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More Traffic is Not Always The Answer

13 January 2012 BY

This is a guest post by Dan Taylor, founder of SEOwned and currently working for Moneysupermarket. Like this post? Let us know!

As an SEO one of the most common statements from clients has always been “we need more traffic to our web site’. I am not saying that this is the wrong tactic to take; in fact the stats below show that delivering more traffic to a website will produce the same overall results as the methods I am going to recommend. However, the effort required to increase traffic to an under-performing site is akin to shovelling snow whilst it is still snowing. If we work on getting our site in better shape, and better performing in future the best thing for the business will inevitably be to increase traffic.

Case Study

Our case study business is a fictional business but all numbers are relevant, as it is the percentage increases we are after not raw numbers. The study is based on an e-commerce business selling sports supplements, for no other reason than in planning this blog I came up with an average order value and that fits quite nicely. Keywords around this type of business carry significant search volume but our website is fairly small, drawing only an average of 5000 visits per month (nice round number, weird eh?). The website is performing fairly well but could do better: it has a current conversion rate of 2 per cent, with customers spending on average £30 in each transaction.

The business is currently turning over £3000 per month from web sales but its owner now wants a 2012 uplift of 10 per cent. To achieve this he wants 10per cent more traffic coming into the website.

The Numbers

Traffic

Conv. Rate

Sales

Avg. Order

Revenue

Notes

5000 2.00% 100 £30 £3,000 Current
5000 2.20% 110 £30 £3,300 10% inc. to Conv. Rate
5500 2.00% 110 £30 £3,300 10% inc. to Traffic
5000 2.00% 100 £33 £3,300 10% inc. To Avg. Order
5000 2.20% 110 £33 £3,630 10% Avg. Order & Conv. Rate

So as we can see from the table above a 10% increase in any value will result in a 10% increase in revenue but this doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Costs

We have to consider the costs of increasing each of the elements required to achieve 10 per cent growth. Delivering an extra 500 visitors to the site might require going after a brand new keyword or setting longer-tail keywords. This will require content, links and a period of time for Google to recognise the changes to your website and rank you accordingly – of course we all know that ‘rank you accordingly’ means that you may not hit the top spots for your targeted keywords for weeks or months, or even at all. I would estimate that the cost of achieving 500 more visitors per month may run in to the £100′s at a minimum – all to achieve an extra £300 per month.

So if more traffic is not the answer what is? And how much does it cost? Well the other option is to improve how well your website converts. A 10 per cent increase in conversion rate to 2.2 per cent would require only 10 more sales per month to achieve the required growth and all from traffic you already have!

And the best bit? It could be free!

Conversion Rate Optimisation Can Be Free

The Conversion Funnel

The Conversion Funnel

Conversion rate optimisation can work exceptionally well (just ask Sunshine.co.uk) but the process needn’t cost the earth. If you are already working with an agency you may be able to reallocate resources from attacking unrealistic keywords to the task of turning more of your existing traffic into customers. So what steps would you take to try an increase your conversion rate? The first step would be to set up checkout funnels in Google Analytics and see at what stage in your checkout process customers are dropping out.

A conversion funnel can help you to pinpoint pages that may be confusing to customers or forms that are too complex. Set up and analysis of the funnels themselves is a whole other post (keep your eyes peeled, as that post will come at a later date!).

Google Website Optimiser

So, once we have identified a bottleneck in the checkout process using our funnels we can simply make the change and watch the money roll in, right? Wrong. Whilst we have identified a problem, who’s to say that our solution is the best solution? This is where Website Optimiser comes in handy. Google website optimiser is a free tool that allows you to run split tests on your website automatically and without affecting your SEO performance. The basics of website optimiser are that you create a new page with your changes and feed the old and new page into the system; visitors to your site will automatically be served either the new or the old page. Conversion rates are then recorded by the system and a test winner is decided.

The idea with A/B testing is that you test small changes, often; rather than big changes infrequently. Examples of small changes may be adding ‘Buy Now’ buttons to products on your homepage, or removing a field from a form. These types of small change can often have a profound effect on the checkout success rate.

Website optimiser also offers a multivariate test that is designed for pages that have a significant amount of traffic (the page says over 1000 views per week). Multivariate testing allows you to change smaller parts of a page such as images, content or calls to action without creating new pages. Multivariate testing requires a greater level of technical knowledge, whereas simple A/B testing can be done easily with most modern content management systems.

Focus on Upsell/Cross Sell

Another way to achieve the 10% revenue uplift required could be to increase average order values. A 10 per cent uplift in average order values requires each customer to spend just £3 more. So how could this be achieved?

Amazon does an excellent job of getting every penny they can from each transaction by using their ‘Frequently Bought Together’ feature, with the upshot that customers actually love it. The key to getting this right is matching products properly. It’s no use matching widget x with widget y if they don’t work together, so you need to be sensible and match your products cleverly. With our supplements site this could be something like start offering a shaker flask with each supplement purchase. The two are required for the product to work and not all customers will have a shaker.

Key Takeaways

* It’s not all about getting more traffic, it’s about doing more with the traffic you have.
* Use A/B split testing in website optimiser to test out new pages
* Test little and often – it’s often small changes that have a big impact.
* Bump up cart values using promotions, related products or ‘Customers also bought’ boxes on product and checkout pages.
* When you have a perfectly converting site, then go after more traffic.

Conclusion

The two suggestions above – conversion optimisation and upsell/cross sell – should work out much cheaper to implement yet provide significantly quicker and stronger results compared with simply chasing more traffic.  Furthermore, your site is now in a much better position to receive increased levels of traffic and you have freed up revenue to chase more powerful keywords. Get your website in shape and it will be ready to run a marathon; ignore the big issues and you will constantly treading water without making waves.

dan-taylorAbout the Author, Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the founder of Tailored Internet Marketing, freelance SEO and SEO Project Manager at Just Search. Dan specialises in all aspects of SEO including analysis, implementation and consultation.

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  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    Good stuff Dan, a case well made. It’s another demonstration of why SEO should never work in isolation but should be part of an integrated multi-channel digital marketing mix, with CRO as one of the core tactics. You can send as much traffic to a website as you want, if it’s not converting it’s not doing the site any good.

  • http://www.gfwebsoft.com Glenn

    Great info Dan ! The Google Website Optimizer – A/B testing functionality is new info for me – something I’ll definitely use.
    Thanks much !

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  • http://businesstips.ph Vic

    Very well research and case study. I like it when numbers are presented. Yes, we should also focus on the quality of traffic we are driving to our site, and not just the quantity.

  • http://www.laurizon.ca Laure

    Indeed, there is no need to drive more traffic if a website is not “usable”.
    We need to optimize websites with SEO to drive more traffic AND Usability tests and Web Analytics to improve the user’s experience and get more conversions.
    Thanks