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Website Marketing is like “Back To The Future”

by Colette Mason on November 27, 2009

Correction fluid brush removing the word "mistake" “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

This quote by Albert Einstein can apply to just about any area in one’s life. And it is just as true in internet marketing where the site owner aspires for higher conversion rates but uses the same strategies that have been bringing in so-so results.

 As the New Year approaches, many of you hope to leave behind the downturn in business that came with the global recession, and look to a brighter phase in your business planning.

Even now, you may be eagerly planning innovative and unique marketing techniques to boost conversion in 2010. But while enthusiasm is always a positive quality to possess, here is a word of advice: 

For shaping successful business strategies for the future, it helps to look back into the past.

That is why using the services of a web analytics tool is a valuable and worthwhile investment. You see, in the last 12 months of a website’s run, it will have collected a large quantity of data that is crucial to business planning.

A web analytics program, provided by your web host or one you signed up for example, Google’s free analytic tool, tells you all about visitor behavior, i.e., hits, visits, referrers, etc. and may even let you analyze the data by different time frames.

“Hits”: A Common Misconception

Most people think the word “hits” means the number of visitors to a website. This is a widespread mistaken belief that can affect how you view your web analytics report.

The analytics definition of “hits” differs from the conversational one in that an analytic hit is a request from an IP address to your server. So every time your server delivers a file to a web browser, it is counted as one hit. If a user goes to your home page, that is one hit. If your home page has three images on it, those are 3 hits. That makes a total of four hits in all just by visiting the home page. One user alone can rack up a hundred hits on your website. Rather misleading if you don’t understand what “hits” mean, don’t you think?

Now that we have clarified this part, the statistic that plays a more significant role in web analysis is “visitors”.

For many website owners, the numbers in a web analytics tool can be confusing. To simplify these metrics, let me identify the key performance indicators and how they are calculated. Knowing what they are will give you a peek into your website’s effectiveness and bring focus on those sections that need improvement.

These are the basic stats you need to monitor:

 Home page
 abandon rate
 =  number of visitors with home page as exit page 
number of visitors viewing home page as entry page 
 Conversion rate  =  number of sales or leads 
number of visitors 
 Cost per lead  =  number of leads  
complete web costs    
 Cost per sale  =  number of sales 
complete web costs    

Cost per lead and cost per sale may be self-explanatory: you have to make more than what you are spending. Thus, a $20 cost for a $10 sale means you’re losing money. But home page abandon rate and conversion rate may still need more explanation. Here is what these numbers mean:

Home Page Abandon Rate

When visitors go to your website, the number of people who leave once they get to your home page is the abandonment rate, in percent. My standard for this is that a percentage higher than 35-40% is already a worrisome figure. High abandon rates can be attributed to two things:

1). A problem with your traffic- your site is attracting the wrong kind of traffic. When these unqualified visitors arrive at your site, they realize they’ve come upon the wrong site and leave immediately.

Solution: define and refine your target audience and be more discriminating about the visitors you drive to your web site. And for the SEO-eager among you, it’s not just any traffic you are after; it must be qualified traffic.

2). A problem with your home page- your home page does not hold the visitor’s attention enough for him to stay. It may be because it has too many links and therefore does not give focus on what your site is about, or there may be problems of trustworthiness and lack of professionalism.

Solution: you can fix red flags in your home page with some minor adjustments or a major site re-design.

Conversion Rate

The percentage of visitors that turn into a lead or a sale is your conversion rate. Internet marketing sites with 4+% conversion rates are seen as doing great. Lead generation sites are expected to have double digit figures to be considered good. An average rating (meaning what most other sites are having) is about 0.5-1% conversion for internet marketing or 3-5% for lead generation sites.

To improve conversion rates, a tweak or two may not be enough. Review your goals and target audience and be more precise in your definition of them. Take a fresh and more critical look at your site again.

The year is just about to end. Look forward to the new one and re-assess all your marketing activities. Learn from the past to improve the future and hopefully, you will see an increased effectiveness in your sales strategies and ultimately, in your ROI.

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martin November 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

To help you improve your website conversions you should use a website analytic provider such as clicktale to show you how your customers are interacting with your site.

This gives you the advantage of being able to fix any problem areas and optimise your business.

Colette Mason November 30, 2009 at 7:56 am

Hi Martin,

Thanks for suggesting clicktale. I absolutely agree. To succeed online, it’s imperative to test how your site is working with real customers, either by observing people using your site, or using remote observation tools.

If readers would like to follow up on Martin’s recommendation, here’s the link:

You can find more free/cheap usability tools on my links page:

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