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Conversion rate optimization

Getting thousands of visitors from search engines every day doesn't do your website any good if these visitors don't buy something on your site. This tutorial will show you how to turn more of your website visitors into buyers.

conversion optimization

The basics

What is conversion rate optimization?

The conversion rate of your website is the ratio of visitors who convert a website visit into a desired action (a sale, a newsletter sign up, etc.).

This is often the easier way to get more sales:

A website has 1,000 visitors. 10 of these visitors buy something on the site. The website has a conversion rate of 1% (10/1000).

To get 20 buyers, the webmaster could increase the number of visitors to 2,000 or the webmaster could increase the conversion rate to 2%:

  • 2,000 website visitors and a conversion rate of 1% equals 20 buyers.
  • 1,000 website visitors and a conversion rate of 2% equals 20 buyers.

The process of getting a higher conversion rate is called conversion rate optimization. For many websites, it is easier to duplicate the conversion rate than to duplicate the number of visitors. To maximize your profits, your website must have many visitors and a high conversion rate.

Fewer visitors can be better for your business

The Internet is a very competitive market place. You cannot be everything for everyone. The most profitable online businesses are companies that concentrate on products for clearly defined target groups.

10,000 visitors can be better than 1 million visitors:

  • Website A gets 10,000 unique visitors because it has a #1 ranking for the keyword "buy cool skate sneakers". The conversion rate is 2%.
  • Website B gets 1,000,000 unique visitors because it has a #1 ranking for the much more popular keyword "shoes". The conversion rate is .02%

Although website B has 100 times more visitors than website A, both websites get 200 conversions (10,000 * 2/100 = 1,000,000 + 0.2/100). The reason for this is that the conversion rate of website A is much higher than the conversion rate of website B.

Why is the conversion rate of website A higher?

There can be many reasons. For example, website B uses a very generic keyword that could attract all kind of visitors that are not interested in what the company sells. In addition, the landing page of website B might not be as good as the landing page of website A.

To improve the conversion rate of your website, read the following tips.

How to multiply your sales without working more by focusing on the right elements

Many people who are new to search engine optimization focus on keywords that have a very high search volume. That is usually not the best way to promote an online business.

The keywords with the highest search volume are usually very generic one-word keywords; for example, "shoes." People who use these generic words are in a general research phase. They are not ready to buy.

Another problem of these one-word keywords is that they are very competitive. Many websites will compete with your site if you focus on a generic keyword. That means that you have to invest much more time to get high rankings for that keyword.

Here's a concrete example:

It takes the webmaster of website A five hours of search engine optimization work each month to keep his website on the first position for the keyword "buy cool skate sneakers." As explained above, website A gets 200 sales per month through this keyword.

The keyword "shoes" is much more competitive than the key phrase "buy cool skate sneakers." That's why the webmaster of website B has to invest 30 hours per month to get high rankings for that keyword. Website B also gets 200 sales per month because the conversion rate for the generic keyword is much lower.

Do not use the "obvious" keywords!

It takes a lot of work to get high rankings for the generic keyword "shoes." Instead of spending 30 hours on one keyword, the webmaster could spend these 30 hours on 6 more targeted keywords that deliver a higher conversion rate (for example, "buy cool skate sneakers", "himalaya tested walking boots," etc.). It's much easier to get high rankings for these targeted keywords:

  • 30 hours of work for 1 keyword with a conversion rate of .02% and 1 million visitors = 200 sales
  • 30 hours of work for 6 keywords with a conversion rate of 2% and 60,000 visitors = 1,200 sales

Do not waste your time for getting vanity rankings. It makes no sense to get high rankings for one-word keywords. People who whose multiple word keywords are more likely to purchase goods or services than those using fewer words (source: Oneupweb Research). Use our keyword tools to find the best keywords for your site.

How to optimize the conversion rate of your website:

Five basic elements that influence the conversion rate

There are several basic elements that influence the conversion rate of your website. Before you optimize the other elements, you should make sure that the basic elements are in place:

1. Your website should load as fast as possible

Web surfers are very impatient people. If they don't get what they want within a few seconds, many of them will leave your website before you have a chance to tell your marketing message.

Make sure that your website is hosted on a reliable and fast web server and that your website visitors don't have to wait for your pages. Use external CSS files, external JavaScript files and as few images as possible on your pages.

2. Your website must have its own domain name

Most people won't buy from a website with a domain name like mightbeascam.freewebsite.com. Your website must have its own domain name if you want to build a reputable online business.

3. Your website must have a professional design

If your website looks like the private project of a 13-year-old then no one will buy from your site. It's crucial that your website has a professional design.

