One of the biggest mistakes I see website owners make is focusing so much on the search engines that they miss out on what matters most. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is one of the things they miss by putting all of their efforts into ranking well in the search engines.
"A beautiful website that can't close sales is worthless, while an ugly website that does make sales gets prettier by the dollar."
I'm not saying go out and build an ugly website. That won't help your conversion rates. But, there are a lot of things to consider besides SEO.
One of the problems is that business owners are so pleased when their website ranks high in Google and other search engines that service providers put all of their efforts into SEO to have a happy client.
What good is a number 1 ranking in Google if the website isn't making any sales?
Just because the customer doesn't realize that rankings is not the only thing to focus on, that doesn't mean the service provider shouldn't inform them about things like Conversion Rate Optimization.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Anything that improves the conversion rate of your website, landing pages and blog whether offsite or onsite. Your conversion rate is the number of conversions on a web page, (whether that be a phone call, filling out a form, downloading something, joining, subscribing or buying something, whatever the purpose that page was built to achieve) divided by the number of unique visitors to a page of your website.
So, if you have 100 unique visitors to that page and 3 people take the action you wanted them to take, your conversion rate is 3%.
How Do I Improve My Conversion Rates?
As I said above; there are a lot of ways to improve conversion rates. Far too many for just one post, but here are a few things that will help you see the bigger picture.
Good Planning will improve your conversion rates
Most business owners are convinced that the first step to building an online business is building a website. It isn't.
Don't create a marketing plan for your website. Create a Website that fits into your marketing plan.
Some people will ask what these things have to do with conversion rate optimization. Trust me. Each step in building your online business will affect your conversion rates.
Choosing the right platform will help with conversion rates
Don't just pick a platform for your website by what the web designer likes to use. Just because the designer likes Wordpress, HTML, Ruby on Rails, Joomla or whatever doesn't mean it's the best platform for your website.
Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages, but the platform should be chosen to fit the needs of your online business, not on which one is somebody's favorite platform to work on.
What are those needs?
- Are you going to sell directly to customers through an online store?
- Are you going to offer memberships?
- Are you going to have a social aspect to your site like a forum, blog or social network?
- What kind of information will you want to collect about your customers?
There are a lot of things I could include in this list, but every business is unique. list the things that are important to your business and make sure you're choosing the best platform for those features.
Where will you get your traffic from?
Yes, before building the website, you should consider how you will market your business and where. We know the search engines will be one source of traffic, but SEO comes later. We also know you'll need to do some social media marketing, but that's a general term.
- Are you going to do focus on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest,YouTube, Twitter, Google+, or adopt some all of the above strategy?
- Are you also going to work on sites like Tumblr, Reddit and Quora?
- Are you going to use citations or local business directory listings?
- Are you going to distribute press releases and submit other content to other websites?
How does that affect Conversion Rate Optimization?
Knowing who you are marketing to and the best places to connect with them is the most important factor to Conversion Rate Optimization. In those places, you are starting the conversation. On your web pages, you are continuing the conversation. You can't know how to continue the conversation if you don't even know how it's going to start.
Not because it's pretty. People put more trust into a professional looking website, but more than that, there are specific things the design needs to accomplish.
- Your logo - is important for your branding. People will need to recognize it on social media websites, directories and wherever else you talk about your business.
- The top image - In most sites these days, there is either a large slider with multiple images or one large image at the top of at least the home page. Pretend your visitor can't read for a minute. Does that image tell them they are in the right place for what they searched for?
- Other images - If a visitor lands on an interior page of your website rather than the home page, do the images achieve the same thing as on the home page?
Search Engine Optimization is essential for improving conversion rates
SEO should be part of the web design process. Hiring someone to optimize your website after it's designed is more costly and more time consuming.
The process most companies end up using is; Choose a designer, build a pretty website, start doing social media, then; "Hey! Why aren't we ranking in google and why aren't we making any sales?"
