Conversion Optimisation: A simple, pragmatic approach to increasing sales online.

It’s surprising how many companies in South Africa are not yet clued up with what they should really be doing online. Apart from everyone jumping into bed with social media, SEO and PPC experts to get as much traffic to their website as possible, they forget about the last crucial step in their online marketing strategy: turning visitors into sales. I’m not saying that it’s not important to get high quality traffic to your site, but what are those visitors doing when they get there? Does their visit turn into a lead or sale? Are they doing what you actually want them to do? It’s pointless spending all that money if you haven’t thought about the end goal – selling your product.

Understanding your current situation

Let’s assume you’re a marketing manager of a big brand in South Africa and your company website does fairly well. By “fairly well” I mean your website ranks somewhere on the first page of Google and the quality of traffic you are receiving is resulting in around a 30% bounce rate (visitors who arrive, view one page and leave). Let’s assume that for every 100 visitors to your site, you get around three to five leads. That, Mr Marketing Manager, is substandard. Your website has the potential to reach a conversion rate of up to 20%, so why are you faffing around at 3% to 5%? The opportunity cost is clearly a bit high – I’ll show you how to fix that.

Identifying your goals and getting to grips with the basics

As with every strategy, you need to define a set of goals. However, with conversion optimisation, a “goal” represents a specific action you want users to perform on your site, such as filling in an enquiry form or downloading a brochure. Create a list of the pages that you consider a “conversion”.

For most companies, getting an enquiry through their website can be valuable and can be considered a conversion or goal. On average, every 10 leads should equate to one sale. This is dependent on a number of factors such as your industry, competition, the nature of your product, etc. Along with your list of “conversion” pages, try attributing values to these goals. For example, if your product sells for R1 000 and it takes you 10 leads to make a sale, your value for that goal should be R100. This will help you with reporting and allows you to work backwards to find out which channels produced the most return on investment.

Creating a strategy to reach your goals

At this point it’s important to take note of a few metrics and their meanings before continuing.

  • Conversion rate: The total number of conversions divided by the total number of visitors.
  • Cost per lead: The total cost of the specific campaign divided by the total number of conversions.
  • Landing pages/Pre-sale pages: These are the pages that are instrumental in producing your conversions. Pages such as the “Contact Us” or “Product” page can be considered landing pages.

­Conversion optimisation (which is what you are embarking on) is the process of increasing your conversion rate and subsequently reducing your cost per lead, thereby increasing your return on investment. As fancy as that sounds, it’s really all about common sense and a ton of testing. With the right tools and insight, you can radically improve conversion optimisation.

Most of your strategy should be focused around creating alternative “pre-sale” pages in order to test the effect on your conversion rate. These landing pages need to contain high quality, relevant and well-thought out content and media. The calls-to-action on these pages need to be prominent and produce somewhat intuitive reactions from the user. They need to know what to do next.

Further reading: Smashing Magazine’s article on The Ultimate Guide To A/B Testing by Paras Chopra

There is a vast number of resources online that suggest best practices when it comes to creating landing pages for your products. All of these resources are based on elements that help increase your conversion rate. I’ll be discussing these elements in greater detail in the upcoming weeks. For now, I have listed them with brief descriptions of each.

  • Trust: Does your landing page contain elements of trust? If your visitors are making an online purchase, do you have an SSL certificate? If you do, show them that you do with a badge.
  • Intuitiveness: Do your users intuitively know what to do next? I.e. is your call-to-action prominent and part of the natural flow of the webpage?
  • Imagery: Using the correct images and media plays a major role in conveying your brand message, and how many of your users convert into leads or sales.
  • Content: Is your content of high quality?
  • Calls-to-action: Do you have too many calls-to-action?
  • Layout: Testing different layouts may lead to higher conversion rates.
  • Incentives: Are you incentivising your calls-to-action? E.g. free shipping.
  • Congruency (core value proposition): Is the content on your website all delivering the same message without conflict?
  • Page load speed: Is your excessive page load time tampering with your conversion rate?