4. You must test your website with different web browsers

Something that looks great in Firefox might look horrible in MS Internet Explorer. Something that looks great in MS Internet Explorer 11 can look completely different in MS Internet Explorer 9.

Test your website design with different browsers: Firefox, Chrome and several versions of MS Internet Explorer. It's nearly certain that there will be some unexpected design changes in one of the browsers.

5. You should use dedicated landing pages

If your website visitors come to your website through an ad (Google AdWords, banner advertising, etc.) then you should use a dedicated landing page for each ad.

The landing page should continue the marketing message from the ad and it should be tailored to the people to which the ad was presented. The more you target your landing page to the people who have seen the ad, the more people will buy.

Nine tips for creating a great landing page

Your landing page must meet certain criteria if you want to sell something. The visitors of your website aren't necessarily interested in your product or in your company.

If you want to sell your visitors something, you have to offer them what they want and you have to make it as easy as possible for them to get what they want.

1. Know your product

You have to know your product and you have to be passionate about your product. You must fully believe in your product. If you don't, you shouldn't sell it. If you don't stand behind your product you cannot write convincing sales copy. You must be sure that you're doing your customers a favor by offering them your product.

2. Be quick: What's in it for your visitors?

Your website visitors want benefits. What can your product do for them? What can it do for them now?

The benefits of your product should be the first words on your site. Make them bold and make them big. If your visitors don't know what's in it for them after the first few seconds, they'll leave your site.

People don't read everything on your page. They scan it for interesting information. Grab their attention with benefits. Tell your visitors why they should buy your product and tell them what your product will do for them. Does it save time? Does it save money? Will it make them look cool? Will it make their neighbors jealous?

3. Don't mix up features and benefits

You must differentiate between features and benefits. Features are the attributes of your product; benefits are what your product promises. For example, if you sell a solar-powered clock, then the feature is "runs without batteries." The benefit to the buyer is "you save money because you don't need to buy batteries anymore". Another benefit: "You'll own a cool item that other people don't have."

Don't bore your potential customers with technical details. Tell them what your product will do for them. How they will feel when they tried your product. Maybe your product or service will make them more money; maybe it will save them time. Tell them and don't be shy.

4. Less "We," more "You"

Many websites focus on the company: "We do this, we do that, we are the leader in this field, our products are this and that."

Your website visitors don't want to know how great you are. Use "you" more than "I" or "we." Remember: Your visitors don't care about you and your business. They only want to know what's in it for them.

Focus on the customer, not on your company.

5. Be nice and trustworthy

Your customers must trust you. They won't buy from you if they don't. On the Internet, you cannot speak face to face with your customer so you have to establish credibility in other ways.

The most common things to establish trustworthiness is to offer a free trial and a money back guarantee. Use testimonials. You must literally speak with your website visitors in your sales copy. Don't try to be over friendly. Just write your sales copy the way you'd say it to a potential customer face to face.

Make sure that customers know that a real person is sitting behind your website. Include your full contact information on your Web site and make it easy to find. If your visitors don't know from whom they will purchase and how to contact you, they won't buy anything. Details on how to create trust can be found in the next chapter.

6. Grab your visitors' attention with great headlines

Nobody will read your entire page. Make scanning your web page easier for your website visitors by dividing your page into paragraphs where each paragraph has a headline. Your headlines should make clear what to expect in the next sentences and they should grab your visitors' attention.

Use words like "free, proven, benefit, first, discover, complete, exclusive" and avoid words like "should, could" and "but."

7. Make it urgent

Urgency sometimes helps to improve the performance of your sales copy. Make a special offer for the first 200 subscribers. Add a special bonus if people purchase this month or until midnight. This offer is only valid today!

8. Tell your website visitors what to do

Your landing page must have a clear call to action. You must tell your visitors what to do next, e.g. "Download a sample chapter" or "Click here to order now for immediate delivery."

If possible, focus on a single call to action. Too many choices can confuse your visitors.

9. Reduce the perceived risk of the call to action

Show your website visitors testimonials of satisfied customers. Many people are more likely to buy if others have tested the offer before them. Offer guarantees and make it clear that your website visitor risks nothing when he or she buys from your company.

Seven ways to create trust

It's very important that your web site visitors have trust and confidence in your company. Your customers must trust you. They won't buy from you if they don't.

On the Internet, you cannot speak face to face with your customer so you have to establish credibility in other ways:

1. Your web pages must have a professional design

Your web pages have to look perfect. If necessary, hire a professional web designer. Don't use blinking text, funny animations or flashy banners on your page. Make sure that all links on your web site are intact.

