Do you measure goals using your web analytics tools? How many?
Many organizations only measure toward one goal. Retail businesses that sell online typically measure completed sales transactions.
Service businesses typically measure the completion of some sort of lead or contact us form. While these are fine goals, those who measure typicality produce a conversion rate report to the boss. That conversion rate is typically the number of completed goals divided by total visitors to their site. This is measured over whatever time period the boss asks for.
Sadly, however, the average conversion rate for an ecommerce website is around 1 percent. That's certainly not a number that is going to please the C-levels. And why should it? Is it really an accurate number?
Is it realistic to expect every visitor who comes to your site to convert? Hardly. Consider the five stages of buying process:
- Recognizing a problem / need
- Searching for a solution to the problem
- Evaluating options discovered
- Post-purchase evaluation
The Internet is used throughout each stage of the buying process. But only one of those five stages has anything to do with converting.
Further, some of the visitors who come to your site may have converted previously, and are now possibly looking for customer support. Still others may use your site to find a phone number or look for a job. All of those visitors collectively make up the "total visitors" metric.
So, if all those visitors aren’t on your site to convert, why is a conversion ration measured against them?
So What Do We Measure?
While segmentation is how you separate groups of visitors, how do you begin to segment? The answer is with micro-conversions. Micro-conversions are goals, just like the ones you're currently measuring. But the goals are not sales or leads.
Micro-conversions are typically goals that help build relationships with your site visitors. These relationship-building activities typically help contribute to conversion. But not necessarily. Typically, you can even apply a dollar value to micro-conversions, helping the powers that be in your organization to find true value in what you're measuring.
1. Downloading Files
Whether you serve white papers in PDF format, client forms that need to be filled out before an in-person meeting or office visit, or you have a software demo available for download, file downloads are a micro-conversion that must be measured. This is typically done by event tracking or through "virtual" pageviews.
It's important to track downloads because they indicate interest from a potential future customer. If they're forms the customer has to fill out and bring in, it saves time in the office, allowing your employees to get back to work faster. If it's a demo, there's probably a likelihood that that would-be customer will convert. If you have a brochure, the cost of printing and mailing to a would-be customer is the amount of money you have just saved. Calculate that times every download.
2. Joining a Mailing List
Have you ever purchased a mailing list? Depending on the nature of the list, you might pay anywhere from 2-10 cents per lead. Some leads might even be as high as several dollars. Rarely are the lists 100 percent accurate. Often you're buying a category of email addresses, not necessarily individuals who are interested in your service.
Conversely, visitors who offer their email address to subscribe to your free newsletter are 100 percent interested and already pre-qualified as a potential customer. Measure this form as a micro-conversion. Apply a value equal to whatever you paid per working email address from the last list you purchased.
3. Visitors Who Create a Forum Account
Do you offer online support forums where customers and employees can offer help to other customers or potential customers? Each person who creates a new account is a potential advocate for your brand. Further still, they might be one step closer to a service contract with your organization.
Most free or open-source software organizations cover costs by soliciting donations and by offering commercial support. Piwik, the free web analytics software, offers free forums for question and answer about their product. In their analytics demo, they choose to apply a value of $3 for each user that creates a forum account when tracking this goal.
4. Add to Cart / Wish List
Even though a visitor might not complete a transaction, adding items to a cart or a wish list is a great indication of interest in purchasing a product from your site. Naturally, not everyone who adds an item to one of these lists will convert.
A good rule of thumb is calculate the percentage of those who use wish lists or carts and come back to complete a transaction at a later date. Use that percentage times the value of the cart or wish list as a potential value. If the visitor also had to create a new account on your site to utilize the wish list or cart, the likelihood they come back to purchase is higher.
5. Human Resources Micro-Conversions
Sometimes people visit your site only to look for a job. Measure the number of job application form submissions.
These people were on your site to make a purchase or become a new sales lead to track. They should not be counted against your total goal conversion rate. They can, however, have a dollar value applied.
Having a job application submitted online saves an HR employee's time (times his or her hourly rate) and may even save the cost of an online listing with a national or regional employment site.
Each of these micro-conversion groups have value in and of their own right. Make sure you're tracking these as goals.
Also be sure to apply a dollar amount to each of these conversions. Report these micro-conversion rates side-by-side with your macro-conversion rate.
More importantly, when calculating your site's macro-conversion rate, make sure you're not dividing by the total of visitors to your site. Rather, divide by the total number of visitors minus all the micro-conversions. Your numbers will be more accurate and your bosses will be more pleased.
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