Let’s face it, in a world where almost every conceivable metric of analyzing your website traffic is available to you, the only metric that really truly matters is conversions. Click through rates, page views, time spent on site, number of pages read, entrance and exit points, abandonment; all of these metrics are fantastic, but if you’re not using them to improve your conversion rates, well then, you’re simply not using them.
Most people look at their website as a whole but in reality it is merely a collection of parts. These parts (web pages) are essentially individual steps—or stepping stones—that should lead your visitors to a specific goal: the conversion. If all of your steps are working properly, you should see an increase in conversion rates and sales. If your steps are broken or lead your visitors to the wrong thing at the wrong time, then you’re giving qualified visitors an opportunity to exit before the get what they came for.
In order to guide your visitors from the entry point to the conversion point, you need to pay attention to the steps along the way.
The stepping stones of web conversions
Step 1: Create your path The first thing you need to know about getting web conversions is that all your stepping stones need to work together. The first step should lead to the second step, which should lead to the third and so on. You should not have more stepping stones than you need to get to the conversions, but worse, you should not be missing any steps either.
In order to create the path, you need to understand the starting point of the conversion. The obvious is the home page, but not everybody enters on the home page. Some may enter on product pages, testimonial pages, informational pages, etc. You need to start a path at each of these pages that will help the visitor take the next step(s) needed to the conversion.
Step 2: Create additional paths Not every visitor has the same wants, needs or desires as the next. If you employ only a single path to the conversion, you will ultimately be eliminating a sizeable portion of your target audience. Even visitors that land on the same page will have different needs, desires, temperaments, etc.
A path to the conversion should be created to provide your users precisely what they need in order to take the next step. For some this may be product options, for others company reassurances, and still others, more information. Be careful however, as too many paths (options) can create confusion and inhibit your visitors from choosing any path at all. Don’t try to be all things to all people, but instead try to narrow the options down to the most common and significant for your visitors so you can be sure to meet their needs.
Step 3: Follow your paths Once you have created your paths, you then need to start following them. This is essentially a path quality inspection tour. You want to put yourself in the mind of your visitor and follow through with as many paths as possible. This is where you’ll find out if there are missing or too many steps, and to few or to many paths.
During this process you’ll want to take notes of anything that creates obstacles to getting to the conversion. Look for missing information, errors on the pages, broken links, calls to action and the like. You want to make sure that the visitor finds no hindrances to getting to the destination and are able to find all the information they need to make a confident purchase decision.
Step 4: Fix your stepping stones on the path This is pretty self-explanatory. Once you’ve uncovered any problems with your conversion paths, you then want to fix them. Patch holes in the process so that each step is a firm foundation and jumping off point to the next step.
Step 5: Add or remove stepping stones to create the most efficient path After you’ve tested your paths you’ll have undoubtedly uncovered gaps where steps need to be added or places where there are additional steps that merely distract from the goal of getting to the conversion. You want to streamline all of that by making sure that each step has its place and is where it needs to be.
Step 6: Test new paths Once you’ve tested, fixed and retested your original paths, and everything is functioning as it should, it’s time to start looking for ways to create and test brand new paths. Consider your users carefully here. The first pass at creating paths was designed to hit the majority of your target audience. Now it’s time to accommodate the rest. While the broader target is easier to hit, the smaller target is no less important. Build paths specifically for these users as they can be the source of many additional sales, and potentially higher conversions.
Step 7: Test new stepping stones By this time your conversion process should be going strong and you have pretty solid conversion rates. Well, if it ain’t broke… fix it anyway. Never stop looking for new opportunities to improve your conversion process. Test, test, and test some more. Sometimes adding new steps in the process can help improve conversions with certain audiences. Just be careful to keep an eye out for any negative effects as well. The goal here is improvement, not to add clutter.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.