4 Steps to Improve Conversion Rates

By Anagha Arvind

January 11, 2021

For small businesses, website traffic is essential for marketing products and services to customers. The higher the number of visitors, the more opportunities a business has for growth. The NN group defines “conversion rate” as the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action. Ideally, there should be an increase in conversion rates through purchases, signups, or subscriptions with increased traffic. Furthermore, the increased conversion is one of the strongest methods for return on investment (ROI). However, that is usually not the case. According to a BrightLocal study that analyzed Google Analytics data from 11,000 websites of small businesses across different industries, 55% of the sites received fewer than 500 monthly visitors, with an average session lasting only 96 seconds. Additionally, it was found that average conversion rates are between 1 and 4 percent, which means if 100 visitors see a site, only 1 to 4 of them will actually buy a product, service, or subscription. 

To improve conversion rates on your website, you must first understand the structure of a conversion funnel. A conversion funnel consists of 4 stages that describe the process of a potential customer who visits your website and then takes a desired action. It is a funnel because a marketer wants to lead customers to the conversion point, and the number of potential customers tends to decrease as you descend the funnel. At the top of the funnel, the potential customer is looking for specific products (or services) from different brands that satisfy their needs. In the middle of the funnel, the potential customer has narrowed down the options to a few brands and has even signed up for email lists to learn more about their products. At the bottom of the funnel, the potential customers have finalized their top brands and seek reviews and testimonials from other customers to eventually decide to purchase items. This section also includes steps you would take to retain these customers. There are different methods of conversion rate optimization (CRO), or the process of optimizing a website experience based on visitor behavior and their actions, that occur at every stage of the funnel. 

The 4 stages of the conversion funnel: 

In this first, broad stage, named “Awareness”, your primary step is to attract visitors to your website through advertising and search engine optimization. An e-marketer survey in 2017 portrayed that 42% of small and medium businesses observe Facebook and other social media ads to be the most effective method of brand marketing. This raises awareness of your business and products, sending more traffic to your website. Keywords are important for search engine optimization, as it frames the level of popularity the website has in a search engine like Google. To improve the wording of the content on the website, keyword research must be performed. Starting with a broad seed keyword, one can use tools like Ubersuggest to expand the search to long-tail keywords that are related to the seed. Typically these long-tail keywords consist of 3 terms that target a narrower audience. This is followed by measuring the search volume of average monthly searches to determine the popularity and demand for certain keywords. Choose the keywords from your research and bid on putting your business’ ad as a sponsored search result at the top of the search results. Google Adwords can use keywords to target potential customers by geographic area or demographic which allows your business to target the right audience to your website. Meta tags of these keywords, that are coded into your website, can be used to make it easier for search engines and website visitors to determine your website’s content, thus enhancing search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. Although bidding for keywords can be expensive, the conversion will provide a substantial return on investment. You can also advertise through social media, although optimizing keywords vary, as networks tend to use internal search engines that differ from Google. 

Security is very important in the first stage, as insecure and suspicious websites will lose visitors quickly. However, according to a Global Information Security Survey, only 22% of organizations surveyed incorporated information security in their business and website planning strategy. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are common on websites and can affect the loading speeds. A delay in the load time by even 1 second and decrease conversions by 7%, and 11% of potential customers as they will leave the website. These attacks cause sluggish website performances and can lead to hacked accounts and malware infections. Consequently, the website’s ranking decreases on search engines as Google recognizes cybersecurity as a ranking factor. The higher the ranking on a search engine, the more trustworthy the website appears to customers. Google has developed algorithms that reward websites that provide a great user experience and excellent security, thus ranking them higher than their counterparts. Specifically, sites with SSL certificates, customer reviews and testimonials, and security badges tend to fare better. 

