“Conversions, Conversions, Conversions – don’t give me more traffic, Permission – I need more Conversions.”

How often do you think we hear this line? Well, nowhere near as often as this one: “My traffic has dropped off and I’m worried.” Or perhaps, “whatever you can do to increase our traffic then do it quite quickly please.”

Now, we are not alone here. It’s an industry wide-issue. For example, just go to Google and type in “SEO” (Search En­gine Optimisation) and you will see a whole bunch of advertised results. It’s a high volume search term. Now try again with the keyword “website conversion optimisation” and the results are very different, as is the search volume – it’s a lot lower.

 

I don’t want to get all meta-physical here but perhaps this is just a simple reflection of our desire to favour solutions to our problems that rely on changes outside rather than inside our business. So we look to places like Google for the op­portunity of more traffic, when the real long-term change needs to occur with what we do with the traffic we already get. Then we can be in the situation that this happy customer is faced with in the images that follow. Site visits are down 10% but conversions are up 48% and the overall site conversion rate is rocketing up by 81%. That’s quite a big smile.

You see, online traffic will wax and wane in tune with the changing desires of the market. But steady improvements in conversions will add sustainable strength to your business.

So what are the fundamentals of success in the website conversion process? Well, here are just five to ponder when heading off into this area.

Fundamental #1: The more you tell – the more you sell

Imagine you are walking through a sports goods store on the hunt for some new running shoes. It’s been a while since you purchased a pair and you need help. It’s a mammoth store, so now you are hunting not for some shoes but some help. Eventually you find someone. Unfortunately, they started yesterday and are very little help. So you leave. In a huff. Shopping was never your favourite pastime. It ranks just above jogging.

Nevertheless, just by luck you find another store close by and in it someone who is also a “leisure” runner like you. Now things are very different. They tell you what to avoid and what to pay attention to. You spend a good few minutes chatting and end up walking out with your ideal pair. They probably cost more than at the first store but that didn’t matter. The job is done.

Most people would love to replicate every part of this happy shopping experience in their own e-commerce store. But that’s a bit hard to achieve. Nevertheless, the theory of telling more and more through the content you provide is one you can follow. So lots of great pictures please, from all angles in as high a quality as possible. Even short videos pre­senting the product could be an idea, too. (Refer to my previous article on Zappos and their use of quick fire product intro video notes.)

Tell, tell and more tell – load it up and see how this improves your site’s ability to sell.

Fundamental #2: Shopping carts need obvious directions

Online shopping is a fickle environment. A good website will covert 4% of its traffic into orders – leaving 96% to visit, look and leave. Any real-world store would quickly go bust with conversion rates like this. Therefore, any visitor that packs their shopping cart with product and then heads to your online check-out process deserves a slick and easy pro­cess to complete the sale. This is not the place for forms that confuse rather than clarify or pages that distract rather than focus attention.

And we are not talking about large, wholesale alterations here to fix a clunky check-out process. Just small tweaks can make a very large difference. For example, the conversion rate increases we delivered for the customer whose data was in the earlier graphic were achieved by us re-writing just two pages of a shopping cart process. Less than 35 words were changed.

Fundamental #3 : Even “Contact us” forms need some selling

When you are next in your Google Analytics account go and look at the number of unique visits your “Contact us” page receives. Now think back to the number of actual contacts – both phone and form – that came from your website. Even allowing for a few just wanting your contact details, I’m sure there will be a reasonably large discrepancy.

A month or so ago we had a client who lived with a sub 2% conversion rate for this type of page. In other words, of the 100 people who visited their “Contact us” page, only two actually did. Not good.

There were a number of issues at fault here. Firstly, they were asking for too much detail – from memory the form requested up to 8 fields to be completed. And secondly, there were no words of “selling” on the page to convince visi­tors to part with their information.

Again, it doesn’t have to be much. Just a few words on what occurs for those interested in learning more. Your busi­ness may offer a complimentary consulting session, a free “measure and quote” or perhaps a short phone review. Whatever it is, it will no doubt be packed full of benefits to make the first engagement a good one.

