Traffic is so 1998. Keyword rankings? 2008. Whatever marketing or PR strategy a business uses, the success metric that matters the most today is website conversions – and that measure needs to be incorporated into all of a company’s outreach efforts.
What is a conversion? Simply put, it is a specific action that a given business wants website visitors to take. B2B companies with shorter sales cycles may want people to fill out a contact form; those with longer sales cycles may want individuals to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter or download a piece of content in exchange for providing their contact information. Mobile-app publishers want downloads. B2C businesses want sales.
Such conversions are important because the last thing you want to see is a lot of traffic but few conversions.
What you define as a conversion will depend on your overall business and marketing goals. Here, we will outline a generic conversion strategy for several channels that can be tailored to any business.
Converting Traffic from Online Advertising
People who click on ads in Google AdWords, social-media networks, and elsewhere are important prospects because they are highly qualified. When individuals click on advertisements, they have expressed an interest in precisely what is being offered and expect a sales pitch. So, the goal is to get them to convert quickly by sending this traffic to a landing page.
Here is one example of a good landing page that gets the job done:
Here are a few best-practices for landing pages:
- Eliminate website menus and navigation – the only way to leave the page should be to submit the form or click on the browser’s back button (though a few other options are seen at the top in this example)
- Include a friendly, human face with a testimonial
- Have a list of recognizable users or clients
- Use concise text that communicates a value proposition (and perhaps offer a discount like the one shown in the bottom right-hand corner)
- The form should consist of as few fields as possible
- Submission buttons that are different colors than the rest of the page should be used so that the eyes of visitors are attracted to them
The point to remember: This is what we will call a one-step conversion. For the reasons that we stated earlier, advertising traffic can be sent directly to a landing page. However, other contexts necessitate a two-step conversion plan.
Converting Traffic from Social-Media Networks
People hate to see direct advertising in their Facebook news feeds and other similar locations on other social platforms. The quickest way to get a Facebook page “unliked” – and possibly even reported as spam – is to push direct sales pitches down followers’ throats every day. Instead, focus on content that serves the purpose of both providing value to your fans and promoting your business.
In this context, it is best to use various one-step and two-step conversion methods on social media (depending on the channel).
- One-step: Say that a business sells B2B sales software for people in the “widget” industry. The company could produce e-books, webinars, and more on topics that would interest people in that sector. A Facebook page post (or an update on any network) should then usher people directly to a landing page to download that useful information (and prompt them for contact details). This is a time when one-step conversion is beneficial. Note: online advertising can also be used to promote such content.
- Two-step: Not every piece of content is worthwhile enough to warrant a landing page. (And that’s not bad!) Company news, blog posts, and other general items that are communicated on social channels should direct traffic to its respective website page (and not a landing page directly). The website page should then include “calls to action” that motivate visitors to click to a landing page:
This recent Hubspot blog post included calls to action at the bottom to try the company’s marketing software and subscribe to the site’s blog. Such calls to action can be placed in anywhere on a website page – in the header, footer, sidebar, and elsewhere. This is a great example of the two-step conversion process.
Generally speaking, a one-step conversion process should be used when website visitors are lower in the sales funnel (such as when they have already expressed a direct sales interest via the clicking on advertising links or the desire to receive specific, related content). Two-step conversion should be used when people are at the top of the sales funnel and have only a general interest.
Converting Traffic from SEO
Years ago, before Google rightly implemented algorithm changes to stop deceptive SEO methods, marketers would stuff landing pages with keywords and use other “black hat” practices so that the specific pages would rank highly in organic search results. One example:
Thankfully, that tactic does not work anymore. Today, landing pages will generally not rank in organic search results because they usually have little textual content (and more images and forms) and no quality backlinks pointing towards them.
Rather, other website pages and posts should aim to rank highly in search through a collection of best practices that include online public relations, social media, and content creation. It is creating a technical SEO strategy, a social-media strategy, and a content-marketing strategy. Then, all of those pages should use a two-step conversion process to move visitors to a desired landing page.
Converting Traffic from Public Relations
PR is the most-difficult channel from which to facilitate conversions because it is highly dependent on how third-parties – namely, reporters, editors, and bloggers – choose to promote and link to you. Here are three specific tips:
- If an outlet is covering your company in general, it will most likely link to your home page. So, use calls to action there in a two-step conversion strategy
- If an outlet is covering a piece of general content such as an infographic that is in a blog post, then implement the same two-step conversion method on that blog post
- If an outlet is covering a piece of specific, authoritative content (such as a newsworthy e-book, industry analysis, or webinar), then consider asking them to link to a landing page through which people can obtain the content in a one-step conversion
- Sometimes, reporters can be persuaded to include more than one link (as long as it is relevant) such as one to the home page and others to internal pages as described in the second and third points
All Channels Need a Conversion-Optimization Strategy
All of the website traffic that comes from advertising, content marketing, social media, search engines, public relations, and more will not help you to achieve your business goals unless your website is optimized to convert the visitors.
We liken it to the real-estate market: You want to renovate and repaint your home before you show it to potential buyers. Otherwise, they will leave empty-handed – and so will you.