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Wednesday, May. 18, 2011 at 8:04 am

Website Optimization is Not Just for Ecommerce

By Melissa Burdon
May 18th, 2011

I can’t tell you how often we write a blog post using examples from an ecommerce site and receive an overwhelming number of comments from service-based, lead generation businesses to say what we’re recommending doesn’t apply to them. We see the reverse when we write a post using examples from lead generation sites. The multitudes of questions we receive about when we’re going to do a case study or make recommendations for an XXXX or YYYY “kind of site, like mine” are a milder symptom of this same mistaken belief.

The truth is that our methodology to improve website performance is applicable to every business model. Whether you’re an ecommerce website, or a service-based, lead generation site, the strategies and tactics we employ apply to your business.  The only difference is the kind of action you are trying to drive from your visitors, not the strategies and tactics you use to drive that action.  If you need proof, consider that we’ve used our OnTarget subscription strategies and tactics to help companies drive all of the following endpoint goals:

    • sales
    • leads
    • free trials
    • subscriptions
    • click-thru
    • customer engagement
    • applications

… and we’ve even used it to help our clients improve their average order value or increase bundled orders.  And because the high level strategy aims to affect your end goals by driving more action at each step of the path people follow to get there, it impacts a whole slew of intermediary goals along the way.  These include actions such as:

    • newsletter sign up
    • downloads
    • video viewing

… and any other measurable action that represents your goal to move your visitors toward the commitment you ultimately want from them.

For example, if you’re a service-based business such as a dog walker or a chiropractor, the buying stage rules still apply. You still get the biggest bang for your buck if you focus on driving more late stage visitors who are ready to take action (give you their contact info, or request an appointment or quote) today. You still want to make sure the scent trails you bring this traffic through (just like conversion funnels) are optimized at each step so it is easy for this persuaded visitor to take the desired action on your web site. Find out how scent trails work and learn how to set up funnels on your site.

If you’re a chiropractor in Ottawa, Ontario, you likely are interested in optimizing your site for the geographic-specific keywords that demonstrate someone is searching for “chiropractor in Ottawa.” If you’re paying for this traffic on search engines, you can choose to be featured only for specific keywords in the location you specify. If you’re looking to optimize your organic search, then follow SEO rules for using keywords that actually specify the location within the keyword.

Once you actually start attracting this late stage traffic, it’s time to see what’s becoming of it once it reaches your site.  Is it converting?  How much of it converts?  Are there hot spots where most of it lands?  Where does it go from there?  Are there easily identified points along the way where you see a big abandonment or drop off of traffic? Analysis should always start with data digging. In your analytics, look at the performance for the landing pages for each of your late stage sources of traffic and keywords. Go through each step within the scent trail, and through the final conversion point and let the data tell you where problems might exist. For example, if you see evidence of problems (bounce rate, pogo-sticking) when visitors first land on the site, you need to make sure that you’re featuring a landing page that speaks directly to the visitor’s search, and that you’re featuring the answers to the visitor’s questions on this page, or at the very least, visible links to those answers. Once you’ve identified where holes in the data exist, walk through the scent trails on your site, keeping the late stage search terms in mind, and make sure that you’re answering these three questions at each step along the way:

1.   Who are you trying to persuade? (ie: what do you know about this visitor based on their search term)

2.   What action do you want them to take? (ie: ultimately, to fill out a lead generation form or call a 1-800 number, but at earlier steps of the scent trail, the desired action may be a precursor to that, such as to click through to the next step)

3.   What will persuade them to take the action you want them to take? (On each page, what questions does the visitor have? What links and information are you providing there to help the visitor get answers and gain confidence moving forward in her buying process?)

When we work with our clients, we always start our analysis by looking at the data. But for the sake of showing you how to optimize late stage scenarios on your site, I will happily to choose an example from one of the comments on this post, and write a follow-up post about it. So, if you have an interesting scenario that you want me to analyze, place a comment on this post telling me the late stage keyword that is sending traffic to your site and giving me the landing page to which you’re currently sending this visitor. I’ll pick someone’s example and I’ll walk through the analysis of a late stage scent trail in my next blog post.