The second stage named “Interest” focuses on the content and layout of the website to develop a closer relationship with potential customers. You need to grab their attention with catchy headlines and aesthetic designs. The landing page design is very important as it is the element that visitors interact with. A balance of aesthetics and usability is necessary for a successful website. These pages should have strong call-to-action (CTA) buttons that are prominently displayed. A CTA targets customers to take a desired action, such as subscribing to an email list, making a purchase, or donating to a cause. The layout should also allow visitors to swiftly navigate between pages and important sections of the website to accomplish their desired actions with the least number of clicks. The colors of the website, especially CTA buttons, play a crucial role in conversions. It is important to establish the brand’s colors and use those throughout the website. Recognizable themes can increase accessibility to the website on search engines. The CTA buttons should use power words such as “Sign Up Now”, that will persuade a customer to click on the button. For example, the Amazon website is designed to display details of products prominently to customers, such as using the brand’s orange color for the “Add to Cart” button. The contrast of the orange button to the white background and its persuasive text makes it easier for customers to complete their tasks. This is especially important as shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest issues for eCommerce companies. In fact, 69% of all visitors to eCommerce websites abandon their shopping carts partly due to design. This stage also encourages potential customers to sign up for email lists and newsletters to get discounts on their future purchases, such that you now have access to their email for further advertising. You may think it would be a good idea to copy the design of a popular and successful website, however, this may not be the case depending on the content of your website. 

In the third stage named “Desire”, potential customers are considered highly qualified leads and need to be supported through the bottom of the funnel. You need to gain the shopper’s attention through personalized content. By personalizing parts of your website based on their geography or past browsing habits, the website becomes more relevant to them. In fact, personalization has been shown to increase a business’ sales by 14%. Now that you have their emails, you can also send customers personal newsletters to persuade them to engage with your brand more. Additionally, you must present your merchandise with relevant and effective images, descriptions, and even videos. The more informative you are about your company and products, the more customers will find your website trustworthy. It can be helpful to include an FAQ or frequently asked questions section, to help provide essential information about the products. The addition of testimonials, product reviews, case studies, and product comparisons also helps develop trust. Research done by The NN Group showed that people tend to skim through websites, and therefore showing positive reviews can help boost sales and popularity. Understanding your customer’s behavior and expectations through analytics data, gathered from heatmaps and session recordings on Google Analytics, for example, help determine the way the website is perceived. As you make changes on your website to cater to customers, A/B testing will demonstrate if those changes are effective. In A/B testing, versions of the same website are shown to different visitors at the same time to see which version leads to more conversions. Therefore, customers use an optimized version of the website to hone in on the products they are interested in. 

In the final stage named “Action”, you have led customers through the funnel and it is time to seal the deal. The focus must be on improving the checkout experience for customers to efficiently make a purchase and retain their attention for future purchases. The customer’s actions leading up to this stage, such as signing up for a newsletter, are called micro-conversions. The checkout page layout should be easy to navigate to complete the purchase, thus leading to a whole conversion. Friction in this process needs to be removed, so customers are not put off by long, confusing forms. For example, Expedia removed one field from its form and made an additional $12 million that year. 

To finish the purchasing process, customers can be encouraged to make an account on your website, or use guest checkout. Tapglue conducted a study in 2016 that said 86% of people do not prefer to create a new login for each website, and 77% do prefer a social login instead. SSOs allow users to subscribe or sign up using their pre-existing accounts instead of creating a new one. Multiple SSO options, predominantly Facebook, Google, and Twitter, can translate to an increase in signups by 20% to 40% brand names makes the website appear more influential and trustworthy. A survey indicated that shopping cart abandonment decreased by 10% after social login was implemented. Creating an account with your business will help with customer retention. 

For security reasons, it is beneficial to add trust badges to the checkout page. In November 2014, 77% of European website visitors were worried that personal data, such as credit card details, can be misused online. It is important to develop a privacy policy for your website that discloses that the site will collect and protect its user’s personal information, including their names, addresses, and phone numbers. A thorough privacy policy along with security badges that say “Secure Payments by PayPal” of “McAfee Secure”, will provide a more secure and streamlined checkout experience. 

You can also offer discounts, such as free shipping, and even a countdown for the customer to purchase within a limited amount of time. These tactics persuade customers to believe that they are getting the best, limited-time offer, so they must buy as soon as possible. Even if the customer abandons the cart, it is not necessarily a missed sale. You can use email to send the potential customer push notifications and reminders about their cart, so they are encouraged to return and complete the purchase. Once you have made the sale, you must convince the customers to remain loyal and shop with you again. This can be achieved through sending discounts, coupons, and notifications through email, so customers can keep track of your business’ progress and offers. Additionally, you can promote your social media accounts so customers can remain in touch in other ways. 

Businesses must focus on improving conversion rates by setting aside money in their budget to plan and run CRO campaigns for their websites. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this process, but you must cater to your target audience and business plan. By understanding the structure of a conversion funnel and the meaning of each stage, you can see significant increases in traffic to your website, sales of your products and conversions, for a viable method of earning profits.