ďWhatís in it for me?Ē you ask. ďWhy should I measure how people
use my website? How does it help and what does it all mean?Ē The
purpose of this article is to try to give you some insight into
effective web measurement and to talk about the most important
page of any website, the landing or home page.
Why measure at all?
Fred Flintstone lived in the Stone Age but we live in the
Information Age. We deal with a constant flow of information
from TV, websites, email, RSS feeds, mobile phones, PDAs, radio,
newspapers, flyers, billboards, and magazine covers. Even the
sides of buses hit us with information about companies, products
and services. So why on earth, in the midst of this information
overload, would you want to measure how people use your website,
another source of data to barrage you with even more
information? The answer is quite simple and is summed up best by
the 18th century writer Sydney Smith. ďWhat you donít know would
make a great book.Ē
Your business is selling $50,000 worth of product a week (5000
units a month) through your website. You are delighted with
these results, as many would be, and you only measure them
because you figure youíre doing something right. However your
competition, always watching and waiting for their chance, come
along suddenly and steal a lot of your market share before you
know whatís happening. How? They were consistently testing how
they could improve their conversion rate online and after they
had maximized their conversion rate, they went out and
aggressively targeted your potential customers. The bounders!
However since the conversion rate on their website is much
higher than yours, they eat your market like a hungry lion.
Letís put it another way.
You are successfully selling 5000 products per month through
your website but your conversion rate is only 0.18%. According
to research carried out by shop.org, the average sales
conversion rate is 1.8%. That means that you could be selling 10
times as many products (50, 000)! Imagine what that could mean
to your bottom line. If you donít know what your conversion rate
is, then you donít know how to improve it or even that it needs
Measuring conversion is not complicated.
Measuring sales or prospect conversion is very easy. Over a
given time period, you simply need to know how many people buy
or register an interest in your product or services as a
percentage of how many visitors turn up. However, there is more
to effective measurement than simply measuring this kind of
What a good measurement tool should give you.
The ability to improve your conversion rate depends, at the very
least, on 2 basic things. In essence, this is what you Ďhaveí to
measure to begin a conversion improvement program.
∑Firstly, you need to be able to accurately measure the number
of visitors arriving at your website. ∑Secondly, you need to be
able to see how they use the website by looking at the paths
they have taken and how long they have spent browsing your pages.
Donít just sit there going hmmmÖ.
You look at the paths that regularly Ďdonítí lead to a
conversion and try to improve them. Donít simply sit there
looking at your path tracking tool wondering to yourself why
people donít convert, but look at your website and physically
use the path that your visitor has exited. This is where careful
analysis is required and where comparisons should be made with
paths that Ďdoí convert people. In many cases, variables that
are present in the higher conversion paths are not present in
the lower conversion paths.
Itís that simple. If you regularly compare the best paths and
the worst paths whilst measuring your changes consistently,
there should be a steady improvement in conversion. You
undoubtedly will make mistakes, but that is why you should
carefully measure any changes you make, and why you should
measure one change at a time. If you change more than one
variable, then you wonít know which change made the difference
and you wonít learn anything valuable.
Of course this takes a lot of time and effort on the web
marketerís part, but I never claimed it was going to be easy. In
comparison to say direct mail marketing or TV advertising, it is
still much less expensive when you do make a mistake.
The landing page
The landing page deserves special attention. When people do a
search on Google, for instance, they have something in mind when
they get to your landing (home/index) page, and if youíre not
it, they have gotten to you by mistake. There is nothing you can
do about this at all. Itís a simple fact of life that people
using keywords like ďimproving conversionĒ could be talking
about a web site marketing campaign or catalytic converters for
The landing page however does require special attention from you
as a web marketer because you want to reduce the number of 1
page exits from this page as best you can. This means your focus
should be purely on the visitors who arrive. How well you
service their needs when they find you is critical to your level
of conversion. Again, measuring the visitors who arrive and the
ones who leave immediately (the bounce rate as itís sometimes
called) is a good measure of how good your home page is at
getting its message across. The ones who read for a few seconds
and leave arenít your target market so donít worry about them.
