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Increasing Traffic Conversion Rates

Jan 7, 2008
The conversion rate describes the percentage of visitors taking action on a website.
Usually this action will be making a purchase; but conversion rates can and should be calculated for any action item on a website, e.g. subscribing to a newsletter or filling out an inquiry form.

Conversion science is a hot trend in Internet Marketing that has long been neglected when online marketers primarily focused on the acquisition of traffic through search engine optimization and other online marketing techniques to improve visibility of websites on the Internet.

Research (e.g. by Forrester Research among others) has shown that conversion rates average at about 2% on retail websites.

While it is increasingly difficult to acquire traffic through organic search results, paid traffic remains the only choice for many website operators. Understanding the factors that turn casual visitors into paying customers hence becomes a crucial success factor.

While every business will require a different minimum conversion rate to be viable, here are some of the factors that generally influence the conversion rate:

1. Search Behavior - the more targeted the search or online marketing technique that brought a visitor to your website in the first place, the more likely that she is a qualified potential customer. While we cannot influence the search behavior of our visitors we can create specific content that will attract targeted visitors.

2. Products and Services - even the most sophisticated website will not produce a significant conversion rate if the products and services offered are lame and not in demand.

3. User interface and ease of use - a website, at the end of the day, is a user interface. The success of Google many times has been attributed to the fact that it is one of the world's easiest-to-use sites. In reality, fine-tuning the user interface of a website usually comes along with company size. Most Internet entrepreneurs would rather go for quantity than quality and rather bash out a new site then optimizing an existing one, which certainly is not the most useful trend that we can see on the Internet.

A lot of research has already been done on usability and there are two schools evolving - Andrew Goodman calls these schools the 'Economists' and the 'Ideologues'. Economists proclaim the removal of any undue barriers to commerce as the way to increase conversion rates. Ideologues on the other hand highlight the need to convince or persuade potential customers to buy products through sales copy, psychological triggers and other emotional elements. The truth lies, as in so many cases, somewhere in the middle. On the one hand a website has to be fully functional and working smoothly (Economists), on the other hand a site also has to attract and convince (Ideologues).

4. Content - 'Content is King' in web design, because content is what search engines rank web sites for. Copywriting is art and beyond the scope of this article, however a common misunderstanding appears to be that the best copy is brief. So, many times we come to a page, hardly any copy and only a web form to fill out. Most people in fact would not fill out that form, because they seek more information before taking action like filling out an inquiry form.

5. Credibility of your website - we can pretend to be anyone on the Web, therefore we sometimes call the Internet the 'great equalizer'. The flip side is how to generate credibility. Stanford research has come up with a long list of how to create credible websites. Among highest ranking items on the list is a physical address, a contact telephone number, professional design, testimonials and incoming links. In fact, anything that renders 'the intangible more tangible' will add to a site's credibility.

There are arguably hundreds of factors influencing the conversion rate, many of which are not even fully controllable or even contradictory. We will never know what the conversion rate of our site will be unless we launch our site and start receiving traffic. And this is where the probably most practicable recommendation comes in: Build a website with a clear goal in mind - What do you want your visitors to do on your website?
About the Author
Poyel Nelson makes a good living from the web. Make Money Online
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