Conversion Optimization 101

  |  August 9, 2010   |  Comments

Four things you can do to keep a balance between driving traffic and conversions.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of fine tuning your site so that you increase the amount of leads and/or sales on your website while reducing your bounce rate. You might have an excellent PPC or SEO campaign that is driving a lot of traffic to your site. But if that traffic isn’t performing the way you intended, then your campaigns are essentially useless. In the Internet marketing world there are two variables that you should always keep in balance - driving traffic and conversions. They go hand in hand in helping to meet your overall site performance goals.


Many people focus on just driving traffic exclusively at the expense of the user conversion. You need to have a balanced effort on both variables. Let’s look at some things you can do to balance out the equation and make sure you are helping your visitors accomplish their objectives, which in turn will help you accomplish yours.

Understand Your Goals

You really cannot begin to optimize for conversions if you don’t understand clearly what your site’s strategy and goals are. Hopefully, when you designed your site you decided ahead of time what your goals and objectives were and then designed accordingly. If I gave you 20 seconds to clearly state your website strategy, could you do it? If not, you may want to revisit and get this step down so it's very clear to you and your team.


With this first step clearly defined, you need to set up your analytics to measure your goals and strategic behavioral steps your visitors should take. Pick your favorite Web analytics tool and set this up. Now, start testing to establish a baseline conversion rate for each goal. With this you should have the basis to determine what you need to do to improve overall conversions.

Understand that Web analytics by itself is not the answer. You need to learn how to interpret the data and better understand human behavior. Additionally, you should analyze your user segments and learn how they interact with your site. Then find ways to enhance the user experience for each segment. Finally, follow through to sales or your conversion point. As you do this, consider what value you're really offering your visitors. What is your value proposition? What makes you unique from the competition?

A Process for Testing

The next important concept is that conversion optimization isn't just about testing, but a process for testing over time. Just checking in now and then isn’t enough. You need to develop a clear systematic process for how and what to test with the specific goal to improve your conversion rate over a period of time. Studying human behavior takes time and you need to allow for trend and other data points to manifest themselves. So sit down with your team and identify the many variables that affect conversion rate. Some of these might include:

  • User interface
  • Clear navigation
  • Call to action
  • Clear headlines
  • Compelling and unique site content
  • Offers and giveaways

Now set up a process to systematically test these in order of priority. Once you feel they are all performing well, start the process again to attempt further gains. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Conversion Funnel Strategy

With your goals clearly in mind and a process for testing, you should now have a good idea what your conversion funnel looks like. It might look like the sample illustration below. Now outline the behavioral steps you would like for your visitors to take that lead to a conversion. By doing this you should be able to test each step in the process to see if your visitors are making it all the way through. Are they getting hung up somewhere along the line? If so, what course correction can you make to help them over the obstacle?


Visualize Visitor Success

Have you ever had an experience where you came to a site and the content seemed to lead you down a specific path and seemed to read your mind? Wasn’t that a great experience? That's what you want to provide to your visitors. Visualize in your mind and utilize your process for optimizing this kind of experience for your visitors. You'll find that conversion comes easy when you anticipate and then deliver on their needs.

To learn more about this topic and read up on some case studies, take a look at Paras Chopra’s article on “Lessons Learned from 21 Case Studies in Conversion Rate Optimization."

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Ron Jones

Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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