only will Google Analytics give you a good quantitative basis to diagnose website problems and opportunity areas, it’ll likely be the solution where you eventually analyze your experiments and treatments.

You can’t go wrong taking a Google Analytics course or two and setting up the free version on your website.

2. Google Tag Manager

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Google Tag Manager is Google’s tag management solution.

A tag manager is basically what it sounds like: it lets you manage and deploy various ‘tags’ or scripts you execute on your website. These could be simple third party tools that you deploy with a javascript snippet (for instance, HotJar). You can also set up advanced tracking solutions in Google Analytics using Tag Manager.

My former boss and mentor Peep Laja told me early on in my CXL days, “if you want to 10x your value as a growth marketer, learn Google Tag Manager.” He wasn’t wrong.

GTM, wielded by someone with the skill level of Simo Ahava, grants a level of near digital omniscience. The fringe cases are unlimited and expanding continuously. But even if you just deploy your 3rd party tooling and manage it via Tag Manager, you’ll get more than your requisite value from the tool.

If you’re new to tag managers, it can take some learning to ramp up on terminology and how things are set up, but there are a variety of great courses, including some basic materials from Google themselves.

3. Amplitude

Amplitude specializes in product analytics, everything that happens post sign up. This is one of the more popular tools in SaaS, and I’ve spoken to some consumer marketing leaders who use the tool for their product analytics as well.

Amplitude is wonderful because it “productizes analysis,” or in other words, it builds common analyst techniques into the platform itself so you don’t have to go through leaps and bounds to export, transform, load, clean, and analyze your data using other tools. You can view cohorts and run regressions right in the tool.

Product analysts can easily find correlative events that predict desired goals, view the success rates of various cohorts, and run what basically amounts to SQL queries within the tool itself. Good “level up” on granularity past the typical Google Analytics setup.

Similar solutions to Amplitude include KissMetrics, MixPanel, and Woopra.

4. R & SQL

Despite the abundance of analytics tooling, I’ve found more value from learning R and SQL than anything else on this list.

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That Maslow quote above about every problem looking the same if you only have one tool? That’s wildly common in CRO and analytics. If all you have is Google Analytics, well, you’re going to have a lot of session-based waterfall charts and channel grouping pie charts.

R lets you break free from the paradigms of a tool’s data model and clean, organize, and analyze data your own way. It’s got great built in statistics libraries, which are particularly appropriate for A/B testing analysis. It’s also a fully fledged programming language, so you can use it to scrape web data, automate boring tasks, build data visualizations, and even host interactive applications using Shiny.

SQL is the lingua franca of data. One of the smartest data scientists I know, Begli Nursahedov, told me learning SQL is the highest leverage skill you can learn. It’s useful at any organization, and at its core, it will help you better understand the data you’re collecting at a foundational level.

Clearly, these are “CRO tools” in the same sense as the other SaaS solutions on this list, but I can’t pass them up in importance.

5. HotJar

HotJar is my go-to qualitative data analysis tool. Where Google Analytics and the above tools help you diagnose the “what” on your website, HotJar’s suite of qualitative tools can help you add some color to the quantitative trends. Typically, people refer to this as helping to answer the “why.”

  • Why are website visitors struggling to finish the checkout experience?
  • Why are mobile users first time visitors underperforming?
  • Why aren’t our CTAs being clicked?
  • What does the customer journey and user behavior look like from the first pageviews through to the end purchase?

While no tool can fully answer these questions, HotJar has several features – heat maps, session replays, form analytics, surveys and polls – that help you look in the right direction for experiment ideas and solutions.

I love that it’s a full solution, a sort of all-in-one qualitative analytics platform. Before HotJar you had to buy Crazy Egg, SurveyMonkey, KissMetrics, and ClickTale for session recording data just to get the basics. It’s just fun to use as well; great user experience.

6. Qualaroo

Quick confession: I’m not a huge fan of heat maps. Mostly noise and colorful illustrations to tell stories in my mind. My favorite qualitative tools are the ones that allow you to better probe on business questions that matter.

Sure, surveys and polls can be misused as well, but a well-worded survey can crack into that Rumsfeldian sphere of “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

To that end, Qualaroo is the best in breed software to design and deploy on-site polls and surveys. They’ve got the highest end targeting, integrations, segmentation capabilities, and logic jumps. Many alternative tools exist, but Qualaroo is my favorite.

7. TypeForm

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I’m a TypeForm fanboy and power user. Their product itself is a delight, perhaps one of the only true “product led growth” companies despite everyone now claiming to operate as such.

Clearly they care deeply about customer experience and the way you feel when you use the product. That’s true of both the survey designer and the survey taker.

For some reason, taking a TypeForm survey is an order of magnitude easier than any other tool.

