How to Increase the Conversion Rate of Your Website

The conversion rate is the most important web metric in a commercial website. Conversions lead to sales, and sales leads to profits; this is why a good conversion rate is essential for long term business success. Yet this important web metric is often the hardest to figure out. SEO companies often ignore it, and leave it to the website owner to determine. This is not good, because SEO should not only be about increasing traffic from rankings; instead, a good SEO should also pay attention to the conversion rate.

Website owners often lack SEO and web marketing skills, and therefore find it hard to solve conversion-related problems. Even if the website has high traffic because of good rankings in organic search engines, a poor conversion rate alone can turn a good ranking/traffic success into a failure. How many SEO clients  complain of failing to achieve a reasonable ROI after an SEO campaign?

This tutorial aims to educate any website owners experiencing a problem with a low and unacceptable conversion rate. By following the techniques illustrated in this tutorial, any webmaster or web site owner can increase conversion rates without diving into highly technical details or spending thousands by hiring a consultant.

The conversion rate is defined as:

Conversion rate (measured in %) = Number of Successes / Total number of website unique visitors

The “number of successes” depends on the specific online enterprise. For an online bookstore, it may mean the number of books sold in a given month. For an e-commerce website selling movie downloads, it may mean the number of movie downloads the site experiences in the entire month.

You should define what constitutes a “success” for your website. By clearly and objectively defining a success, the conversion rate problem maybe easier to solve.

How much conversion is enough?

One of the most frequently asked questions is "How high of a conversion rate is considered OK?" The best answer is that your conversion rate should be high enough for your venture to stay profitable. It can only be 1% or 3%, or you may need a 20% conversion rate to be profitable.

Of course the higher the rate you actually achieve, the better, but a zero conversion rate is definitely not good. Think carefully about your conversion rate if you believe it is an issue, because it is often NOT the real problem. See this financial equation:

Total $ profit in month = Total sales in month – Total operating cost

Where:

Total sales in month = Total unique visitors x Conversion rate x Average dollars per sale

If you are believe that a low conversion rate causes you to have a low profit every month, it might not be the real problem. No matter how high your conversion rate, IF:

  • Your total number of unique visitors is extremely low, you might not get a profitable number of conversions. You might need to review your targeted keywords, or your website may lack the content to attract long tail traffic. Consider adding content on a periodic basis.

  • You are pricing your goods too low compared to what is considered profitable and competitive, you are going to have a problem making a profit. Consider looking at how your competitors price the item and decide on the most competitive pricing, not necessarily aiming for the bottom.

  • You have an extremely high operating cost, it’s going to eat into your profits. Consider looking at your expenses and double checking the real value before you spend money on something for your business. Is it really a good financial decision to go for dedicated hosting at the early stage of your business? Do you really need to spend money on a monthly office rental, or can you use your home? These basic questions are easier to solve than the real website conversion rate problem because these are non-technical questions which most website owners can handle, and the financial savings can increase the overall website profit.

  

When you are finally convinced that a low conversion rate is the real problem affecting the website’s profitability, do a baseline measurement before diving into the details. In this case, spend at least three months measuring the actual conversion rate before you do something to improve it.

If you have this data before you start your analysis, the process will go much more smoothly. You can use Google Analytics to measure your conversion rate. You can set up the tracking on your own by following this tutorial

You can also measure your conversion rate manually, provided you have the following very important data:

  • Total unique visitors (coming from search engines, direct and referral traffic).

  • Total sales for the month (from your online sales monitoring system).

Once you have the baseline measurement, for example a 0.5% conversion rate average for the entire three month period, you can proceed to the next step.

The content and your reputation

Ask yourself this question: am I providing my potential customers with the content they need? Even if you think you are, sadly, what you’re providing still might not be good enough. Say, for example, that you are selling widgets. Put on your customer hat and answer the following questions as honestly as possible. 

