If you want your site to be effective, you need to step back and ask yourself several questions:
What are the goals of this website? What should users do when they arrive on my homepage? What’s the ideal path for them to get there? What are the calls-to-action users need to see in order to reach said goal?
If you take the time to answer these questions, you’re on your way to defining what is called a conversion funnel. The analogy of a funnel is somewhat literal, in that the bulk of the users enter at the top, and (ideally) filter through the pipeline, growing more concentrated with each step. The difference between a conversion funnel and a traditional funnel is that in a conversion funnel, users can “escape” at any step. If they choose to stop cold in the user path, they don’t have to continue through the funnel.
Today's post is about the importance of a conversion funnel, and why not having one could cost you customers, leaving you wondering “why aren’t users turning into paying clients?”
1. Define Goals
Let’s start with goals, and the initial question we asked about what you want users to accomplish on your site. Keep in mind, you may have several of them.
If you are selling products, either in a shopping cart or with a SaaS (Software as a Service) structure, the main conversion is the purchase of your product. But short of that, what other actions are valuable to you?
- Sign up for a newsletter?
- Register for a demo?
- Fill out the form on your contact page?
- Pick up the phone to speak with a sales rep?
- Buy related products or accessories?
Any of these goals would be considered a conversion, as you’re getting a user to take a trackable action. Sites can have multiple conversion points, whether that’s a baby-step toward the primary goal (requesting a trial/product demo), or a separate goal altogether (signing up for a newsletter).
2. Define a User Path
Once you determine the goals of the site, you need to consider the steps a user would take in order to reach the goals. The steps of this path will become integral parts of a conversion funnel.
Let’s map out a user path for the main goal of our ecommerce website, selling a product.
Though it’s not always true, we will assume in this case that all of our visitors enter via the homepage. This is Step 1.
Based on the structure of our site, it makes the most sense that someone next views a category page, so that’s Step 2.
Our products happen to be a little pricier, which means that someone is likely to view the product specifications (on the product page) before they feel confident enough to buy. The product page can be Step 3.
Clicking an “Add-to-Cart” button, or viewing the Cart page itself could be Step 4, and our final step, Step 5, could be a “Thank You” page (if someone reaches this page, we know they’ve completed their transaction).
If your website is professionally designed, it’s likely that this path was considered and played into the overall design of the site. If proper consideration is not given to the user path, you’ve skipped a major step in the website design process and the usability of your site will suffer.
3. Write Calls-To-Action (CTAs)
You’ve determined the goals you want users to accomplish, and even laid out a path you want them to follow… so how do you make them follow it?
Sure, some users will always do what they want, but using design and content we can give them a clear path forward, and CTAs play a major role in that.
For our main conversion of buying a product, straightforward language like “Add to Cart” and “Buy Now” are pretty standard, but what about over conversion points on our site?
For our newsletter signup, which requires a user to enter their email address, our accompanying button could be as simple as “Sign Up.” Gets the point across, right?
That language is direct, but we may need to go beyond simply being clear and speak to the emotions of the user.
Something like “Yes! Send me free updates!” accomplishes the same basic function, but give more detail: the user will get updates sent to them and they won’t pay anything. Even the simple fact that the CTA is upbeat and sounds exciting could make a difference.
Whether you’ve got an existing site or are building a new one, you should revisit your CTAs to make sure they speak to your site goals and they users you’re hoping to convert.
4. Put it Together and What Have You Got?
Once you’ve defined the goals of your site, developed the path that users should follow to reach each goal, and written CTAs to help move them from step to step, you’ve got conversion funnels!
The hardest part is over now, and tying the work you’ve done into analytics software will allow you to track users through each funnel.
5. Tie it in to Analytics
While simply considering goals, user path and CTAs will help create a better user experience on your site, these conversion funnels will not really begin to benefit you until you tie them into your analytics (we recommend Google Analytics, currently the most comprehensive Analytics tool on the market).
Once that’s done, you can track a user’s journey from the beginning to end. Having considered all the steps leading up to your conversion, you’ll be able to gain more insight on improving conversion rates.
Each step of the user path you developed is tracked, so you can determine where speedbumps or roadblocks exist by seeing where users are giving up. Someone needs to reach a product page before they can buy it, so if a majority of users drop off between Step 2 (Category Page) and Step 3 (Product Page), you should focus your attention there.
What if you’re not selling products? How can you develop a conversion funnel if you don’t sell anything on you website? What if you simply want people to pick up the phone and call? As previously mentioned, a conversion does not need to equate to a sale - it just requires a trackable action by a users. As long as there’s an action, a conversion funnel can be created.
6. Tracking the Data
You don’t need to be an expert in Google Analytics to setup and use a conversion funnel, but it does require some understanding of the interface. We need one of two things in place in order to track these goals in Google Analytics:
- A pageview
- A virtual pageview
A pageview is as simple as a unique URL, such as a Thank You page that has a URL of “www.mywebsite.com/thankyou”. Any page that has a unique URL can be plugged into Google Analytics and we’ll know anytime a user lands on it.
A virtual pageview does not require a unique URL to be viewed. It can be any action that someone takes on a page of your website. Watching a video on a product page doesn’t take a user to an new page of the site, but we can create a virtual pageview related to pressing the “Play” button. Every time a user watches the video, we’ll know.
Once we enter these pageviews and virtual pageviews into our Analytics dashboard, we can track conversions. Bryan with KISSmetrics has a great video explaining the process of setting up a conversion funnel.
Each time someone visits a page, we can track what they do on a high level. If they click “add to cart” button from the product page, our funnel will show their movement from one stage to the next.
Ideally, users continue down the funnel to the end, in this case our “Thank You” page. We know that anyone viewing that page has purchased a product and completed the funnel.
When users don’t follow the funnel, we look at what factors might be causing them to give up, such as buttons being too small or hard to read, pictures not being large enough, headlines not being descriptive of enough, or body copy being either too long or overbearing.
We can then test these variables one at a time, with an end-goal of improving conversions. These modifications are Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tactics, and when we modify each tactic, we can test the results of that modification and determine if it improved conversion or negatively impacted it.
Once your conversion funnel (or funnels) is established, you can track how many people are converting from each page, and make adjustments to the site’s language, CTAs, and user interface to improve conversion. The idea is that we continue to look at the data and respond accordingly, improving sales and increasing revenue over time.
If your website “holds a user’s hand” from the homepage all the way through to the primary conversion mechanism, then you are one of the few who are doing it right. Most websites simply fail to create an ideal user experience, and lack a conversion funnel, let alone a user path.
If you’d like to learn more about conversion funnels and how they affect your website, leave a comment and we’d be happy to respond.