Converting Visitors Into Buyers

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After a series of morning meetings, I intended to sit in on Duplicate Content and Multiple Site Issues session, but it was far too packed to stay and try to learn while sitting on someone else’s lap. Instead, I went the Plan B route and went with the Converting Visitors Into Buyers session. While the presenters and content was good, it was slightly dated (perhaps because I’ve seen the presentations and presenters before). For the readers out there that haven’t had the opportunity to see this session in the past, I’ve provided a few highlights below.

SES regular Allan Dick with Vintage Tub & Bath moderated the session featuring veteran presenters and SEM gurus Bryan Eisenberg with Future Now and Mike Sack with Idearc. Allan reminded the audience to set a meaningful baseline before conducting testing…which created a small stir, in that Eisenberg preferred the route of improving your current conversion rates while Sack emphasized the importance of competitive or industry benchmarking as a frame of reference. Regardless, Eisenberg and Sack did a great job of filling in the why’s and how’s of converting visitors into buyers.

Unfortunately, I just missed Eisenberg’s presentation this round, but have seen it before and highly recommend getting a copy for yourself, or purchasing his latest book. Mike Sack with Idearc Media provided a helpful background on conversion optimization strategies and process. Sack opened up with the common design errors that hinder conversion: too many links on the home page and a navigation that doesn’t map to the offline shopping experience.

In order to optimize the conversion process, Sack recommended that companies orchestrate the user experience, including flow and product placement. His analogy was milk in the back of the supermarket…and with the dynamic nature of the Web, how you can put the milk on the best shelf for the Web site visitor to increase conversion. Place products based on user intent based on the visitor’s “virtual doorway” (or referring site/page/link). Increase your site’s conversion by structuring landing/product pages based on common user profiles/archetypes.

For the novice SEM professional, Sack reminded us to purchase more specific keyword phrases (the long tail) as they typically have higher conversion and better ROI. He also reminded us to evaluate day-parting strategies (aka bidding time zones) to optimize conversion. For those with budget, utilize heat maps to evaluate user engagement via search engines or on landing pages.

The crux of the success of any conversion program is understanding the user’s desires/intent. Understanding that certain search phrases are appropriate for specific stages of the purchase process is critical to creating relevant copy, offers and calls to action. Sack reminded us to track offline conversions as well, illustrating the point with an example: ROAS was 426 percent versus a 2,109 percent combined offline and online conversion.

Lastly, Sack covered elements of a successful shopping cart: speed, simplicity, privacy and flexibility. He suggested developing a specific abandonment program (capturing email addresses of people leaving the shopping cart) to convert them later. Eisenberg and Sack agreed that the retailer should “be nice” by not using all caps or red “error” text and avoiding any surprises (like additional processing fees) at checkout. Overall, an excellent session for beginning users and a nice refresher for advanced SEM professionals.

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