  1. Do you have pictures of your widgets on your site?

  2. Are you providing accurate prices for your widgets?

  3. Do you have a legal license to sell widgets?

  4. Are you transparent to your potential visitors? This is the customer service aspect, which is very important. This means, can they contact you by mail, visit your office if you have one, ask questions and get answers immediately, or even see your face online?

  5. Are you providing ACCURATE and SUBSTANTIAL information about your widgets? How much can they get for the price they pay?

  6. Are you providing accurate shipping information? When can they receive it if they order it now? Do you only serve particular territories within a region, or entire countries?

  7. Do you have terms and conditions pertaining to your widgets?

  8. Is the font size of your widget-related content VERY clear? Some websites use a small font or an extremely large font. Either one can seem very discouraging to read.

  9. Here is the most important thing: can your customers clearly see the “Buy Now” button for every product on your website?

  10. Are you writing content with respect to your visitor’s point of view? It is more appropriate to say: “Why should you buy from us?” than "Why are we the number one supplier?" Stressing the "we" too much connotes self-centered service. Focus on using “you,” which your customers can highly relate to with respect to their own intention of visiting the website.

I recommend spending one day on this, reflecting deeply on the questions above. Consider brainstorming with your other team members for more possible input and most importantly, consider reviewing all customer-related inquiries you’re received.

Establish yourself and your business as trusted names in your field. Some easy ways for your site visitors and potential customers to measure this is through testimonials from other customers and the way you explain your services/products. These are all reflected in your site’s content. Register with professional associations in your niche and provide easy ways for customers to contact you.

You will notice that once the overall content has improved, you will receive more customer inquiries, and most importantly, an increase in conversion.

Now that you have improved the content aspect of your website, it is time to look into other important factors that can affect your conversion rate. One factor is how your website is presented technically. Consider reflecting on the following questions below:

  • How long, on average, does it take your website to load? Scientific studies have shown that you will lose one third of your website visitors if your site takes more than eight seconds to load. Consider improving your website’s loading time by cutting it as low as possible.

  • Do you use intensive flash and JavaScript technology to display content? Not all users have the time to upgrade flash or even upgrade browsers. If you can display your content as technically simple as possible, then it can be accessed easily by almost all visitors, which can improve your conversion rate substantially.

  • Do you have friendly website navigation? I have observe a lot of commercial websites, even recently, that do not have a link going back to the home page. Or they do not have a “contact” link clearly visible on their pages. Much worse, there are websites that do not provide a back button or even hyperlinks that will always open in a new window. It is very confusing to navigate.

  • Do you have technical features that provide security? Adding SSL to check-out pages or providing features that protect users’ privacy is essential.


A conversion funnel is the number of steps your potential customer will go through to complete the transaction or sale. For example, say you have the following conversion steps:

Step 1: Lands on the home page

Step 2: Visitor clicks “Red widget” category

Step 3: Visitor clicks “Special product widget in red widget category.”

Step 4: Visitor clicks “Buy now” button in the special product widget.

Step 5: Visitor registers by entering his/her name, address, etc. on the customer registration form.

Step 6: Visitor checks his/her email to verify the registration process.

Step 7: Visitor returns to your website to enter credit card details.

Step 8: Visitor enters shipping information.

Step 9: Visitor finally becomes a customer.

The example above is a  nine-step conversion funnel. Unfortunately, the conversion funnel is a reverse pyramid. This means that a lot of customers enter it at first, and then gradually you lose some at each step — possibly due to losing patience with the process. See the illustration below:

If you can cut down your conversion steps to as few as possible, you will save a lot of potential customers. The ideal conversion steps are as follows:

Step 1: Present your visitor directly with the “Buy now” button for your most important products/services. Put this on the most-viewed landing pages, typically the home page.

Step 2: Present terms and conditions.

Step 3: Check out.

The check out may constitute directly inputting credit card details. A three-step process is quick, increases your conversion rate, and makes your customer happy at the same time.

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