Optimizing for Visitor Conversion
# 46: 6/2004
Drilling Down - Turning Customer
Data into Profits with a Spreadsheet
Customer Valuation, Retention, Loyalty, Defection
Get the Drilling Down Book!
In This Issue:
# Topics Overview
# Best Customer Retention Articles
# Question - Paid vs. Organic Search Quality?
# Question - Optimizing for Goal Conversion?
If you have been with me for a while you know I try to rotate
topics to keep all the different audiences out there happy. This
month we're focusing on web metrics and conversion, and this topic is
more about customer acquisition than retention. So if you're a
pure retention freak or offliner (do they exist? I wonder...)
you might want to skip this one. But...
We do have a couple of great article links, a stunning must-read
piece on B2B customer valuation for the retention freaks and another
comparing search marketing to direct marketing, which I consider a
"crossover" article. So a little something for
Let's do some Drillin'!
Best Customer Retention Articles
(B2B Customer Valuation)
June 1, 2004 Direct Magazine
Absolutely fabulous piece by the very smart Ruth P. Stevens. All you
B2B'ers out there who don't think it's possible to measure and manage customer
value, guess again. Read about how the best in the biz do it.
11 Ways Search Engine
Marketing Is Like Direct Marketing
June 8, 2004 DM News
Those of you who know my work can just skip this article, we started on
this idea in 2000 when looking at search audience quality, and I got into it
more specifically here. For
those who don't think all this has basically been done before, check the article out. The most important
statement for you folks is this one: "When I give a speech to online marketers, many are intrigued that so much of what they live and breathe has been articulated in direct marketing terms for over half a century
already." 'Nuff said. Read the article, then if you want to know more about how what
he is saying affects search marketing directly, read this
one and this one. Interested in the global idea of "internet = direct marketing" and
what that means for you in the future? You probably want to click
If you are a consultant, agency, or software developer with clients
needing action-oriented customer intelligence or High ROI Customer
Marketing program designs, click
Questions from Fellow Drillers
Paid versus Organic Search Visitor Quality
In light of the recently
released study showing more people click on Organic listings than
Paid listings, I thought this question regarding tracking the conversion
of Organic versus Paid clicks to be timely info.
Q: I just read your "Online
Advertising Effectiveness? Tell Me About It!"
article. Interesting stuff. When I looked at your first
set of numbers, it occurred to me that the paid clicks might tend to
convert more frequently than free referrals simply because SE's
"sponsored results" are in effect filtering out the
skeptical tightwads (people like me) who habitually avoid sponsored
results as a way to dodge sales pitches. Think about it: if
you're searching (for example) "customer loyalty"
and both paid and unpaid referrals to the same page appear
side-by-side, which are you more likely to click -- sponsored or free?
A: Depends on the search. I click on paid
listings because I figure if they can afford to pay for ads, they must
be making money, if they are making money, they must be successful, if
they are successful, product / service must be good. Different
Q: If you're a prospective customer who is easily
engaged, I suspect your likelihood of choosing the sponsored link is
at least 50%. But if you're a paranoid miser like me and you
automatically ignore sponsored links, then your likelihood of picking
the paid link is 0.
Is it possible that paid referral visitors are more easily engaged
simply because search users who are not that easily engaged are
effectively blind to your paid links?
A: Well, it doesn't really matter why it happens, the
point of the article is, in the case of my own site, it is
happening and you can measure it. Why is irrelevant.
At the time the article was written, everybody assumed that clicks
from paid search ads had less value but nobody had measured this -
so that's what I did, and that is why the article was written.
The reality is that paid clicks are often much more valuable than organic clicks for the same search phrase because they convert at much higher rates. I suspect much of this effect depends greatly on the skill of the advertiser. If you write bland or confusing paid ads and don't use customized landing pages, it probably is not true. The point with paid ads
is you can control the environment, and if you are any good at what you do, this control should result in a higher quality click.
Q: Still, in any discussion of paid referrals, I
wouldn't dismiss the value of understanding why visitors make
the choices they make. Knowing the psychological factors at play and
how they affect my site's productivity is just as important to me as
drilling down through my traffic stats.
A: Well yes, I don't entirely dismiss asking why, and
do so myself. Asking "why" helps to develop new test
approaches and leads to better conversion. My point was really
that many people (probably not including you), particularly those in
design, tend to do what they think is "right" and ignore the
data. In that sense, it doesn't matter why conversion changes,
the fact that conversion either went up or down in response to a
change is simply a fact, and it doesn't need to be questioned or fully
understood to be important, it just "is".
