In a recent teleconference, I was asked several questions about specific problems people were having converting clicks to customers. This is the first article in a three-part series and will answer specific queries about how to improve Web site conversion rates.
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 Web site. “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 full conversion. A micro conversion is something that you should test and measure.
“Read more here” might not get as high a click-through rate as “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 Web site 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 means 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 subscribing to a newsletter, downloading an audio file, buying a product, selling a service, or whatever. It should reflect your Web site's business objective.
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 she or 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 or her again.
Rather than expecting someone to pick up the phone, you need to build into your Web site a powerful reason for your visitors to give you permission to email or talk to them.
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 Web site to get information, so give them the means to get it.
What if the product that you sell is also sold by several others on other Web sites? 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 (unique selling proposition) makes an enormous difference to conversion rates. (For example, 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 site, they will remember you over your competition.
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 whether they might 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 available tracking tools.
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 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.
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, 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. It's still not 100% accurate, because proxy servers record multiple visitors as one browser, but it's as close as you can get with log files.
Then, 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, such as IRIS Metrics, or log software that works out the filtering, such as Web Trends, it makes your job much easier.
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 Web site'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 Web site.
So if members of your audience type “Red Vintage Wine” into Overture and your link appears, on clicking through they should be taken to your page that talks all about—and sells—red vintage wine. Those visitors shouldn't land at the home page of your Web site, which probably has a small link to the red vintage wine section and five or six other types of wine for sale.
Then, measuring and experimenting are 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, there's trust. You can't sell anything if your audience doesn't trust you.
For the longer term, you could educate your audience via your Web site with articles and “how-to” sections or newsletters; doing so will instill trust over time.
In short, your prospect must trust you to part with his or her money.
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 available software, and what you should test and tweak to improve conversion rates.
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