I'll be willing to bet that when you hear internet marketing related terms like SEO, SEM, PPC, etc, you don't think of conversion optimization. And vice versa, when you hear talk of e-commerce conversion improvements, you may not think of internet marketing. If you do, then bravo!...you're ahead of the pack. If not, that's ok, but you may want to read on for some reasons why you should be integrating them.

Even though conversion optimization is not technically part of the internet marketing, we always recommend that companies integrate it with SEO and PPC efforts on an ongoing basis. Why's that? Well, let me answer that by asking another question: What's the use of  getting a ton of traffic to your site, if it doesn't impact your bottom line, or your clients' bottom line? That would be a blatant waste of time, money, and other resources. Whether the goal is sales, new clients, or simply lead generation, it's essential to tightly integrate conversion optimization within your SEO and/or PPC strategies. 

What Exactly Is Conversion Optimization?

In a nutshell, Conversion Optimization is the process of making it easier for the users to buy from you (or whatever other conversion goal you have, whether it be filling out a contact form, etc). Don't worry, starting to improve the conversion-friendliness of your site is easier than you think. Let's take a look at some of the steps in the process and how they can integrate with your search marketing campaigns and strategy.

Step 1: Understand and Improve Usability

Before anyone will want to buy from you, they need to feel comfortable at your site. Take a look at some of the following tips to help make a site more user friendly:

  • Think like a user. Step out of your company mindset for a moment...how would the user feel about this site?
  • How would a new user rate your navigation? Useful? Useless? Easy to navigate? Difficult? Navigation is one of the foundational elements of usability so spend some time making this work for site visitors. The rule of thumb is to make sure navigation gets people to where they want to go in 3 clicks or less.
  • Remove barriers to either conversion or users finding what they need. Is there anything in your site that makes it awkward or difficult to proceed? Fix it.
  • Are the visuals pleasant or do they assault your eyes? Fix it.
  • Study well-executed competitor sites or those with similar functionality to find features you should be using.
  • When it comes to e-commerce usability, Amazon.com is the leader. When lost for ideas, visit their site, and other strong sales sites. It will be sure to spark something.
  • One thing Amazon doesn't do perfectly, that you should: Use Search Engine Friendly and User Friendly URL's so visitors can bookmark pages they like and come back. Example of Friendly URL: http://www.yoursite.com/this-is-a-friendly-url.php - Example of Unfriendly URL: http://www.yoursite.com/page.php?section=books&product=89403&q=75839

Step 2: Find Ways to Build Trust

Before people will spend money with you, they need to trust you. Some things to check for on your site:

  • Basic trust-building elements like secure lock icons and "secure ordering" verbage on your shopping cart pages. You'd be surprised and how many shopping cart programs don't come with these out of the box.
  • Another no-brainer, but for your shopping cart it's important to make sure your site uses standard e-commerce security features such as SSL encryption for processing orders, and appropriate security certificates that are up to date and work on all browsers. One mistake is that companies sometimes forget to renew certificates, and they expire without them even knowing it. This is more common when there has been a series of web development teams working on the site over time, and information gets lost along the way. With all the identity theft issues people deal with today, they don't want to send their credit card info over an unsecured connection, so make sure this is in order.
  • Do you have warranty or product guarantee info that the users would love to know about? Do you have any other features or services that make you stand out among competitors? Make sure potential customers/clients know about these, not only on your site, but also in your paid ads. For example, if you have an industry-leading warranty or feature, make sure that there it's shown prominently (and tastefully) on your site, and also in your paid ads. Not only will the customers convert at a higher rate (from all traffic sources), but if you mention this in your PPC ads it will also increase your click-through rates. This is one example of the value of integration. 

Step 3: Help Users Find Other Products to Buy

This may sound obvious, but make it easier for users to spend money at your site! Just like the "impulse buy" sections right by the checkout counters in many stores, install modules that show other items the user can buy once they've added products to the cart, or while they are viewing other products.

Options include:
 
  • Popular products / top sellers
  • Featured products you want to let customers know about
  • Other items also purchased by those who bought that particular item (similar interests)
  • Accessories that go with that product, etc.

Don't Know Where to Start?

Remember that marketing is about communication.

If you're stumped for where to start, simply start asking customers or clients for feedback. If you're really motivated, hold some focus groups. See what they think would make your site better, easier to use, and build more trust. You can gather some incredibly valuable data by talking to the people in your target audience.

Dial-In Your Content

Once you do start to get a handle on this, it's important to continually dial in your page content, titles, and META descriptions to more closely follow the mind of your target audience. Sometimes these changes can result in an immediate and large boost in traffic, even though most of the time it's slow growth. Often as we've done research for clients and discovered that we either need to use an alternate phrase from what they initially thought, or added a strategic word or two to the page titles, we've seen traffic and sales jump very quickly after executing the change.

Continually Improve Your Understanding of Your Audience

After you've spent some time improving the conversion-friendliness of your site, and learning how your users think, you'll start to know better how to improve your campaign strategies for organic search optimization and PPC. For example, are you finding out that there are certain phrases that a searcher is more likely to use? Often what you initially think they would search for is very different from what they actually search for, so it's important to do your competitive market and keyword research on an ongoing basis.

