Posts Tagged 'analytics'

SEO and CRO: The Long and Short of It

landingrhtcolpromoIf your small business maintains a website, you’ve most likely considered, talked about or implemented some type of SEO strategy. The belief being, that if you can attract traffic, you will by default attract customers or registrants. This may be the case to a small degree, but doesn’t accurately represent how things usually work.

Your site does need to attract visitors, but it also needs to drive those visitors to some goal. Establishing that goal, and subsequently compelling the user to satisfy that goal, means just as much to your business. Internet gurus label this concept conversion. Though the concept remains the same for all websites, the specific outcome— the actual goal, may vary. Your desire may be to register users, request a sales call or make a purchase. In any case, the final outcome provides some benefit to your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

Just like SEO, where we optimize our sites so they will be found during user searches, we need to optimize websites so that they convert as many visitors to successful visits as possible. This concept is known as Conversion Rate Optimization. Many experts agree, including most major online retailers, that conversion rate should be considered just as important as SEO. Jamila White, owner of E-Commerce Diva said about conversion, “So many small biz owners don’t know that is THE most important metric.” The two concepts do not contradict, actually one complements the other. They do need to be approached with a different perspective.

SEO the Long Term Strategy

Irrespective of many claims by some SEO consultants, results from SEO take time. That’s because SEO is organic in nature. You should commit yourself to at least a six month effort before expecting consistent benefits. During that six month time span, you’ll need to work and rework your strategy to stay ahead of the pack. In short, SEO strategies are long term strategies.

CRO

CRO focuses more on the present. In short, it focuses on how well we compel the current site visitors, to accomplish a desired result upon visiting.  CRO has a more immediate effect. Conversion rate matters, whether you receive 100 visits per day, or 1000 visits per day. Conversion rate impacts your website efficacy more than SEO.

You can receive 100 visits per day, but convert twenty visitors into customers. This would have more impact than receiving 1000 visits per day, and then only converting ten visitors into customers. Again, we can stress the immediate focus of CRO, no matter the number of visitors, we need to convert as many as possible.

SEO and CRO a Combined Approach

SEO and CRO should not be considered competitive concepts. As website owners we should combine the two practices, knowing that our strategy will have short as well as long term business impact. It should also be noted that  CRO will benefit your SEO efforts.  CRO helps to better identify successful market segments, thus enhancing your ongoing SEO practices.

When converting customers, you will hopefully have analytics giving you customer data. Knowing what regions, pages or search terms used to find your site will elucidate more about the segments that find your product, service or information attractive. If this market doesn’t match your present SEO focus, now you know how to adjust, or better focus your current strategy.

SEO and CRO: Continual Efforts

Both CRO and SEO require continual modification. Consistent testing of landing pages and conversion paths– your CRO efforts, will greatly benefit your long term SEO. Let’s look at an example.

CRO can be affected by numerous factors. If a CNBC guest makes recommendations about what to look for in certain financial products, or throws out a new term, this could alter what financial products customers seek. Sudden drops or increases in conversions, could be the first clue to  a change in your visitor’s needs. Knowing this, allows you to also adjust your SEO strategy to be in place when that CNBC audience turns to the internet to find the company who will sell that product.

5 Reasons You Will Use Hiconversion in 2009

landingrhtcolpromoTake note of the term Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). During the down economy, CRO will justify itself more than any other online marketing strategy. The reason being, CRO proves what online marketing strategies produce revenue.

Thinning budgets demand improved ROI. Quite simply, businesses can’t afford to waste resources. Money will not be spent without strong justification. CRO provides the best means to test, measure and justify online marketing strategies.

CRO has been slow to take hold. Mainly due to a lack of affordable choices, and reliable expertise. Until recently choices have been limited to free applications— such as Google’s Website Optimizer, or investing in high end enterprise applications costing thousands.

Zee Agonovic, the CEO of Hiconversion, a CRO software development company, sees CRO taking center stage very quickly.

Online marketers are putting the cart before the horse,” he stated in our recent conversation., “All the money and effort is spent on generating web traffic and very little, if anything, is done about visitor conversion”. It doesn’t matter how many users visit your page, if they never take the next step.

After having the opportunity to see Hiconversion’s tool first hand, here’s five reasons you’ll be using Hiconversion in 2009.

1. Improves Online Marketing ROI

With Hiconversion, you get the CRO benefits, at a much lower cost, with less complexity and a higher level of reliability than any other tool on the market.

2. Works with Low traffic volumes

Hiconversion’s patented algorithms don’t require large volumes of traffic. If your site generates 100 hits per day, you can get reliable data, and improve conversion rates.

