Sunday, November 30, 2008

Measuring the Success of an SEO Campaign: Conversions

This is part 3 of my occasional series on “Measuring the Success of an SEO Campaign”. The first part was about the long tail and the second was using search engine traffic levels. This third instalment uses one of the many other metrics available to website owners: conversion.

We post about conversion quite often on this blog, because it is an important element of your website. We’ve given lots of tips on how to improve your site conversions. However, it can have some drawbacks to using it as an SEO metric.

There can be issues with using different measurement of conversion e.g. Adwords and Analytics track conversions differently - this means that in Analytics a sale or lead could be marked as an SEO conversion but in Adwords, the PPC ad would get the credit.

Conversions are much more subject to on-page issues – no two websites ever convert the same. Additionally, making changes on a site can make big differences which are not related to SEO. Changing onsite forms can be a great way of increasing the number of signups. I recently had a customer who implemented a page redesign to make his form more prominent, and literally doubled his number of conversions overnight.

Likewise, there are some on-site issues that are outside the control of the SEO company, which is why you find very few SEO companies that will agree to a profit related payment scheme. Some basic examples of this are sites where the products are too expensive, so although people might find your site in their research process, they will choose to buy elsewhere. Another one is having a ranking for a very broad keyword, and although visitors come to your site, they don’t find the product they are looking for.

There are also the other elements of post-click marketing, which are particularly pertinent to ecommerce websites, such as availability/stock levels, delivery times, return policies and delivery costs, many of which are checked by a potential purchaser in their selection of which vendor to use. Trust elements also come into play, whether it is the use of HackerSafe logos, customer testimonials or previous vendor experience. The customer journey through a purchase decision has a myriad of different on-site elements.

On the other hand, real hard sales or leads is a firm number to attribute to a marketing outlay in order to generate an ROI figure, and can’t be ignored as a success metric.

If you don’t already track conversions, then you should figure out a way to do so. It could be as simple as adding a form to your site, or a custom email address or telephone number to track offline conversions. Trial print out and bring in vouchers if you have bricks and mortar stores. Always ask your customers where they heard about you from – the answers are a vital feedback into all your marketing processes.

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