Anyway, not to gush too much more: TypeForm is the best survey design product I know of. It’s so flexible, and I run almost all of my user research through a TypeForm when doing CRO work.

8. Google Forms

Google Forms is free, so I use it sometimes. It’s great when you don’t need to layer on elaborate targeting and logic parameters or for internal form submission needs.

For me, Google Forms is quick and dirty; TypeForm is for when you want to do it right.

However, Google Forms does benefit from native integrations with other Google Drive products. So you can easily set up Google Sheets to receive submissions (you can do this in other tools, but typically it requires some set up).

9. Balsamiq

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I’m not a visual designer, but Balsamiq gives me an easy and effective platform to design wireframes that communicate my vision for landing pages, home pages, checkout flows, or other digital experiences.

Simply put, it’s the easiest wireframing tool I’ve found for a non-designer to use.

Wireframes are all about communication, not pristine detail. I usually sketch something out on a whiteboard or pen and paper, then draw it up in Balsamiq, and then send it to designers who bring it to life (and then send it to A/B test developers to get that up and running).

If you’re more on the design side of CRO, you’ll likely explore more robust prototyping solutions like Invision or Figma or design tools like Adobe Creative Suite or Sketch.

For me, I get tons of ROI from Balsamiq.

10. Convert

A/B testing tools! This is the meat and potatoes of conversion optimization, isn’t it?

Yes, and no. It’s clearly a myth that CRO = A/B testing, but for most programs with sufficient traffic volume, A/B testing is the gold standard for determining the effectiveness of a given user experience.

Convert is my favorite “all purpose” testing platform, for a few reasons:

  • It’s feature rich and goes toe to toe with Optimizely and other higher priced solutions in most features that companies typically use
  • It’s much more affordable
  • The team and customer service are leagues above other products
  • Great documentation and education materials
  • Transparent in their tracking and how they operate
  • Privacy focused and forward thinking.

Convert may not have some of the more advanced features of Optimizely or other personalization tools, but for the vast majority of companies, it will satisfy your experimentation needs.

In addition to Convert, I really love VWO (also known as Visual Website Optimizer). VWO has the bonus of including other CRO and analytics tools like session replays, heat and scroll maps, polls etc.

11. Optimizely

Optimizely is the biggest name in A/B testing nowadays, and for good reason: they’ve trained a generation of people on how to run A/B tests (for better or for worse – many have rightly argued that they’ve botched their statistics education and made it seem far too easy to simply set up and analyze an experiment with no statistics knowledge).

They used to have a free tier and several more affordable options, although they’ve since drastically moved up-market. This move is prohibitive for many companies in terms of pricing, but it has also brought more advanced features like server side experimentation, predictive targeting and personalization, and feature flags for product teams.

12. Conductrics

Conductrics is actually my favorite experimentation platform, though it’s probably best reserved for more advanced practitioners.

To start, Conductrics gives you options to design, deploy, and analyze experiments exactly how you’d like to, whether that’s client or server side, using a WYSIWYG editor or not, or analyzing the experiment using a one or two tailed t test or bayesian statistics. You can also run multi-armed bandit experiments, an interesting option with different use cases than your typical fixed time horizon A/B test.

It’s also got powerful predictive pooling and targeting. In other words, when you’re running new variants, it will detect segments of your user base that respond particularly favorably and you can run arms of that experience to target that population.

It’s one of the more powerful experimentation platforms, my go-to choice all things considered.

13. Google Optimize

Google Optimize is one of my least favorite A/B testing platforms in direct comparison with all the others, but it’s free, so it’s a great learning tool or way to get tests live if you don’t have the budget to spend.

Despite my smack talk, it does the basics. You can safely randomize users, stamp them with custom dimensions to analyze the data in Google Analytics, and even use these dimensions to do interesting integrative campaigns with Adwords or display ads. The native integrations with other Google tools are the real treat.

One note is that you should absolutely pull the data to a separate platform to analyze; the statistics in play are quite black box/opaque.

14. PlanOut

Who loves open source? Alex loves open source!

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PlanOut is an open source experimentation framework developed by Facebook. It’s a fairly simple framework that helps you randomize (through deterministic hashing) and automatically log important events.

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15. Evolv

Evolv is another experimentation tool but of a different flavor. They deploy ‘evolutionary algorithms’ in order to splice together the ‘genes’ from your different creative and variants. These undergo transformations over ‘generations’ and evolve to produce the highest performing combination of creative.

That’s a really simplistic explanation, but for the most part pretty accurate. It’s a machine learning based optimization tool that is designed to rapidly explore different patterns and ideas.

I love it. Especially when you’re in the “discovery’ or “exploration” state of optimization, this tool can let you throw ideas together much faster and more efficiently than subsequent A/B tests or even more advanced design of experiments like factorial design.