These are nine of the many elements that could increase (or decrease) your conversion rate. Finding the right balance between these elements is the key. The only way you’re going to do that is by testing, testing and more testing. You may end up blue in the face, but your ROI will breaking through the clouds.

Further reading: Kiss Metric’s article on 10 Little Known Factors that Affect Your Conversion Rate

 

Tracking and measuring your results

It’s pointless being gung-ho about strategy and then sitting back and hoping for the best. Every scientist needs to track and measure their progress in order to prove their theories. Similarly, there are a number of great tools to use to track and measure your conversions within your website. The three tools I have listed below can help you create the foundation for a winning formula. Used correctly, these tools give extremely insightful information that can help you increase your conversion rate from 3% to over 10% in a matter of weeks. Gets you excited doesn’t it?

Google Analytics

Used to measure traffic, visitor behaviour and to set up goals so that you can track which marketing channels are producing the most ROI.

Google Analytics
Google Analytics

 

ClickTale

This essential tool allows you to record mouse movement, mouse clicks and more. It aggregates all your visitors’ behaviour and supplies you with amazingly insightful reports allowing you to make informed decisions regarding your landing pages and website. My personal favourite functionality is that it allows you to playback visitors’ mouse recordings.

ClickTale
ClickTale

 

Google Website Optimizer

Google Website Optimizer allows you to test various landing pages against each other and provides you with a report on which variation is performing the best.

 Website Optimizer

Website Optimizer

 

Further reading:

Creating a site conversion optimisation strategy by Smart Insights

You’re Only as Good as Your Last Conversion Rate by Unbounce

7 Tips to Convert a Click into a Sale by ClickMaven

 

Resources

Google Analytics – track visitor traffic, behaviour and ROI

Google Website Optimizer – Measure effectiveness of various landing pages

ClickTale – Track mouse movements, clicks and visitor behaviour

ABtests – Library of different theories that have been tested

Secrets of an awesome AdWords Campaign

How many of you actually know that you are running a truly awesome Google AdWords campaign? Not many, I presume. What’s even more frustrating is not being able to benchmark yourself against your competitiors or to be able to see how they’re running their AdWords campaigns and if they’re better than yours. Stop nitpicking and pull yourself together man, just follow these simple instructions below and before you know it your AdWords campaigns will be generating more return on investment than you ever dreamed of.

Split your Search and Display Network

I have seen many companies and individuals make the mistake of grouping the Google Search Network and Google Display Network together in one campaign. This is seriously not ideal as your quality score will be jeopardised due to Google’s Display Network’s inability to generate high CTR’s (this is not necessarily a bad thing – more on this in another article). By creating separate campaigns for both the Google Display Network and the Google Search Network, you are able to target specific areas of interest in a much more controlled environment.

Use Google AdPlanner in conjunction with Google AdWordsGoogle AdPlanner

If you are making use of the Google Display Network in your campaigns, you should be using it in conjunction with Google AdPlanner. Google AdPlanner makes it easy to target websites that are relevant to your areas of focus and allows you to filter your results to further increase the relevancy you are seeking.

Target a specific area

Location TargetingAs simple as this sounds, it can make a huge difference to your stats. Whether you are a company that offers nationwide services or an individual that sells pancakes on the street corner, targeting your specific areas will allow you to identify hot spots and cater for the areas that are lacking in interest.  For the bigger companies, targeting main cities (or even provinces) is a good idea. After a few days, you will notice a trend as to where most of the clicks are originating and at what cost. Use common sense to adjust your budgets and optimise for maximum conversions.

Forget about weekends

Depending on the type of business you are running, it may be a good idea to stop displaying your ads over the weekends. Disable weekends in the campaign settings tab. Its a simple step but can save you a lot of waisted clicks from irrelevant visitors.

