The Importance of Conversion Rates

Of all the things to worry about on a website, the one at the very top of anyone’s list should be their conversion rate (CR). The conversion rate can be defined as the percentage of website visi tors that do what you want them to do. How many are buying your product, how many are giving you a leads, etc.  The CR determines how successful your website is, at least in regards to how well it contributes to your bottom line.  I usually calculate mine using like this: (Number of Sales) ÷ (Number of Unique Visitors) = Conversion Rate

And sure, some websites are meant just to be pretty, not necessarily to actually contribute to a company’s bottom line, but that is an exception to the rule. So here are my no-nonsense reasons why you should be aware of your conversion rate:

  1. The CR is the most efficient statistic to try to improve upon. If you look at the costs involved of your different options, increasing your CR is the easiest and least expensive thing you can do. It might mean something as simple as revising your web lead form by removing some of the fields on it (fewer fields on a form automatically increase the completion rate), or revising your web content. There is lots of help on the web to give you pointers – or of course, you can also hire a professional to do it (smile).
  2. The CR is the least expensive alternative.  Your problem is how to make your website more profitable, and this basically means doing one of two things: increasing the web traffic to your website, or increasing the conversion rates of the traffic you are already getting. The two things are not exclusive of each other – you should actually try to do both – I’m just saying that the efforts toward your CR give more bang for the buck. 
    1. For a real-world example consider this: you can take $1,000 dollars and try to get more web traffic like with increasing your Pay Per Click traffic in Google Adwords.  Say it doubles your traffic for the one month, and doubles your sales as well.  Great – a 100% improvement over last month!  But next month your traffic falls back to where it was and you are in the same boat you were before.
    2. Or you can take that $1,000 dollars and increase your CR. Say it increases your sales by 25% for the month (getting a %100 improvement is not unheard of).  25% is not as great a result for the month as the spend with Google, but it is actually much better if you look at the results at the end of the year. For the year you get a 23% improvement – while for increasing your PPC for one month only means an 8% increase for the year.

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Increasing Website Traffic

So you have yourself a website, and your interested in increasing the amount of traffic – what should you do? First, let’s take a look at where your web traffic is coming from now, which can conveniently be divided into four categories:

  1. Bookmark traffic from previous visitors
  2. Referral traffic from other sites
  3. SEO traffic coming from the search engines
  4. Paid traffic from pay-per-click (PPC) or banner ads, etc.

So what you need to do is figure out where your traffic is coming from now – then start implementing some new strategies to increase the traffic for each. Here are some tips for increasing traffic I would suggest pursuing:

  1. Increasing your bookmark traffic is easy – just place links on your site that allow people to automatically bookmark your page. People less experienced in the internet may not know how to bookmark a website, so make it easy to do.
  2. SEO traffic is the stuff coming from search engines – so you need to let the search engines know what your website is offering so that they index you for it. If you make ‘widgets’ then you need to have the term ‘widgets’ in your meta tags and in your website content so that it is clear to the search engines that is what your site is about. You can get an idea of this by taking a look at your website analytics to see what keywords are currently being used to come into your website. I’ll post more on this later.
  3. You can increase referral traffic, but this can be a bit grueling. Basically you contact other website owners and ask them for links, or you enter your website into lots of web directories. Maybe you have to use reciprocal links, where you both link to each other helping each of you. Having spent lots of time doing this very thing myself, let me tell you that you can expect most such requests to simply be ignored. There are tools on the web that help it be less painful, some free some not, so I like to use them. Tools like the Directory Submitter and WebCEO are free too.
  4. Paid traffic is usually where most new websites have to start as the other referral sources take time. If you are selling a product, getting paid traffic usually makes sense if done right. The most important thing to remember with paid traffic is to be aware of what your ROI is – how much it is costing you for the traffic. You have to look at the numbers, because if each sale from the paid traffic costs you $100 dollars to get and you are only making $25 dollars on the sale – that is obviously not good. Google Adwords is probably the best place to start for most because it is so easy and they are the search leader, but you can also get banner ads on other websites that will send you targeted traffic, etc.

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Basic Website Maintenance

We here at perform regular website maintenance on the websites we manage, and so wanted to explain what that means, because it is important. Website maintenance means different things to different customers, but generally speaking it includes the tasks below (not ordered by importance because they are all important). Yes, there are other things to do, but these are the basic ones – I’ll post more as I think of them.

  1. Check for broken links. Both visitors to your website and the search engines too hate broken links. You link to another website, or to some great news article, etc, and the very next week the other website takes the article down, or moves the file. Doh!  There are tools available that will check your site for broken links – and one of the best I’ve found is Xenu’s Links Slueth. Easy to install, very quick, and produces a nice report at the end so you can fix them later.
  2. Spell check the website. This should be automatic when the content is placed on a webpage, but it is amazing as to how often misspelled words work their way into a website.  And like I tell my customers, it is never my fault – I just cut and pasted the text they sent me (smile). Lots of spell checker tools out there on the web.
  3. Freshening the website content. There is some controversy regarding this point, whether anyone cares that you have a website where nothing ever changes – or whether it is better to have new content inserted routinely. Some swear that it helps you in achieving higher search engine results – but then, I keep noticing that there are many websites out there that have been static for years and they are ranked very high. There is no dispute that blogs tend to get higher rankings from Google, probably because they get regular fresh content. Anyways, to “freshen” the site means updating the website content and / or the meta tags as often as once a week.
  4. Backup the website. Personally I wouldn’t count on your host provider to do this step, even though many of them nowadays will do it automatically for you. Just download and zip the web files right off the server, or the ones on your PC if you have the originals. Don’t forget to backup any database files, as usually those are more important.
  5. Check your site in Google Webmaster Tools. This is free to join and will tell you lots of information about your website, and most important, any problems that Google sees with it. I especially like that it tells you of any ‘files not found’ – those pages you moved or deleted on your website that is causing 404 errors to now occur, because someone else is still linking to the missing page. To fix this, you either replace / redirect the content on your site, or politely ask the other website to update their link.
  6. Do a ‘site quality check’. There are lots of free tools out there that will help you maintain your website. One of my favorites is WebCEO, which is a free download, and that does a quality check on your site producing a nice report at the end. Another is iBP, though you have to subscribe to their service.
  7. Review your website statistics. How come? You should know if your website traffic is going up or down. You should know what web pages of your site are being looked at, and which ones aren’t. You should know what your conversion rate is, whether it is going up or down since last month. Etc.  You can review your web logs and find out some of this info (contact your web host for access), you can place Google Analytics on your site, or you can purchase a professional service like the one I provide.
  8. Update your sitemap files. This will assist Google in getting any new web pages indexed. Google looks for a file named sitemap.xml on every website it visits, while Yahoo looks for a file named urllist.txt.

