Increasing Your Visitor to Sales Ratio

One of our readers was trying to sell his e-book recently, without much success. He wrote to ask us “What is your experience? What is the average number of visitors it takes to make one sale? Is it something [I did] wrong on my web page?”

Our advice was to ignore other people’s experience; it will prove worthless. Every website is different and nobody is selling his e-book. We found over 1,100 variables that affect conversion rates on an e-commerce website. By conversion rate I mean how many of your visitors take the action you want them to take, in this case, buying an e-book. Those 1,100 conversion rate variables can probably be broken down into even more detail; for example, a button is a variable but the button’s size, color, placement, text etc. are also variables. His CTR (Click Through Rate) is 0.6% and his conversion rate is 0 (yes, Zero). We advised that he use that as his baseline. He has to improve on that. He needs to work on improving his ad, the web page and perhaps even his product, the e-book.

His web page itself wasn’t doing a very good job of building the value of his e-book. The idea behind selling is to help your customers create a vivid mental image of enjoying the benefits of your product or service. That mental image creates, in turn, the desire to buy your product or service. The key is to involve them in the process by using active voice, compelling verbs, powerful nouns, and evocative adjectives and adverbs. You make it happen, in their mind, not only with pictures but more importantly with words. The right copy can sell just about anything.

He added that 75 people had taken advantage of a free download of some chapters of his e-book. Our last piece of advice was that if the 75 people who downloaded the e-book didn’t buy it, then perhaps he should reexamine the fundamental value of the e-book itself.

Like his website, your website contains thousands of variables. Changing some may have a major impact; others are only incremental. Those features that work for your widget business may not work for your friend’s whatzit business.
Identify the variables. Systematically measure, test and optimize. Have a system in place to categorize and account for each test and its result. Sometimes, a change will move your conversion rate only a bit. That doesn’t mean your choice of variable had no impact. It could mean your choice of solution had no impact. Test, test, test!

For example, let me share seven tips we use to optimize PPC – (Pay Per Click) campaigns. A PPC campaign involves paying a search engine for a key word. In exchange for that payment, when a visitor types in that key word, your web site is listed. Since you pay for every click, you want to test variables so each landing page on your site converts the highest possible number of visitors

1. Track every keyword/key phrase to conversion on a macro-action basis. A macro-action is the ultimate action you want your prospect to take. A poor result for a particular keyword or key phrase doesn’t mean you should drop it. It means your Web site should better accommodate it. For example: if you sell baseball caps then you should track how many people search for baseball caps, click through to your website, and buy your baseball caps.

2. Track every keyword/key phrase to conversion on a micro-action basis. – A micro-action is one of the steps along the way to completing the macro-action. This clarifies how your visitors interact with your Web site’s persuasive dialogue. Micro-actions are key decisions that must be made before a visitor can decide to buy-the action that’s your ultimate goal. It lets you optimize your Web site’s dialogue to terms you use with persuasive architecture. For example: if you sell baseball caps, you should track how many people who search for NY Yankees baseball caps and click through to your website find the right cap (one micro-action) and then buy it.

3. Select keywords based on the different stages of the buying process. – Choose your keywords/key phrases based on an understanding of the buying process for your product or service. My business partner, Fredrick Marckini, CEO of iProspect, says it best: “If all online marketing were measured strictly on the immediate, post-click conversion, nobody would spend another dollar.” The reality of a good marketing strategy is clear: People enter a market for most products or services at different stages in their personal buying cycle. If you target only those people who have done their research and are ready to buy, right now, you will miss the majority of your market. Of the two examples, in tips 1 & 2 above, the searcher for NY Yankees baseball cap was more likely to be searching for a product to buy now. It was his specific search that broadcast his probable intent.

Make your site useful to buyers at four different stages:

  • To non-prospects who arrive by accident, provide the information sought and ease the visitor out. Should their needs change in the future, they may wish to buy from you because of the graceful way they were treated.
  • Provide a clear navigation and sales path for visitors who know exactly what they want.
  • Accommodate typical shoppers who only know approximately what they want. Offer categorization tools to narrow down the selection.
  • Don’t forget the last type: “window shoppers.” They may be enticed to buy if you present attractive “impulse buy” choices.4. Use visitor latency. There may be period of time between when people gather information, and when they actually act. Some terms won’t immediately convert well in a campaign, so track macro-actions and micro-action factoring in latency. In a recent study with a shared client, Jim Novo documented how visitors came in cycles of 14 days from the PPC engine to actual purchase. PPC ad campaigns are just that-campaigns-not one-off tactics.

    5. Define metrics clearly. How will you measure success? What metrics or measurements will you use to calculate return on investment (ROI) correctly? Divide the amount you spend per keyword/key phrase by your gross margin (gross profit minus cost of goods sold) on products or services bought from that keyword/key phrase. If you want to generate leads, establish a base amount every lead is worth. Divide the amount you spend per keyword/key phrase by your value per lead.

    6. Focus on those keywords/key phrases with the greatest ROI before those with the most traffic or gross sales. You don’t need to be ranked number one. Many of our clients have found the top position has lower ROI than other strategic positions.

    7. Engage visitors. Use persuasive architecture to anticipate visitors’ frame of mind, plan the action you want them to take, and tell them what they need to know before they can take that action. Match ad copy closely with keywords so the visitor perceives the relevance. Then, make sure the persuasive dialogue on your site is the dialogue your visitor wants to engage in.

    We hope this helps. Let us know if we can be of service.

    © October 2003, Future Now, Inc., All rights reserved

    Jeffrey D. Eisenberg is the CEO of and co-author of “Persuasive Online Copywriting” (Wizard Academy Press). Future Now, Inc. is a marketing and sales boutique that, since 1998, helps clients convert their website’s visitors into leads, customers and sales by applying persuasion architecture, usability and web analytics to design, redesign and optimization of websites and other online marketing efforts. Contact him at