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Thursday, Jun. 11, 2009 at 11:07 am

How to Optimize Your Conversion Rate(s)

By Bryan Eisenberg
June 11th, 2009

Conversion rate = The number of people who take the action you want them to take divided by the total number of potential people who could have taken that action.

When you break that sentence down, you start to understand how to optimize your conversion rate.

Step 1 – Let’s understand “number of people

Who are these people? Are they all the same? Do they have different characteristics, needs, questions? Do all these people have the same amount of product/service knowledge that you do? Are they all at the same stage in their buying process? Do they know you already? Or have they never heard of you before?

How are you bringing these “number of people” to your website? Do they all come by directly typing your URL in their browser? Do some search for your brand? Do some search for your category? Or your products? Do some of those people come from organic search? paid search? emails? affiliates? Do these people come from different websites: Google? Bing? Yahoo!? Wikipedia? Twitter? Facebook?

Do you launch new marketing efforts regularly? Are the efforts last week different than this week? last month versus this month? Is there an important calendar event occuring (Christmas if you’re a retailer; Fourth of July if you’re a seller of fireworks; Mother’s Day if you sell flowers: etc.?) all of which may induce a “spike” in traffic that is different than usual.

There is no such thing as an average person. That is why your average conversion rate is a rough indicator but virtually worthless as a way to focus your conversion optimization.

You have lots of segments who come to your website. They differ by demographics, psychographics, behavior, or because they came in through very different marketing efforts. You can calculate a conversion rate for each one of these segments/marketing efforts and you should.

Step 2 – Let’s understand “the action you want them to take”:

If you are in retail, you want them to purchase a product.

If you are in lead generation, you want them to become a lead.

Are there no other actions that are valuable?

In retail, even in they don’t convert now would it at least be more valuable to know if they added an item to your wish list, or subscribed to your newsletter, or looked up your retail store hours, or added items to their cart versus, just bouncing off the site right away? What are you doing to turn that one-time customer into a repeat customer? Do they only need one product you sell or might they need different ones over the course of time?

In lead generation, if they don’t give you all their information and request to be contacted by sales, is it valuable to have them sign up for a whitepaper, or a demo, or your newsletter? Is it better to download specification sheets, engage in calculators, or print or forward pages rather than just bouncing off the website? These are all steps that move people through their buying process.

These are just some of your macro-actions. What happens when someone comes from one of your ads and gets to a landing page? Sometimes the action is one of those listed above, but what if that page is only meant to help your visitors to choose the right product or service and they still need to actually click on the right one for them? What do you do to help them take that action and not bounce away? These are the micro-actions that need to happen from step to step in the potential customer’s visit.

All of these are actions we need to optimize. You can calculate a conversion rate for each one of these macro- and micro-actions, and you should.

Step 3 – Let’s understand “total number of potential people who could have taken that action”

What happened to the majority of visitors who did not convert? Why didn’t they convert?

Did they land on your site incorrectly? For example, they typed in “shingles” into a search engine and they were looking for roof repair and not a skin condition. This is obviously a disqualified visitor. Did they try to purchase from your website and something went wrong? Did they have problems accessing the information? Could they not figure out how to take action on your website? Did they not trust you? Did they leave with questions that were not answered? Did you answer their questions for today, but they aren’t ready to buy now? Did you not instill a sense of urgency or desire in them? Did you not make them a great offer?

You need to optimize your website experience for these potential buyers through the hierarchy of optimization.

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There are thousands of potential improvements to choose from. You need to prioritize these based on the level of impact that improvement can have and the resources available to execute them. If you don’t have a copywriter available at the moment, you shouldn’t focus on copy changes even if it would be the most impactful. That’s may sound like just common sense, but it catches many companiyes like a deer in headlights.

Your average conversion rate is the aggregated conversion rate of how well your website performs for each of your customer segments, and each of your marketing efforts for each of the actions you want them to take. You optimize your conversion rate by first focusing in on the elements that impact as many of these as you can, and then you have to work on these “micro-funnels.”

