SEM Guide: Conversion

SEM Guide: How to Convert your Prospects into Customers


We've come full circle in this series. You've learned how to test and measure your search engine marketing efforts You've relied on Google Adwords, Google Places, Yahoo, Bing, and a host of other online spaces to connect with your ideal customer.

But Search Engine Marketing is not complete without conversion.

You now must convert your visitors into paying customers. And even though you may have other goals, such as increasing engagement, or improve your exposure, ultimately your goal is to get paying customers. Or else why are you in business?

So what is conversion anyway?

Conversion in the physical world

Let's use a real-world example.

If you want to open a shop that sells athletic shoes to young men and women, your first decision is to locate your shop on a street with a lot of foot traffic. Maybe on a busy downtown street or in a mall.

The next thing you want to do is hang a large, obvious sign that clearly states what your store is all about.

Then you'll probably hang some signs with the brand names of some of the hottest athletic shoe makers, like Adidas and Nike.

Inside the store you display your shoes very nicely so people can easily find what they're looking for.

You'll want to staff your store with friendly sales-people who help shoppers find the exact size shoe for them, or the perfect shoe for the type of sport they're playing.

Finally, you want your sales-person to ask for the sale. They should say something like "would you like me to ring that up for you?" or "can I gift wrap that?"

Then you want your sales-person to take the pair of shoes your customer was looking at to the cash register, ring the order up, take the money, and give the shoes back to the customer, all nicely wrapped up in a beautiful bag with your company's logo on it.

Each one of the decisions you made when planning your store, from the location all the way to the sale, was designed with one purpose in mind: making the sale. Or, converting your shoppers into buyers.

Conversion Steps

SEM Guide: Conversion

Each step along the path to purchasing one of your athletic shoes was a conversion step.

  • Your sign was designed to get the young man or woman to look in the window of your store
  • The Nike and Adidas logos were designed to let that young man or woman know: "this is the place where I can find what I'm looking for."
  • Your display was designed to involve your young shopper in the active shopping process: browsing, comparing, selecting
  • Your salesperson was hired to help your prospect make a decision and lead her to the cash register, and
  • Your check-out counter was designed to make the sale: exchange money for shoes

Now let's compare this to your online marketing process

  • Your online ad or title text + meta description. This is your sign in the front of your store. It's designed to communicate exactly what you offer prospects, and invite them to "come in" to your store by clicking on the ad or search engine result.
  • The design of your landing page and your trust elements. Your landing page should also have logos: logos of the companies who have become your customers, or logos of the brands you sell in your online store. Your landing page should also look professional, enticing and easy to navigate. These all serve as the "trust elements" that let your customers know they're in the right place. Also, and very important: the words you use on your landing page should match the words on your ad or search engine result. Again, the purpose is to build trust and let your prospects know they're in the right place.
  • The words, organization and clarity of your copy. This serves as the "display" on your landing page. You want to communicate the details of your offer as clearly as possible, and structure the copy so that your prospects can easily find what they're looking for. You want them involved with what you're saying so they can quickly browse, compare and decide on what to buy. You achieve this by having clear categories, on-site search, and call-to-action buttons that lead your prospects to the products or information they want.
  • Your call-to-actions. At every step of the way you want to move your customer closer to buying your product or calling your sales people. You do this by having call-to-action text and buttons. These are your virtual sales people. You want to get your prospects to the exact category of product they want. You want your prospect to add your product to their shopping cart. Finally, you want your prospect to check-out. You achieve this by prominently displaying the names of each category, by providing a prominent button to add your product to their shopping cart, and by displaying another prominent button to "check out."

Each one of these steps is a conversion step. At each step you could lose your customer. Your goal at each step is to optimize your conversions so as to increase the number of customers that go from one stage to the next, and eventually buy from you.

Conversion Optimization

On average a website converts two percent of its visitors into customers. But you can make that figure much higher – to ten percent (or more). According to Brian Massey in his book, "Your Customer Creation Equation": The conversion rate is the number of conversions divided by the number of visitors who come for a given period of time." In other words, conversion rate equals actions divided by traffic. Increase your conversion rate in one of two ways:

● Increase the number of visitors who take action on your landing page

● Reduce the number of visitors who don't plan on seriously considering a purchase

But there are many areas that you must optimize. In our recent blog post "A/B Testing for Landing Pages: A Primer," we discussed the different areas you should optimize:

  • The headline: Make your headline as compelling as possible. A headline with a benefit, or a combination of problem/solution is usually the best way to go.
  • The body copy: Most of us think of copy as the words written on a page. But copy can also include images and design.
  • The call-to-action: Your call-to-action can be a big fat juicy "Buy Now" button, sign-up form or a simple hyper-linked words that says "click here."
  • The online form: If your form is to collect credit card information, you have no choice but to ask for as much information as you need to charge their credit card. Make this form attractive and easy to use. If you're trying to get people to subscribe to your newsletter or download your white paper, the more information you make your visitors fill out, the lower your conversion rate. Many companies just ask for a first name and email address. If you decide to ask for more information, your conversions may go down, but you also might get a higher quality subscriber. The choice is yours.
  • The positioning of the elements: Finally, will you put your call-to-action button in the middle of the page, or just below the body copy? Will you place your body copy to the left of your page and your sign-up form on the right?

To improve the conversion of any of these elements, conduct A/B tests, small experiments in which you change an aspect of each element to see which converts better. Brian Massey said: "We must accept the fact that conversion is first and foremost about measuring results."

To get results, you don't want to try something different without a reason. Think of it as a hypothesis. When you make a change, measure whether it improved or decreased your conversion rate.

When testing your hypotheses, be sure to eliminate the things that didn't work and keep the things that did. Your experience with testing will result in a higher conversion rate and lower marketing costs, and you'll have mastered conversion, the ultimate goal in your business's online success.

Your next steps

Well, the inevitable has happened. We've reached the end of our series. We're sad it's finally ending. But we see this not as an ending, but as a beginning. This Search Engine Marketing series just scratched the surface. There is so much you can learn. But don't let what you don't know stop you. A person can go crazy trying to learn more and more, and never implementing anything. We recommend the following:

  • Create a search engine marketing plan, with goals that are appropriate for your business
  • Study your ideal customer and create your buyer personas
  • Research the keywords your ideal customer will use to look for what you're offering
  • Research and decide where to advertise
  • Launch your pay-per-click campaign
  • Optimize your website and landing pages for search engines
  • If you have a retail location, optimize your web presence for local search, including Google Places
  • Set up your testing and measuring system
  • Make sure each one of your conversion steps will efficiently move your prospect closer to purchasing your product
  • Finally, sign up for a free account with Lander so you can create that conversion oriented landing page!