Where are potential customers leaving your site? And do you know why...?

Of course I respect the level of commitment and work a business participates in to get in a prime position to be noticed online.

Optimising your online presence so that it is picked up by the all important search engines is of course a key tactic for success. We know from our own user experiences that once we search a 'keyword' or phrase inGoogle then it's likely that we'll only review the first two, three or, at a push, maybe five results.

Dependent upon your market and the competition in that sector, and your business model – it may be that running online advertisements and keeping your 'pay per click' budget top of the game isn't too onerous or costly. However, with more and more businesses vying to get themselves top of the first search page – then this tactic alone is likely to be a cash hungry one.

Research in this area has identified that there is a strong correlation for being 'the chosen ones' when you have both a 'sponsored advertisement' and you are in the top section of the natural listings. No easy task!

And as I mentioned earlier, I concur with all efforts to get noticed.

However, it's fundamental that we keep in mind what happens for the user once we get that all important click – and the user is on your site. The SEO effort and Ad content has done its job – you’ve got them where you want them – and, so... now what?

I've blogged before about all the effort at the, let's call it 'front end' – getting the users to visit your site – becoming a total waste of energy if, when the user gets there – they are confused, don't like what they see, or even worse, are misled!

Getting users to visit your site is indeed paramount – however, once you've got them – then you really want to be focused on 'converting' those customers to the positive outcome you had in mind when you planned your site.

In my view, considering what the end goal of the site is should be the key driver for design and process when building and planning a site.  Asking yourself the simple question: “What do you want your customers to ultimately do?” - and then ensuring that your design, signposting and processes, enable them to do just that – quickly and simply.  It's the basics of effective web planning.

If that end goal is to convert customers to buy – then you really need to be constantly considering what can be done within your site processes to improve that all important conversion rate.

Like all marketing activity – regular monitoring and tweaking is necessary. And understanding how users are actually using your site can provide you with valuable, conversion changing information.

Exit Rates

One such simple way to understand how users are using your site is to regularly review 'exit rates'.

Via Google Analytics – you can measure where customers are 'exiting' your site – the metric shows the percentage of 'exit rates' a particular page has.

Whilst this method doesn't provide me with an exact overview of an average journey of a user through the site – what it does do, is highlight possible problem areas.

For example:

  • If you see a page which is showing that 99.3% of people leave the site from that page – then you may expect this page to be a 'successful transaction page'. However, it may be that you don't want them to leave at that point – you may want to try and recapture them into purchasing another product (Thank you for your transaction – continue shopping, you may also want x etc).
  • If your page where people go to pay is showing a high exit rate – then this alerts you to the fact that customers are leaving or dropping out here – they are getting to the critical commitment area and then exiting... why? What can you do to improve and aid more conversions?

Recently I reviewed exit rates with a client and we found a few weird happenings. When we looked at the pages with unusually high exit rates we realised that we had a ‘dead link’ on one page – leaving the user with nowhere to go. We found a service promotion which was totally back to front – the features and benefits and how to buy the product were hidden well below paragraphs of useful, yet incorrectly positioned text.

I come from a school of management where, when I would put forward a 40% sales conversion rate – (albeit offline), my CEO would question why it wasn't higher. "If we've got them talking – then they should see the merits in our products and buy". The fact that 60% didn't, would concern him considerably.

Therefore, with 8% conversions rates deemed successful online – you can see where my quest for businesses to focus effort on conversions once they've got them on the site is inherited.

And of course, keeping the system flowing and enabling customers to do exactly what they were looking to do on your site, in a simple way, is clearly great for user experience - and positive word of mouth.

So my quick checklist is:

  • Ask yourself what the key goal of your online presence is?
  • Once you’ve decided that take a step back and review whether that is the most paramount thing your site promotes?
  • Do you make it easy, clear and simple for the user to do exactly what they want to do?
  • Does your ‘adwords’ content clearly promote what the user is going to get when they get to your site?
  • Do you regularly review and update where people are leaving your site – troubleshoot and enhance the user experience?
  • Do you know what your conversion rate is?
  • How regularly do you review it and what do you do to improve it?

I appreciate that conversion rates are impacted by a number of factors. However, my quest is that all angles are looked at; like I say, it’s wonderful if you can drive serious amounts of traffic to your site – but traffic alone does not create conversion. You’ve got to give the user what they are looking for in a seamless and simple way – it’s not simple to execute – but definitely worth considering how you can improve conversion once they’re on your site!

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Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.