Over time, what happens is you begin to understand which changes
work and which don't, and you begin to better understand the
"why" based on the history you have been exposed to.
Perhaps I was overly emphatic on this point, but it's only because
more often than not, people waste a lot of time wondering
"why" instead of changing it and getting some real direction
on what works and what doesn't.
Q: Your explanation of the relationship between your
experiment's 1-page views and engagement behavior rings especially
true for me. And it underscores the importance of asking
"why" in the practice of traffic analysis: if I know why
visits are brief (or why visitors don't penetrate), then I know
whether to make changes, and what changes to make.
A: Yes, I think we are on the same page. A
better way to say what I meant would be "Don't out-think it, just
make some changes that seem logical and get the data, because you will
often be wrong about what will increase conversion. In the end, it
doesn't matter what you think, what matters is what visitors actually
do. So don't waste a lot of time arguing about changes, just try something and measure
If you are in SEO and the client isn't converting the additional
visitors you generate, you can help them make it happen - click here.
And speaking of conversion....
Optimizing for Visitor Conversion
Q: Jim, I've read The
Marketers Common Sense Guide to e-Metrics and have a question: can
I hire you to optimize my company's web site for higher conversion of
A: I'm afraid I don't do "conversion work"
in isolation; conversion is only one part of my whole approach to web
marketing, and you have to commit to the whole program to get me
interested. But I get this question so much I'm going to tell
you how to get the ball rolling and then publish this "how
to" on my web site. Here is the way I approach the first phase of a web site
optimization for visitor conversion:
1. Above all, really think about your business model, and
decide what the primary thing you want people to do at your web site
is. Be very specific; if you don't have a clear conversion
"goal", you absolutely cannot optimize for it, can
you? Think about it.
2. Concentrate first on the highest volume entry pages which
are also the highest source of 1 Page Visits. You can keep
"score" on this by using a percentage: for each entry page,
what is 1 Page Visits / Entry Visits for each Entry page? Make
changes to see if you can decrease the % of 1 Page Visits for the
highest volume entry pages.
Try changing the order of links in the main navigation, and realize
that "less is more" - the more you focus visitors by
providing fewer link choices, the more likely it is they will click on
what you want them to.
Pay careful attention to the wording of all links in the main
navigation - are they crystal clear, do they really say what you
mean? Are they "compelling", do they "beg for a
3. In conjunction with this, look at the paths from those
same high volume entry pages - where do visitors go, what do they do?
Does it look like the visitor is confused? What can you change
in your navigation to get people
to where they should be going? How close do visitors get to
accomplishing the primary goal of your site?
4. For most web sites, the newsletter is more important than
people realize; many visitors
simply forget you exist after the first visit. In fact, for many
sites that think their conversion goal is to sell something, the
primary goal should be newsletter subscription. The newsletter
brings them back, your list is a source of "warm leads",
people most likely to buy. You will sell more by selling to
newsletter subscribers than trying to sell cold to new visitors, so
the most important conversion goal is newsletter subscriptions. Make
newsletter subscription more prominent, put the "sign
up" near the top of the home page where everybody will see it.
Make a link to the "subscribe page" part of your main
navigation so it is on every page; you will have to decide which of
the links up there now has to go. Your paths from the home page
can help you in deciding. If you have a "Links" link
in the main navigation, get rid of it. It's a major barrier to
conversion by causing people to leave the site.
5. If your web site analytics support flagging "goal
pages" or "Scenarios", enter the pages or paths
representing your site goals, and then optimize entry pages and paths
so they result in the highest percent of visits reaching these
goals. Make sure every paid campaign has a unique landing page
and track all of them for goal or Scenario completion. Adjust
copy in ads and on landing pages until you are maximizing goal
And that's the way I would have started with optimizing your site
for visitor conversion! Good luck on your efforts.
That's it for this month's edition of the Drilling Down Newsletter. If you like the newsletter, please forward it to a friend - why don't you do this now while you are thinking of it? Subscription instructions are at the top and bottom of the newsletter for their convenience when subscribing.
Any comments on the newsletter (it's too long, too short, topic suggestions, etc.) please send them
right along to me, along with any other questions on customer Valuation,
Retention, Loyalty, and Defection right here.
'Til next time, keep Drilling Down!
- Jim Novo
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