While you work on conversions, market conditions, competitive forces, ad copy, and even your customers’ needs change. This is why you need to continuously optimize your marketing efforts. You can’t afford to have a “set it and forget it” mentality to your marketing.

Those of you who have been reading our blog and books for a while might recognize these steps as the fundamental steps of Persuasion Architecture®.

1. Who do we want to take action? This is the “number of people” from step 1.

2. What action do we want them to take? This is “the action you want them to take” from step 2. Have you defined all of these clearly? Are you measuring them properly?

3. What do they need in order to take that action? This is where we analyze what content/effort went into understanding why the “total number of potential people who could have taken that action” didn’t. This is where experience helps a ton.

If you only focus on improving a few landing pages here and there, testing a few variations here and there, tweaking creative here and there you will never reach your highest potential conversion rate!

Don’t worry, your customers won’t go unsatisfied. I guarantee that sooner or later your competitors will figure out how to satisfy your visitors needs. Hopefully that will motivate you to start getting your conversion goals on target by investing in continuous improvement.

Add Your Comments

Comments (55)

  1. [...] How to Optimize Your Conversion Rate(s) [...]

  2. Excellent post, Bryan. I love your conversion definition, and I think that type of definition is becoming more and more important as we all use our sites for more and more purposes. I also am intrigued my your concept of an overall conversion being the aggregate of a number of more focused conversion rates. I think the main point to take away is that multiple conversion rates tied closer to individually desired actions will ultimately be more actionable and will correlate closer to meaningful results. Thanks for sparking some good thoughts!

  3. best way to optimize the website is focusing it to the right target!

  4. [...] money? Testing. How can you get better at it? Well, Bryan Eisenberg provides a good overview of how to optimize conversion rates. Of course, it helps to know what to test first, [...]

  5. “There is no such thing as an average person” sums it up for me, and while it goes against a lot of optimisation practises which are based on finding the sweet spot in bell curves, I still think it’s the prime directive when it comes to building business, online or off.

  6. @John Gift: I’m unsure what point you’re trying to make (if any)? It seems like you are presenting a false choice to either use the “average person” or not. As if somehow looking at what went into the calculation of the average person obviates the usefulness of the average person.

    In fact, all of the data are important, the average simply being a way to shortcut summarize the entirety. I’d also note (wrote a separate blog post about this ages ago) that a quoted average conversion without a quoted standard deviation is virtually meaningless, since the spread of the data is as important as it’s average.

    If someone asked me, “you can only have ONE measure of your site, which would you pick?” I’d say “average macro conversion”, because at least it’s a starting point for further work. One starts with the general and works towards the more specific.

    But if someone asked for “the one METRIC to be measured” I’d always pick “micro-conversion by segmented paths” because it’s the rawest measure of customer intent. And from that, I can always calculate average conversion by hand anyway. When presented with this sort of data, optimization becomes possible, and so one gladly moves from the specific to the general.

    What I’ve certainly seen over the years is that companies, (uh, “on average”) who settle for using average conversion rates, tend to get average results. In boom times, average results might well be profitable enough to sustain company marketing efforts (and usually is enough to disinterest the benefiting parties to further optimize!). In tough economic times, however, “average” pretty much equates to “flip a coin that they will survive”.

    I don’t like coin flips in businesses any more than coin flip average measurements of customer intent.

  7. [...] How to optimize your Conversion Rates [Grokdotcom] [...]

  8. Thanks for a good post Bryan. I watched your video on Hierarchy of Optimisation and it made me think about how this is relevant for the cultural optimisation of websites. I have a blog on cultural multivariate testing ( so that’s my perspective on optimisation.

    I think similarly to your pyramid, there are layers of functionality and accessibility which are fairly universal, but the higher up we go the more culture-specific the optimisation becomes. So the usability, the intuitive and persuasive layers become more and more dependant on the cultural background of the user – and therefore also more difficult to capture and define. However, with the high levels of competition on the web – this is often the way to stand out from the crowd and win business. That’s where multivariate testing comes in – but that’s a whole new story.

