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Turning Website Visitors Into Customers

by Siouxie Boshoff

Lots of web site visitors, but no sales. Some visitors and some sales. No web site visitors and no sales. These are the common dillemas faced by most web site owners. But what does all this mean?

First things first. If all you know is that the website is "not working", but you don't know why, that's okay, because there are software programs available that can tell you exactly what you need to know. I'm talking about what It is commonly referred to as web site visitor tracking software or web site statistical tracking or website analytics. In either case, it is brilliant and neccessary if you want a web site that rocks.

In determining how effective a website really is, website stat traffic software can give you a clear picture of what’s actually happening. You can find out how many visitors, how often they come, where they are coming from, how they got there and where they are going when they get there. This is an extremely vital tool for webmasters or website owners. In fact, if you are reading this now so that you can apply this in some aspect to your website and you don't have any sort of statistical tracking, then that is the first thing to remedy. Get stat tracking on your web site immediately, then let it roll for a few weeks and come back to this then. Otherwise, what I have to say here, will be of little use.

What Really Counts in the Bottom Line
When I create and maintain a website, I'm really only interested in two things:

  1. That the website increases the image and impression of a client's business.
  2. That the website does what it is supposed to do – which in most cases is to generate leads or sales, period.

The first should be a given for any professional web designer and anything other than the above is really not worth mentioning. In fact a website can win awards for being “beautiful”, but if it is not generating leads or sales – then honestly, who cares? At the end of the day it is the bottom line that matters, and that equates to more business from that web site. So, how can you determine a website's effectiveness?

How to Assess a Website’s Effectiveness
There are really only 3 situations you may encounter in assessing how effective a website really is. Once you know which situation applies to that website, then you can work out a strategy to increase that website’s actual effectiveness.

Analyzing stat tracking results, you can usually determine which situation applies to a website. It will almost always be one of the following:

1) Few site visitors, and a high conversion rate.*
Let's say a website gets 50 visits a month (which is pretty low), but 10 of those visitors become leads or customers. One might be disappointed, but they would missing the bigger picture because 10 out of 50 visits (which is really 1 out of 5) would be an awesome conversion rate and the solution is simply to drive more targeted visitors to that web site.

But how?
Well, we already know that 10 out of 50 will buy – so the website is designed well, it just needs more visitors. It may be getting so few visitors because of lack of visibility in the search engines (in other words no one really know that it's there!) so they need to invest in some search engine optimization** (SEO) so that they can be found in the search engines for their products or services. They could do a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Campaign in the meantime so they can generate immediate traffic while they work to rank in the search engines naturally (without paying). It doesn’t have to be an expensive campaign, but it can be enough to really drive more than sufficient traffic in. After all, we already know that they need 5 visitors to generate a lead or sale, so the more targeted visitors we get, the more sales and leads.

2) Lots of web site visitors, but little to no conversion.
Let's take a web site that gets 1000 visits in a week and a couple leads or sales a week. This would be a VERY poor conversion rate and is definitely a warning sign that something is off.

It probably means one of two things; Either the website is designed ineffectively and does not drive people to become leads or sales, OR that site is ranking for search terms that bring in alot of unqualified traffic. In many cases it will be the former, and in some cases it will be the latter. You can get some idea by using stat tracking to see where all the traffic is coming from. If most of the traffic is coming from the search engines, you should be able to actually see which search terms people used to find the site. If the search terms are too broad – then the site will get less targeted traffic. If the search terms are fairly precise, and they are getting a lot of traffic – then an overhaul of some kind is definitely in order because something about that website is COSTING them leads and sales.

If they are getting most of their traffic from “blind referrals”, it usually means that people are actually typing the web address directly into their browser – in which case it means that the web site is being promoted in some way, shape or form, but that the visitors are not being converted to a sale or lead. The site could be unprofessional, could be confusing, difficult to navigate or possibly just missing a call to action (meaning there may be no incentive for someone to become a lead or sale, or no obvious way for them to become a lead or sale). Regardless of the circumstances, the site would need to be overhauled in some manner to make it more effective.

3) Little to no site visitors and little to no leads or sales.
A simple example of this would be 10-20 visitors in a week or more and no leads or sales at all. This is a fairly simple troubleshoot. The site is probably not ranking in the search engines for any terms that people are actually searching for, and chances are pretty high that the client is not promoting their website at all. In either case, something needs to be done immediately. It is important to understand that a website is not an instant solution to creating a cash cow. Of course it can generate lots of cash, but it has to be promoted and proactively marketed to create that cash flow. The first priority would be to drive tons of qualified traffic to the website.

This can be remedied rather quickly by implementing the same actions as covered in #1 above, along with some direct marketing (postcards, print ads, etc). Regardless of how this is accomplished, it has to be done because without sufficient traffic to the web site, there is no way to gauge how effective the website is.

As a side note, in my experience, clients that invest in marketing their web site actively through internet ad campaigns (like Google AdSense and other similar) as well as through traditional means, will on the average get the most traffic to their web site. Those that don't do anything to promote their web site generally will end up with a web site that is virtually invisible. That just seems to be how it goes.

The above guidelines should help you immensely in determining the most effective course of action to create a successful website. I hope that it will help you get the traffic AND the conversion you dream of.

*Conversion rate: When used in websites statistics, it simply means the number of site visitors who are converted to a lead or sale.

**Investing in search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to most web sites, however, in this case I am referring to either investment of money by paying a professional, reputable SEO expert to do the work for you or investment of your time (which includes learning about SEO and then implementing it - both of which can be very time consuming, but are well worth it).


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