Then, go out and hire an SEO expert to do what could have been done from the start and hire a social media expert to figure out why you're not getting enough traffic, then finally hiring a conversion optimization specialist to figure out why you're not closing sales.
Choosing a web development company that understands SEO, Web Design, Programming, and Conversion Optimization will help your online business be more successful from the day your website is launched and help you avoid all of those pitfalls.
How does SEO affect conversion rates?
Like with social media, the conversation starts on the search engine, then the conversation is continued on the web page your potential customer lands on.
The conversation - Your potential customer types something into the search engine. They see your Pay-Per-Click ad (PPC like Adwords) or the title and description of your website in the search results.
If the title of either of those is closely related to what they searched for, they are more likely to click on your link.
By making sure you target the right keywords and creating great ads as well as effective and unique titles for each page of your website, you've already started to improve your conversion rates. Good SEO achieves that for you.
So, what they typed into the search engine was the hello part of the conversation. Clicking your link is the handshake and the question; What do you have for me? or How are you going to solve my problem?
Great SEO includes Great Content. When they land on your web page, are you continuing the conversation from that point?Or are you doing what 90% of new online businesses are doing?
Welcome to our website! We are the number 1 leading most recognized tier 1 leading best thing since sliced bread company. Just look at all the awards we've won! Read our testimonials!
That means you started a conversation with a potential customer and then began by bragging about yourself. They asked how you can help them or what you had for them. They didn't ask you to tell them more about yourself.
You know that page you see on most websites? The one that's titled About Us? Yeah, that's where all that stuff goes. If they click that link, they are asking you to tell them more about yourself.
Only insecure people brag. And people don't buy from insecure salespeople. They buy from confident salespeople.
So how do I continue the conversation?
If you know the keywords people searched for and you know what type of content you are going to share on social media, you know how the conversation begins.
Every page is a possible landing page. Every page should have a specific purpose for being there.
For you that might be to get them to subscribe or join, buy something, download something in return for their info, or whatever the purpose you chose for that page.
But what's in it for them? Wherever the conversation started, a search engine, a business directory, or on social media, your content needs to answer the question you got them to ask. What do you have for me? How are you going to solve my problem?
If you successfully answer that question, you will improve your conversion rates.
Like with the search engines, social media is where the conversation starts. But, with social media you get to chat with your potential customers a lot more before sending them to your landing page.
There are people and companies that use social media for selling without having a blog, but content marketing makes social media marketing a lot easier.
So, I'll start by assuming you are going to do content marketing along with social media. Think of yourself as the publisher of a great magazine that helps people find what they are searching for, teaches them something, solves problems for them, tells them stories, or entertains them.
A print magazine produces content, has it printed to make it look nice, then sends the magazines out on trucks to be distributed at stores, newsstands, etc.
The content you write in your blog is your magazine. Adding images and other features to your content makes it look nice, then social media and the search engines are where you distribute your magazine.
Large appealing images and compelling summaries improve the click-thru rate for what you post on social media. And just like with search engines, improving your click-thru rate improves sales, but only IF you continue the conversation as suggested.
The pieces of the conversion optimization puzzlePeople tend to take each piece as something separate.
- How am I doing with my Facebook marketing?
- How about our Twitter campaign?
- How are we doing on [Insert other social network here]?
- How are we ranking in the search engines?
- Are we making any money with our PPC campaign?
You've probably been in that meeting. Each of those things, and other individual pieces of the puzzle are important, but looking at the pieces without seeing the whole puzzle isn't going to help you succeed.
In just one post, I can't possibly cover everything involved with conversion optimization. But if you take one thing away from this post, I'd like it to be this.
Focus on the bigger picture that the pieces will eventually put together, not just on the pieces themselves. If you are having the conversation, then you will convert more sales.
Chris McElroy doesn't know everything, but he knows how to sell. So add some tips on conversion optimization by making a comment here. It's a big topic.