    Thanks and best wishes,

  9. Considering the source is one of the hardest steps to wrap my mind around. but this helps me focus, thanks.

  10. Great advice and I am always looking for ways to do well on the conversions. Thanks a lot

  11. [...] co-founder Brian Eisenberg provides a step-by-step process for optimizing conversion rates for your [...]

  12. For me, knowing my audience is the first step. Some user bases completely go against the “norm”.

  13. Actually you are right you need to do and exhaustive study and research in order to improve leads.But as i have said before if you make there first time experience hassle fee and gain their trust then that one time customer will surely be your repeatitive customer.

  14. Lot of effort and hardwork is to be put in to improve coversion rate.There is no short cut if you want to optimize your Conversion Rate as the competition is higher than ever.

  15. Your tutorial is very easy to understand and follow, now my conversion rate is increase.
    Thank you.

  16. Good stuff Bryan. The mystery and challenge of what makes us choose or reject is an interesting business.

  17. One of the ways I have succeeded in achieving better rates of conversion was to improve the calls to action buttons on my site, as well as usability through an appropriate airworthiness providing easy access to information that visitors expect.

  18. Thanks for the helpful advice, really informative and well written article.

  19. Very useful post, I’m always watching over my conversion rates and thinking of ways to improve it.

  20. I must say, great tips. Thanks!

  21. great post
    it is actually useful
    And i think we should make efforts to improve coversion rate.I have to say there is no short cut here.

  22. You share great tips for ecommerce. I should follow them. Thanks.

  23. The bad thing is that Google Website Optimizer makes it hard to segment visitors. By default, variations are played out to all visitors.

    I ran into this when — during a period of someone sending me back traffic — I ran some tests on

    The combination I chose was superior during the testing time but once the traffic quality went back to normal, it wasn’t as good :-)

  24. thank you for your information

  25. Converting those on the fence visitors is so key!

  26. Thanks for the article!

  27. I would like to add up to this article. Use A-B testing.
    Take up a page A – Any page with a type of response sheet and other conversion stuffs. See the results.
    Now switch to page B – See the results. Now have the page that gives the maximum results.

  28. When it comes to converting those clicks into cash, nothing is more important than having a good strategy in place.

  29. I am inspired by the vision of the author. Very few people work like such aspects of issues.

  30. Awesome tips, thanks!

  31. Thanks, it’s useful article

  32. Hi Bryan, what do you suggest how many call to action should be used in one landing page?

  33. Really interesting and useful, thanks for this resource !

  34. Thanks This is a nice Article.

  35. Nice tips.Thank you for your information

  36. Thanks for sharing this great article! That is very interesting Smile I love reading and
    I am always searching for informative information like this.

  37. Really interesting and useful, thanks for this resource !

  38. Great site, I am always looking for new resources.

  39. Thanks for this! Great stuff.

  40. Thanks for the tips on conversion.

    Happy Holidays

  41. [...] ideas, I highly recommend taking a look at Bryan Eisenberg’s excellent recent topic called How to Optimize Your Conversion Rates where he explores some of these topics in more [...]

  42. I hope this will improve my conversion rates, I will follow your tips.

  43. Thanks for sharing this great article! That is very interesting

  44. I agree with the statement taht the best way to optimize the website is focusing it to the right target!It is the basis for many business areas.

  45. I guess that people will spend less money this year, because of the financial crisis.

  46. Thanks for good information that comes out to read.

  47. How to optimize your conversion rates.

  48. I think similarly to your pyramid, there are layers of functionality and accessibility which are fairly universal, but the higher up we go the more culture-specific the optimisation becomes

  49. Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.

  50. Excellent post. All the steps are nicely explained and it also contains a lot of useful facts. I really enjoyed the read. Many thanks for sharing this informative resource.

  51. I am always split testing landing pages even when I find one bringing me great ROI. You’d be surprised how much a headline can change to your income!

  52. you describe the most easiest way to optimize website i must say. thanks

  53. The number games rules still apply here

  54. I think one of the best ways to capture a lead is by providing a high quality, well written article with either an opt-in box at the bottom, or a link to another page with an opt-in.

    People often forget that the more steps a user has to take, the more time they dedicate to your site = the more that person will trust you and sign-up.

  55. thanks for the grate resources…

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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