Gaining just one percent more sales or leads from your visitors can significantly impact your bottom line, yet the common practice of improving website conversion often focuses exclusively on redesigning and optimizing your website.
Website conversion — the process of turning website visitors into actions like phone calls, product purchases or coupon downloads — can only reach its full potential if your site is attracting the right traffic.
Generating measurable website conversion improvements must start with the advertising channels you select to reach your target audience. A website realizes a lower conversion rate if the advertising channels attract the wrong audience or draw visitor attention using the wrong message.
Digging deeper into traffic numbers
Recently I had a discussion with a new ecommerce client about his traffic volumes and expected conversion rate improvements. The client was thrilled with his top search-engine placements for his “primary keywords.” Indeed the keyword placements were impressive, yet digging deeper into the keywords and the potential search intent behind them presented a different perspective.
In most client conversations, “website traffic” is summarized in numbers. We talk about sales as a “numbers” game. The more visitors to your website, the more sales you generate. If you sales are low, then get more traffic or optimize your website to convert what you currently receive. Throughout these conversations, however, the visitor quality behind the traffic is overlooked.
Break down the Web Analytics Association’s definition of “website conversion:” Percentage of a visitor type who complete a multi-step conversion process with a defined beginning and end within 30 minutes…
A high conversion rate is driven by two factors: visitor type and actions completed. Website conversion occurs at the interaction between the right visitor with the right product or service that satisfies their intentions. The first part of the equation, “visitor type,” either increases or decreases the potential of the second part, “actions completed.”
When launching a website conversion improvement initiative, start by evaluating your visitors against these criteria:
- the audience demographics of the advertising channels from which you pull
- the visitor intent
- the quality of your visitors against your defined conversion objective
All advertising channels, whether Internet or traditional, reach specific demographics. Unlike traditional ad channels, evaluating search engine demographics is a complicated practice because of a lack of reliable and available data. Yet emerging research shows some impressive differences among the top search-engine properties.
Demographic data provided by comScore Network in Internet Retailer (September 2005) showed MSN’s audience represents significant buying power. Similar research presented in June 2005 stated, “…visitors to Google sites were 43 percent more likely to buy online than the average Internet users, versus Yahoo! visitors who were 31 percent more likely to purchase; MSN users were 48 percent more likely to purchase; AOL users, three percent and Ask.com 17 percent.”
A study conducted by iProspect revealed, “MSN search had the highest percentage of U.S. visits from sites Hitwise categorized as Shopping and Classifieds, Business and Finance and Travel, while Yahoo! Search and Google received more U.S. visits from the sites in the education, news and media and entertainment categories.”
Equally insightful, Hitwise discovered that “Google was the preferred search tool for males, while MSN Search appealed to females. Yahoo! was the more popular engine for 18 to 34-year-old searchers and MSN Search captured the over-55 crowd.”
Further, a Search Insider article written by Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro stated, “We also found that men were more likely to use advanced search queries. They also tended to spend a little less time actively reading listings and made their decisions to click faster. Women tended to be a little more deliberate in their search sessions. Men scanned more of the search results page, but women spent more time with the page.”
Research your customer demographics from sources like comScore Network, Forrester Research, Shop.org, Jupiter Research, E-tailing Group and other research providers to identify high-performing adchannel segments. As Chris Copeland stated in a Search Insider (May 2006) article on visitor segmentation, “the goal of segmentation is to identify patterns of behavior and leverage them.” Find patterns among your customers and leverage them in selecting the most effective advertising channels that attract the right visitors using the right message.
The keywords and advertising channels you select access “pools” of visitors at different buying stages including visitors who:
- Know what they want
- Know approximately what they want
- Don’t know what they want but are exploring potential options
- Sport clickers who don’t want anything
In search marketing, whether paid or natural, the searcher drives the experience. By entering a keyword into a search engine, the visitor is revealing to you some degree of their intentions.
Beyond the keyword and ad channel, the message you use to attract attention and motivate a click-through further exposes intention. Carefully craft your ad copy to qualify visitors and attract those with the strongest intent for completing your conversion objective.
You gain insight into visitor intentions by performing quantitative and qualitative research. Analyze web analytic data, interview your sales and customer-service staff, and conduct formal and informal surveys, focus groups and usability tests. Your objective is to form an educated guess about your visitors? intentions and shape it over time through continually testing and measuring new channel, keyword and message performance.
Quality of your visitors against your defined conversion objective
Returning to the conversation with my client about top keyword-search placements, the client figured that with his high-traffic volume, our ability to drastically increase website conversions was a slam dunk. Before addressing that, I asked the client what was his primary conversion objective — what action did he want visitors to take?
The client, who sells multiple products and services, wanted to increase leads for “service A.” Unfortunately the keywords generating the high traffic volumes were indirectly associated with “service A,” yet directly relevant to some of his website products. The question then was, “How to improve conversions for a service when the visitors do not possess the intent to act?”
Because some visitors recognized the association, we implemented specific conversion strategies gaining more than 270 percent increase in the client?s conversion rate for “service A.” The client. however, would realize greater conversion improvements by reoptimizing his search channels to attract visitors with stronger “service A” intent.
Gaining perspective skyrockets ecommerce sales
Website conversion is an essential “best practice” for improving your ecommerce business. It is a proven process for increasing your bottom line without adding more to your advertising expenses.
Carefully, however, analyze your advertising expenses to determine if your dollars are being placed in the right channels and using the right keywords and messages. By making adjustments based on attracting the most qualified visitors with the highest intent for your products or services, you will not only improve your conversions but also generate a greater return from your on-site conversion-improvement efforts.