These days pretty much every website statistic you can think of can be measured online. But of all the things you can track, the only metric that truly matters is your conversion rate.
While your website visitor numbers, click-through rates, page views, time spent on site, number of pages visited, entrance and exit points, abandon rates etc. are all important, if you're not using them to improve your conversion rates, what is the point of having them?
Most people look at their website as a total entity, however in reality it is a collection of many parts (the different pages on your site). These parts can be seen as individual steps on a path that should lead your visitors to a specific goal: the conversion.
If your site, and the pages therein, are working properly, you should see decent conversion rates and sales. However, if anything is broken along the way, and you lead your visitors the wrong way at the wrong time, you are essentially providing an opportunity for them to leave before reaching your intended destination.
Each landing point on your website (i.e. whichever page the visitor may land on first) needs to be treated as the starting point that will lead your visitors step by step towards your conversion goal. Your goal could be your contact page, your newsletter thank you page, or the confirmation page of your sales process
In order to guide your visitors from the starting point to the end point, you need to make sure each step along the way follows on to the next, without breaks or deviations.
Here are the steps to strong conversion:
Step 1: Building the path to your conversion goal
Just like movie or a book needs to have a beginning, middle and an end, so should your website.
All the pages of your site, from start to finish, need to work together to bring the visitor towards the ultimate destination. However, with a website the start isn't always your homepage. Your visitors can enter your site at many different points, having clicked on different links on the search engines or other sites. They could hit your homepage, your product or features page, an article, your news page or anywhere else.
Of course, this makes building the path to your conversion goal a lot more challenging.
Essentially, every page of your site needs to be able to act like the very first step in the process, provide a link to the next page or acting as the middle step, and leading the visitor to your conversion goal.
Step 2: Creating alternate paths to your conversion goal
It's important to remember that not every website visitor has the same wants, needs or desires as the next. If you plan only a single path to your conversion goal, you are in danger of leading some of your audience down a path that isn't necessarily meant for them.
Your visitors can land on the same page and end up taking many different paths to the conversion goal. Some may want to read about your company first, others may want to read your testimonials first, while a number will want to read more about your product or service first. And of course, there are always those who are ready to 'buy now' with the minimum of persuasion required.
A path to the conversion should be created to provide each of your users precisely what they need in order to take the next step. Keep your visitor's options open but also be aware that too many options can create confusion and could lead to premature exits. Aim to narrow the options down to the most common and significant so you can be sure to meet the vast majority of your visitor's needs.
Step 3: Double-check your conversion paths and fix if necessary
Once you have created your conversion paths, it's important that you put yourself in the mind of your visitors and follow through as many paths as possible. This is where you'll find out if any steps are missing or broken, or if there are too many steps in the process.
Remember to take notes of obstacles that may disengage the visitor or may be an impediment to them reaching the conversion goal.
Look for missing information, errors on the pages, broken links and calls to action. You want to make sure that the visitor finds no hindrances to getting to the destination and are able to find all the information they need to make a confident purchase decision.
If you find any issues, make sure you fix what the problem is to improve the performance of each step along the way. Use your website analytics package (e.g. Google Analytics) to identify problem areas and determine if there are places where steps need to be added or removed. Your goal is to make the site as efficient as possible. Add no more steps than are needed and no fewer than it takes to get the job done.
Step 4: Remember to create and test new paths
Once you have tested, fixed and retested your paths, don't rest on your laurels - it's time to start building and testing new paths. Consider your users carefully here. The first pass at creating paths should have been designed to hit the majority of your target audience. Now it's time to accommodate the rest. While the broader target is easier to hit, the smaller target is no less important. Build paths specifically for these users as they can be the source of many additional sales, and often result in higher conversion rates.
Step 5: Test new stepping stones
By this time your conversion process should hopefully be going strong and you'll have solid conversion rates. However, never stop looking for new opportunities to improve your conversion process. Test, test, and test some more, but remember your goal is improvement, not to add clutter.
Building a cohesive path from your visitor's landing point to the conversion goal isn't easy. But by taking the time to know and understand your audience you can find ways to build and improve upon the conversion paths that will satisfy the majority of your visitors.
By following the five steps above, there is no doubt that you'll find ways to improve your conversions rates. It may be incremental or you may find huge gains all at once, but every gain is a good gain.