2. Tell your web site visitors who you are and where you are

Make sure that customers know that a real person is behind your website. Include your full contact information on your website and make it easy to find. If your visitors don't know from whom they will purchase and how to contact you, they won't buy anything.

3. Offer free trials and show your refund policy

A free trial and a money back guarantee are make it less risky to buy from your business.

4. Explain your offer and the benefits in detail

If your customers know what they'll get, they'll be more likely to purchase.

5. Use testimonials

Testimonials from satisfied customers will show your website visitors how your business can do a better job than your competitor when it comes to customer satisfaction. Many people will only buy from your company if other people have tested your products and services before.

6. Use badges and security seals

If your company is a member of a trade association, tell your customers. Other seals that help: SSL Security Seal, BBB Online, Chamber of Commerce, McAfee Secure, Hackersafe, TRUSTe Certified Privacy, etc.

7. Your terms and conditions should be fair

Fair terms and conditions that are easy to understand will increase your conversion rate. Don't make the terms more complex than necessary.

Twelve easy things you can do to improve the conversion rate

Here are 12 easy things that you can do to improve the conversion rate:

1. Remove unnecessary fields

If you don't need the mailing address or the phone number of your visitors, don't ask for that information. Your conversion rate will go up if you use fewer fields in your forms.

2. Use big buttons

A big shiny button in a bright color works better than a little "Click here" link. Replace the default submit button on your landing page with a big and graphical button.

3. Use a descriptive call to action

Don't use generic texts such as "click here" or "Submit." Use buttons with a clear call to action text: "Sign-up now for free," "Buy now risk-free," etc.

4. Check the photos on your website

Are the photos on your landing page relevant to the page? If you use generic stock photos on your pages, you might want to reconsider them.

5. Check the look of the person in photos

If the photo on your landing page shows a person, make sure that the person looks out at the audience of towards your page content. The person on the photo should not look off the page.

6. Compress the images on your landing page

The file size of an image should be as small as possible. The faster your landing page loads, the more people will read your marketing message.

7. Double check your headings

Are the headings on your landing page telling your website visitors what you're selling and why they should buy it? If they don't, rewrite the headings.

8. Use bullets

Most people won't read the complete text of your landing page. Pick the most compelling reasons for the website visitor to take action and write them into a bullet list. Put that list at the top of the page.

9. Keep your paragraphs short

Keep your message short and sweet. If a paragraph is longer than 3-4 lines, many people won't read it.

10. Avoid long and complicated words

"Chivalrous" and "supercilious" are great words. Unfortunately, many people don't understand them. Try replacing them with words like "nice" and "annoying." Check your pages with the Readability Checker.

11. The most important things first

The most important benefits, the bullet list and the headline should appear above the fold. That means that your website visitors should not have to scroll down to read them.

12. Check your forms

What happens if someone leaves a field in your form blank? Clearly indicate the field they left blank and explain what the website visitor needs to do. Don't wipe the whole page blank. Your website visitors shouldn't have to start over just because they left a field blank.

Eighteen things that you can test on your landing pages

There is no general formula for the perfect landing page. The perfect landing page depends on your target group and on the product that you sell. There are several things that you can test in an A/B split test to find the perfect landing page for your product:

  1. Put your call to action on the right side of the page or the left side of the page. What works better? Should it be in the middle?
  2. Are the top 3 benefits immediately obvious on your landing page? Should you present them in a different format?
  3. On which position on the landing page do trust indicators such as testimonials, reviews, awards, etc. work best?
  4. Can you make your landing page more specific? Does a product page work better as a landing page than a category page for you?
  5. How many links on your landing page can you eliminate?
  6. Can you shorten the terms and conditions on your website?
  7. Many customers buy emotionally and then defend the purchase rationally. Offer solid arguments to buy.
  8. How many options does your product offer? Can you reduce them?
  9. Remember that you're not selling features. You're selling solutions.
  10. What works better for you: the form on the page, the form on a new page or a form in a popup?
  11. Swap the right column with the left column. This can influence the conversion rate.

  12. Move optional form fields to the "Thank you" page and offer an additional benefit for filling these forms.
  13. Do your landing page headlines match the headlines and words in your ads?
  14. Test removing the navigation bar from your landing pages.
  15. Try adding video to your landing pages.
  16. Have you tried bigger and more colorful buttons?
  17. Test a factual approach vs. an emotive approach on your landing pages.
  18. Test different calls to action: "Order now" vs. "Order now risk-free" vs. "Get a quote," etc.

How to run A/B split tests as easily as possible

A/B split tests enable you to find the headlines, images, etc. that deliver the highest conversion rate for your website.

An easy A/B split testing software can be found here.

Continue with the 'optimization checklist'.

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