Search engine optimization (SEO) gets visitors to the site. What the visitors do (or don’t do) once SEO has done its job is up to the site owner or designer.
Most visitors view the home page and leave. Wrong products. Weird typeface, confusing navigation it can be anything from color motif to lack of clear prices. SEO gets them there, but it doesn’t convert them to buyers.
What Is Conversion Optimization?
Is it easy for visitors to find the right product? Is check-out convenient, offering numerous payment options? Is there a telephone number visitors can call to talk to a human? If not, the site isn’t conversion optimized.
In broad terms, conversion optimization enhances the visitors experience when they visit to browse. A site so optimized is: engaging, attractive, very simple, convenient and secure. The objective?
Enable visitors to quickly find what they re looking for and to move without delay through the site s checkout just as in the brick-and-mortar world of retailing.
How to Optimize Conversion
Undertake Regular Site Analysis
Site metrics are statistics, raw data that reveal visitor actions (or inactions) and behaviors. There are dozens of site analysis programs that create metrics to help with site refinement.
To develop useful metrics, first establish a site baseline for comparison as conversion optimization is underway. Maintain records of metrics to determine which refinements are working and which aren’t.
Target Metrics to the Most Desired Action (MDA)
The first step in improving conversion rates is to define the site s objective to sell products, disseminate information, generate click-throughs or provide customer service, for instance. With the site s objective defined, it becomes easier to develop metrics useful to increasing the number of people who perform the most desired action.
A commercial site owner wouldn’t find number of pages viewed especially useful since it s not specific to the site s goal to sell product. On the other hand, developing a list of keywords used by most buyers would be useful. It s a great way to refine a site s keyword list.
Metrics programs generate raw data. That s all. It takes an understanding of ecommerce dynamics to turn that data into useful information, aka site metrics. And the important first step in the development of utile information is to define the site s objective.
A site owner or web designer should be able to state a site s objective in one, short sentence. If it takes more than that, redefine the site objective. Then develop the metrics that facilitate an improved conversion rate.
Applying Site Metrics
The purpose in developing site metrics is to create a data-based strategy to induce more visitors to perform the MDA. It s not enough to identify problems and trends. Site owners must then take action to address problems and enhance the visitors overall site experience.
For example, site metrics might reveal that less than 5% of traffic ever gets past the home page. In this case, breakdown the home page to find why so many visitors leave. Too confusing? Too much information? Not enough? Convoluted navigation? If only five out of 100 visitors ever see interior pages, something is wrong with the home page.
Another example? Which search engines are delivering the most traffic? And why? Is it simply page rank? Does the site even show up on SERPs?
Useful site metrics will provide data on visitor activity, search engine activity, keywords, text and layout, checkout procedures and virtually every other aspect of site design and its impact on visitors.
Site Usability and Conversion Rate
The easier it is for a visitor to perform the MDA, the more likely it will be performed. If buyers don t find complete, detailed descriptions of products, they ll be less likely to make a purchase.
If they re confronted with endless data fields that must be completed, they re less likely to complete the on-line form. The ultimate objective in site analysis, therefore, is to improve the usability of the site. The more useful and usable the site, the higher the conversion rate.
Usability encompasses both site structure and site skin what visitors actually see. Site architecture should be designed to accommodate visitors in several ways. Ease of navigation is, certainly, important. But so is page weight. Visitors just won t wait for long downloads anymore.
An easy-to-use, flexible and secure checkout, with numerous payment options, increases a site s usability. And a one-click check-out is an ideal usability option that repeat buyers appreciate.
Accessibility is another aspect of site success. Is the text helpful, informational and easy to read or is it just hard sell content? Are navigation links large and clearly labeled? Is a site map available from every interior page?
A recent study published by DoubleClick.com indicates that more than half of all visitors who place something in their shopping carts fail to actually make the purchase. These buyers made the purchase decision, but there was no follow-through. Perhaps they found the check-out process confusing, or lacked the confidence in the site to enter personal information on line. The point is, something happened between purchase decision and final check-out. Chances are, lack of site usability was at least partially to blame.
Additional Benefits to Improving Site Usability
Improving conversion rate is, indeed, the primary objective of site refinements to enhance usability. However, site owners derive a number of on-going benefits in the regular development of useful site metrics.
Analytics will improve download times, increasing the likelihood of visitors staying around. Pages packed with animated graphics, Flash scripting and QuickTime demonstrations can be broken up to lessen download times.
With a highly-usable site that delivers everything visitors need to complete the MDA, site owners will lower costs for customer support and service. If a visitor can log-on to view the status of an open order, there will be fewer telephone calls to customer support.
With conversion optimization, routine site maintenance costs will be lowered. The site is visitor friendly, SE friendly and compliant with all open programming standards.
Finally, a site optimized for ease of use and visitor convenience generates more repeat traffic and more repeat sales. And repeat sales are the foundation of any retail business virtual or real world.
The Process of Conversion Optimization
Metrics should be developed regularly and compared to previous results to identify the activities of visitors. They should also be developed to suit the site s purpose and MDA.
With useful metrics, a strategy of site refinement should be developed and implemented in stages. At each stage, new metrics should be produced to determine whether recently implemented refinements have had the desired effect. If so, initiate the next stage. If not, determine the problem and refine accordingly.
Remember that visitors are looking for convenience, ease-of-use, helpful information and security. The long-term objective is to increase site usability through refinement, measurement, further refinement and further measurement.
A higher conversion rate will naturally follow.
About the Author:
Frederick Townes in the owner of W3 EDGE (http://www.w3-edge.com/), a Boston web design company that provides professions design and development services as well as SEO copywriting http://www.w3-edge.com/solutions/internet-marketing/copy-writing/ and conversion optimization. W3 EDGE, serving Boston and the world for a better online business.