July 30, 2008
By Karon Thackston © 2008, All Rights Reserved
The question is a rather odd one: "What's your conversion rate?" The correct response would be another question: "Which conversion rate?" What most people are really asking is how many sales have you made? But the sales process – in almost all cases – takes more than one step.
Most online businesses have several conversion rates. With certain exceptions, there are multiple steps from getting a visitor to click from the search engine results page (SERP) to ultimately making the decision to buy your products or services, make a donation, subscribe to your site, etc.
Fact is, every step in between can be viewed as a conversion. And each of these micro-conversions can reveal interesting information about your sales path and how well it is functioning.
Page Titles and Descriptions
Using an e-commerce site as our example, let's start with the page title and description that the search engines use in the SERPs. You control both of these and can make them say practically anything you want. The first conversion you encounter involves getting prospects to notice your title and description in the SERPs and click through to your site. The only way to do this is through the copy you write for those two tags. There are no graphics in SERPs for web page results (only for video and/or image results) and you have no control over font size or color. It's all about the words.
While there are lots of ways to drive people to your website, when you're talking about organic or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising you have to get people to click your listing in order to start the ball rolling. If you aren't getting clickthroughs (conversions from the engine results to your landing page), you need to rework and test these two tags.
Home Page/Landing Page
If you have a true landing page (a page specifically created for people to land on after clicking a PPC ad that coordinates with the PPC ad), this may be your last conversion point. In the most organic sense of the phrase, a PPC ad is laser targeted to one product or service. The associated landing page is also laser targeted to provide the details of that one product or service. The visitor either buys or she doesn't.
Most people, however, aren't using true landing pages. That leaves home pages and a host of other types of pages that are meant to serve as landing page surrogates. This means that when someone clicks your listing on the SERP and winds up on your home page, they now face another choice: Where to go from here.
This is a second conversion point. Is your copy doing its job? Are people dumping out of your home page? If so, why? Were the title and description misleading? Perhaps what you sell is subject to personal preference. After all, "solid redwood planter boxes" don't all look alike. It could be the visitor didn't care for the style of planters you offered. It could be that your copy didn't do a good job of describing the product or service, or that it left out vital information like "free shipping," etc. Maybe you're cursed by being in an industry that has an overabundance of tire kickers.
You are likely to have numerous conversion rates that result from visitors leaving your home page and clicking deeper into the site. Is the conversion from the home page to the "oak landscaping beams" page higher than the planters? Compare the two pages. Are they designed the same? Have similar copy? Whatever the reason, test to see how changes to copy affect the conversions from this page.
Are you using true landing pages in conjunction with your PPC campaign? (You really should have a separate landing page designed and written specifically for each product/service you advertise.) If so, your testing will be more focused because there's only one product or service involved.
Individual Products and Services
The further you get into the belly of a site, the more specific everything gets. Keywords get more descriptive, product and service details are more precise, and sales or other related actions become the primary conversion.
When you get to this level, it's easier to determine the conversion rate because a sale has occurred. This is the one conversion rate most people rely on. As you can see, however, all the steps beforehand are vital to getting people to this moment in time. If one is out of sync, the process can potentially shut down.
When you test your copywriting, take it one conversion point at a time. As you perfect each step, you'll begin to notice that the entire process gets smoother. You'll also notice that the final step – making the sale – comes more easily than ever before.
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