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How Do I Improve My Web Site Conversion Rate - Part III

Steve Jackson
Conversion Chronicles

January 2, 2005

In a recent teleconference I was asked a number of questions about conversion and how to improve a website conversion rate. In the first article of this series we covered what was meant by conversion, what you should look for and what factors have the biggest impact on conversion rates. The second article covered measurement, looking at measurement tools, the differences between log and browser based measurement, average conversion rates and why it helps to track how people use your website. In the final part of this series we’ll be looking at where traffic arrives from and how that effects conversion, specific search engine queries, PPC issues and other general topics.

Question 1 - How do keywords effect your conversion rate in terms of SEO/SEM (search engine optimization/marketing)?

Keywords are important for two reasons.

Firstly by using the keywords which relate to your reader you get listed by search engines accordingly meaning that people can find you. Notice that I phrased the last sentence carefully. I said ‘keywords which relate to your reader’. It’s important to understand that what you consider ‘key words’ might not be the keywords your visitors are using to reach you.

Secondly and from my point of view more importantly keywords help to qualify your audience after they have arrived at your web site. If you click through from a search engine to a web site and the headline or first paragraph don’t strike you as relevant to what you’re looking for you’re likely to ‘bounce’ (in other words leave the site). The key words you use help to assure your visitor they are in the right place.

Good use of keywords embedded in your copy and content will firstly help you to attract the right kind of people and secondly help to effectively qualify them as being in the right place. If you manage to attract and qualify them, the reader is then more likely to click through to find out more about what your website is about. If they do that, there is a much higher chance that they will convert to your desired goal.

A good SEO or SEM company in my opinion is one that understands that it’s about answering the visitors’ needs, not simply packing the website with related key words and phrases.

Question 2 - What Is PPC (pay per click) and is it worth the money? Does it effect conversion?

Pay per click (or PPC) is when you set-up an account with a search engine (Google or Overture for instance) and write ads which appear when a certain keyword is requested by a visitor to the search engine. If a visitor clicks your ad you pay a predefined fee to the search engine. PPC done correctly is a good way to drive people interested in your product or services to your website and clever PPC marketing should positively effect conversion.

One of our clients recently asked me about a PPC campaign (run by another company) that was converting poorly. The reason it was converting poorly is because the ad was optimized to be clicked through and not optimized to qualify the reader. To explain in more detail, the product in the ad was a mobility scooter costing $1850. The ad explained you could get great discounts on mobility scooters and therefore the click through on the ad was quite high. Therefore it was an expensive campaign for our client which didn’t convert into sales.

In my opinion this particular ad should try to qualify the reader more by having the price and location in the ad. My reasoning is that a fair percentage of visitors who are interesting in purchasing an expensive item like a mobility scooter will want to see it first. Therefore a good way to actually sell this particular product is to tell the reader the price and location so they know without going to the website whether the product is for them. If they click through and look it doesn’t matter if they don’t purchase but then come to the physical store and buy because they know the product is in their home town. Price in the ad pre-qualifies that they have the money. So if they have the money, are in the market and are in the same city there is a much higher chance of a purchase.

Another thing you should remember in PPC campaigns is the relevance of the ad to your landing page. It’s an often overlooked problem that the PPC ad doesn’t relate directly to the landing page. In the case of our client they did this correctly by linking the Google ads directly to the page about mobility scooters. A common mistake however is to link the ads to a home page which expects the visitor to work to find what it is you’re selling.

Too many PPC companies work on click through as their gauge of success. They see it as their job to drive the traffic rather than convert it. The idea of successful PPC marketing is simple economics. You spend less than you earn from the visitors that arrive and make a profit. However ads that use the shotgun approach aren’t doing you any favors. Ads that you’re paying for should bring in very interested and pre-qualified visitors that convert at a higher level than free traffic.

Question 3 - When people first arrive at your website they are a mixed crowd (coming from everywhere with different expectations) how do you cater for them all?

You can’t please everyone and it’s fatal to try to do so. You have to figure out your best chance of business from your audience and cater to that area of business. If you have a large varied audience or are running some kind of portal then you should have a clear strategy to attract people to dedicated sections of your website.

