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Conversion Analysis Framework
High website conversions are a function of three distinct factors - authentic understanding of your business and customer, off-site conversion elements, and lastly, on-site conversion elements.
What Exactly Is a Website Conversion or a Website Conversion Rate?
Let's first get some definitions out of the way. A website conversion can be defined as a website visitor performing a desired action. Now, conversion rate, per se, is the percentage of visitors who take such a desired action. For purposes of this article I will designate two distinct types of website conversions. Level one conversions or "revenue conversions" and level two conversions or "rain check conversions." Revenue conversions are actions that are designated as the final goal of the website creators. Revenue conversions turn visitors into clients or customers. Rain check conversions, on the other hand, are actions that are used to facilitate a revenue conversion sometime in the future. A revenue conversion in its most common form is known as a simple sale that translates into an online transaction. Familiar rain check conversions include newsletter opt-ins, form submissions, membership sign-ups, catalog requests, e-mails to customer service, or a call to your awaiting sales department. If nurtured correctly these rain check conversions germinate into full fledge revenue conversions at a later date.
Understanding Your Business and Optimal Visitor Actions
Clearly defining goals for your business is not enough to beat your evolving online competition. You must have clear objectives and an understanding of your customer for your internet presence to work for you effectively. Before hiring a web designer or database programmer to build your site, you must have a solid comprehension of what it is you want your website to do. More precisely, you must have an understanding of what you want your visitors to do within your site. Is your product too complex to offer a real-time e-commerce solution? If so, a phone call might be a better desired action. Are your products too inexpensive to warrant paying for a customer service department? If so, e-commerce may be the better choice. Are you receiving dozens of unqualified phone calls on your voicemail system? You might consider creating a form that both filters and qualifies potential customers. Are your buyers educated enough to fully understand what your service provides? A prominent phone number might help to attract clients to engage you over the phone. Is your target customer executive MBA students from The Wharton School of business? If so, you might want to write copy that speaks their language.
Off-Site Conversion Factors
The most common error in conversion analysis is neglecting factors not contained within the framework of your existing website. Off-site elements affect the quality of the traffic entering your website. All things held equal, a high quality visitor converts at a higher frequency than a low quality visitor. It is commonly held that surfers originating from a Google search are considered a higher quality visitor than your average web surfer. An individual clicking on an organic or natural search engine listing is also considered a higher quality visitor than one who clicks on a pay per click advertisement. A "direct access" visitor, one who simply types in your company url as the first step in the conversion process, or a returning visitor, typically also is considered a higher quality visitor. If someone knows you by name or actively decides to come back for a second visit, the odds of a desired action increase. To the contrary, visitors arriving to your site from affiliate programs, banner advertisements, e-mail campaigns, or blogs, are usually considered lower quality visitors as their actions are less reliable.
On-Site Conversion Factors
Usability is the term used to define the efficiency of a user interface. Websites are a form of interface where human beings interact with a host computer housing a particular website. Usability is important for us because it impacts conversion rate. Your website must be efficient. Visitors must be able to perform their tasks quickly. Long forms, excessive steps in an e-commerce order process, complex account creating protocol, or an extended webpage load time can bottleneck a visitor's desired action. The action must also be easily understood the first time the visitor enters the website. You've got one chance and a brief stint of time to teach your visitors and limit frustration before they move to the next site. If you do happen to get a return visitor, can they remember how to navigate the site the second time around? Your interface must therefore be memorable. Lastly, are you leaving your visitors satisfied? Does the color scheme, text font, or images in relation to website content leave your eyes hurting? A visually unappealing site can and will lead to a mass exodus of potential conversions.
Trust Us - Won't You?
Persuasive Website Writing
Individuals tend to read newspapers, magazines, or books, while internet users scan web page content. They scan to grasp bits of information and quickly move on from page to page, topic to topic. Quick and efficient delivery of your message is a necessity to improve the stickiness of any website. Headlines should be used frequently with crisp, eye-catching, and prominent wording to give your web surfers the main idea and objective promptly. Your core topic areas should be displayed above the secondary or tertiary subject matter. The flow of content within a website's inner pages should be intuitive and easily accessible. Websites that are content rich should have pages that are easily downloadable in pdf format or offer printable versions. Fonts, colors, and themes should be consistent throughout the website. Examples of fonts that are easiest to read are Verdana and Arial, while Times New Roman tends to be the most difficult.
Calls To Action
A call to action in a website sense refers to the active copy that compels or persuades a user to take action. This call to action can lead to either a revenue conversion or a rain check conversion. The key to calls to action are treading the line between pushing and persuading. A prominent "Act Now!" button might be too openly aggressive for the average web surfer's taste, while an indiscreet "click here" might be too gentle to nudge your visitor towards the desired destination. A happy medium typically yields the most favorable results. Subtly pulling your visitors to your end goal is more effective than attempting to bully them around. After all, they decide what, where, and when they click on any given link to a deeper page within your site. Descriptive text links can and should be used at the end of every text paragraph to help persuade a visitor to make the desired move. The clearer the description within the link, the easier it is for the surfer to make up his or her mind.
When In Doubt - Test, Track, and Analyze
Having the ability to track your website visitors in real-time is essential in understanding what your website is doing right and what your website is doing wrong. Click path analysis, or exposing the travel patterns of your visitors as they click from one page to another is critical. Uncovering the common pages that visitors are leaving from will offer clues as to where your potential conversions are escaping. When testing different pages it is however, vital that you drive enough traffic to the site in order to make a sound decision on what works and what doesn't. Don't be tempted to jump the gun by changing a particular page that only received half a dozen hits or unique visitors. See how the pages perform over a longer period of time to ensure you have a critical mass of data to analyze.
Conversion Rates Still Got You Down?
Here are some miscellaneous points to consider before throwing in the conversion towel. Make sure that your website supports all major browsers (Explorer, Firefox, Navigator). Make sure you know what pages within the website you are directing visitors to. Conversions can be improved by directing visitors to the most relevant pages within your site, not just the home page. The closer the visitor is to the desired action, the less steps available to convolute the conversion process. Rain check conversions can be improved by giving away valuable information. Giving your readers something they need or want is an effective way to persuade a return visit at a future date for a future action. Make your e-commerce shopping cart linear, intuitive, and easy to use. Utilize "one click" technology to make repeat shopping attractive for your users to return. Not only should the site be memorable, but the domain name too - keep it catchy and easy to remember, and odds are your visitors will come back for seconds to convert another day.
Many more articles in eBusiness in The CEO Refresher Archives