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What does Website Conversion Optimization mean in SEO?

What is website conversion?

Put simply it is a measure of how successful your website is at making visitors do whatever you want them to do. So if you are an online shop and 2 out of every 100 visitors buy something your eCommerce conversion rate is 2%.

Conversion can be measured in any way you like it so long as you can define the goal. For example your goal might be for visitors to:
  • become a subscriber to a service,
  • sign up to a newsletter,
  • become a facebook fan,
  • click on an advertisement,
  • etc.

It's crucial to know what your goal is, otherwise you can't measure your success.

I understand that your goal does not always have to be money. If you have a blog and you just want it to be popular for your own personal ego that's fine. Don't be afraid of admitting vanity is your goal ... why not?

But a popular blog can still have a conversion measurement - perhaps by the number of Facebook fans added, perhaps by the number of people who sign up for update notifications, etc. There is always a way to define the goal and then the conversion rate.

Why work on website conversion?

90% of the email enquries I receive are from website owners telling me they "want more traffic". Typically they will be looking to rank higher for this keyword or the other because they are popular and because they hope this will bring people flooding in and make their website a success.

When I look under the bonnet of many of these websites I see that they are getting a pretty respectable number of visitors. We've got a virtual space on the internet full of people milling around but not doing what the webmaster wants them to do.

In the first instance, before chasing even more traffic, it's far better to ask, "why aren't these visitors converting?". There are three key reasons for this:

  1. Obviously if more of your current visitors convert this will be better for you.
  2. Visitors who convert stay on the website longer and visit more pages - both are important metrics taken into account, especially on Google, when ranking your website.
  3. Visitors who convert are more likely to talk about your website and that means social media shares (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) and that means a better, more natural, backlink profile.

For any website that has over 100 visitors a day my approach is to make sure the conversion rate is as high as it can be before starting to chase even more traffic.

Converting more of your current visitors brings immediate benefits and also improves your rankings in the search engines.

Website conversion, user behaviour and rankings

Here I find an analogy is best in understanding how user behaviour (of which the conversion rate is one measure) affects rankings.

Imagine you sit on a bench outside three bed linen shops and all day you watch the people come and go. The people walk into Shop Number 1 and come out again quite quickly, empty handed.

They then walk into Shop Number 2, stay a while but most also come out empty handed.

Then they walk into Shop Number 3 where they always stay a long time and nearly everyone comes out carrying a shopping bag.

One day someone comes up to you and says "Hey person who sits on a bench watching bed linen shops, I'm in a hurry so which is the best shop for bed linen?"

The answer is pretty clear - the one people stay in and buy in.

You are Google or Bing or Yahoo or any other modern search engine. Watching, seeing who is the most popular, and recommending.

But it goes further. The people who visit each shop are more likely to talk about Shop Number Three. These are natural everyday conversations. "Where did you buy that great bed linen?", "In Shop Number 3".

Even people who don't buy but stay a long time talk about it - "I'm thinking of buying some bed linen, do you know anywhere decent?", "I liked what they had in Shop Number 3 but I couldn't afford it."

These are the real life equivalents of back links or social media shares. On the internet such comments might come in the form of:
  • Recommendations to others on forums.
  • Social media shares (from proud new owners of bed linen!).
  • Answers on Question and Answer sites like Yahoo Answers.
  • Blog posts from people wanting to shout about how lovely their bed looks now.
  • etc.

better user behavior = better conversion rates = better rankings
better user behavior = better conversion rates = more natural links = better rankings

So now you're probably beginning to understand the power of working on conversion optimization.

What is a good conversion rate?

This varies wildly. At the bottom of the pile are online shops selling mainstream electrical items (so lots of competition). Because people shop around for these types of products such online stores can see conversion rates of 1% or below. On the other hand niche ecommerce sites can have conversion rates of 5%+ but on much lower levels of traffic.

For other types of websites it depends on the goal. If you have a free newsletter signup set as your goal you can expect a higher conversion rate because it costs the visitor nothing except some concern over what you will do with their email address.

If your goal is to get the visitor to do a free test then it depends on the length of the test and what is motivating them to complete it - say a prize draw, etc.

The subject area can also greatly affect your rate. For example technical websites tend to be more successful in getting Google+ followers while social or everyday webesites do better at gathering Facebook fans.

If your goal is to get visitors to click on advertisements and make you lots of money then a very general rule of thumb is $1 - $2 for every hundred visitors. Again, this depends on your subject field, some themes are more competitive and so you earn more per click than others.

How to improve your conversion rate

Understanding how your users behave, making changes to your website and measuring their effect on this behavior is a massive field.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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