3. Easy Setup

Hiconversion utilizes a service based model, like Google’s Weboptimizer. There are no installs— you create an account online and begin testing. Creating multivariate tests has been reduced to simple point and click functionality.  The tool provides the ability to create an unlimited number of test pages, for as many pages as you want.  The tool gives you the capability to test unlimited page element combinations via a graphical interface. You can test entire conversion paths, almost eliminating the need for more complicated analytics reports.

4. Quick Results

With low site volume, 100 clicks per day, you can get reliable results within weeks. With 1000 clicks per day or higher, you get reliable data within days. Many users of the tool start seeing improved conversion rates before they even complete their testing periods. Hiconversion also comes with a complete set of out-of-the-box reports, including real-time and projected ROI analysis.

5. Fits Your Budget

At $99  per month, you can’t find a better way to invest your money. You can get turnkey CRO services  starting at just $995 per project, with a 10% CR increase guarantee.

10 Tips to Improve eCommerce Sales

analyticsrhtcolpromoThe holiday buying season has come and gone. Now its back to the day-to-day grind in terms of sales. What little money many consumers had, has been spent. So now we need to really focus on converting visitors to buyers.

Once you implement your marketing strategy, its time to find ways to close the deal. Internet retailing relies heavily on your technical infrastructure and store design. I’ve formulated ten tips gathered from advice by the biggest players in the eCommerce space. Read now, and you’ll find a bonus tip:

1. Identify Your Top Searches

Plain and simple, you will need to be customer focused to be successful. Knowing what customers want, makes you better able to serve them.  Perform test searches. You want to make sure visitors find what they want– and you provide. For obvious reasons, note searches for items you don’t sell.

2. Find Customer Exit Points

Outside of your sales confirmation page, you want to know where customers most often leave your site. If they leave at your product pages, it might be time for a redesign. If they leave during the checkout process, look at ways to simplify your checkout process.

3. Test Site Performance

Online shoppers don’t like to wait. If they did, they would shop at a physical store. Test how well your site functions at peak times.  Test user flows to analyze your purchasing paths.  Be particularly aware of any errors that occur. Test during low traffic periods as well. If performance problems still exist, this might be an indicator of a software or hardware problem. Compare your site metrics with these indice from ECommerce Times, to see how your site measures up to competitors.

4. Monitor Usability

Usability may be a reason for some of the exit points you found in tip #2.  Navigation should be a key area of focus, especially for sites with large offerings. If users get lost, or can’t find what they’re looking for, statistics tell us they’ll find another retailer. 

You also want to test your usability in various browsers and browser versions. With the introduction of Chrome, there’s a new landscape to traverse in terms of compatibility.

5. Optimize Product Pages

Test various layouts of your product pages.  Try different copy to determine what drives sales best. If you’re serious about increasing revenue, implement a multivariate testing strategy.

6. Find Customer Tendencies

Again, we’re back looking at customer focus. How customers navigate your site says a great deal about their needs. For example, if visitors tend to visit certain products in groups, you’ve got a hint on what to include in your cross-sells items list.

7. Make Your Most Popular Products Easy To Find

Sounds like common sense– and it is. Yet, many shopping sites don’t do this simple thing. If you sell shoes, make sure each subcategory page displays at least your top seller on that page. If you can display your top three, you’re in even better position to sell.

8. Simplify Checkout

As internet retailers, we have to accept cart abandonment. The idea will be to reduce it. Make sure your checkout process doesn’t confuse visitors. Add a step-by-step navigation bar at the top of the cart, indicating what steps still need to be completed. Consolidate steps where possible. Make sure you provide simple easy to understand instructions to facilitate checkout.  Don’t forget to make the ‘help’ or ‘faq’ button highly visible.

9. Address Shipping Charges Sooner Not Later

No one likes surprises on their bill. Provide shoppers with some expectations about shipping costs prior to checkout. 

10. Review Your Customer Service Plan

Recent surveys indicate that customer satisfaction with online shopping has dropped. The causes of this increased dissatisfaction have yet to be thoroughly identified. Be assured customer service will be some where on the list. Asses how well you handle customer inquiries and returns

Test and Retest      

Develop a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. Testing various page layouts, copy and combinations of both, can greatly enhance you sales success. CRO should be just as important as SEO to your internet sales plan.               

Jeff Prus, senior director of user experience at VistaPrint recently stated at the Internet Retailer Conference 09, “VistaPrint regards ongoing site optimization as a revenue-generating function, one that generates millions of dollars per year in proven business value,” . CRO maximizes your SEO benefits. In these economic times every dollar counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips for Better Forms and Qualified Leads

formtips2Finding good leads make or break a salesman. The better the lead, the easier the sale.  This concept has a name— qualified leads.

Generating leads via the web presents its own set of challenges. The online form works day and night, gathering information about potential customers. The form constrains us, due to its finite nature, limiting us to a fixed set of questions. In the end, we act on faith more than assurance that leads will be of any substance. 

