SMX Melbourne : How to Make Conversion Optimization Work for Your Business

webtrafficThis is a summary of the presentation given by Alan Long, from Experian Hitwise at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to make conversion optimization work for your business.

Survey of Australian Marketers

Conversion optimization is basically like product placement in a store, says Alan. In retail stores, you switch your products around, change signage etc. to see where/how they are best placed to produce the most sales. This is what Conversion Optimization is all about, but using your web site content.

Experian researched 300 Australian marketing professionals from multiple industries about conversion optimization via an independently commissioned study. The idea was to explore how Australian organizations are using online marketing channels and assess their understanding of conversion optimization.

The study showed that 2.043 billion was spent in Australia on online marketing to the end of June 2010. That’s a 13 percent increase over last year. Aussie marketers are pumping more budget into online marketing to drive higher volumes of traffic.

Are marketers missing a trick when it comes to boosting web ROI? Yes, Alan says. Lots of money being spent, but very little of that is put into converting visitors into customers or measuring success.

At the moment, site visitors are the main measure of web site success for many marketers. However, conversion is a more a valid measure of success, with conversion rates typically running at 1-5 percent. The trend in Australia is towards boosting traffic rather than reviewing site performance to drive conversion.

But, Alan says, why attract large volumes of traffic to your website if no-one is buying or doing what you wanted them to? This failure likely stems from a lack of awareness around conversion optimization and how to measure success.

Six Signs Your Business Should be Doing Conversion Optimization:

1) You have a high spend on attraction activities or advertising that drives consumers to your website.
2) You have a high spend on website content look and feel.
3) You have a large amount of online traffic.
4) There is pressure to increase profitability but you’re unsure how to measure it.
5) You’re frequently making website changes based on guesswork.
6) You’re operating in a highly competitive industry.

Warning, Scary Statistics Ahead!

Almost half of Australian online marketers surveyed spend over 40 percent of budget driving traffic to their sites. Their biggest increase in spend will be on website updates (55 percent).

Of annual budgets allocated to online marketing:

  • 17% = creative and design
  • 13.5% = content development and updates
  • 13.2% = hosting, software and licenses
  • 11.3% = usability
  • 10.4% = programming and development
  • 8.2% = SEO
  • 7.1% = analysis and measurement
  • 7.1% = conversion optimization

Despite ongoing investment in web site design and traffic generation, 90% of marketers surveyed spent less than 10 percent of their budget on persuading existing visitors to take action! (conversion optimization). You need to compliment traffic generation with a website that provides the right experience, leading visitors to the desired action, says Alan, otherwise your web site is as effective as a billboard in the desert.

Big Brands Make the Same Mistakes

It wasn’t just the small companies making the mistakes either. The study showed that large brands throw big bucks at getting traffic with conversion rates of less than 5 percent. They have large volumes of traffic, however, they continue to compete for more online traffic by investing in expensive advertising and marketing, despite low conversion rates of sales or customers – many less than 5 per cent.

By focusing on attracting more customers to your website you are competing against your peers who often use similar tactics (e.g. display, pay-per click and search engine optimization). Instead of competing with others for traffic and squandering the traffic you get, you should be competing against yourself by optimizing your site for more conversions. This is a competition you’re guaranteed to win. How much better could you be doing? Why does one change work but another doesn’t? How much impact could it have on traffic and conversions if you tweak your landing pages or checkout process?

Lack of Understanding About Conversion Optimization

There is a significant lack of understanding of conversion optimization in Australia – 89 percent do not do ANY. Most of these companies don’t have the tools or knowledge to accurately measure it, let alone act on it. Meanwhile, 62 percent of those surveyed have never even heard of conversion optimization or don’t understand what it is.

Research found that 30 percent of Australian marketers either do not evaluate the success of their website or only evaluate it on an annual basis, while 26 percent don’t know what factor/s contribute most to the success of their websites. Almost 45 percent of marketers surveyed that DO evaluate the success of their websites believe total visits/unique visitors or page views per visit are the key indicators of success. Wow.

