SMX: Amazin’ Conversion Optimization

    June 3, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Business owners know the importance of converting visitors to buyers. However, buyers aren’t in a hurry to convert; when they do, it usually means gaining a loyal customer.

The Internet gives people plenty of opportunities to research their purchases. That may be maddening to merchants who see the same visitor linger over an item two, three, or more times before leaving and returning.

Ultimately, someone’s likely to get that sale, and if you want it to be your site, a few tips from the speakers at SMX Advanced‘s session on Conversion Optimization: Winning After They Arrive.

Google’s Tom Leung spoke about the topic, encouraging experimentation by the session’s attendees with their sites. He also announced a contest, the Google Website Workout, where winners will receive help from Google on optimizing everything about their sites: page layouts, headlines, text, and images.

“Know what to test,” said Leung. “Be patient, and have a commitment to test over and over.”

Scott Brinker of ion interactive compared the click-through by a visitor to gravity, where the landing page pulls the person into the site. Comparing and contrasting very different landing pages will help the site owner understand the arriving audience better.

Ramp Digital’s Jonathan Mendez pointed out how consumers will know more about what they want than a website ever will. “What you do and say up front matters a lot,” he said. Relevant content and effective site tools, like search, improves that up front perception.

There appears to be a significant need for doing more of this kind of work, if site publishers want conversions to improve. Robert Bergquist of Widemile shared some figures on how site publishers feel about their conversion rates (87 percent unsatisfied), and who does testing or optimization for campaigns (60 percent of advertisers do none of those.)

Bergquist gave three key steps to optimizing campaigns: analyze the audience and its needs; embrace best practices for site design and marketing; and test everything. Repeat the steps with tweaks and fixes until conversions improve.

If it sounds like a lot of hard work, well, it is. There are time, money, and people demands involved with improving conversions. That’s why they call it a “return on investment”: the investment needs to be made first before it can generate a return.

Here’s why you want to work conversions as well as you can. We noted earlier the fickleness of consumers, their habit of flitting in and out of sites for information while they dither over the purchase decision.

This behavior didn’t start with the World Wide Web. It’s why the retail industry views returning customers as being more valuable than new ones; regulars keep coming back, and don’t require the same acquisition costs as new customers do.

Even the regulars may provide better profitability in converting sales, either more frequently or with larger purchases depending on one’s business niche. When looking for conversions, don’t neglect the customers you already have, even as you seek a broader customer base.