You don’t offer anything for the first time contact? Well, perhaps it’s time you did. Permission offers a comprehensive online marketing review for all new clients. Now, this is a paid-for service but comes with a rebate for a sizable chunk of the cost for those who decide to proceed further. For some businesses, a “paid-for” introduction service wouldn’t work, but there needs to be something that can be sold from your “Contact us” page.

Fundamental #4: Both the top and bottom of the sales funnel need attention

In very general terms, there are usually two types of prospects that your website will attract. There will be those that have a problem and need to solve it quite quickly – and then there are the visitors who are interested but not ready to decide just yet. The latter is the larger sized group.

Nearly all websites have a “Contact us” page with our without any selling on it, whereas very few also offer content to those who are interested but not yet decided. This is a problem. These people are ripe for influencing. They are in the early stages of gathering information together and are hungry for content to make their job easier.

Buying guides, free reports, and any prospect education content pieces all go a long way to correctly position your company during this early research phase. Yes, it will need some focused email follow-up, but done properly it is a powerful conversion improving strategy.

Fundamental #5: The website visitor chooses the winner

I’ve mentioned this before in previous newsletters but it deserves repeating here again. It is nigh on impossible to deliver a website that achieves the maximum conversion rate for your prospect audience. There’s always room for improvement. Therefore, split-testing your pages against test versions is a process that should be part of every month’s work. The person who decides what test will or will not work is not you, your boss or your marketing advisor – it’s your website visitor. After a statistically valid series of events have passed they will let you know which of the three outcomes your test has achieved – no change, improved change or, possibly, worsening change.

So there you have it. These five short points make up some of the fundamental parts of improving a website’s ability to convert the traffic it receives. Traffic will go up and down but positive conversion choices will live with your website forever more.

Permission delivers a Website Conversion service module that runs for 6 months and is focused on exactly this type of work. It comes with a guaranteed conversion rate improvement. Contact us today if you would like to learn more.

Google AdWords – Speed isn’t always your Friend

Google makes starting a new AdWords campaign a very easy task indeed. Within minutes you can gather together a selection of keywords, write an small text ad, load up your credit card details, and “baboom” – start sending them money and your website traffic. Most should achieve this in 30 minutes or less. At first this seems like good news for the time-starved executive. You are now advertising online on the country’s most visited search engine. Time to sit back, relax and just wait for the phone to ring or the email inbox to fill up with contact requests. Ideally both.

 This must happen for a few. Otherwise, those happy images of satisfied customers Google portrays on its AdWords home page would be false. Nevertheless, the Google advertisers who walk through our doors for the first time rarely share stories of drowning under a torrent of leads as a result of their 20 minutes of campaign set-up.

A few turned up at Permission with different stories last month. Well established and successful business people who were spending hundreds of dollars a day with Google and were a) not seeing much benefit from it, and b) not sure if this was typical of the experience of others.

Fortunately, each of them had agreed to complete our initial online marketing review process and because of this we had the necessary time to take them through their AdWords account, pointing out the good and not so good parts. The bits that were great for them and Google and likewise the bits that were not so friendly to their wallet.

Now, I firmly believe that Google has the interests of the advertiser at heart when they designed their account set-up process. They had to allow for a time-starved user with limited attention and, based on the complexity involved, the process does a great job. So all the big things – like keywords, budgets and ads – decisions the advertiser HAS TO IN­CLUDE to get going are covered in an easy to understand way. Meanwhile, what seem to be relatively small things – like keyword match types, choice of advertising networks and optimal account structure – well, Gooogle decided that these are best done AFTER the account was live.

Unfortunately, it’s these AFTER bits that can make all the difference. Which was why I found myself and my client peer­ing into a web browser at an AdWords campaign, picking over a campaign that had been removing thousands of dollars from his bank account each week and providing very, very little in return. Fortunately, we had this under control after a days work, but still, the money that was already spent was wasted.

So, in the interests of ensuring readers of this newsletter avoid such a situation, here are some of the fundamental AdWords Campaign Set-Up basics that apply to any campaign that is successful (for both Google and the advertiser).

Fundamental basic #1: Take control of your keywords

The underlying resource of any AdWords campaign is the keywords you chose to bid on. The Google Keyword tool is a free resource (just Google it) that will help you see which keywords attract the highest search volume for the regions you want to advertise within. So if you are an Auckland-based mortgage broker, after you have used this tool you may find that “Mortgage Brokers Auckland” is a keyword worth bidding on.