On the other hand, the ones who read for a little longer and
leave might be slow readers, or might be your target market so
concentrate on getting that number down. Your conversion rate
for your landing page should rarely be measured as registrations
or sales. Itís more likely reading time (for those websites that
make the proposition on the landing page) or click-through to
another section of the site.
Hereís an example...
Using our measurement system, we recently made a study of how
people used our website. We found that the landing page was
converting 68% of the readers. The objective of the landing page
is simple: get the reader to move to another page. The landing
page headline is ďAre you driving qualified traffic to your
website but not getting enough customers or prospects?Ē This
headline, the fact that we go on to describe the target visitors
dilemma in the first paragraph, and the fact that there are
links to articles which educate the reader (more headlines, to
pique the curious among you) mean that we get a good percentage
of readers who arrive and continue further into the site. Weíre
always working on the other 32%, but by analyzing the bounces,
we found that 50% of them were possibly irrelevant traffic. We
have an article starring Winston Churchill that describes how
colorful language can grip a reader, and many visitors were
arriving at our pages looking for a history of the great man.
And as we mentioned above, we also found that some readers were
looking for catalytic converters (the keyword conversion brought
them to our website). So overall, it meant that only 16% of our
target audience left without doing anything. Maybe the phone
rang. We canít measure that!
Our tests on the landing page have been numerous, but now weíre
frightened to change the headline. Seriously! Because simply by
changing the landing page headline, we improved clickthrough by
36%. Thatís nearly double what we were getting over the same
time period six months ago. So if you think you can write a
better headline for us than the one that currently grabs the
attention of 68% of our readers, email me and Iíll test if it is
better than the one weíre using!
Another thing we tested was urgency. We had a section on our
landing page that said you could get a free e-book by
subscribing before a given date. The date was cunningly set to
change every day to the same dayís date. It worked. We got high
numbers of subscribers in a short space of time and hit a 35%
conversion rate, which we considered incredible. Over 1 in 3
people subscribed to get the book. Why did we stop? We listened
to our readers who were getting annoyed by irrelevant
information on the landing page. New subscribers didnít mind
seeing the message, but the returning visitors, the ones you
should really pay attention to, complained about the same
message with an updated date. It proves one thing though. If you
have a special offer in mind, urgency works.
Incidentally, the fact that all of the above was tested on the
landing page doesnít mean you should forget about the rest of
your website. For instance, one of our recent articles is very
well visited and got terrific feedback from critics and other
web publications. But as an entry page, the URL also has a very
high 79% bounce rate. We have analyzed it and have drawn a
tentative conclusion. We think itís because we havenít given
readers anything to do when they finish reading. They get to the
bottom of the page and thatís it. The end. Article over. And
they leave. So now weíre going to add a new section at the
bottom of our articles which encourages subscription or
clickthrough. Again, by analyzing and changing things, we hope
to improve. If it doesnít make any difference, or in fact makes
the rate worse, we have lost very little, we simply put the page
back to the way it was. Testing is about trial and error.
I will never be too clever to ever stop measuring how people use
our website. I donít know what will work with our visitors the
first time around. I couldnít have said that one headline would
work better than another until I tested it. I couldnít have said
that using great copy that instills a sense of urgency in the
reader would work better than not instilling urgency in the
reader until I tested it. I couldnít have told you whether
adding article links to the first landing page would improve
click through until I measured it. I couldnít have said whether
one graphic would work better than another until I measured it.
I couldnít have told you that all these small changes altogether
would improve our subscription rate to over 15% every month,
until I measured it. In other words, by measuring how people use
your website, you can continuously improve it and therefore
improve the conversion rate, which eventually has a positive
impact on your bank balance.
In other words what you donít know about your visitors movement
through your website would make a great book.
About the author:
Steve Jackson is Editor of the Conversion Chronicles,
(http://www.conversionchronicles.com) and CEO of Aboavista a
Finnish company which improves web prospect and sales conversion