Fundamentally, visitor conversion means the process of turning prospects into customers on a website, when a prospective customer takes the web marketer's intended action. The first hurdle for a new website is to attract visitors but search engine marketing does not stop at bringing traffic to a site. As soon as this has been achieved, the next hurdle must be addressed - that of converting those website visitors into customers or clients.
More and more people are beginning to discover that web site profitability can be dramatically improved. But how? By monitoring the traffic statistics, where visitor behaviour can be interpreted. Visitor conversion or website usability issues can be dealt with by understanding which traffic is most likely to convert, what it is people do (and don’t do) on your website, and by measuring the effectiveness of changes you make on the site to improve visitor conversion. For example, if the visitors are only arriving and leaving almost immediately without going deeper into the website, this would imply that there is a content or design fault. Or, the first page does not load very quickly; studies have shown that web surfers want to see something loading in a page within 3 seconds, with the rest of the page up in less than 30 seconds. There are other factors which can deter potential customers from buying, resulting in lost sales, including site design, content, credibility and security.
The percentage of visitors who take the desired action – that is, the conversion action - is known as the conversion rate and provides the benchmark for a site's success.
A conversion doesn’t necessarily just mean making a purchase. Other examples of conversion actions are:
- Submitting a form to request additional information (e.g. newsletter signups, subscriptions).
- Viewing a key web page.
- Completing an online questionnaire
People often mistake their site's high traffic volumes as a measure of success, when in fact traffic means nothing without a decent conversion rate. Online advertising campaigns which attract a large number of visitors can prove to be a pointless and costly exercise if they are leaving empty handed.
Take a look at the example below to see how conversion rates are calculated:
If you have an average of 1000 visitors to your site and only 10 people buy a product, your conversion rate is therefore 1%. If you optimise your site's conversion ability without increasing your marketing costs, and 20 more people out of the 1000 buy a product, then your conversion rate would increase to 3%. If your conversion rate were doubled, this would halve your cost-per-acquisition (i.e. how much it costs to get each new customer). When your conversion rate increases, your cost per customer acquisition decreases and your profit increases.
Conversion optimisation often involves a two-step process of firstly analysing, followed by optimising. Necessary changes to the site can then be made with the aim of achieving an optimal conversion rate i.e. converting browsers into buyers.
Firstly, there are a number of ways to analyse how users are interacting with a website in order to determine your web pages’ effectiveness:
Split testing or split-run testing enables you to test the variables that make up your sales offer and helps identify which elements are the more successful. For instance, Version 1 might contain the words ‘buy now’ in the content while Version 2 has a much more subtle tone.
Visitors are then sent to either option in a random but controlled manner and the conversion rates for both sites are compared.
Measuring online conversions can often be difficult, particularly if websites seek to generate offline responses, such as telephone calls or foot traffic to a store. In order to measure online conversions, web analytics software can be used.
This way, where site visitors come from, where they go, how long they stay, why they leave, and if they come back – in essence, the general behaviour of website visitors - are all elements which can be determined by using software tools.
A more advanced form of split-testing, multi-variate testing takes multiple options of the page elements and then creates a separate page for each unique combination. It can test multiple options of each variable and using sophisticated statistical analysis provides information on the most successful options and combinations.
It is perhaps not the most effective of methods, as it can take a considerable amount of time to get a statistically valid sample of visitors to each of the options as well as to successfully analyse a large number of alternatives.
Listening labs are an efficient and evolutionary tool to test sites in front of users, who, supervised by moderators, sit at a computer in a lab and interact with the target website. Their actions and reactions to different elements on the site are noted and investigated.
The user’s task is not defined beforehand. Rather, users are interviewed at the beginning of the test and are asked how they currently relate to the site - what services/products are they interested in, what competitors would they consider using, where they normally access the site from, how computer literate they are, etc.
Then, a specific task is set accordingly, and during it the moderator asks the user further questions to discover more effectively how he/she is interacting with the site.
Ultimately, there are endless ways in which you can deal with optimising your conversion rate and each case of optimising a website should mostly be unique to its subject. It is a fine art but these are just two of the many valid points to consider:
- Keep the path to conversion as short as possible. Taking people to the homepage by default is no good if, for example, they are looking for specific keywords. The more links and irrelevant distractions that are present on a site, the less likely visitors are to remain focused on achieving your desired objectives. It is important to keep visitors focused on their goals.
- Encourage repeat visitors by asking for a telephone number or email address after they have completed their transaction (if you do it beforehand, it may deter them from coming back) .This often demonstrates customer care and ensures that the lines of communication are open for you to contact them should any problems occur with the order.
It is easy to completely miss the point of optimising a site when there are so many factors to consider. By getting it right though, conversion rate increases of 50% are not impossible to achieve and is therefore worth it.
There are various free tools on the internet to enable marketers to track visitors to a particular site. By running a search online, you will see there is an abundance of free services. Google Analytics is perhaps the most well known and an extremely useful tool which generates visitor statistics to your site including total visits and daily hits. It will also help you learn more about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site. Users can also define and track conversions, or goals (such as sales, viewing a specific page or downloading a specific file). By using this tool, marketers can determine which ads are performing, and which are not. To sign up for an account costs nothing.
Google’s release of their own version of ‘pay-per-click’ advertising - namely Adwords – works when searches are done for your chosen keywords or keyphrases, enabling you to display ads which link directly to your website. Located to the right of the results which Google throws up following a search, they're also displayed on Googles numerous partner sites including HowStuffWorks, Earthlink, AOL and blogger.
Google have also recently launched Website Optimizer, their free multivariate and A/B testing tool which helps online marketers increase visitor conversion rates by continually testing various combinations of site content (text and images).
As every business is aware of how vital good conversion of web pages is and the dramatic (positive or negative) effect on conversion rates seemingly miniscule changes to page content can have, Website Optimizer will be a huge advancement in the name of page testing. The aim is to save time and cut out guesswork by simply letting visitors say what works best. It promises to help ‘optimize your most important web pages and see detailed reports within hours’.
So you want to convert your browsers into buyers? Here are some tips on how to help you acquire a higher conversion rate:
- Accept as many forms of payment as possible – flexibility is the key.
- Provide complete contact information including a telephone number – provide a customer service line if possible.
- Make it personal: welcome repeat customers by name.
- Reduce the number of steps in your checkout process – this is the part where customers will be lost if it is too much of a lengthy drawn-out procedure.
- Minimize the number of required fields in your order form.
- Use a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) System to manage and properly track leads.
- Improve the layout and ‘feel’ of your site with usability testing, so that your site visitors can easily find what they are looking for.
- Keep it simple all round.
- Don't hide delivery charges. Provide shipping cost information on the first page of the checkout.
- Provide complete product information so customers know exactly what they are buying.
- Keep return policies and guarantees clear and simple: do not mislead.
- Avoid distracting links
- Offer incentives, e.g. 10% off all first orders over £30.
- Offer a free newsletter.
- Do you research - learn from your competitors.
- Provide a freephone number dedicated solely to your conversion pages. It is the only way to determine an accurate conversion rate, both with website and telephone (toll free numbers remove the barrier to a telephone conversion).
This article was written by Claire Brown for Imre Ltd., a UK web design company. To find out more, please visit http://imre.co.uk