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16. Instapage

Not necessarily a conversion rate optimization tool, but landing page builders are clearly part of the arsenal of web strategists. Few CRO conversations occur without the words “landing page” thrown in.

Landing pages are just dedicated website pages. They exist to serve a conversion-oriented purpose, be it lead generation or simply a product purchase.

At scale, landing pages allow you to test your messaging and creative beyond the website, since you can tie-in ad targeting and testing. In fact, that’s why I love Instapage – it was built for high output advertisers and optimizers.

With sophisticated personalization features, easy templatization and creative management, and a fairly easy to use editor, this thing can get marketers really cranking on campaigns without the bottlenecks apparent in most developer-heavy environments.

16. Unbounce

Unbounce is my other favorite landing page builder, and in fact, I use it much more frequently. It’s got integrations with most popular marketing technology solutions, so you can pipe your leads directly into Mailchimp or whatever email tool you use.

It’s also got a lot of the same templatization features that allows for high scale creative testing.

I find Unbounce pretty easy to use, though the WYSIWYG editor does get buggy. I’d almost prefer it to be a little bit *more* developer friendly, as the marketer-friendliness seems to bring a lack of precision.

17. UserTesting

UserTesting is the best, you guessed it, user testing platform in the world! You could conduct a poor man’s user test and go to a coffee shop and have people try your website. Or, you could just do the easy thing and pay UserTesting to find you a qualified panel of users to run through your digital experience.

Of course, you can run moderated or unmoderated user tests.

User testing is an absolutely critical component of website strategy and conversion rate optimization, and I wouldn’t start a job without this tool in my arsenal.

18. CopyTesting

CopyTesting is a new player, a user testing software specifically designed to help you optimize website copywriting.

Copywriting is the last bastion of “I feel like ___,” mainly because it’s hard to get quantified data at a granular level (caveat, of course you can run a controlled experiment, but you’re still choosing *which components* to test by gut). This tool lets you known which phrases and words to look into and gives you insight on how to improve the copy on a page.

19. 5 Second Test

Another qualitative research staple, Five Second Test is an old tried and true piece of software that helps you test the clarity of your messaging. It is what it sounds like: you flash your page in front of a panel for 5 seconds and they explain what it is trying to say. You’d be surprised at how unclear your copy is (or at least, I’m surprised at how unclear my copy is much of the time).

Simple tool, profound impact. Try it on your homepage and on your value proposition.

20. Pingdom

Page speed is clearly important. Some studies at Microsoft and other juggernauts have pinpointed the value in mere millisecond page speed increases (however, other studies have not shown such sensitivity, though perhaps due to less statistical power).

Anyway, it’s simple logic: the faster a page loads, the better the user experience. The better the user experience, the more money you make. Heuristics, but mostly true.

Pingdom is a site speed tester, among other performance monitoring products. It also gives you suggestions on how to fix your page speed.

21. CXL Institute

CXL Institute is an education platform that trains digital marketers, product managers, analytics, and UX professionals.

Biased, I was in the room before, during, and after the CXL Institute launch and helped coordinate a lot of the early education programs. However, I believe it’s without peers and the absolute best place you can learn about CRO. Nothing compares. There are other programs that may dive deep on specialties (e.g. statistics), but taken as a whole, nothing will set you up for a CRO career better than CXL.

I still keep up to date on their courses because those that stagnate fall behind, and I don’t want to fall behind. If you don’t want to fall behind, check out the Institute.

22. Proof

Proof is a SaaS product that helps you implement persuasion triggers and tactics on your website. They’ve got a myriad of helpful products, starting with simple social proof notifications and moving on to powerful personalization features like adaptive CTAs and website content.

Throw this on an ecommerce website and I’m quite sure you can get some early lifts on your conversion rates.

23. CRO Books

Cheesy chorus at this point, but CRO isn’t about the tools, it’s about the people and their know-how. Give an amateur Conductrics and an Adobe Analytics setup, and it won’t amount to much. But a master optimizer could make do with freemium tools and still kick back and ROI.

I like courses, but I really like books. Here are some of my favorites to get you started:

I also wrote two entire blog posts outlining my favorite CRO books and my favorite A/B testing books.

Conclusion

Conversion rate optimization is an art, a science, an operating system, and a good reason to go down the never ending rabbit hole of marketing technology.

I’ve got my preferred solution, but – and I genuinely mean this – send me your new and underrated tools that I missed. Throw a comment below. Email me. Doesn’t matter. I wanna know what’s going on in this space that I might be missing.

Otherwise, hope you enjoyed this list! Now go read my article on A/B testing guidelines.

Alex Birkett
Alex Birkett is a Growth Marketer and Content Strategist based in Austin, Texas. He's a proud UW-Madison graduate and enjoys craft beer, lifting weights, and sailing.

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