In part two of this series, I discussed how to use insights gleaned from analytics to identify opportunities for conversion rate improvement in your acquisition funnels. In today's installment, I want to help you go from analytic-based insights—which is way ahead of the curve for most testing plans—to the rarefied air of understanding visitor intent.

Intent is at the heart of conversion rate optimization. How do you effectively harvest intent from the Internet?

Your potential customers are seeking for solutions to problems you solve. When you can create strong alignment between the value of your offering and the intent of the visitor, you have your best chance at conversion success.

In the past, people have used various proxies to determine intent. Search keywords, for example, are a popular proxy; time on site might be another—and so on. But for all of the benefits of those proxies, they can't actually speak for your visitors.

To really understand your visitors' intentions, you need to get out of the building to hear directly from them. To get out of the building means to get out from under your own preconceptions about what your visitors want, and to talk to your customers and visitors to learn what they're really trying to accomplish when they visit your site.

Once that's known, you can optimize things like on-site messaging—and ultimately product features and experience—to meet the needs of your site visitors. You align your offering to best meet their intentions, creating win-win scenarios that improve your conversion rates.

Surveys are a great way to determine intent. They allow you to quickly and efficiently target and question your customer base and site visitors to provide real feedback based on which you can optimize.

Three types of surveys are effective in unearthing intent and needs: custom, user satisfaction (or net promoter), and on-site.

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image of Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis is the founder of and CEO of Qualaroo, a technology company that helps marketers better understand the needs of website visitors and improve conversions. He has held marketing leadership roles at breakout companies, such as Dropbox, LogMeIn (IPO), Uproar (IPO), Eventbrite, and Lookout.

Twitter: @SeanEllis