If I’m brutally honest, then I would tell you that website optimization benefits do not always justify the expense and time investment. However, it’s equally true to say that in the majority of cases, optimizing a website can literally boost overall conversions by 50-100% or more with zero increase in marketing costs. However, website optimization (aka conversion rate optimization) also tends to be a sizeable investment of both time and money. So clearly, you need to know with reasonable certainty whether or not you can boost conversion rate enough from optimization to justify the time and expense.
But I want to take a step back even further and ask a far simpler, but more relevant question:
Will Website Optimization Boost Conversion Rate or Not?
Whatever you do, don’t confuse website optimization with endless split testing. Because while split testing is often used during web optimization projects, the conversion problems are rarely isolated to the sales page or product descriptions. In fact, website optimization experts often have to fix a wide range of issues to ultimately boost conversion rate, such as:
- Website Navigation and Linking Structure
- Shopping Cart Configuration/Display/Content
- Direct Response Copywriting Tools and Layout
- Website Design/Landing Page Design
- Social Media Integration
- On-Site SEO
- Web Programming (slow load times, glitching features, etc.)
- Quality of Website Traffic
To accurately estimate how much an optimization will boost conversion rate on any given site, conversion experts rely on advanced web traffic analysis. Detailed traffic data and heat mapping analysis can help pinpoint the exact problems that are harming conversions and eliminate the need for endless split testing. And while web traffic analysis may sound intimidating, you can easily assess your site sufficiently enough to at least determine if a web optimization would be worthwhile or not.
The simple truth is that the average site owner can use 100% free traffic analysis tools and some handy tips from a conversion rate optimization expert to determine whether an optimization will boost conversion rate enough to justify the expense. And right now, you are specifically going to learn:
- How to Determine Whether Current Conversion Rate is Good, Bad, or Otherwise
- How to Estimate Strength of Primary Traffic Sources
Estimating Current Conversion Rate Strength
One of the biggest issues we find is that most clients honestly don’t know whether they have a good or bad conversion rate—they always just want to boost conversion rate from their current levels. While this is certainly understandable, the fact remains that without some indication of how strong or weak your conversion rate actually is, then how do you know when you have a problem? More than 75% of our clients have conversions rates that are 50% or lower than industry standards—meaning they are leaving a LOT of online sales and conversions on the table!
Another major issue we find is that many clients tend to believe that if they find an example of a “good website”, then they can simply mimic this site to boost conversion rate. However, there is no such thing as a universal website template or conversion rate. In other words, different industries and niches will have different average conversion rates so mimicking a site from another niche or industry and expecting the same or even a similar conversion rate is simply unwise.
One final issue on this point: Many assume that because a website ranks well in the SERP’s (appears in top 3 positions on a search for a relevant keyword), then it must also convert well. Nothing could be further from the truth because most of the websites ranking in the top 3 positions in organic search are SEO-heavy meaning they have loads of great content but often have too many links and too much audience fragmentation to effectively funnel and convert prospects into sales or qualified leads.
Ok, so then what does a website owner do to find out if their site is converting well in order to determine if they need to boost conversion rate with an optimization project or not? Fortunately, Google has this sorted for you. Here is a link to average conversion rates by major industry niches for 2013 according to Google Adwords: http://bryaneisenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/google-adwords-benchmarks.png
Now while this chart only covers PPC traffic and most wise website owners include a mixture of traffic streams, the point is that it’s a trusted benchmark that at least gives you a solid idea of where you own site stands. In most cases, sites with a higher percentage of SEO and SMM should in fact see higher conversion rates than the ppc traffic—so if this is the case with your website, add about 10% to the average conversion rate on the chart for your niche and it should provide a very accurate approximation of what you should be getting.
So will a website optimization project boost conversion rate enough to justify the expense? Here are some basic guidelines to help you answer this question based upon the existing conversion rate:
- If Your Conversion Rate is Less than 50% of Industry Standard and Your Daily Traffic Averages Less than 100 Visitors Per Day, then Yes, Optimization Would Boost Conversion Rate Enough to Justify Expense
- If your Conversion Rate is 25% Lower than Industry Standard and Your Daily Traffic Averages More than 300 Visitors Per Day, then Yes, Optimization Would Increase Conversion Rate Enough to Justify Expense
- If Your Conversion Rate is 10% Lower than Industry Standard and Your Daily Traffic Averages More than 1000 Visitors Per Day, then Yes, Optimization Would Boost Conversion Rate Enough to Justify Expense
As you can see, the higher your daily average traffic, the lower the disparity between your existing conversion rate and the industry standard needs to be to justify the expense of optimizing your site to boost conversion rates. And if you think about it, this makes perfect sense because the more traffic you have coming in, the more dramatic the impact on your conversions from just a minimal increase in overall conversion rate.
