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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.

 


Conversion Rate: How Much Traffic Does It Take To Make A Sale?

May 12th, 2008

Many of my website clients, after watching their website traffic statistics, are dismayed to see many people coming to their website leaving after only visiting one page (this is called the “bounce rate“).

They also often see visitors who may look around at several pages and then decide to leave without purchasing anything.

They even see people who were very close to a purchase. Visitors who after adding items to a shopping cart and starting the check out process, left before completing the purchase ( this is called “shopping cart abandonment“). While all of these visitor activities are normal and expected, what’s often surprising to my client is how often they happen.

This begs the question: how much traffic does it take to make a sale, or have a prospective client fill out a contact form? This metric is known as “conversion rate“. It can be used to measure any desired behavior of your website visitors. If 100 people visit your site and 1 fills our your contact form, your conversion rate is 1% (1 contact form / 100 visitors). Since most new website owners have no experience with website statistics, I’ll share some of the data from my own website and from what I’ve seen on some of my client’s websites.

Conversion Rate:
How do you measure conversion rate? Some website traffic tracking tools have built in ways of tracking this for you. All that is needed is to label the appropriate target page. The website tracking software tracks how many total visitors you have and what percentage of them hit the target page. Each time they hit the target page, they are considered to have “converted”.

Different Examples of Target Pages for Conversion Tracking:

  • Shopping Cart “Thanks” Pages (last page after sale is completed)
  • Contact Forms
  • Newsletter Subscription Pages

On my website, I have two target pages, my contact form and my online ecommerce demo store.

Let’s look at my conversion statistics for my contact page:

Google 1,244 45 3.6 %
bar_bottom bar_middle bar_top
Direct Access (no referrer) 287 17 5.9 %
bar_bottom bar_middle bar_top
Google-Intl 227 6 2.6 %
bar_bottom bar_middle bar_top
MyClients 29 3 10.3 %

This data indicates that visitors who come from Google in the US, convert at a rate of 3.6%, while visitors who come from the websites of my clients, convert at a higher rate of 10.3%. (This data was collected using the Web-Stat.com traffic tracking tool.)

This makes sense doesn’t it? That the people who are following a link from one of my clients’ websites are more likely to convert than a complete stranger who found me on Google?

Measuring Quality of Website Traffic

Conversion rate tells us something about the quality of the website traffic source. If you are paying for traffic by utilizing pay-per-click online advertising measure the quality of the traffic that you’re paying for is super duper important to determine your return on investment. It’s easy to label your paid traffic sources and categorize them in Web-Stat so that you see if one ad has a higher conversion rate than another. This is one of the really neat things about the web and online advertising.

Remember, The “Real” Conversion Rate May Be Lower

If your conversion target is a contact form, then your “real” conversion rate will be lower than the conversion rate measured by the contact form conversion rate. Why? Because not everyone who contacts you will be converted into a customer.

Tiny Numbers

Now you’re thinking, hey, these conversion rates are getting to be pretty small numbers. Let’s say out of the people who contact you, 25% are converted to clients/customers. This means your real conversion rate is 25% of 3.6%, which is 0.9%. This means, to get a new customer, you need to have 100 people visit your website from Google, for example. Think about that. If your contact form to client conversion rate is 1 in 10, then you will need 277 visitors to get 1 client. Tiny numbers.

Setting Expectations for Conversion Rates

So don’t expect to have every visitor turn into a customer – it’s just not the way the web works. It’s a percentage game, and you will need a certain level of good quality traffic to turn enough of those visitors into clients.

Jill
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J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.



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