Grabbing as much traffic as you can handle is nice, but the big boys will laugh at you when you assert that somehow generating a ton of traffic will make your website successful. The need many developers feel to generate as much traffic as possible misses the point of why we’ve brought our website to the party in the first place—to generate a specific result. As we’ve already described, this consists of the process of setting tangible, specific goals for your website’s performance, and measuring the success of your website against how well you meet your goals on a consistent basis. If there’s no goal in mind for your website, you’ve already wasted your time and financial resources.
The next natural question is: how can we increase our goal conversion rates? Let’s cover a few of the more important aspects of goal conversion and the tools you can use to tighten up your results.
First and foremost, if we want to be looking for goal conversion rates, we need to keep track of them with metrics. Metrics is a generic term for using tools to track the number of times that people visit any given page and take certain actions. Probably the most commonly used metrics system is Google Analytics, a free service that you can integrate into any website to track who is visiting a given page, where they are coming from, what their path is through the website, how long they stay on any given web page in particular as well as the website as a whole, and much more. Many other systems exist that assist you with tracking, compiling, and parsing web page usage statistics in useful ways; the trick is in figuring out which systems work for you,so that you can track your own website goal conversion pages in the way you’d prefer.
However you set up your metrics systems, your next step is to set up mechanisms to figure out which methods are more effective than others. The most common way to do this is through split testing. Also referred to as A/B testing, split testing is as easy as coming up with two different versions of a web page or web page component, serving them up randomly to a suitable number of people representing a reasonable sample of your audience, and seeing which one does better overall. By using split testing over and over again on the same page, you can refine your presentation factors, including your page’s layout and written content, and optimally increase your goal conversion rates. It’s as simple as asking a group of your potential buyers which one they like—option A or option B. And best of all, since the pages are being served up randomly, your visitors have no idea that they’re being polled; they just react genuinely. Split testing is truly an elegant solution to finding out what works and what doesn’t.
In marketing, the substance of an offer is rarely as important as the actual wording used to convey that offer. It’s for this reason that the saying is “people don’t buy the product, they buy the sales person.” As a whole, people tend to want make an emotional connection with an item before they are moved to take an action or make a purchase. For this reason, marketers often choose to split test different copy to see which performs better. For example, if you are split testing a web page selling a diet pill, you may choose to test whether the headline “Feel better about yourself in your bathing suit this summer” performs better than “We can help you squeeze back into your bathing suit in time for summer.” Both headlines say essentially the same thing, but one of them will more than likely test out better than the other in split testing. Once you find out which one works better, you can split test that against another sample to further hone your presentation.
To generate higher goal conversions,work out whether or not you are making the right offer to your target audience. Let’s say you’re attempting to boost membership on your website’s mailing list. A simple test could be to look at whether or not people are more likely to subscribe to the list if you offer the option to join the list for free product updates and sales specials, or if conversion rates are higher when you also offer to give them a free downloadable ebook. If the ebook opt-in tends to do better, a follow-up test might be to see whether a free ebook creates higher conversion rates than a free mp3 of the same content, or even a package deal that contains the ebook and the mp3 in one zip file. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Another common test that often yields eye-popping results is to compare individual layouts of the same page with different combinations of visual elements. Does an opt-in convert at a higher rate when it’s on the upper-left or on the upper-right corner of the screen? Does it help if there’s a video that urges visitors to claim that free ebook by filling out their information in the opt-in? And does it make any difference if the video automatically begins playing when you reach the page, or if you have to actually click the Play button to make it start? The answers to these questions will almost always differ depending on who your target audience is, and it’s a fabulous topic to split test to achieve better results.
Finally, there are tools and services you can use that actually keep track of where people click their mouse on a web page. This information is then translated into heatmaps, a graphical format that shows where people are actually clicking to take some form of action on any given page. Heatmaps are excellent for gaining additional insight as to how your users understand the different pages on your website, and can reveal problems and trends that you simply can’t extrapolate by merely looking at the raw numbers coming in from the site metrics.
The most important aspect to keep in mind is that while traffic generation is an excellent topic to study and implement, high goal conversion levels will ultimately determine the success or failure of your website.
Search engine optimization has traditionally been one of those “black magic” type topics in web development that business owners are fiercely concerned about and many web developers routinely duck or provide far too simplistic a solution to. In this chapter, we defined the difference between SEO and SEM, explained the primary reasons why it’s all a moving target that’s really tough to master, and explained that ultimately there is absolutely no substitute for quality, relevant content.