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Conversion Cache: Uncovering Site Problems (Part 1)

Posted on 3.30.2009

Landing page optimization and testing can often produce double-digit conversion rate improvements and transform the economics of an online business. But to get the best results from our landing pages, we must first know where to begin.

I am often asked: “How do I get ideas for what to improve or test?”

The answer lies in your own website, with data you already have.

Web Analytics
Web analytics related to the content of your website can provide many important clues to uncover and prioritize potential problems:

Most-visited content: The popularity of a Web page helps you understand whether it is getting the proper exposure. If a key page is not getting enough traffic, it may be necessary to move it to a more prominent location, or create more links to it from other popular pages.

Path analysis: Path analysis allows you to see the sequences of pages that visitors use to traverse your site. They show you the most common flow of traffic. It may be possible to change the position of key conversion pages or links within the site to benefit from such drive-by visibility.

Top entry pages: A list of the top entry pages shows you the point of first contact users have with your website. Generally, the more traffic hitting a landing page, the more attention that page deserves in terms of conversion tuning. Traffic levels can help you prioritize what landing pages need to be fixed first.

Top exit pages: Exit pages are the places where visitors leave your site. Each exit page can be viewed as a leaky bucket. If visitors exit your site, they probably did not find what they were looking for. In some cases, there is nothing you can do about this. But for the majority of cases, you could improve the page to provide more relevant information or better navigation. The total number of exits and the exit percentage of a page can be used to prioritize problem pages. The worst-case scenario is a popular entry page that is also a frequent exit page. The bounce rate is the percentage of entry page visitors who leave immediately without visiting any other site content. High bounce rates on high-traffic pages are red flags indicating those pages need attention.

Funnel analysis: Regardless of your visitors’ initial wandering paths, they must often pass through a well-defined series of pages in order to convert. It is possible to see the efficiency of each step in this linear process. The funnel narrows as people drop off during each step. High drop-off percentages may signal that a particular step is especially problematic. If problems are uncovered, consider breaking the process up into smaller and more manageable steps, or simplifying overall.

Conversion goals: Web analytics software allows you to track conversion rates (CRs) for all of the important goals of your site. By comparing your CRs with analyst research for your industry, you can get a rough idea of whether your site efficiency is competitive or substandard. Some Web analytics tools offer the ability to view reverse goal paths. These are the most common sequences of pages that visitors traverse on their way to completing a conversion goal. Unlike forward-looking funnel analysis, reverse goal paths look backward at the most popular points of origin for a conversion.

In Part II of this column I will examine several other powerful ways to identify site problems.

In-page Web Analytics
A new class of software tracking tools recently emerged and made finding landing-page problems even easier. These “in-page Web analytics” packages are based on the same JavaScript and cookies tracking techniques as most other traditional Web analytics packages. However, instead of looking at large numbers of visitors across your whole site, the in-page Web analytics programs look at individual visitors interactions within a single page. By aggregating granular individual behavior, new insights can be gleaned.

How often do people hover over a link without clicking? How many visitors scroll to see content at the bottom of your page? Do certain form fields take longer to complete? What does the heatmap of the page look like based on the mouse movements of your visitors? Do people from different traffic sources behave differently when navigating the page?

Click-tale.com, CrazyEgg.com and Pagealizer.com all offer inexpensive ways to get started with in-page analytics.

About the Author: Tim Ash is the CEO of SiteTuners.com, and the author of the bestselling book “Landing Page Optimization.”

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