Conversion is Key (SEO is Only Half the Battle)

When I’m asked whether or not a website should have search engine optimization, I always say yes.  Why wouldn’t someone want to give their site a fighting chance to be found when someone performs a search related to their business?  This is what I do on a daily basis and I’m very passionate about it – it’s important.

But that isn’t the only thing a website needs to accomplish.

eMarketer’s “2010 Digital Marketing Outlook” surveyed senior marketers regarding which activities are their top priority in the digital space this year, as well as which measures of engagement on their company websites are most important.  9.4% of the respondents sited conversion and ROI as the most important website engagement measurement.

Only 9.4%?!

Your website is a marketing tool and conversion should be at the top of your list.  Merely driving traffic to your website with SEO doesn’t mean your work is done; you need to engage those visitors and encourage them to take some sort of action.  Conversion can be measured in the number of contact forms submitted by potential leads, the number of blog subscribers you have, how many newsletter signups you receive, etc.  The idea is to have visitors interact with your site and start developing a relationship with you.

Let’s review a couple of the metrics in the survey that trumped conversion.

Time on Site

The average amount of time that people spend on the site was the most important metric of engagement according to the survey. I agree that this is a good gauge of whether or not people are interested in the information you’re offering and it’s one of the things I look at when I view web stats.  However, if the navigation and layout of your website is confusing, then a high average time on site would also be applicable, as people are spending time just trying to get around.  Ask a friend or relative to act like a potential customer use your website and find a specific piece of information and get their feedback.  Did they have a hard time finding it?  If so, you may need to adjust the navigation of your site accordingly.

Pageviews

This metric was also high on the marketers’ lists.  A pageview is recorded when a visitor, literally, views the page.  So if someone looks at your “software consulting services” page 1,000 times, what does that mean?  It means that your “software consulting services” page was looked at 1,000 times. All you can really infer from pageviews is that a certain page may or may not be popular with visitors.  If that consulting page is consistently a very popular page but you aren’t getting many people contacting you for more information, then you may want to consider the possibility that you’re not offering enough information about it or not reaching out to people in the right way.

So all other web stats, other than conversion, don’t matter?

Conversion should be the top metric that you look at to determine whether or not you are engaging people with your website.  However, that does not mean average time on site, bounce rate, traffic sources, most popular pages, etc., are not important.  These additional statistics can provide you with the insight that you need to figure out what you may need to work on to get people to take that desired action (convert).

But My Keywords Are #1 in Google

That’s great!  Does it guarantee that someone will sign up for your newsletter once they click on your site from the results page?  Unfortunately, no.   The first step is being found.  The next step is engaging the visitors once they’re at your site, taking them by the hand and leading them to what you’d like them to do.  You may not be able to convert them the first time, but with an easy-to-navigate site, lots of relevant content written specifically for your target demographics, and prominent calls-to-action, you’re well on your way.  Monitoring your website stats and making adjustments based on them will ensure that you are focusing on the ultimate engagement: conversion.