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February 19, 2007

SES London Session Recap – Converting Visitors Into Buyers

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Guest entry from Marie Howell, Bruce Clay Europe.

Marie will be digging through her notes and posting recaps on some of her favourite sessions from the London Search Engine Strategies conference.

With the suave and eloquent Mike Sack hosting Wednesday’s exciting Converting Visitors Into Buyers session that featured panellists Sarah Bubb, the delightful Alex Bennert from Beyond Ink, and Google Europe’s Head of Analytics Brian Clifton, the audience knew this session would be a true highlight of the conference.

Mike put the topic into context early, by explaining the need to test and improve conversion rates from landing pages in order to attain an effective ROI. Understanding and testing the different entry points to your sites is an integral part of understanding the conversion process, he stated. Mike then introduced the first presenter, Sarah Bubb from Tamar, who emphasised the need to keep a strong focus on online marketing, especially where money is spent within this technological arena. Sarah illustrated her point with an example from the car insurance industry and showed the audience that it was essential to use analytics tools effectively. Don’t just look at how many visitors your site gets per month, instead focus on where your visitors are entering and leaving your site, the abandonment rate and the point of abandonment.

The next stage in this process is to compare your metrics with your industry’s standard. Sarah advocated an holistic approach to internet marketing and promoted a blend of both natural and sponsored listings.

In her presentation entitled ‘Conversion Follies’, Alex Bennert from Beyond Ink encouraged attendees to look at internet marketing as a traditional offline retail store and to view it as merchandising your window displays. In this clear, yet clever, analogy, Alex stated that it is important not to get overlooked in the SERPs. To stay competitive you must think about your SERP appearance as your store’s window display. She also told the audience not to assume that their sites look the same from every angle and to check out variances in search terms. She used the example of using varying keyword phrases like "London streetmap", "London street map", "street map London" to see how your site looks from all angles. You have to ensure that you are bringing your visitors to the right page, and not to the ‘delivery entrance’ (i.e. a non-converting page which may rank well) but to ‘check out your curb appeal’. Alex suggested watching for well-ranking targeted terms that are not generating referrals and to identify entry pages with a high abandonment rate by checking log data carefully.

Alex’s analogy continued with her suggestion of looking at internal site search as kind of sales person to help you determine what your visitors are interested in. Internal site search is one of the most valuable tools a Web site has for conversion. Alex informed the session participants that misspellings/typos are extremely common and to include them in internal site search. ISS needs to report the most popular searches, report searches for no results, report searches for those that render results but no clicks, etc.

In the Q & A session, after Brian Clifton’s promotion of the free Google Analytics program, Mike deftly encouraged and directed appropriate questions from the audience to the panel – generating some excellent comments and suggestions, including Mike’s own pearls of wisdom (like being extremely careful of promotional codes, since they can stop conversions due to grievances from potential purchasers). The Converting Visitors Into Buyers session left attendees with a serious sense of the value of watching where their money is going and flying high with the useful and practical information they had received from the excellent moderator and top quality speakers.





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