How Do I Improve My Web Site Conversion Rate? Part 1

Question 1.

What do you mean by conversion? Do you mean getting someone to answer the simplest call to action such as "read more here" or actually selling a product or service?

What you're talking about here are two different ways to measure your website. "Read More Here" is what I would call a variable affecting your conversion rate. I call these kinds of variables "Micro Conversions" because they are all small (microscopic even) steps toward a full conversion. A micro conversion is something that you should test and measure. "Read More Here" might get a worse click-through rate than "Click here to find out how to win a month's supply of vintage wine." So by improving this click through, you get the person browsing to take another small step toward your final website goal. By doing this, you improve your overall conversion rate, which in this case is to get someone to register or subscribe to win a month's supply of vintage wine. Micro conversions can be tracked by measuring the click through of links, or the read time for content, or the bounce rate for headlines and copy. Full conversion is persuading your visitors to do what you want them to do. In my example, it would be registering to win wine, but it could be subscribe to a newsletter, download an audio file, buy a product, sell a service or whatever, but it should reflect what your website's business objective is.

Question 2.

What strategies would you suggest when there is no "online" conversion possible? I need them to call me for more info, to learn more and to eventually give them a proposal.

There is no such thing as "no online conversion". You're looking for leads who will eventually phone you but the visitor is the one with the power. If you don't give your visitors a reason to let you continue to have a dialog with them, then they won't. Using opt-in is one answer. If, for instance, you ask for a name, email address and telephone number from your visitor so that he can then get useful information from you in the form of a free report or audio file, you do two things. First, you qualify the visitor as someone who is interested in your services, and second, you get permission to contact him/her again. You need to build into your website a powerful reason for your visitors to give you permission to email or talk to them rather than expect someone to pick up the phone. In your case, you say they need to ring you to learn more. Put what they need to learn into some form that they can opt in to get, such as a white paper, report or audio file. Then you have a conversion rate that is the percentage of people who give you permission to continue the dialog with them by giving you their email address or phone number so that they can learn more about your offering. People visit a website to get information, so give them the means to get it.

Question 3.

What if the product you sell is also sold by several others on other websites? How do you get someone who is browsing the Internet to notice your site and want to order from you?

In offline marketing, a successful tactic is differentiation. It's no different online. If you stand out from your competition, then you get noticed. What makes you different (not necessarily better, just different) from your competition? A USP makes an enormous difference to conversion rates. We improved subscriptions by 11% per month for six months by differentiating ourselves. The second point is that your site should be of use to your visitor. The one thing that all people online have in common is that when they browse they are looking for information. So give your visitors what they want in the form of education. If your potential customers become educated about your offer and take away something useful from your website, they will remember you over your competition.

Question 4.

How do you get the address, telephone number and name of the owner of any company that you're trying to get in touch with to see if they would be interested in what you sell?

You need to get permission from the visitor to get that information. It can't be done with any tracking tools available. There is a very good reason for this and it's called privacy. If you or I went online and could have our names, addresses and phone numbers tracked by software, it could be potentially dangerous. Imagine if you were online and were talking in a chat room about going on holiday in a faraway land for the next few weeks and your personal information could be gathered. The person who sees that information then knows when to go to your address and rob you while you're away. It's OK to track browser behavior because no personal details are ever tracked. I for one hope it stays that way.

Question 5.

What should one look for in the web logs to determine conversion rates?

Web log files are a problem because they record everything. Web logs record every request to your site's pages from search engine indexes, to email harvester software, link harvesters and visitors. So first you need to filter out from log files the information that isn't relevant to visitors. Then you're looking for unique visitors (not visits) or unique sites. Once you have that filtered figure, you have the approximate number of visitors coming to your site, still not close to 100% because of proxy servers recording multiple visitors as one browser, but it's as close as you can get with log files. Then you divide the number of people who complete the conversion action by the total visitors. That is your conversion rate. If you can get software that doesn't use logs like IRIS Metrics or log software that works out the filtering like Web Trends, it makes your job much easier.

Question 6.

What factors have the biggest impact on conversions on my web site?

The short answer is differentiation, target marketing, your site's relevance to your desired audience, measurement, experimentation, and most importantly trust.

Differentiation is the first step in the process. You must find a way to stand out from the competition. It should start with the domain name, and continue throughout your entire website's strategy.

Then in your content, your copy and your design, you must smack your target audience between the eyes. You have to find out exactly what it is they want and answer the wants and needs of that audience.

Relevance is hugely important, too. If you're running a campaign on Overture or Google with certain keywords, your audience should land at exactly the right place after typing those keywords and finding your website. So if the audience types "Red Vintage Wine" into Overture and your link appears, on clicking through they should be taken to the page on your site talking all about and selling red vintage wine. They shouldn't land at the home page of your website which has a small link to the red vintage wine section and 5 or 6 other types of wine for sale.

Measuring and experimenting is then the key to improving conversion rates. You can't improve conversion without measurement unless you're making educated guesses or you're just plain lucky. So get a good measurement system, learn what it's all about, and test your changes.

Finally and most importantly trust. You can't sell anything if your audience doesn't trust you. You can help them to trust you by prominently displaying your privacy policy, your shipping procedure, the fact that you use SSL encrypted protection for the forms on your site, that hundreds of satisfied customers have already bought from your store, that you make it very easy to find contact information such as a name and address as well as support via email. You could educate via your website with articles and 'how to sections' or newsletters and instill trust over time. In short, your prospect must trust you to part with his or her money.

What's next?

In part two of this series, we'll be looking at measurement software tools, the pros and cons of logs versus ASP vendors, average conversion rates, why it helps to track visitor activity using the software which is available, and what you should test and tweak to improve conversion rates.

Steve Jackson is CEO of Aboavista, editor of The Conversion Chronicles and a published writer. You can get a free copy of his e-book sent to you upon subscription to the Chronicles web site (http://www.conversionchronicles.com).

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