Of those marketers that know about and conduct conversion optimization, over half have a website conversion rate of over 11 percent – double the figure claimed by respondents who have never heard of it. Marketers who are using conversion optimization are gaining competitive advantage by maximizing the engagement and sales opportunities of their sites. They understand what impacts the performance of their web site and what needs to change in order to increase sales and/or participation.

Getting started with Conversion Optimization

Conversion optimization doesn’t require significant budget or a fresh online marketing strategy to be effective. The critical factors are using web expertise to research and identify what online clients want and taking the necessary steps to build engagement, says Alan. Here are 8 ways to get started:

1. Know what your customers want.
2. Present an appropriate call to action.
3. Design your layouts & forms with users in mind.
4. Test your processes.
5. Use reviews, ratings and endorsements.
6. Use promotions and find synergies.
7. Improve navigation search and filtering functionality.
8. Increase credibility.

Q and A : Can You Track Search Rankings With Google Alerts?

QuestionDear Kalena

I have a question regarding google alerts. I have used them before to follow a topic or to stay informed about other articles regarding my website/blog niche. But can you find out your web ranking with this tool? I have had a look but I can’t get my head round it.



Hello Luis

You can’t really track your search rankings using Google Alerts. Such alerts are really only useful for tracking a specific topic or mentions of a brand / company that then get listed in the Google search results. They’re really handy for keeping track of a company’s online reputation.

For example, I have a client for whom I prepare a Social Mentions report every week. These social mentions consist mainly of web sites, blogs and social networking posts (e.g. tweets, Facebook status updates etc.) that mention their brand name. I use a combination of Google Alerts and Raven Tools for this purpose.

Speaking of Raven Tools, they DO offer a way to track your search engine rankings, as well as powerful historical ranking charts that can track your position in the top search engines for a particular keyword/phrase over a time frame set by you.

They have a 30 free trial and then a $19 per month option for tracking up to 3 websites – might be worth a try?

I should note here that I am a BIG fangirl of Raven Tools and a Pro member. I am also an affiliate, so the link above is my affiliate link if you want to use that (I get a small percentage of any sales that result) or you can use the normal link which has no affiliate ties.

The other (more time-consuming) way to check your rankings is manually, conducting a live search at a set time period on each of the main search engines and keeping a record via spreadsheet. Just remember to log out of any Google account before you check Google rankings, or else they might be skewed by Google Personalized Search.

Another very useful tool I’ve been using a lot lately is Google Insights for Search. With this Google tool, (still in Beta), you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties. This type of data can tell you a lot more about your web site performance / niche potential than your search positions can.

SMX Melbourne : Designing a Bullet Proof Link Building Campaign

This is a summary of the presentation given by Ian McAnerin, CEO of McAnerin International Inc. at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to design a bullet proof link building campaign.

Link History

Twelve years ago, pre-Gooogle, search engines just analyzed content in order to rank sites, says Ian. Linking wasn’t part of the ranking algorithm. Google put paid to that by making links part of the equation. Suddenly, SEO became a lot more difficult.

Ian explained Term Vector Analysis (TVA) and Citation Analysis and how they influenced the concept of links. TVA is how keywords appear on a page (relevance). Citation Analysis is the influence of keywords on a page (authority). Google was built by students who were using citation analysis on a daily basis. Keyword density isn’t used by search engines. However, it is kinda similar to term vector analysis, which IS used by search engines.

Every web page stored in Google has a term profile containing number of times a keyword is used, density, proximity, position etc. Google then looks for clusters of terms that appear in proximity to the search phrase and finds the Representative Average to display in the SERPs. The process of TVA is excellent at figuring out informational pages such as Wikipedia pages.

The problem is that TVA can’t give search engines the entire picture – it’s difficult for them to tell the difference between spam and awesomeness. This is how search engines worked up until Google. Then Google came along and threw links into the equation. The more links you had to the page, the higher rank you would have in the SERPs.

Typically, the better writing, the worse the SEO, because good writers use flowery, descriptive language.

Types of Links

Now, to rank, you need three kinds of links:

1) Authority (aged)

2) Relevance (current)

3) Buzz (social)

So you need a combination of old and new links. Therefore you need to be constantly building links!