For instance in the field of small business there are 1000’s of different wants, needs and requirements to cater for. Your landing page (home or index page) is going to have a very hard time catering for all of those people effectively. So quite simply don’t try. Figure out by measuring how people find you, what the biggest segment of traffic look for and cater for that group. Then take the second biggest segment of traffic and develop a different landing page for them, using content (and embedded keywords) more relevant to their wants and needs. It’s possible to develop big websites which cater for a variety of different audiences but not all in the same page.

For instance, a small business owner in need of a sample contract of employment isn’t immediately going to be interested in accountancy services. He might be interested in a resources section which has sample documents for download and lawyers who cater for small businesses. If therefore this visitor arrived to find a website with a plethora of choices when all he wants is a sample contract then he is likely to leave.

If however a section of your website was dedicated solely to business documents and sample downloads for small businesses and the visitor clicks through to this page from a search engine, there is a much higher chance he will browse to find what he is looking for. If then he sees that you have more resources (like an accountancy portal link) then he may even bookmark your site before leaving and that’s what you want, repeat visitors.

Question 4 - I know about testing, but how much traffic (people landing on the test page) do you need to determine if something is not working?

Again the focus is where your visitors are coming from. If you have well targeted traffic arriving at your pages (i.e. PPC or strategic links) a fair sample size is when 1000 people have visited the site (or test page). At least that’s the minimum we use to make any decisions with. When traffic is less targeted and bounce rates are higher then you have to make a decision based on larger numbers. If for instance one week 500 visitors arrived at your website which weren’t your target audience, it’s fair to say that you should discount them from your testing.

It all depends on you knowing where your visitors are coming from which requires a good measurement tool.

Question 5 - Is it really necessary to be listed at the top of the search engines? What are the other alternatives that clients should consider or is this perceived 'holy grail' really something we should all be chasing?

Being at the top of the search engines is not entirely necessary but it certainly helps. You should try to get a listing on the first page of results for your chosen keywords. Put simply if people have to look through to link number 8074 on Google to read about your products and services then you’re not likely to be found.

For example if you do a Google search for ‘improving website conversion’ our site appears in the top position as we’ve optimized for that key phrase. We hoped that this is what our potential visitor will key in when doing a search. However while this was part of our strategy it was only a very small part as you cannot rely on search engine algorithms to pay your bills.

The alternative and safety net to relying on the all powerful search engine algorithm is to find strategic partners who like what you do and want to re-print your information. That is what people go online to do, find information and surprisingly not enough businesses realize this.

Strategic linking while harder work than submitting your site to search engines works very well. The subscription conversion rate average from our top strategic partners is 31%. By that I mean nearly a 3rd of the visits coming from the partners who re-print our articles subscribe. Because the partners we’re working with are well known and highly respected they are a great qualification vehicle. Upon visiting our partner website, the visitor reads what we’ve said (in articles, forum posts, blog entries, advertisements etc.), like what they see, click through to our site and subscribe. In this way the reader arrives warmed up to what you have to say so the conversion rate is much improved.

The added benefit of this is that the more outbound links you have pointing to you, the higher your ranking gets on many of the search engines. Another benefit is that even if you can’t get listed on search engines directly for all your keywords, some of the partner sites will do so due to their own visibility, so more paths flow to you. This is a far more effective strategy than SEO/SEM alone.

Summary

This article has been about one subject: relevance. You begin with keywords which relate to and qualify your readers. This helps with search engine visibility and means your visitors feel like they are in the right place when they arrive at your website. PPC campaigns should qualify your audience initially and when clicked should land at a highly relevant and specific landing page.

This means your advertisements are working for you and not simply driving traffic which isn’t targeted well enough. Your web site message should not try to cater for everyone, it should be specific and relevant to a particular target market.

This means that you can focus your message in relation to what your visitor wants.

Finally you should find strategic partners who work in related industries with similar target audiences to your own. This means you improve your own visibility to your target audience. In simple terms being relevant means putting the right offer in front of the right people and by getting more of the right people to your website, you improve your conversion rates considerably.

E-Book - Learn Before You Spend: Web Site Conversion Techniques Explained in Simple English

Steve Jackson is CEO of Conversion Chronicles.

 

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