However, the conversion rate alone is not the only consideration when trying to determine if an optimization will boost online sales enough to justify the investment which brings us to the next section:
Estimate Strength of Primary Traffic Sources
If a website is converting at a significantly lower rate than industry standards, there are three probable suspects:
- On-Site Factors: These would include issues like poor direct response copywriting, website design, layout, or poor sales funneling.
- Systemic Problems: Here, we are referring to things like problems with the shopping cart, slow loading time, and other issues typically related to website programming.
- Weak or Untargeted Traffic: A great website will still convert below industry standards if the traffic reaching it is untargeted in the products or services being offered.
If you were a website optimization expert, then you would use sophisticated software and traffic analysis to conduct a thorough web evaluation to isolate all conversion rate problems and then draw up a plan to fix them. But if you are trying to boost conversion rate yourself and save the money needed to hire a true website optimization expert, then you first need to see if the site is underperforming by industry standards as we outlined above.
Next, you’ll want to rule out systemic problems. Now if you are generating any online sales or leads at all, you know the shopping cart and CMS are working. For load time, just make sure the website loads within 3 seconds on all of the major platforms (browsers and operating systems like iOS, IE, Firefox, Chrome, etc.).
But if you find that the website is not converting to industry standards and you have ruled out systemic problems, then you need to check traffic quality next before you start split testing or working on any on-site factors. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time and money changing on-site factors and never boost conversion rate if the traffic is weak and untargeted.
Ok, so how do we estimate the relative strength of your website’s traffic? Well, two very big warning signs that your site is likely suffering from weak or untargeted traffic are:
Average Time on Site Less Than 1 Minute
Bounce Rate Above 70%
Now make no mistake: It IS possible that on-site factors like bad copywriting or poor web design could cause both a low average time on site and high bounce rate. So to know for certain, you need access to Google Analytics and then you need to do the following:
- Go to and Click on “Acquisition” Navigation Tab
- Click on “Keywords”
- If Primary Traffic Source is Paid Traffic, Click on “Paid”
- If Primary Traffic Source is Organic, Click on “Organic”
In either case, you will pull up a screen that shows the keywords bringing traffic to your site. Now this screen by default will only bring up 10 keywords at a time so you’ll want to click on the arrow next to the “Show Rows” tab at the bottom right of the page. Adjust this to show 100 results (your website may have more targeted keywords but let’s stick to a 100 sample size for the sake of simplicity but the same process applies if you have more keywords).
Next, you are going to want to look at the “Average Session Duration” for each keyword. If more than 20% (or 1 in 5) of your keywords have an average session duration of 10 seconds or less, then you have some significant weaknesses in your traffic. If you use paid traffic, then the solution is as simple as adjusting your campaigns to no longer target those terms with an average session duration of less than 10 seconds.
Now if you have more than 20% of your targeted SEO terms with an average time on site of 10 seconds or less, well then your problem is a little more complex and beyond the scope of this lesson. An experienced traffic optimization expert with advanced SEO skills will need to adjust on-site seo and backlinking strategies to target more relevant terms for your audience. So while you will be able to boost conversion rate quickly if the traffic weakness is primarily limited to paid traffic streams, it will likely take a few weeks or even a couple of months to fix and sort out an seo or smm problem.
So Will Optimization Boost Conversion Rate Enough to Justify the Expense?
If it were simple, then everyone would be performing their own website optimization to boost conversion rate but traffic levels and other factors must be sufficient or the project will not be profitable.
Determining whether or not a website optimization will boost conversion rate enough to justify the expense is the first and most critical step of the process. Ideally, you would hire a conversion rate optimization expert or company to use their experience and expensive software tools to conduct a thorough website evaluation to isolate all issues and then estimate how much the optimization would net in terms of ROI.
However, this lesson was designed for the determined DIY’er to conduct their own simple evaluation to accomplish two primary objectives:
- Determine if Current Conversion Rate is Good or Bad
- Determine if Traffic Quality is Suppressing Conversions
The higher your traffic levels, the more important it becomes to meet or exceed industry standards and the more likely a website optimization would be warranted if those standards are not being met. However, traffic quality is another important consideration and may be the more pressing problem before proceeding to optimize the site for conversions.