Do you look at the average bounce rate of your web site and come to any conclusions about your performance based on this single number? Probably not, right? I mean, it’s possible that this might set off some red flags, and drive you towards finding out what the bounce rates are for your list of top landing pages. That at least gives you a bit more insight into WHERE some of the problems might exist on your site. It may also drive you to determine whether the sources of traffic that are sending visitors to the top landing pages, are even targeted and relevant traffic in the first place.
The sources of traffic that are not targeted and are sending visitors to your site who are not interested in your content are obviously going to experience higher bounce rates than other more relevant sources of traffic. That’s why looking at averages isn’t going to lead to any breakthrough discoveries that tell us anything really valuable about web site performance.
Similarly, the average conversion rate really doesn’t tell us the whole story about our web site’s performance. It can actually be quite misleading. Some traffic sources are sending more targeted and qualified traffic than others. These are what we call “marketing efforts”. Whether or not you’re actually investing in these marketing efforts (radio ads, banner ads, CPC, or organic), they are driving traffic to your web site and therefore should be treated as marketing efforts. Obviously the more qualified your marketing effort is, driving highly targeted and qualified traffic to your site, the more likely the conversion rate will be higher for these specific marketing efforts.
If you are making changes to your site, you may be increasing the conversion rates of your highly qualified marketing efforts, but you will have no impact on the conversion rates for those unqualified sources of traffic. You could do cartwheels in front of the unqualified marketing effort’s traffic and it would do nothing because this traffic wasn’t interested in what you had to offer in the first place. The conversion rates that haven’t increased at all (for the unqualified efforts) will pull down the AVERAGE conversion rate of better performing traffic sources. Therefore, you may think that the changes you made to your site had little to no impact to your web site’s conversion rate, when really they could have had a tremendous impact to the relevant marketing effort’s conversion rates, you just weren’t looking at the right numbers in the first place.
Stop trying to increase your overall conversion rate. Instead, look at each traffic source as a single marketing effort that is sending traffic to your site, and therefore look at each marketing effort’s conversion rate. Each marketing effort brings in a different type of visitor with different motivations and needs. Get a baseline conversion rate for each marketing effort and then work to make changes to your site to increase each individual marketing effort’s conversion rate. This is what we are doing in 2010 with our clients to improve their online performance.