Creating good forms, forms that create qualified leads, requires a trial and error effort.  Here are ten ways to increase qualified lead generation via online forms:

1. Ask For the Right Information.

The basics:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Company Name
  • Visitors Title (helps to establish buying decision power)
  • Phone Number (distinguish between work and cell)
  • Reason for the Request/Type of Request (just looking or ready to buy)
  • Market Identifiers (ask questions that will define segment of market)
  • Influencers (who else will be involved in the decision)
  • Anything specific to your industry or product

Obviously the Name and email should be required.  Don’t be afraid to require a phone number, especially for services. Required phone numbers will fend off the casual visitor. In addition, get the phone number type, work or cell. A work number indicates a more qualified lead.

2. Use Dropdowns
  • Use drop down menus to isolate prime targets in your market
  • Drop downs allow for more flexibility, while keeping control of the provided information
  • Drop downs are easier to answer, allowing you to squeeze in two or three more questions
  • Two or three well thought out drop downs are worth one big additional notes text field
3. Generate Specific Forms for Specific Conversion Paths
  • Users in different roles have different needs, cater to the roles in your forms
  • Use specific forms for specific products or services
4. Give Up Something to Get Something
  • Requiring a form for a whitepaper has a less salesy feel
  • Require a form to get pricing
  • Utilize form completion for user group membership
  • Add a private users section to your blog, requiring registration
5. Make Forms Convenient
  • Make sure form questions are easy to read and understand
  • Put forms in the margins of high traffic pages
  • Make text in links to forms real marketing copy, not ‘get more info’
6. Make Specific Forms for Requesting a Phone Call
  • Create a form specifically for people wanting a sales call
7. Strong Validation
  • Make sure you validate important form fields (name, email, phone, etc)
8. Keep the Number of Fields to a Minimum
  • Too many fields can run off potentially good leads
9. Always Follow Up Form Submissions
  • Unreturned requests can harm your company’s reputation
10. Implement a Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy

Optimizing form conversion rate via testing, should be you top priority.  In order to find the best form, you will need to test.  A form completion is a funnel goal. Its a link the visitor clicks that has potential value for your business. You’ll need to test various combinations to get the form that produces the most submitals, as well as the best qualified leads. Multivariate testing provides the best way to optimizing success. If you don’t test, you will waste valuable time and resources, while losing business to your testing competitors.

5 Tips to Convert Visitors to Customers

Does your website work? Yeah sure— it loads, the links work and and you don’t get any ‘page not found errors’.  That only means your website functions properly. But, does it really work? Does it sell or drive business well? 

How well does your site convert visitors from search to homepage to customer?

How well does your site convert visitors from search to homepage to customer?

Most small to medium business owners would answer no. The others that answer yes, could most likely see a greater return based on the statistics. The average website only converts about 2% of its visitors into viable leads or customers.

With all the promises of the internet, most of us expected more from a web presence. So how do we do better?

1. Know Your Market

Make sure you identify your market. Your technical SEO efforts mean nothing, if you focus on the wrong keywords. Your customers have unfulfilled needs, that’s why they’re customers. Ensure that your keywords match your customer’s needs.

2. Match Content to Your Market

SEO gets your site ranked at the top of the heap. Now the user visits. Whether the user ‘bounces’ or stays depends on your content. Make sure your content addresses the needs of customers.

3. Build Funnels

I often see keyword ads that direct users to landing pages, that immediately propose the offer. In some cases this works, but most consumers have questions. That’s where funneling plays an important role. Offer multiple choices on your landing pages. The all or none approach leaves you very little room to persuade.

4. Write Good Copy

What you say plays an important role in conversion.  How you say it plays just as an important role. Your users will find certain words more compelling than others. Professional marketing copy helps to convert visitors.

5. Test Your Content

The most important tip of all. Utilize your website metrics to better understand what content works and doesnt’ work. Its rare you that you will build the perfect funnel or write the perfect web copy the first time. You need to vary copy, funnels and page layouts to find the most compelling combination.

Experts call this multivariate testing, or Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). If you haven’t heard of it, you will.  CRO will be what separates the most successful web marketing strategies, from the also rans. Here’s a great article on CRO if you want more information.

Using Analytics to Build Your Funnels

In previous posts we talked about building ‘site funnels’.  Site funnels represent the page-by-page paths site visitors view before exiting your site.  In most cases, you’ll create paths based upon your projected user behavior. What we predict, and what actually occurs, may not always coincide.

Customer Focus

Focusing on customer wants and needs generally produces better results. Your perceived can’t lose ideas, at times fall flat. You want to make user visits more predictable.

Your visitors leave clues as to what they want. The secret decoder ring to these clues will be your analytics report. Users will provide a trail, indicating what natural paths or funnels they prefer to follow.

