By now, most business owners realize the importance of online marketing. With a website as the foundation for their online brand, they may spend thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to improve their business. But an underlying misconception about how to generate more online business could be threatening the marketing potential of small businesses all over the country.
Because of my experience in Web design, I’m often asked by business owners “how can I drive more traffic to my site?” On the surface, this seems like a good question to ask; more visitors mean more potential customers, and more potential customers mean more sales, right? Only, this isn’t always the case. Since most online marketing strategies may focus on getting more traffic to a destination, business owners tend to name this as their top priority, but increasing potential customers doesn’t always mean increasing sales—it only means increasing potential sales. Without a well-designed user experience supporting them, those potential sales may remain fruitless.
The better you understand the relationship between marketing, traffic, design and sales, the greater return you could see on your marketing investments.
The Only Number That Matters
Numbers are important for businesses to be effective. It’s nice to look at qualitative experiences and subjective cultural impact, but if you don’t generate “X” amount of revenue, you won’t be able to turn a profit and stay in business. Because of this, most business owners become rightly fixated on numbers, but they tend to focus on the wrong numbers when it comes to marketing.
For example, many business owners tend to focus exclusively on traffic. They see they’ve only had 50 visitors for the month and think that their strategy is faulty, or they see an improvement from 500 to 800 visitors from one month to another and think that it correlates to real progress. There’s no question that greater amounts of traffic can lead to greater sales, but it isn’t a one-to-one correlation, so it doesn’t matter quite as much as it is popularly believed to.
Instead, there’s only one real number that matters: your return on investment (ROI). Your ROI is the number of new sales you’ve generated measured against the amount of money you’ve spent to get those sales—notice the word “traffic” doesn’t appear in that sentence. Imagine you have 50 monthly visitors and a 10 percent conversion rate—that’s 5 new sales a month. Compare that to if you have 5,000 monthly visitors but a 0.1 percent conversion rate—that’s also 5 new sales a month.
What really matters to a business’s marketing success is the total amount of sales it can generate, compared to how much money it spends on the campaign. In short, you need to be focusing on sales and conversions, rather than traffic—at least in the beginning—and Web design may be the best way to do it.
Conversion Optimization and UX Design
Getting those sales can be tricky, but it usually starts with a well-designed user experience. Imagine a site with beautiful typography, designs and images that’s easy to use, entertaining and highly informative versus a site that looks like it was slapped together overnight. Send 5,000 people to each of those sites. In the former, 1,000 of those people might bounce immediately, while in the latter, it might be closer to 4,000.
"UX is about human psychology. Businesses are led by humans and their emotions. We buy stuff because we want stuff. UX leads us to a certain funnel that tempts users. UX serves the business to optimize its sales funnel. Everything you see online must exist to function as a magnetic tool of persuasion," says Tomer Lerner, head of UX at Webydo. Without a great user experience, your initial traffic figures are worthless—so start setting goals now if you haven’t already.
You should also optimize your site for conversions, to maximize the chances that each visitor will eventually result in a sale. There are many ways to do this, but there are two fundamental principles that dictate all of them.
First, you’ll need to establish direction in your design to make sure all your visitors have the chance to convert, such as including an eye-catching call to action on each page of your site or visually directing your users to different areas of your site. Second, you’ll need to make the conversion itself appealing, such as including graphic elements that highlight the call to action or establish the value of following through. Amateurish or non-researched designs may only serve to scatter your traffic, but well-researched, professional Web designs can greatly increase your conversion rates.
The Pleasant Side Effects
Improving the design and user experience of your site is going to do more than just increase the percentage of people who convert on your site. According to Jenny Grifenhagen, a contributor for Local Solutions, “A positive user experience can result in a conversion, a brand-loyal customer and even an advocate.” When people have a good experience, they’re far more likely to return, and far more likely to tell a friend about the experience. That means you may see an increase in traffic as well as an increase in conversions, and your reputation as a business can grow. In effect, optimizing for user experience can be a way of accomplishing your goals in every area of marketing in one fell swoop.
When to Start Driving More Traffic
Of course, none of this is to say that strictly traffic-generation-based strategies, like SEO or PPC advertising, aren’t useful. The only thing to remember is that increased traffic is only valuable if the traffic you're getting is resulting in sales. As long as your user experience is flourishing and your conversion ratio is healthy, it’s safe to start scaling up your traffic and seeing greater overall results.
The next time you want to change up your marketing strategy or improve upon the foundation you’ve already built, don’t immediately think about traffic. Traffic should not be your end goal. Instead, take a look at how many conversions you’re generating from the website traffic that you do have, and make tweaks to improve that ratio. Remember, improving your design and user experience can help your conversions, sales traffic, and ROI all grow together. As long as you make your users happy, the rest should come in due time.
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