Add Your Comments

Comments (19)

  1. It is amazing how many clients I have that want a the small business website designed, but do not put any effort in marketing and SEO. I understand that there are a lot of companies that may take advantage of a business, but that is why you must take the opportunity in your own hands and do some research.

  2. We use optimisation in our hotel business and it works a treat. It’s a cost effective way of generating leads and sales straight to our door

  3. Why do they bother even make their own sites if they don’t put any effort into SEO? I also have too many clients not willing to improve their SEO standards, thinking it may not be the time to invest in it. A presentation page with just the basics on page SEO is like at least 30% lower than its real strength.
    I’d rather have a 100 words article and a good SEO instead of tons of information put there to fill off the page…

  4. It has been proven that optimization is the best way to increase traffic onto your website. Abd this will help to increase the chances of people paying for the services that you offer on your website.

  5. Your so right about the landing page needing to speak directly to the visitor’s search, I feel we do a good job at that one. I’ve done searches before that I’ve landed on a completely overwhelming page, so my next step was click- they lost me!

  6. I agree with Nathan Marcarelli People should study about it then they are able to understand the Benefits of it.

  7. My company has been ripped off so much by people claiming to know about SEO. So I researched and researched and sadly I am still researching and losing money.

  8. @copywriting – Conversion Rate Optimization (or CRO, which is what this article is about) is not aimed at increasing traffic. It’s aimed at making better use of the traffic you already get. Sometimes, as a result of doing CRO, because it leads to doing a better job of speaking to your customers’ needs on your site, you do get better page rank, and subsequently more (and better qualified) traffic, but that is not the primary goal of CRO.

  9. @designarti – when we say “website optimization,” we mean CRO, not SEO.

  10. @Paul Archer – are you sure you need SEO, and not CRO (conversion rate optimization), which is what this article is about?

  11. OK I see. My apologies. I have spent enough with google ads money to get 1750 hits on my homepage per week. And my conversion rate is really poor. I can’t keep adding to the Google coffers much longer without any returns. So how much does it cost to have CRO?

  12. when i do SEO, i always do CRO as well i think… for me SEO is optimization of the website with keywords that will lead to sales. can i call it a combination of SEO and CRO?!

  13. @Paul Archer – that depends on the approach you take to doing CRO. There are a number of kinds of companies out there claiming to do CRO. Read about kinds of CRO companies to learn more about that. Our approach is a comprehensive, ongoing approach to making your website better and optimizing your conversion rate. Subsequently, it’s structured as a subscription, called OnTarget. The size of OnTarget subscription you need depends on the scope and scale of your current marketing. Read more about how to determine your CRO budget needs.

  14. My situation is slightly different. Customer understands the effectiveness of SEO, invests in it, trys to learn SEO, but absolutely do not want to improve the usability of the site. He will not hear of A / B testing, Google Website Optimizer, Clicktale etc. At that time, it is also very important.

  15. I think the site needs to be done first and foremost for the people. No need to think about money. If the site would be useful and have an established audience, it will become profitable. You do not need a professional optimization, for you it will make your visitors. Build quality and useful sites you’ll be rewarded.

  16. The concept of CRO is where web commerce is moving. Really providing people with what they are looking for (especially those in the last stage of purchase) will lead to better conversions, and a more efficient website. SEO will lead to traffic, but if you cannot convert the traffic your bottom line is no better off.

  17. I’m in total agree , i manage the Blog of my wife she is gel Nail maker and she need mostly a promotion on the first pages o Google , because she give services and i make the SEO to her page to make this happen …

  18. When my boss talk about optimization, we all believe he was talking about SEO. But it seems there are CRO in it!? I need to learn a lot.

  19. SEO is for all websites wanting to rank in Google and other search engines. It’s true its not just for E-commerce but not all website are SEO friendly especially those flash-made sites.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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