Target specific hours of the day

This is another simple step that hardly anyone makes use of though its effectiveness cannot be stressed enough. By making use of data from Google Analytics you can target specific hours of the day whereby you can modify your keyword bids to ensure top placement during these hours. To get this information, go to your Google Analytics Dashboard -> Visitors -> Visitor Trending -> Visits page, click on the “Hour” option (top right of the graph) and ensure that you have the “Paid Search” segment enabled). To adjust your bid settings in your Google AdWords campaign, go to the campaign settings tab and click on the “Ad scheduling” edit link.

Use Ad Extensions

Let’s assume you have a Google Places listing (if you don’t, what is wrong with you?!?). You can link your Google AdWords campaign to the data on your Google Places listing which allows your Ad to display your address in certain instances. Not only can you display your business address to increase ad relevancy, but you can also opt-in to display your business number which can be incredibly handy for users on their mobile phones to make a click to call conversion.

Make use of Keyword Match Types

This is one of the most common functions within Google AdWords that not many amateurs know of and use. Many users just make use of the Broard Match type which is great for targeting every single phrase or keyword that contains your broad match keyword. For example, if you are selling blue boats and you use the keyword boat in your Google AdGroup, you’re not only target blue boats but also red boats, yellow boats, boats under the sea, boat, ship, shipping, shipping company, woman in shipping, sexy woman in shipping… OK OK maybe not that far but you get the picture right? There are 3 other match types that you can use (actually there’s 4, but thats a ‘secret’ for another day). For more information on these match types, check the official Google help page on keyword matching.

And lastly, create a compelling, well structured landing page FFS!

Google Website OptimizerThis is what it all boils down to chaps. At the end of the (PPC) line comes the landing page, the page that makes or breaks a campaign. You can have everything perfectly set up in Google AdWords and direct thousands of relevant users to your website but if you have a sh*t landing page, its all over. Converting users to into sales and leads is part art, part science and a dash of ingenuity. One of the best websites to follow to keep up to date with the trends in the conversion industry is ABTests.com. Remember to keep experimenting on your different landing pages. A great tool to use is Google Website Optimizer which allows you track the differences of your various landing page experiments.

Google Chrome Market Share Increasing in South Africa

When Google first released the Google Chrome web browser, the initial sentiment was neither here nor there. However, times have changed as more and more internet users have converted to this amazingly quick and stable web browser. I have conducted some limited research on the market share relating to web browsers in South Africa.

When Google first released the Google Chrome web browser, the initial sentiment was neither here nor there. However, times have changed as more and more internet users have converted to this amazingly quick and stable web browser. I have conducted some limited research on the market share relating to web browsers in South Africa.

South Africa

This research is based on information aggregated from 2.5 million page views  from 6 different web categories: Entertainment, shopping, travel, kids, blogging and business. These stats are a comparison between the dates Jul 2009 – Dec 2009 to Jan 2010 – Jun 2010.

  • Chrome increased from 5.64% to 8.16% (up 2.52%)
  • Internet Explorer decreased from 70.78% to 69.42% (down 1.36%)
  • Firefox increased from 15.43% to 15.57% (up 0.14%)

As you can see, South African’s are reluctant to let go of Internet Explorer.

Global

This data (from Net Applications) follows the same date range as above, Jul-Dec 2009 to Jan-Jun 2010 and yields similar results.

  • Chrome increased from 3.45% to 6.31% (up 2.86%)
  • Internet Explorer decreased from 65.24% to 60.74% (down 4.50%)
  • Firefox increased from 23.76% to 24.32% ( up 0.56%)
Browser market share Jan-Jun 20101

Google Me, maybe?

There’s been a “bit” of a rumour going around that the search giant Google may have another go at creating a social media platform. We all know that these rumours don’t just randomly appear out of nowhere, and after some research it would appear that a simple tweet has snowballed into a huge media-covered wonder.

GoogleThere’s been a “bit” of a rumor going around that the search giant Google may have another go at creating a social media platform. We all know that these rumours don’t just randomly appear out of nowhere, and after some research it would appear that a simple tweet has snowballed into a huge media-covered wonder.