Google enables you to bid on this keyword in four different ways. These are called match types. There is broad match, modified broad match, phrase match and exact match. (For the sake of accuracy there’s a fifth type called negative match that I’ll cover later on.)

When you set up your account for the first time, broad match is the default option. Remember the set-up process is all about speed. So the time taken to educate you on the other match options and then let you pick which suits is put in the AFTER bucket. This is a shame because the default option can cause a lot of problems.

You see, broad match allows Google to present your ad for terms like these:

Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Home Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Mortgage Refinance Brokers
Finance Brokers
Reviews Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Mortgage Brokers Auckland Business Set Up

Some of these are good, a few not so. The other three match types help you refine the way in which your keywords match against what the searcher types in. It starts with the highly refined exact match. Then it gradually becomes more flexible – as each match type is used – until you arrive at the last option, the broad match choice, which opens your keyword up to a mass of terms that may or may not suit your business.

To follow is an image from Google that helps to show you all this in a friendly graphic for the search term formal shoes.

Fundamental basic #2: Know your negatives

The fifth keyword match type is a negative match. This is for keywords that people may use within the phrases you want to bid on but by doing so automatically discount them from being valid search terms. So in the previous graphic from Google, perhaps you didn’t sell any black shoes, or your shoes were just for men. In these cases, the terms “black” and “women” would be in your list of negative keywords.

These types of keywords can be applied to your whole campaign or to just one Ad Group. So when we see a campaign that only uses broad match terms and has no negative keywords then there are problems ahead.

Fundamental basic #3: Don’t mix networks or regions

Google can place your advertising next to their search results and also on websites that host their advertising. One key difference between the two is that one audience is actively searching for what you offer, while the other is passively reading about it. These are two very different environments to advertise within.

Nevertheless, when setting up your account (again, in the interests of time) your Google AdWords campaign is set up to run in both. This is usually not the best option for those starting. Our recommendation is to always focus on search­ers first and then, once you have figured out how to make this traffic stream work, begin work on convincing passive readers to click your ads. Trying to do both will muddy your results and make what is already a hard task even harder.

Fundamental basic #4: Carry on the conversation, deliver people to the optimal page

This brings me nicely into how the underlying structure of your account can either work for or against you. Think of it like the commonly used “house foundation” analogy – build on solid foundations and you improve your chances of future success. The foundation for an AdWords campaign is the ease with which it allows you to carry on the question raised by the searcher.

For instance, say they type in the keyword “black formal shoes male”. Just by chance they see your text ad that includes text like their keyword term. And, when they click on it, they are taken to the page on your website that presents them with your full range of black formal shoes for guys. So easy for them – a bit of work for you.

To achieve this experience your campaign needs to contain a lot of Ad Groups. An Ad Group is a Google term for a distinct collection of keywords and the text ads that work for them. Most new campaigns set up at speed have just the one. This will be filled with lots of keywords and perhaps only one or, if we are lucky, maybe two ads. When clicked, these will most likely take you to the home page.

If you run this type of campaign and the searcher types in “black formal shoes male” or even “brown formal shoes female” or possibly “white formal dance shoes male”, they are shown the one ad that talks generically about formal shoes. If they click this ad they will arrive on the home page of the website and have to find the right shoes for them­selves. People rarely do.

Fundamental basic #5: Track how well your money is being spent

My final fundamental basic. The online marketing space is littered with opportunities to track and measure. The prob­lem is usually the vast amount of data available, not the lack of it. The Google AdWords system is no different. And while, once again, setting up “conversion tracking” is something missing during the speedy sign-up process, it’s in your account waiting to be turned on.

Once engaged you will be able to see how much money you spent to achieve whatever conversion you want to mea­sure. This could be newsletter sign-ups, e-commerce sales or contact requests – they can all be counted. Some of the data may make you smile, others may not – but at least you will know what does and doesn’t work.

So there you have it. Five fundamentals that are missed during any super speedy new account set-up. Yes, it will take you time to do all five BUT, once done, your account will work so much harder for you.  Speed isn’t always your friend. Look here for more on our Google AdWords Campaign Management  Services.