Online marketing basics: tips to optimise your conversion rates

Website owners who invest substantial resources into search engine optimisation–both in terms of time and money–typically don’t have to wait too long to see the fruits of their labor: as their site inches further up the search engine result page (SERP) they also begin to notice an increased number of visitors. But what should be done when, despite all these efforts, turnover simply fails to materialise? Racking up large visitor counts doesn’t necessarily mean that orders, downloads, or requests will rise as well. This is where conversation rate optimisation comes into play.

What is a conversion rate?

A conversion rate is a ratio that describes the relationship between visitor numbers and occurring conversions. In this context, the word ‘conversion’ refers to a concrete action that’s been carried out by a website visitor. From purchases on e-commerce platforms to newsletter registrations, file downloads, or filled out contact forms, these conversions come in many different forms. In online marketing, conversion rates tend to fluctuate in terms of what constitutes a successful figure. For some e-commerce platforms, a rate of 3% is considered adequate, while insurance agencies often aim for higher rates floating around the 5% mark.

How do I calculate my site’s conversion rate?


Conversion rates are measured as percent values and are calculated as follows:

Conversion Rate (%) = Number of conversions * 100 / Number of site visitors

The key indicators (number of conversions, website visitors) are measured with the help of various web analysis tools (e.g. Google Analytics). A corresponding tracking code (a paragraph located in the source code) has to be implemented by the site’s administrator. Depending on the tool, individual goals or conversion rates are defined and these can then be measured and evaluated accordingly. Those using more advanced conversion rate optimisation tools can find out more information about what’s known as the customer journey. This refers to the series of steps customers go through before they finally carry out an action.

What’s a good conversion rate?

Conversion rates depend on a website’s overall approach, or execution, and for this reason it’s often difficult to determine their ideal value. For e-commerce sites, marketing experts generally start from the premise that the average conversion rate will be around 1%. This means that for every 100 visitors, only one person will actually end up purchasing something. Successful online stores are often known to experience conversion rates as high as 10%; these values always depend on many different factors and are best determined on a case-by-case basis. Online stores offering products in the £10 range generally have better conversion rates than those with a more expensive selection.

What is conversion rate optimisation?

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is a sub discipline of online marketing and constitutes one of the many KPIs (key performance indicators) used to measure the success of online marketing efforts. This concept relies on a range of measures aimed at increasing the number of conversions, thus optimising a site’s conversion rate. The goal is to have more site visitors carry out desired actions, eventually turning them, or converting them, into customers.

Conversation rate optimisation fundamentals

Measuring conversion rates helps marketers better understand the successes of their campaigns. Insights gained from these processes serve as indicators, or guides of sorts, for the next campaign steps that are to be taken; they also help to gauge the project’s ROI (return on investment). One popular method is known as A/B testing. Also referred to as split-run testing or bucket tests, this term refers to the process of testing two different versions of the same website with the simple task in mind of finding out which one leads to a higher conversion rate.

Conversion rate optimisation works with fundamental factors like a site’s design, user navigation, and content and inspects all of these points for possible drawbacks. Even small nuisances are capable of causing users to leave a site. Conversion rate optimisation is meant to make the visitor’s path to a purchase or download as simple and as pleasant as possible. Here are some measures that help achieve this goal:

Optimising the ordering process

Are customers adding products to their shopping baskets and then never fully processing their orders? If this is the case, it might not hurt to have a look at your ordering process. Shopping baskets experiencing high termination rates are tell-tale signs of an overly complicated ordering procedure or one that raises security concerns. Possible solutions to this situation include incorporating trust seals, offering additional payment options, or allowing users to order the desired service as a guest, freeing them from any registration responsibilities.

Testing usability

If all the aspects mentioned in the previous point have been addressed and customers continue to leave your site without finalising their orders, you should then check the site’s usability. Go through some different user scenarios and check, for example, how the product search and clustering functions are working (e.g. settings like: show products in red, size 38, under £50). Don’t forget to pay close attention to mobile optimisation. Different usability tests can help determine a site’s user friendliness, making it easier to determine which points need improving upon.

Adjusting content

A site’s content also contains ample opportunity for optimisation. The first step of this process often begins with the layout and design of Snippets (meta tags). Words like ‘free’ may prove useful for luring in potential users from Google’s search result pages, but this also means, of course, that your site needs to be able to fulfill the expectations that such buzzwords create. 

Layout optimisation

Page layouts also influence user behavior and have an effect on conversion and bounce rates. This factor has led to the establishment of a special discipline called ‘neuromarketing’, a field which explores how factors like colour schemes or image selection influence user behavior, and ultimately conversion rates.

Optimising conversion rates and finding weak points

Essentially, almost every part of a campaign’s marketing mix contributes to conversion rate optimisation: from social media, blog, and image management, to efforts to expand payment and sending options. In addition to both these larger and smaller efforts, testing and analysis tools can also help you make some final tweaks to your CRO strategy; they’re also useful for finding potential weak points. All of this helps marketers get more out of their campaigns, improve their rate of return, and turn mere visitors into regular customers.