At the end of the day, website traffic is primarily a vanity metric. While I suppose you could say that higher traffic numbers are indicative of successful awareness-building initiatives and external marketing campaigns, it seems that the biggest benefit of measuring traffic metrics comes from establishing bragging rights amongst your peers.
“I just hit 50,000 uniques per month,” you might say. Or, “Last month, my site’s traffic increased by 25 percent!” That’s all well and good, but what I really want to know about are your conversion numbers.
To put things in perspective, I’d much rather have a website that gets 100 visitors per month and converts 15 percent of them into paying customers than a site that gets 100,000 uniques and only averages a 0.01 percent conversion rate. If I’m selling a product that retails for $200, that first scenario nets me $3,000 a month in sales. The second example gives me just $2,000 per month for my efforts.
If you have to pick one thing to focus on when it comes to your website’s performance, make it your conversion rate — not your visitor counts. Here’s how to put a proper conversion rate optimization plan into place:
Identify Your Conversion Paths
Tracking conversions doesn’t necessarily mean tracking sales. Depending on your business’s structure and customer acquisition processes, “conversions” could include any of the following completed actions and more:
- Purchasing a product
- Signing up for a free trial
- Requesting more information
- Viewing a video
- Downloading an ebook
- Completing a lead generation form
- Sharing your content on a social media website
- Printing a coupon
- Opting in to your email newsletter
It’s also likely that your website will have to measure more than one potential conversion action. If you can’t turn a visitor into a paying customer right away, for example, it’s probably still worth your time to pursue a secondary conversion option. Something like getting a future buyer to download a coupon.
It’s even possible that your website will offer all of the conversion options above. But for the purposes of launching a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program, focus on no more than 2-3 actions that have the biggest impact on your business’s bottom line.
Once you have these conversion actions identified, map out every step that a site visitor must take in order to complete the conversion process. You can break this down in terms of “entry,” “action” and “exit.”
For example, suppose your action is downloading a free ebook from a specific landing page on your site. To convert, visitors will need to enter your landing page from another page on your site that contains a link or call to action referring to the page, take theaction of downloading the book and then exit the action by landing on a “Thank You” page (preferably one that encourages them to share links to the book on their favorite social sites). Knowing each step in your conversion path will be important for installing analytics and tracking tools.
Implement Conversion Rate Tracking Tools
Now that you know what you want your visitors to do, you need to install a tracking tool that will tell you whether or not they’re doing it. One great tool for tracking many different types of conversions is Google Analytics, which offers Analytics Goals and Funnels to measure things like ebook downloads.
Once the visitor has finished their transaction, set up a “URL Destination” goal type to trigger whenever a visitor lands on the “thank-you.html” page, indicating that the download is complete. Google Analytics will assign a value of $25 to each completed conversion and track visitor movements throughout the site as they lead up to the conversion.
Note that, for the purposes of funnel visualization, page views can occur nonsequentially and still trigger a funnel match: If, for example, a visitor went to the “Services” page before the “About” page. Each individual step isn’t required to make it count as a conversion. In this case, if a visitor goes directly from “About” to the ebook landing page.
As this Goal gathers data, you can use the funnel visualization report to determine whether visitors are moving smoothly through the conversion path or if they’re falling out and the process needs to be improved.
This specific process can be used for most of the conversion actions listed above, though a full description of the setup process for each is beyond the scope of this article. Rest assured that if Google Analytics doesn’t meet your conversion path tracking needs, there are plenty of other tools out there that will. FoxMetrics and KISSMetrics, for example, are two programs that will work well if your goal monitoring needs are more complex.
Set Conversion Goals
Finally, keep in mind that your ultimate goal isn’t conversion rate tracking — it’s conversion rate optimization! You don’t just want to monitor whether or not your visitors are converting. You want to actually increase the total number of conversions.
Let’s say that the Google Analytics data captured indicates that roughly 5 percent of your overall site visitors are completing your desired ebook download action. Knowing that, you might make it your goal to increase this percentage two-fold. To get to that 10 percent conversion rate, you could try A/B split testing different variables on your ebook landing page, investing in new, more targeted traffic streams or making your calls-to-action more apparent throughout your site.
As time goes on, you’ll want to revisit both the goals you’ve set for yourself and how you’ve adjusted your course as needed. With regular improvements and a careful tracking, you’ll be able to do much more for your website’s performance than increase the number of visitors alone.
Sujan Patel has championed internet marketing and entrepreneurship for over a decade. His experience, ideas and strategies have helped 100s companies build and strengthen their businesses online. Sujan is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers ofWhen I Work — an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.
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