Website conversion, that somewhat illusive term that every site must accomplish, can have a number of meanings. Generally, we marketers refer to it simply as what action we intend for the website visitor to take before leaving our site. It may mean completing an online form to receive a technical white paper; it could also be requesting to be added to a mailing list to receive future newsletters or blog posts; or in its purest form, to complete a transaction where an exchange of a product for money takes place. The evaluation of website conversions is important whether your marketing efforts are directed towards the consumer (B to C) or whether directed towards another business (B to B). Website conversions also take place regardless of industry, and this would include manufacturing, professional services, transportation and even not-for-profit. The bottom line is, regardless of whether the intent behind the conversion is to generate leads, to sell a product, to take a survey or to gather market information, the conversion is the key measurement to success in Internet marketing.
I have had a number of clients ask me what kind of conversion rate they should expect as a result of their online search marketing initiatives. As I’ve said in a number of previous posts, there are many factors that can impact your conversion rate, but you should also consider the sales cycle of your product or service. If your product has a high price, your sales cycle is likely much longer and therefore a lower conversion rate is probably acceptable. If on the other hand, you are trying to gather information on people who could potentially be a customer, then your conversion rate will depend on what value the visitor receives in exchange for the information they provide.
Internet visitors can come to your site from four very generalized sources:
- Pay-per-click or Sponsored Search ads
- Organic or Natural Search (a result of your SEO efforts)
- Directly typing in your URL or having bookmarked your URL
- Some other referring party
Even though traffic can come from an endless number of places, a study completed recently by Engine Ready looked at these categories and the traffic to 26 e-commerce sites over a 12 month period. Although I will hit the highlights, the complete study is available at
You’re probably saying, David, we don’t do e-commerce on our website and that is a perfectly legitimate concern. Although results can vary dramatically based upon what you have defined as a “conversion,” I just thought this study might be interesting in helping you evaluate whether you are getting the best value from your search strategies.
According to their findings, for these 26 “e-retailers” this was what they saw:
- The conversion rate from sponsored search was 2.03% versus 1.26% for organic search. This could be attributed to the fact that more design time is spent on the landing page of a sponsored search ad.
- Not surprisingly, the best conversion rate, 7.38%, was from someone directly typing in the URL or clicking a bookmark. The second best was the visitor who was referred by another website or who clicked on an email link, it was 6.58%.
- The bounce rate, or visitors who immediately left after hitting the landing page was 43.9% overall, with organic search producing the worst bounce at 48.5% and direct access the lowest at 39.2%. Many times either people don’t input quality search phrases or the search engines missed their mark.
So, where’s the payoff? The clear answer is if they don’t know your domain name, then you definitely want to be referred by another website; it’s like word of mouth advertising. But, I believe this shows that you simply have to have an overall strategic plan when it comes to Internet marketing and always measure, evaluate, adjust and then measure again. Your thoughts?