In this article, I’d like to share some ideas I’ve had on how to measurably increase the effectiveness of websites by discussing conversion rate optimisation; factoring in elements such as interface design and usability, rather than purely gauging on SEO performance.
Firstly, I’ll be talking mostly about typical methods of measuring a website’s performance and introducing and explaining what the conversion rate is and how it comes into play. Furthermore I’ll be putting forward some practical ways to optimise your conversion rate through smart use of practices such as interface design and information architecture to improve user experience.
We all recognise the impact SEO has had on the web industry. Attending an internet exhibition as Branded3’s Head of Design, I was astonished by the popularity and near hysteria sparked by our Director of Search, Patrick Altoft. Speaking at the show; Patrick’s reputation as an SEO expert was confirmed by the hoard of visitors queuing around our stand, ready and waiting to invest in some search techniques for their websites.
Despite enjoying the overwhelming interest in our business, I found it striking that so many visitors, mostly small-medium sized businesses, had the blinkered notion that to improve ROI and performance of their websites, all they had to do was purely invest in SEO services.
Now don’t get me wrong, the importance of SEO should not be undervalued; I’ve seen first-hand the results of what great rankings can do for a business. Similarly, I don’t intend to underestimate people’s awareness of key website performance issues; but I couldn’t help thinking that they were missing vital aspects of what makes a successful website out, and therefore their website effectiveness wouldn’t be maximised.
It seems to me that the problem lies with focusing solely on the direct relationship between traffic, and the bottom line. Not that I blame anyone for taking that mind-set; the results are clearly tangible. Driving more traffic directly relates to increased generated business, so this has become the standard by which people gauge the effectiveness of their site.
To give an example of this approach, let’s say Justin has an e-commerce site selling mobile phones, justinsmobileshop.co.uk. It receives 2,000 unique site visits a month, and from that traffic he secures around 100 sales. If Justin wanted to double his sales, the observed and common approach is to double his traffic; so if 2,000 visitors equates to 100 sales, then 4,000 visitors must mean 200 sales.
In most part, this premise of ‘traffic = site effectiveness’ is true, but there are alternative solutions to simply driving more traffic which could require less capital and effort, but generate just as much increase in business.
Discovering the Conversion Rate
As I have discussed; the typical mentality is that there is a direct parallel between traffic coming into the site, and the revenue generated. While this ‘more-in, more-out’ psychology is generally correct, it ignores what happens between a user landing on your site, and them handing over their money, i.e. of all the visitors that are directed to your site, how many actually go on to convert to a sale or a lead? Beyond that, how many of these become return customers? This is what we call your website’s conversion rate.
Thankfully, determining and measuring your website’s conversion rate is very simple. It is a percentile value of the amount of traffic that goes on to achieve the site’s goal; whether that be making a purchase or simply getting in touch.
If we use the example of Justin’s mobile site, we can clearly see how we can measure conversion. With 2,000 visitors and 100 sales per month, this means that the conversion rate of traffic to sales is 5% (2000/100). If Justin took time to consider why only 5% of a substantial number of visitors are going on to make a purchase and take measures to increase his conversion rate to 10%, he could double his revenue, keeping the same amount of traffic. But how can this be achieved?
Whatever the user goals, whether it’s a sale, registering interest, or simply getting in touch; discovering and examining the factors which directly influence the user’s decision to invest – or not invest – in your proposition can determine what measures should be taken to increase the ROI of your website.
There are many ways you can address optimising the conversion rate of your web site, many of which require a certain degree of understanding users and their behaviour and how they make decisions. To put that in more simple terms; what is their ‘user experience’? At its most basic, this question can be: does your site deliver a good user experience, or a bad one? Here are some of the elements contributing to your website’s conversion rate:
To have a poorly designed site can be incredibly damaging to the perceived value of your product or service, and can push a visitor away before they’ve even had chance to look at what you are offering. Giving your site a fresh web design that best represents your brand and target market, can hugely increase a visitor’s perception of your company and generate trust in your web site.
Depending on the security, speed, and robustness of your website; the amount of users that stick around to make a purchase will vary. A lot of this is down to making sure you’re simply using the right tools and technology for the right job. Implemented wisely, your site will allow greater interactivity with your customer, and add depth to your site. Problems such as downtime or connection issues will see any potential business quickly find somewhere else to go.
Communicating well about your products, services, and offerings is essential to influencing a visitor’s decision to invest. Good copywriting that communicates, persuades and informs efficiently can ensure that your site visitors know they have found what they are looking for.
You could have a stunning website design with the latest technologies and applications, but that doesn’t make it user-friendly. Usability testing is something that is often ignored by many businesses when creating a website, but it’s one of the most essential components for optimising conversion. Testing the usability of your site discovers obstacles, drop-off points and weaknesses in your website that prevent and/or put off users completing their goals.
There’s nothing more frustrating for a user than not being able to find what they want; information architecture applies a strategic and logical approach to the way information is structured on your site. This ensures your users have a smooth journey and can easily find their way around.
The purpose of user interface design is to make the user’s interaction with your site as simple and efficient as possible. Often referred to as user-centered design, it facilitates the ‘user journey‘ that you wish visitors to follow. This is often done in conjunction with, and in reaction to usability testing, and is one of the most effective ways to optimise your conversion rate, as it allows them to accomplish their goals and follow tasks without hindrance from unnecessary obstacles.
By balancing aesthetic, technical and psychological elements into your site, you can help to ensure that your site is user friendly and that visitors enjoy a much better user experience. This of course encourages them to follow the path to your business goals, and thus increase your conversion rate. Not only this, but better experience also increases brand loyalty, meaning you’ll gain more returning customers.
By employing a strategy to address factors which affect your website’s conversion rate, you can drastically increase your online performance and ROI, often in a cost effective way. There’s no denying the power of investing in SEO, but by optimising your conversion rate conjunction with existing search strategies, you may find your site is performing in ways you never thought possible.