A tweet originating (and then vanishing) by Digg’s co-founder, Kevin Rose wrote, in part, “huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon ‘Google Me‘, very credible source.” Soon after this was tweeted, the tweet disappeared without an explanation. What makes this even more interesting is that this rumor was apparently confirmed by former Facebook executive, Adam D’Angelo. D’Angelo stated, “This is not a rumor. This is a real project. There are a large number of people working on it. I am completely confident about this.”

Does this mean Google is actually putting in more effort to create the ever elusive Facebook-killer? I sure hope so, but with recent failed products such as Google Wave and the completely dissapointing Google Buzz, I sure hope Google culminates its best efforts to get this done properly. However, it IS evident what Google’s capable of and I’m pretty sure this can actually be achieved if there IS in fact “a large number of people working on it”.

I for one, am not a Facebook fan as I despise having my personal information and pictures stored on a central server. I am however, waiting for the Diaspora launch which is rapidly growing in popularity. If Google can come up with something as secure and catchy, with a little flare I’ll be sure to give it a bash too. Good luck Google, you’ll need it.

What’s all this fuss about Real Time Search?

Using a search engine is the fundamental starting point for discovering the worlds information. Real time search makes this information available quicker than ever before. Google and Bing now bring you the information you are looking for, seconds after it becomes available on the internet. This amazing new innovation is made possible by a simple new concept called PubSubHubbub.

Using a search engine is the fundamental starting point for discovering the worlds information. Real time search makes this information available quicker than ever before. Google and Bing now bring you the information you are looking for, seconds after it becomes available on the internet. This amazing new innovation is made possible by a simple new concept called PubSubHubbub.

What are you talking about?

The basic concept of a search engine pre 2009 was simple enough: Have a bunch of web page addresses stored in a database and crawl them as fast as you can to update the information. As simple as this sounds, this is an extremely inefficient method of retrieving information. This method of aggregating information is known as the “pull method”. However, the guys over at Google designed a new concept called PubSubHubbub which surprisingly enough, wasn’t thought of years before. Instead of search engines constantly pinging your website looking for new information, why not rather jut let them know when new information is available? This is known as the “push method” and is a far more effecient method of sharing and aggregating information on the web.

What content is being indexed in real time?

Google has managed to aggregate all sorts of content in real time. Some real time content I have noticed on Google originated from these types of websites:

  • Blogs.
  • Forums.
  • Online News Sources.
  • Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed etc).

How does this affect my website(s)?

From what I already know is that WordPress registered blogs (yourblogname.wordpress.com) have automatically been updated to include this new feature. Therefore, if you host your blog on WordPress chances are, you’re content is already being indexed in real time. However, if you run a standard website, integrating this new technology is slightly more complicated. Due to the fact that PubSubHubbub is still relatively new to the internet, there aren’t many tutorials available to the average Joe. Consider contacting an experienced web developer.

However, it is still unclear as whether or not Google just makes use of PubSubHubbub to gain all this real time information. This was mentioned on the official Google blog:

Our real-time search features are based on more than a dozen new search technologies that enable us to monitor more than a billion documents and process hundreds of millions of real-time changes each day. Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our new partners that we’re announcing today: Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca — along with Twitter, which we announced a few weeks ago.

Real time search in action
If you would like to see real time indexing in action, go to Google. Insert a search phrase and hit enter. Once the results page has loaded, click on the “Show Options” link above the results section. A menu will appear on the left of the screen. Click on the “Latest” link and Google will show you all the latest content is has fetched for that particular search phrase. The page will automatically update with new content as Google indexes it. Very cool!

Real Time Indexing

As you can notice, the world is becoming a far smaller place than we once thought. Information is now literally at your fingertips. Obviously people will have different views on how relevant these results are and I’m sure Google is having a tough time keeping their algorithm up to date. This is a very exciting time for the internet as a whole. One of the things I like about real time content is that it fuels the ongoing advances of augmented reality.