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March 9, 2009

The Importance of Website Conversion

Many companies make the mistake of spending money in areas where it’s not necessary. Take, for example, companies pumping marketing dollars into increasing traffic on the website. It’s great to get more traffic, but that is just the first step. Now you need that traffic to do something.

Website Conversion Defined

The percentage of total visitors who come to the website, follow through after clicking on the company’s desired point of action (POA) and submit information, download a demo, make a purchase, etc. is the definition of website conversion. In an e-commerce application, multiple visitors will add items to their shopping carts, but a smaller percentage will actually make the purchase. The percentage of visitors that completes the transaction signifies the conversion rate for the website.  In a lead-generating application, multiple visitors will follow a path that you desire for them to follow (at first), but will not complete the form, download, etc.  The percentage that does signifies the conversion rate.

In order to boost the website conversion rate, companies need to determine why potential customers drop out at certain points in the process and eliminate these roadblocks in order to increase sales. Clearly defined POAs, intuitive navigation, and simple checkout processes all make it easier for potential customers to buy, contact, download, or whatever else it is that you want them to do that will lead to a sale.

Point of Action

Basically, the POA on your website is what you want visitors to do initially. Many websites will have more than one POA, so POAs are further broken down into primary, secondary, and even tertiary POAs. A primary POA (usually the most profitable action for a user to take) might be completing a purchase on the site while a secondary POA might be signing up for the site’s email newsletter announcing weekly specials. As a general rule, the marketing department (not the web designers) in consultation with sales should decide what the primary and secondary POAs will be.

Some websites have no clear POA and mainly serve as ‘brochure-ware.’ If a website doesn’t have clear POAs that guide users toward taking specific, valuable actions, those users are of course less likely to become purchasers.

Take Rate

The number (or percentage) of visitors who show interest in your POA (i.e. click on a link to visit the site’s contact form), comprise your take rate. Say a B2B website is highlighting its downloadable demo as its POA; a visitor might click on that link to get to a download page.  Whether or not they actually follow through with the download has no bearing on the take rate – the take rate merely demonstrates that there was enough interest for them to take the POA.

On an e-commerce site, for instance, a visitor who adds a product to his shopping basket has taken the first step toward the company’s desired POA, but the potential purchaser may not complete the transaction.

There are many ways to improve the take rate of a website.  One of the biggest ways is to simply make it very clear to visitors, on every page of your site, what you want them to do.  Whether this is to purchase, to contact, to download, to sign up, or any number of other actions, make it clear and prominent for the visitor.  No matter where they are on your site when they decide they are ready to take that POA, your site should make it easy for them to do so.

Website Conversion Rate

The actual website conversion rate is the ratio equal to the number of people who actually convert on the site versus the overall number of visitors to the site for a given period.  If, for example, 3 out of every 100 visitors to your B2B site filled out a contact form (and that form was your only POA) your website conversion rate would be 3%.

Obviously, improving your take rate will also improve your conversion rate, since more people will be coming to the form, download page, purchase page, etc.  But there are many things you can do to increase the likelihood that people will convert after they have taken the initial POA.  Keeping contact forms short and only asking for the minimal information you need is one way.  Having a prominent and clear privacy policy or encryption policy can also help.  The important thing to recognize is that a large number of people who demonstrate an interest in your products or services by clicking on your POA may not follow thorough, and it is important to determine why and to remove those obstacles.

Putting it Together

There are literally thousands of elements you can change on your website to increase both your take rate and website conversion rate. A/B testing has long been used to determine how changing certain variables affects the conversion and take rates. However, this method is limited to testing one variable at a time if you want to gather the granular metrics from each slight modification. Today, with more sophisticated testing software packages available, multivariate testing, which enables you to test many variables at the same time while still seeing granular results, is becoming more common. Common tests include changing color schemes, tweaking various aspects of navigation, copy, and POAs have all been proven to maximize the take rate, website conversion rate, and subsequently, your revenue and bottom line. Website conversion is all about your visitors – appeal to their needs and desires in a logical, concise way, and you’ll see your rates improve.

About the Author

Scott Buresh is the founder of Medium Blue, a search engine optimization company.  His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including MarketingProfs, ZDNet, SiteProNews, WebProNews, DarwinMag, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide.  He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google for Dummies (Wiley, 2004).  Medium Blue has local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and TOTO USA, and was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world in 2006 and 2007 by PromotionWorld. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.

One Response to “The Importance of Website Conversion

    avatar Website Search Engine Optimization - How Can It Effect Your Website? says:

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