Your Website Conversion Rate is Meaningless. Period.

People often ask me what my website conversion rate is, which I think is an absolutely ridiculous question. But before we continue, let’s assume you don’t know what a conversion rate is OR let’s define it so the rest of this post is based on a mutual understanding of conversion rate.

Here it is: Number of Visitors ÷ Number of people who perform the task you want them to perform = Conversion rate (as a percentage).
Example: 100 people visit the site, 10 people buy. Conversion rate is 10%

Easy enough, right?

Let’s start with a real life example, let’s use, which is the masked url of an antioxidant nutritional supplement that advertises heavily on TV and Radio – but no advertising on the internet.

95% of their web traffic is derived from folks who heard the 30 minute radio infomercial or saw the 30 minute TV infomercial then went to the website to buy the product. What do you think their conversion rate is? Well, it just so happens that the conversion rate is 30%. That means 3 out of every 10 visitors buys the product.

Website Conversion Rates are Meaningless

For a while the company advertised using Google’s AdWords, which means they bid on ad space on the Google Search Results pages. When they did that they drove thousands of people to the site who were searching for “antioxidants” and “antioxidant nutritional supplements”. But the conversion rate of these ads were only .7%, which totally didn’t match the conversion rate of the customers who came to the site from the TV show.

Same website. No changes.

The only thing that did change was the quality of the person that arrived at the site. From infomercials the prospect had 30 minutes of explanation and product examples, before they searched to buy the product, But with Google Adwords they only saw a banner ad. That means most of the people were just curious. The conversion rate of the website dropped substantially.

So the website conversion rate is bunk. In fact, if anyone asks how well your site converts, just tell them that question makes no sense.

Rephrase the question for them. Let them know that they really asked the wrong question. What is important to know is the conversion rate of the traffic that comes from the TV show. It’s good to know the conversion rate of the traffic that comes from banner ads. 95% of the time that conversion rate will differ among sources.

Your website conversion rate is meaningless. The conversion rate of your source’s web traffic, on the other hand, is like spun gold. Knowing what converts well and what doesn’t is the first step in testing, revising and optimization. And hopefully it isn’t the last.

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One Response to “Your Website Conversion Rate is Meaningless. Period.”

  1. September 1, 2009

    Your Website Conversion Rate is Meaningless. Period. | Letters From Dan…

    People often discuss and compare their website conversion rates, but they really don’t mean anything. What should be compared are the traffic sources….

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