There is lots more you can do to keep your website running smooth, and these eight tasks here will get you well along the way.

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SEO Heretic

Search engine optimization is an important aspect for every website to consider and implement because, lets face it, for most websites search engine traffic is where the traffic comes from. And what is not to like? SEO traffic is free, it is plentiful, and it can be easy to get sometimes. But if you are responsible for a website’s performance, SEO needs to be understood in the context of how it impacts the sites performance. Amateurs usually think high performance can be determined simply by looking at a websites traffic volume – but that is a huge mistake. That is exactly the mistake all those dot com companies made back when the tech bubble burst, and they all went bankrupt. When I refer to performance, it means how well the site helps the organization accomplish its goals (to make the company money, to produce sales leads, etc.)

And so I’m going to say something that might strike some as being heretical;

SEO is not all it is cracked up to be.

How come? One of the biggest reasons is that of all the referral sources coming into your website, SEO traffic is the worst when it comes to conversion rates. The best thing about SEO traffic – the traffic coming from search engines – is that it is free traffic.  You sit back and just watch the people flock into your website.  Excellent!  If you are one of the lucky ones, the web traffic to your site grows exponentially and you – the guy responsible for setting it up is hailed as a hero. This is when you need to ask for a raise in your pay and benefits, for sure. I say it is time to ask for a raise because at some point in the future, things will change – Google will alter their search algorithm and traffic that was taken for granted will drop to a trickle. Management then looks at you – the guy responsible for the earlier success – and will expect you to pull a rabbit out of your hat. And hey – maybe you do manage to do it, but then maybe not. 

The point I’m making here is that just looking to SEO can be a mistake, because a high performance website does not always correlate with high SEO traffic. Consider these facts:

  • High “performance” of a website is not tied to the level of traffic to the site – another heretical statement for sure – it refers instead to how high your conversion rate is. What percent of your visitors convert into a sale, or a lead, etc.
  • Bookmark Traffic is the best, of course, since they are the people who know you and have marked your website to be able to return. The previously made a purchase and are coming back for more.
  • Next best is Referral Traffic which comes in a close second. This is the traffic coming from other websites, because the person trusts the referral website and that trust transfers over to your site. They may still be researching different products, but they are serious about it.
  • Paid traffic is in third place, which is somewhat surprising. Before seeing the statistics I would have thought it would be a close second to Bookmark traffic, but it isn’t even close to Refferal Traffic in regards to conversions. Paid traffic is an important source of web traffic for many companies – but it is important to know that the conversion rate from that source is not very high.
  • And in last place for referral source traffic is SEO traffic – the traffic coming from the search engines.  Wow, who would have thought that?  Doesn’t Google tell us that the people clicking on your ads are targeted and motivated buyers?  Yes they do – but then they are trying to sell you the ads, remember?

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Why Blog?

My favorite answer to people asking how to better market their company / product / ideas is to get a blog – kinda like this one. How come? Because they are so easy to create and maintain, mostly. Take a look at your alternatives;

  • You could produce a flyer to email or mail to your customers / prospects
  • You could send out a company newsletter via email of snail mail
  • You could also place the marketing material on your regular website, if you have one.

While each of the above has its advantages / disadvantages, none of them can compare to a blog:

  • The cost to create the blog is about the same as it is to create and mail a single newsletter.
  • Blogs are available to be viewed 24 / 7 – they are immediate and can be updated later as needed
  • Search engines love them – over time you can have a whole lot of information that the search engines can point their traffic to
  • They are easy to use and maintain

There are disadvantages to having a blog too;

  • If you have a blog, ideally you should post on it maybe 3 times a week to keep the search engines coming back.
  • The cost to post is, uh, nothing but you do have to find the time to do it. But maybe that is something you can delegate to some underling! (smile)
  • Ideally you should have original content on the blog, not just copy and paste information you got elsewhere, and can sometimes be difficult for people not as talented as myself. (smile again)

And oh yeah, did I mention that can create a blog for you, then train you on how to use it? And all at a price you will find most agreeable.  Just let us know if you are intested.

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Our First Post

So this blog is going to be an area where can provide more information about websites to our customers (mostly). The idea is that since things are changing so much on the web, this would be the best way to tackle the issue – better this than having to send out newsletters that no one reads (smile).

Anyways, the topics to be covered with pretty much be on anything and everything having to do with websites; their design, maintenance, marketing, hosting, analytics, and pretty much anything else that seems pertinent. What it won’t be covering is sports, politics, religion, or sex – sorry.

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