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How can we change the traffic-building mindset?

Encouraging focus on conversion optimisation has to be the way forward

For many companies, driving traffic to their websites is still the ultimate goal.It's the way they measure the strength of their brand, and the the effectiveness of their campaigns.

There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as we understand that traffic is not the holy grail and certainly not the only purpose of interactive marketing. All kinds of marketing can be used for all business goals, depending on context, and sheer visitor numbers really don’t mean anything by themselves. For transactional sites in retail, travel and financial service the conversion points are obvious and there is much more focus on conversion optimisation. But many, many businesses don't fall into this category and they're not tracking the many forms of conversion. All types of sites have many micro-conversions that could be measured, but often aren't.

However, the excessive focus on traffic in most cases leads to a fixation on numbers and data that have little meaning. In social media marketing, we know about the addiction to the number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. In e-mail marketing, people often remain solely focused on list size, open ratios or clicks. And many online marketers still measure the success of their actions by nothing more than the number of visitors and page views. I know it seems prehistoric, but believe me, you actually see it done every day.

Four critical questions about online traffic

Traffic is good. It’s even crucial. Without visitors to your website, you’ll never sell anything through online channels. That much is self-evident.

However, so many companies invest tons for measures to generate traffic, that they lose sight of the essentials:

  1. What percentage of my visitors is relevant for my business?
  2. How valuable are my website and online communication for the people I’m trying to reach or attract?
  3. What cross-channel mix is best for creating the most cost-efficient traffic?
  4. And most importantly: what do we do with visitors once they’ve landed on our website, blog, etc.?

Conversion is a mentality

In my work, everyday I still see how companies are massively investing in online advertising, campaigns, search engine advertising, social media activities and e-mail marketing with a focus on traffic generation. And, yes, that includes social media and networks. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Twitter for instance, unfortunately is increasingly being used as a direct marketing tool.

Each way of generating traffic carries its own price tag in terms of direct costs. However, even supposedly cheaper forms of interactive marketing such as search engine optimisation and e-mail marketing cost loads of money if they don’t bring results.

And ultimately, there is one important parameter for seeing and improving results: conversion. Everyone knows it, but businesses do not turn that knowledge into action by building a systematic conversion optimisation process.

It is obvious that optimisation of conversion is still being treated as something superfluous by many businesses, when in fact, it’s a veritable Cinderella. The daily and incremental improvement of all cross-channel marketing activities, landing pages, etc. is a question of processes and most importantly of mentality.

By excessively focusing on traffic and the short-term, people all too often forget this.

Incremental growth by continuous cross-channel and multi-dimensional optimisation

In 2010, ZenithOptimedia said that of all the money that would be spent on traffic generation, only 2 to 3% would lead to effective conversion. Imagine what it would mean for your business if it grew by just one percent month after month. The incremental impact on the bottom line after a relatively short period of time would be huge.

It is therefore, time that more thought and resources be put into increasing results through continuous analytics and conversion improvement. And there is no business that cannot improve its conversion score because it’s a comprehensive and cross-channel never ending exercise encompassing content, media mix, landing pages, call-to-actions, etc.

Measure and improve each element, always a little more: use all conversion techniques, from A/B tests and usability improvements to content customisation and the interaction channels the customer or prospect can choose from.

This is much more important and profitable than forever chasing after more traffic. Again: it may be obvious, but it’s definitely not being done enough. Want proof? I recently found some data via Bryan Eisenberg that for every 95USD businesses spend on generating traffic, they only spend…one on conversion optimisation.

Knowing that we live in an online world where online penetration is high and people are overwhelmed by information and communication, that is a shocking low number.

In the end, optimising conversion is a matter of customer-centricity. People will only take action if something is perceived valuable by them. Not working on conversion means not improving the customer experience.

So I think building on marketers understanding of the importance of knowing the customer and delivering relevant engagement devices is one approach to make the case for more focus on conversion optimisation. What do you think? How do you make the case for conversion optimisation in your company or clients?

By J-P De Clerck

J-P De Clerck is a 360° customer-centric business and marketing consultant and trainer. He is managing partner of integrated marketing and digital business consultancy i-SCOOP. You can follow him on Twitter via @conversionation.

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