How to improve website conversion rates

Digital marketing budget is wasted if it drives visitors to a website that fails to convert them into customers, or at least piques their interest. Harsh but true. So in this week’s #SearchSecret7 blog, we’re looking at conversion rates and what we can do to boost them.

What is meant by a “conversion rate”?

If you’re a disillusioned business, or an agency with a client who doesn’t see any point in spending money on search marketing because they’re not getting any leads or sales as a result, you’re not alone. It’s pointless spending money driving hundreds or thousands of visitors to a website, if that website fails to “convert” them.

So, what do we mean by conversion? You might assume it’s about selling a product then and there. And it’s true that a direct sale is one form of conversion. But it’s not the only one. For a more complex business, a conversion may be the completion of an enquiry form or an email sign-up. So conversion rates are important regardless of whether the website is a transactional one.

You’ll know from our exploration of three-letter-acronyms in our partners’ guide to search that improving those conversion rates is called “conversion rate optimisation” (CRO). By looking at the user experience, we can identify what is stopping website visitors from converting. And what can be done to encourage more of them to convert.

What are the typical reasons for low conversion rates?

There are two parts to conversions: blockers and persuaders.

Blockers are effectively hurdles for the user to overcome. In an extreme example, a blocker could be a broken form that prevents users from completing it. More likely though, are excessively long forms with a lot of required fields that really aren’t that important. These stop users from completing them, particularly those on mobile devices where the forms are even more fiddly and time-consuming to complete.

Our aim is to identify blockers and where possible try to remove them, or at least minimise their effect on the user.

Persuaders are what every page needs to convince visitors why they should complete the action that you want them to. That might be buying a product, filling in a form or navigating to another page where they have the opportunity to convert. It’s much more psychological than physical. Persuaders might include: 

    • branding (people are more likely to buy from brands they like and can relate to)
    • positive customer reviews or testimonials
    • industry accreditations (such as ATOL protection for a travel company)
    • scarcity (“only three left in stock”)


How do you boost a low conversion rate?

Broadly speaking, if there are too many blockers and not enough persuaders, then conversion rates will be low. So it follows that we can improve the conversion rates of any website by removing blockers and increasing persuaders.

Sometimes that’s a simple job. Sign-up forms can quickly be shortened and simplified to minimise blockages, for example. Persuasion tactics may already feature on a page, but aren’t prominent enough to make an impact. So we may just move them higher up the page to pique the interest of new visitors. 

Other areas are harder to fix. If a product is over-priced, relative to a competitor, then persuading people to buy it will still be a struggle.

It is, of course, important to test the effect of any changes through A/B testing, and to keep refining and testing on an ongoing basis.

So have a look at your website. Or your client’s website. Put yourself in a new user’s shoes. What would stop you from buying or signing up? And what could convince you to do so?

What’s coming next?

In our final post in the #SearchSecret7 series next week, we’ll look at how you should avoid becoming a slave to the Google algorithm.

If you’ve missed any of our previous posts in the #SearchSecret7 series, check them out here.

Follow us on Twitter to find out more.

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