So you’ve spent a whopping amount of money on paid search, SEO, Facebook ads, competitions, link building, and traditional marketing. You’re seeing a crazy influx of visitors to your site. Just as you’re about to call your boss to accept the promotion, you notice a worrying trend: your new visitors are barely making an impression on conversions from online traffic. What’s up with that? All your high-paid consultants told you that a high return of investment is guaranteed, since The Internet is da bomb, everything is cheap, and percentages are always in your favor!

Well nuh-uh!

Take a moment, if you will, to step into the visitor’s shoes: “Gee, I want to know where I can find a new lightbulb for my stove overhead lamp. Let’s Google it. ‘Buy stove lamp online’. Ok, here’s a bunch of colorful results, let’s click the top one and see what happens. Oh, cool, a flashin…MY EYES!! MY EYES!! IT BURNS, OH IT BURNS!!!”.

See what happened there? You had the top result for an excellent, conversion-prone, long tail search phrase, but since your landing page looked like a half-hearted Picasso imitation, picked up from the tail end of a digestive system, you just scared this “guaranteed” customer away.

It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that getting people to come to your site is all that matters. Afer all, Total Visits is a clearly defined metric, easy to set up and evaluate, and you can go a long way without any qualitative analyses.

I blame the digital marketing industry for enforcing this misconception. There’s a lot of unhealthy stagnation going on, at least in Finland, and not only do we have to make our customers understand the holistic approach required to nurture an online presence, we also need to lobby for more follow-through, more long-term planning, more strategy, more involvement, and more commitment.

For starters, we need to reevaluate:

On-page optimization

Keywords in all the right places, check. Images with descriptive and keyword-rich ALT texts, check. A coherent and well-planned information architecture, check. Top quality content, check. A cute cat video just waiting to go viral, check!

Good, you’ve done everything your SEO guy told you to do. Now step outside your cocoon and think of the visitor. They arrive on your site through organic search by using a keyword which implicitly or explicitly outlines their information need. Now,

Does this page satisfy that need?

Do you provide a clear call-to-action?

Does this page introduce new needs, some that the customer would be prone to subscribe to given the opportunity?

Think about it. You want to convert the visitor into a customer. This means that you need to go all Hansel and Gretel. Give the visitors a trail to follow with a clear, delicious goal in the end. (It’s up to you and your business whether there’s a cannibalistic witch inside).

The clearer the path, the better your chances at conversion.

Outreach marketing

Another pitfall is over-promotion. Not only is it worth less if you get referrals or mentions in completely unrelated forums, it will hurt your conversions if you try to coax a population whose interests are, by default, as far removed from your offering as can be.

Note that there’s nothing wrong in trying to penetrate a new interest group. It’s just that the connection needs to be established before you reach out to uncharted waters.

It’s best to focus on related sites, forums, and channels. Google values referrals from related authority sources. Why not focus solely on them? It’s bound to help your conversion rates if your referral traffic already has an idea what you are all about.

Don’t cling to the past

I’ve come across some cases where a desperate need to rank high with a set of keywords resulted in an even more desperate need to rank high with said keywords after the product was discontinued. Not cool.

This means that the search engine result would promise one thing, but the landing page would dismiss this promise with “We don’t have what you’re looking for anymore, but now we have THIS!”. And the visitor is flabbergasted since they actually only wanted the item promised to them in the search engine results.

There are other ways to retain this traffic, and most of them have to do with your marketing strategy in general. Before you pull the plug, you’d sure better have an idea of how to cater to those loyal customers who loved the product. In other words, you need a transition plan.

Whatever you do, don’t retain a landing page just for the sake of traffic. A broken promise is a poor way to begin a customer relationship.

Make sure you have a plan B

For conversions, your website is just one, albeit significant, channel. Even if you can’t commit to turning your website into a super-charged conversion machine, you need to make sure that its role in assisting conversions is not diminished.

Perhaps you have a social media channel, where each person who likes your brand is valued as much as any conversion on your website. In this case, make sure that social media is omnipresent throughout your website.

Perhaps you haven’t jumped on the eShop bandwagon, and you still trust ye olde storefront to bring the customers in. Well, make sure your website gives your store the proper introduction, with sufficient targeting of your core group (with storefronts you’re bound to have a core group) to ensure that people actually locate it and walk through the door.

Or perhaps your website is just a small cog in the machine of a huge, faceless organization, and the website solely exists to drive traffic away from your competition. In that case, bless your black heart, you little devil you.

A promise is a promise is a promise

I’m sorry for this sappy idealism, but I’m about to get married in two weeks, and I’m feeling all soft and fluffy inside.

If you want to convert, you have to keep your promises.

(Read The READY Conversion Optimization Framework for a nice method of evaluating how well you deliver on your promises.)

You can’t base your business on the off chance that someone makes a purchase even though they’re disgusted by the manner in which you conduct your online marketing. Conversions are driven by satisfaction, and satisfaction is regulated by the efficiency of your marketing message.

If you sell stove lamps online, and if you’ve manufactured your landing page to target visitors who search for “buy stove lamp online”, providing that the purchase process has been optimized, you’ll be sure to arrive at a high conversion rate.

Next time you’re browsing the web, using search engines ‘n stuff, take a look at the landing pages you are directed to. How many actually have the content you were expecting to find? Depending on your information need, the answer might vary from “none” to “some”. Hardly ever is it “all”.