A Different Approach to Conversion Funnel

Conversion optimization often starts beyond the funnel. In the following, I will explain how external factors may influence the conversion funnel.

In one of my previous posts, I shared some techniques applicable to conversion optimization on a website. However, conversion optimization often starts beyond the funnel. In the following, I will explain how external factors may influence the conversion funnel.

Set and regularly review your KPIs. Apart from absolute values, do apply ratios, such as the ratio of site visitors to the ratio of buyers/ newsletter subscribers, etc. Even if the absolute numbers seem to be growing, but the ratios are shifting, it is time to take a closer look at what might be happening inside your conversion funnel or even above it.

If a parameter is changing, evaluate the change from the time aspect (gradual vs. rapid changes).

A rapid change is likely to be caused by changes you made on your website, whether willingly or accidentally. As an example, conversion rates may change due to the change in design of a website, product range or the site navigation, but also due a technical problem or a faulty code. Try to exclude the possibility that your statistics are not gathered or displayed incorrectly, whereas nothing actually has happened to your website in reality.

Another reason for rapid changes or rather fluctuations are short-term effects such as a holiday vs a regular day, unexpected weather conditions or a promotional activity by yourself or one of your partners.

However, if the parameter has been changing gradually over a longer period of time, the reason is much more likely to be external. Seasonality is a major factor for cyclical effects, although natural business growth (growing or shrinking market) or the state of competition (market segmentation or consolidation) are likely to have long-term effects that are irreversible.

In this case, it is important to evaluate how the change is affecting your business and what steps can be taken to optimize your website to adapt to the changing conditions.

Another less obvious reason for changes in your KPIs, especially conversion rates is the structure of your marketing leads. It is important to understand that the way how leads travel through the funnel reflects the way these leads are or where they come from.

Imagine your website has not changed in any way for the past few months. However, you can observe that the click rates on certain products you display on the website have changed. If you exclude the possibility of a major environmental change (such as shifting demand for these products or appearance of a strong competitor), the only suitable explanation is that the actual user behavior has changed.

So if you had a recent campaign that was targeted at a new customer segment, you shouldn’t be surprised that these leads convert differently than the leads you have had before. It may even be that though the source of the leads has not changed, the structure of the leads visiting the source has been shifting. E.g. if you use a social network with predominately younger audience for generating the leads, but the network manager now wants to re-position it to suit older users, the leads you get may find your products/services irrelevant.

Unfortunately, the possibility of such external effects as a major shift in the leads structure is often missed out when interpreting the performance data, since it normally requires the change of the whole mindset and getting away from pulling the same conversion levers inside the familiar environment of your website. Moreover, measuring and evaluating the leads that have not actually converted is often difficult due to the missing or insecure data on these leads.

The information above can be summarized in the form of an extended conversion funnel, that demonstrates external influence on the actual conversion rates or other KPIs on your website.

extended conversion funnel

 

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Guiding the Customer: Website Conversion Optimisation

Using this advice you can optimize the performance and conversion of your website or a landing page.

The Internet is getting increasingly cluttered – thus, having your own web page does not guarantee the success of your business. Apart from attracting the traffic to your web page through advertising or SEO, boosting the conversion rates (that is, getting actual sales or having visitors perform other actions you want them to) is extremely important. Below are some areas you can use to leverage the performance of your online presence.

Landing page

Avoid using your home page as your landing page for every campaign you do. Because a visitor decides within milliseconds, whether to stay on your page or click the “Back” button in his browser, make sure that what he sees matches his current needs. Landing pages with too much information or too many functions act distracting and irritating, as the user is clicking through the areas of the web page struggling to find what he needs. Even if your website contains a lot of information and categories, try to limit the amount of information presented down to the minimum and make it easy to digest.

Websites with unusual, “creative” layouts may, on the one hand, attract the attention of the visitor, but due to the reduced usability, are very likely to decrease your conversion rates, as the website visitors (and the potential customers!) get lost in the jungle of JavaScript and Flash animations.

Another important point is the technical usability of your website, e.g. the compatibly with different browser types, the absence of broken links, and last, but not least, the speed of the website (the speed of the website is also an important factor in search engine optimization).

Call-to-Action

In order to convert, your website hast to contain clear and precise calls-to-action. Some guidelines to follow: the button should match the overall design of the website (so as not to be perceived as advertising or an external link), but on the other hand, provide a color or size contrast to the less essential areas of the web page.

The position of the clickable CTA should be within the normal eye path of the visitor: according to some experts, the location in the lower part of the page on the right-hand side is advantageous, however, this would not work for long pages, where you have to scroll or for smaller monitors (netbooks, mobile, etc). On the other hand, elements placed in the upper left hand corner often get the most initial attention by a visitor (Google golden triangle).

Conversion barriers

Some well or less well known conversion barriers include the areas of the web page requiring registration, long forms to fill out, CAPTCHAs (pictures with words or numbers you need to type in to prove your human identity), distractions in the form of cross-selling or external advertisements, extended visitor’s path (a number of clicks required to reach the intended goal) and all kinds of usability and performance problems.

Test and find out

In conclusion, it must be noted that the guidelines given above are of very general nature, in other words, only by testing and monitoring performance you can learn about the methods working in your particular case. Some testing methods are A/B tests (tests with a control group), mouse tracking and eye tracking tests, as well as thorough studying of customer segmentation and implementing methods of website optimization for different target segments.

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