Also, review your contact form submissions and customer service calls. Find out what kinds of words and phrases people are using. This may give you some additional clues as to what kinds of terms and phrases to target. Find out what kinds of questions people are asking, because these may result from weaknesses in the site. For example if there is a common question that comes up, it may be a question your site should be answering but isn't.

One client site we did this with provides an interesting example: By noticing a common question that kept popping up, we created a module to answer that on the product pages. The conversion rate instantly went up by about 50%, along with sales. Also, by adding this information to the page in a search engine friendly manner, the pages started ranking better for some important phrases and terms, driving more traffic to the site, which in turn drove even more sales. If that's not a case for integration of conversion optimization and internet marketing, then I don't know what is! 

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

This is an ongoing process, not a one-time deal. Keep working through the process throughout the life of your site, and with each cycle, it will get better and better. I'm confident that the more you do this, the more you'll see the value of integrating conversion optimization into your internet marketing strategy.
July 30, 2008





Scott is the CEO and founder of Red Sand Marketing, a San Diego SEO and web design firm. A dynamic mix of marketer, designer, and developer, he thrives on all aspects of internet marketing and web development. Having been involved in search engine optimization and web design since 1996, he and his team consistently achieve top search engine rankings for clients in competitive markets, and have won multiple web design awards along the way.






Comments(8)

A good article, Scott, and one that should get widely viewed. I personally think conversion optimization should certainly be part even of SEO. The thoughtless search for a #1 Google ranking is misguided if you can't then make the sale.

As you say, marketing is about communication so CO is an integral part of Internet Marketing, which is the envelope that includes all the slices. We've got to spread the word.

Scott great job. Escpecially true in Ecommerce for small to mid-sized companies. All to often the sited appears to be so multidirectional the end goal is lost. Another observation is that the bigger a company is it seems the less they do as far as SEO.

There are many examples of large company websites out there that are missing key on page optimization elements. The upside for them is the off page optimization is huge.

Don't really understand how you can say that technically conversion optimization is not a part of SEO. The natural response is that technically an authoritative description of the set of techniques that comprise SEO does not exist. Google Analytics can be set up to provide conversion data, the toolbar data could be analyzed to gain insight as to conversion rate as well. Time spent on site, "bounce rate" and other factors are highly relevant to the satisfaction of Google's users, why wouldn't they be search engine ranking factors? SEO is pretty much a soup-to-nuts comprehensive approach to site development and marketing at this point.

@Barry: Thanks, Barry. You make a key point: "The thoughtless search for a #1 Google ranking is misguided if you can't then make the sale." I absolutely agree.

@Mark: Good observations about both small and large companies. I've seen those same trends repeatedly as well. You would expect the smaller companies to have some issues, but I'm continually surprised by the larger companies who don't seem to have a clue. They are missing out on a lot of potential business.

@Joe: Well, technically it isn't part of SEO. Look at the words "Search Engine Optimization" - it means optimizing a site for best possible rankings on a search engine. Of course it's not enough to stop there, but it blows me away how many do. SEO is a subcategory of Internet Marketing, and typically there is segregation between Sales and Marketing in companies both large and small, at least in mindset. Conversion Optimization means you are getting into the sales process and making it better. It's true that Google Analytics has some great conversion and e-commerce tracking but not everyone sets these up or uses them.

I'm a firm believer that Marketing and Sales should be much more integrated and feed data back and forth, staying sync'd up for maximum impact. In my opinion, this is true of Internet Marketing as well.


Great post.

It always amazes me that a business will spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on a website yet never bother to measure how many sales that website is actually bringing in.

In many cases they can be doing well in the search engines, great traffic, have beautifully designed web pages but no one is buying.

You're not spending months and years of your time and thousands of dollars of your hard earned money just to have the satisfaction of being number one on Google.

If your object is to run a profitable business then you must think about how you're going to convert the visitors to your website into real sales.

And that also means having a strategy even BEFORE you begin optimizing for the search engines because you need to target the traffic you can convert into sales.

Kindest regards,
Andrew Cavanagh

Also don't forget to mention oferring customer reviews & ratings,since shoppers are more likely to trust the product feedback of previous customers.

You list some good considerations here, Scott.

I'd like to add that Conversion Optimization is not complete without A/B/n and Multivariate testing. Making "improvements" to your site experience without testing is still guesswork.

We've seen many tests, in fact, where "obvious" improvements actually hurt the conversion rate and less obvious changes made huge sales and lead-generation improvements.

There are lots of case studies here:
http://www.widerfunnel.com/proof/case-studies

Chris

I always believe that testing cannot give you 100% accurate results. Suppose if we are testing two pages with different content and there are equal 10 visit on both pages. Suppose if 6 people decided to by form first page and 3 form second page, it doesn't precisely say that the first is best for conversion. We have to look other factors for it like the visitor willingness to buy the product, the buyers budget, the buyers intention etc, the buyers mode at that time, the buyers internet speed etc the list endless I hope you understand what i mean.

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Search Engine Guide > Scott Allen > Conversion Optimization Part of Internet Marketing? If Not, It Should Be!