Stinking Linking – reference to articles by Mike Grehan about the prob with aged domains and links.

Link Quality

Link page quality is measured by:

  • PageRank of the page
  • cached
  • nofollow
  • number of other links on page
  • topic

Remember that it’s the PR of the PAGE that’s important, not the PR of the domain or main site. So if someone is offering you a link and bragging about having a PR4 on their home page, but your link is going to go on a inner page that has PR0, there’s no value there.

Page sculpting is not as influential now. No point no-following all your links on a page as they all leak PR anyway.

Sources of Links:

  • Seeds – Yahoo, DMOZ
  • Directories and connections
  • competitors (meet then beat)
  • articles and blog posts
  • widgets
  • reviews
  • case studies
  • contests and publicity
  • profiles
  • social media
  • internal linking campaign
  • link reclamation
  • pick up the phone!

Ian suggests starting any link campaign with your own site. Make sure you are cross linking internal pages. Then go and do link reclamation – check your 404s in Webmaster Tools to see if anyone is linking in to pages that no longer exist and ask them to update.

As an idea to attract links, Ian suggests holding a contest e.g. school laptop giveaway – put the rules of the contest on your web site and then the school / parents etc link to your web page for the rules.

Anchor text is virtual content. Rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t spam your web site with the same keyword phrase, don’t do the same with your link building. Mix and match the anchor text linking to your pages and ask people linking to you to do the same.

Deep links are the best links. Don’t ask everyone to link to your home page! You’ll get better crawls and better rankings and your audience gets a higher quality experience if you inner pages are well-linked. Plus the crawler starts at inner pages that it might have missed before.

Tools for Link Building:

Link Don’ts:

  • Use Free For All (FFA) links
  • Off topic links
  • Non-editorial
  • Obviously purchased links

Q and A: What impact does a video clip have on search engine indexing?

QuestionHi Kalena

I have several questions if you have the time to answer them.

1. What impact does a video clip have on search engine indexing (if any)?

2. Some websites I look at don’t seem to be using good navigation structures or use anywhere near the minimum recommended amount of text on their home page at all — yet they came up on page one when a google search is done – why? For example: has very little body text yet they come up high on a google search for *eyeglasses in Brookline, MA*.

3. I would think that web designers would automatically incorporate meta tags and key words and know about the importance of on-page criteria – yet it seems they don’t. Isn’t this bad business practice?

For example: one of my websites was done by a very experienced web designer, yet I wasn’t informed about many of these things; and I am seeing that my site isn’t very well optimized. I’m so surprised by this!

Thank you

Hi Toni

I’ll answer each of your questions in turn:

1) Depending on the way your clip is uploaded, LOTS. As you probably know, Google purchased YouTube a few years ago. So that should give you an idea of how important video is to the web and to search in particular. You can optimize your YouTube videos for search engine rankings now – there are lots of tutorials about this and we are looking to add a whole lesson on this to our SEO201 course in the near future. In the meantime, have a look at this post on how to optimize your video content.

2) Optimized body text is just one factor of the 100+ ranking influence factors in the Google PageRank algorithm. It’s an important one, but not the only one. So the reason you see other pages ranking well despite little or no text is that they score highly in other areas such as inbound links (quality of other sites linking to them), title and meta tags, inbound traffic, internal cross-linking etc. The sample site you mention is ranking ok because (amongst other things) it has a toolbar PageRank score of 4 and quite a few inbound links. If it had more optimized text on the page, it would probably rank even higher.

3) Surprising isn’t it? Despite SEO playing such a vital role in how a web site performs online, it’s scary how many web design companies either don’t know anything about SEO or don’t think it’s their job to optimize a web site. It’s not that they are unprofessional, it’s just that SEO is quite a specific science and many designers don’t have the knowledge to optimize a site well, or believe it is someone else’s job because it can be time-consuming. Some web designers offer SEO as an add-on service to web design, which I guess is fair enough as it could be outside the scope of the agreed design project. But I can’t tell you the number of web sites I’ve had to optimize for clients who have paid tens of thousands of dollars for a web site that is basically a glossy online brochure that would never be found in Google in a million years.