Like any good hunter, if you follow this trail, you can improve goal conversion with a few tweaks, rather than whole sale site changes. So let’s look at how to use some of those clues:

Use Your Analytics Report To Identify Most Viewed Pages »

  • The most viewed pages obviously contain the information visitors perceive as the most relevant to their needs. 
  • Make note of the ‘bounce’ rate.  A bounce rate of more than 40% signals that users might not be finding what they expected.
  • Now find the  ‘next pages’ statistics.

Follow the Navigation Summary »

  • Note the top two or three most popular next navigated pages.  Look at the percentages, anything under 20% can be ignored.
  • Continue through the navigation summary until you get to points where the exit rate is greater than 40%.

Analyze Your Natural Funnels »

  • Navigate to your site, and click through these user generated funnels
  • Pay close attention to points in the path where exit rates rise above 40%.
  • If the selected paths don’t end in goals, determine what types of goal content can be implemented.
  • Look for opportunities for new promotional ideas.

Develop Goals »

  • Now you can create new goal endings for your user created funnels. If you link to existing goals, make sure your links and text are relevant to the new path.
  • Use multivariate testing to find the funnel goal page that produces the best results.
  • Also utilize multivariate testing to determine user willingness to end these funnels sooner.
  • Think about adjustments to your keyword campaigns, that might lead to greater success.

Play with the percentages, they aren’t set in stone.  If the user defined funnels match your designed funnels, implement multivariate testing to improve weak conversions.  Use goal test points along paths, make the test points related to the most popular next pages.  Knowing where a visitor will most likely navigate next, provides a prime opportunity to begin cross selling.

Build a Web Presence, Not a Website

webconstructionI spoke with a friend looking to put her business on the web. She stated that she only wanted two or three pages.  I asked, “What do you want from your website?”.  The response was a moment of silence– followed by a not so clear response.

This happens to many small business owners looking to build their first website. Often, the push to get on the web, overshadows the more important need for effective planning.

The Internet: Just Another Business Tool

Websites are business tools.  With all the buzz concerning the web, there exists a false expectation of the internet’s return on investement and websites. Entrepreneurs are better served viewing their website as a very useful and flexible business tool— one that can benefit the business in numerous ways.

A business owner should treat a website in the same manner as their phone, their computer or their word processing software.  Each has a purpose, you thought about your desired benefits before investing.  You could clearly elucidate the reasons you need a phone— to contact customers quickly, to be accessible to customers, to conduct business remotely. 

Make Your Website Work

You should take the same approach to your website.  Think about specific objectives of owning a website, just as you would when choosing a physical location for your business. The new office location would need to posses enough offices, electrical outlets, network wiring and room to expand as you grow. In fact don’t call it a website, but a web presence. Using the term forces you to think dynamically– your presence means you’re participating in the internet medium.

Taking this approach inherently means you’re investing in the long term benefits of the internet. You can start with one or two pages, but you also have built the foundation as your needs expand. Putting together an initial web presence can be difficult, simply because the internet allows you to do so much. You can minimize the pain of building a web presence by following “The 6 P’s”— Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Useful Site Building Tips

I’ve provided some tips that others have used to help develop an initial web presence.  Obviously this doesn’t represent the end-all list, but hopefully it provides a good foundation upon which to build:

Define a Successful Site Visit

  • From your businesses’ perpective, define what a successful visit means to you.
  • Service based companies may desire qualified leads, maybe a request for quote.
  • Product based companies may be seeking a sale. For big ticket items you might want an appointment request.

Your Site is a Funnel

  • Site visitors start at the home page, decide what end point in their visit benefits you the most.
  • Prioritize information from the most essential to buying details. Make sure your essential information makes the first version of your site.
  • Identify the most important buying objections and questions. You can start to answer these in your secondary site pages.

Identify Your Visitor

  • Define the demographics of your target visitor. It plays an important part in how you design your site.
  • Estimate the knowledge level of the visitor concerning your product or service.  That helps determine what types of content you need to include in your site.
  • Understand how visitors in different roles benefit from your product or service.

Hire a Web Site Designer, Not a Graphic Artist

  • Find a designer that understands more than just web graphics.
  • A Flash developer is different from a web designer.  Flash developers can build web sites, but there exist some drawbacks to this. *see my post regarding search engine web crawlers
  • Make sure your site designer is committed to building your web presence over the long term.

Think Long Term

  • Determine how often  you believe the site will need to be updated.
  • Develop a schedule for writing new site content. This will help when talking about maintenance agreements with your site designer.
  • Plan a schedule for site features you don’t need now, but expect to incude as time goes on.

Additional Resources

Website Magazine
Very comprehensive advice from a business perpective on web design.

Web Design Library
Lots of general advice, with a lean to the more technical side.

Web Design From Scratch
Very plain advice, focused on results oriented web design. 

Internet Retailer
Practical advice for ecommerce based web design.