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If you own, operate or market a business website, you're no doubt well aware of the fact that the conversion rate is a very important parameter governing how profitable your website actually is. Traffic is all well and good, but if nobody buys the widgets you're selling, or picks up the phone as a result of what they've read, then what's the point? You're running a business after all, not a lending library.
As I always say about my own business: I'd rather have 10 people come to my website and 9 sign up, than 10,000 people coming to my website and only 8 sign up!
What is the Conversion Rate for a Website?
In simple internet marketing terms, the conversion rate for a website is defined as the number of conversions per visitor reaching the site, shown as a percentage. Conversions can be any actions that you as the website owner consider to be beneficial. For instance for an eCommerce website, a sale can be treated as a conversion (obviously), while for an informational site offering email newsletter subscriptions, a visitor subscribing to the newsletter can be a conversion.
What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a method of increasing the percentage of visitors reaching a website who either buy something from the site or take some other action that is considered to be beneficial to the site owner. Just like Search Engine Optimisation may be thought of as part art and part science, so to with Conversion Rate Optimisation. Which, when done well, will significantly improve a website's turnover.
What are the Benefits of CRO?
While the benefits of CRO should be fairly obvious to any entrepreneur or small business owner, let me quantify them in more detail to help put things in the correct perspective.
Generally speaking, the cost of operating a website should remain more or less constant regardless of the conversion rate it achieves. So far as traffic is concerned, a website is likely to receive:
Traffic that is referred from another website can be free (someone links from their website to yours because they like your content) or it can come at a price (paid advertising on someone else's site that incorrectly comes into your Google analytics as referred traffic, even though it's technically paid traffic).
Traffic generated via paid advertising obviously costs money (because you're paying per click or impression) and getting organic search traffic in any volume requires an over-arching SEO strategy driving it (which naturally costs money too, as you need to hire a SEO Company to get the first page results you require).
So for this example, let's assume that a website selling products online spends $1,000 per month on paid advertising and $1,000 per month on SEO services. And let's further imagine (for easy math) that it averages about 1,000 unique visitors per day. Next, let us assume that the average transaction value for the website is $50. And finally, let's say that it has a conversion rate of 1% (i.e. one out of every 100 visitors buys from the site).
Given the above scenario, the site would average 10 sales per day. And with the average transaction value of $50, it would gross $500 per day or $15,000 per month in sales (on a 30 day month). Now let's see what would happen if the conversion rate of the site gets increased from 1% to 1.5%. When this happens the gross monthly income generated by the website would jump from $15,000 to $22,500 straight away, with the exact same operating cost of $2,000. So that's a $7,500 per month or a $90,000 per year increase in annual turnover - WITHOUT GETTING A SINGLE ADDITIONAL PERSON TO YOUR SITE PER MONTH.
How to Optimise Conversion Rates
As mentioned earlier, CRO is part art and part science, and there are many different ways in which it can be implemented and practiced. Unlike SEO (where the same general principles would largely work across different sites), the process of CRO depends more heavily upon factors like the nature of the site, the demographics of the target audience it caters to, what is the preferred action or the conversion measurement criteria for the site etc. However there are some CRO factors that can generally work across a broad spectrum of websites, with a reasonable assurance of positive, beneficial results. Some of these commonly applicable CRO factors are covered below:
Craft Your Copy to Convert
Persuasive and professional copywriting is a panacea for increasing your conversion optimisation, and has been tested and proven time and again to significantly increase conversions. If your website copy connects with your target audience and offers them a solution to their needs, more of them will convert.
Move Your Website to HTTPS
Although more and more internet users are growing comfortable using their credit card online, the security of such information still continues to remain a strong deterrent for a significant percentage of internet users when it comes to online shopping. Assuring website visitors that it is safe to buy via your website by converting it from HTTP to HTTTS is not only a ranking factor in Google, it is a great way of assuring your clients that any financial and personal information they provide via your website is 100% secure. Which has a positive impact on your website's conversion rates.
Put the Human Back in the Loop
No matter how trustworthy a site has been designed to be, there will still be a percentage of visitors (especially older visitors) who just won't put in their card or bank information online. People as the old saying goes, like buying from people. So put a human back in the loop by providing an option (like 'live chat' for example), as this is a great way to increase conversion rates. A live chat service on a site will often help walk people through to the checkout and thus boost the site's conversion rate.
Increase Your Website's Loading Speed
People are busy and easily distracted, and a slow loading website or web page is often the hidden factor that's killing your site's SEO. Google recommends that each page load in less than 2 seconds. So test your site's load speed, and if it isn't up to snuff, you can expect to lose people across your entire website. From the home page to the checkout the rule of thumb is: the longer the page takes to load, the less people remain on that page.
Redesign Your Website
If your website is outdated or difficult to navigate, or if the UX (User Experience) is frustrating because the visitor just can't find what they're looking for, then you need to bite the bullet and get yourself a new website designed. Because a professionally designed small business website does wonders to your conversion rates. Think of it like two sales guys walk into your store, and one is clean shaven and dressed in a $10,000 Tom Ford Suit, and one has a five o'clock shadow and wears ripped shorts and a sweaty singlet. Which do you think you're most likely to buy from?
As that time honoured old saying goes: 'You only get one chance to make a first impression'. What impression is YOUR website giving your brand?
The Ecommerce Bermuda Triangle
For an eCommerce website, the checkout page is the final step between success and failure, between a completed sale and a lost sale. It's into this 'Bermuda Triangle' that many a potential buyer goes...and is never seen or heard of again.
It has been proven time and again that if you provide visitors – or buyers – with too many ways to navigate away from the checkout page, a percentage of them will do exactly that – navigate away. Which results in lost sales. So keep the checkout page distraction free and help your customers remain 'on-point', will significantly boost conversions
Conversion Rate Optimisation - Hire a Professional and do it Right
These are but a few ways in which effective CRO can be implemented. As mentioned above, there exist scores of other CRO methods and techniques, each one of which can contribute towards an increase in a website's conversion rate to varying extents. A truly knowledgeable and competent web marketing / SEO professional can help you to increase your website's Conversion Rate Optimisation.
Brian M Logan is an on-line marketing, SEO and copywriting expert with over 15 years' experience in the web and over 20 years' experience with the written word.