In the digital marketing world, there are a handful of central goals that campaign organizers aim for, the most important of which is usually traffic. You pay extra money for advertising that gets seen by more people, so you get more traffic to your landing page. You optimize your site for search engines so you rank higher and get more traffic to your website. Even content, social media, and other forms of organic inbound marketing typically revolve around getting more traffic to your site (along with some secondary goals, like increasing brand reputation and visibility).
At the end of a long campaign, you might compare traffic results to get a feel for what was successful and what wasn’t—12,000 visits compared to 8,000 visits in the last measurement period is certainly impressive, and if a piece generates 1,000 visits compared to 600 visits from a contemporary, it can be considered a success. But too many modern marketers are becoming fixated on these traffic numbers. They’re impressive, significant, and valuable, yes, but they alone can’t guarantee a profitable marketing campaign.
The “missing piece” when it comes to evaluating site traffic as a measure of return is the number of conversions you receive. Conversions are defined differently for different businesses, but no matter how you define yours, it’s a measurable form of engagement of a user with a brand that results in some measurable gain. It might be the purchase of a product or a signup to an important form—whatever it is, it’s a sign that a particular visitor is of consequential value to your brand, and not just a tire-kicker or a passerby.
This isn’t to say that traffic isn’t important, or even that conversions are more important than traffic. Instead, know there is a delicate relationship between the two. If you have a high conversion rate but little traffic, you won’t be in a much better position than if you have lots of traffic, but almost no conversions. You’ll have to analyze and understand both sides of the coin to properly direct and improve your campaign, and try to keep each in balance with the other.
To some, marketing is a necessary budget item like a utility bill—you pay a certain amount of money each month, and continue to receive necessary services. Of course it would be nice to gain better, more effective services, but profitability isn’t the main concern.
This is an ineffectual conclusion. In fact, profitability should be your main concern in any content or inbound marketing campaign. Instead of thinking of your marketing budget as a utility bill, think of it as an investment. You have X amount of capital to invest in the smartest, most efficient way possible, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that money is invested wisely. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you invest in a marketing campaign as long as it is profitable; low-budget campaigns can be a boon for a business, and high-budget campaigns can be a disaster. It’s all in how profitable your campaigns end up being.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably got a good traffic generation strategy already. I’m going to assume you have a steady or impressive traffic flow to your site, but you’re worried about what your visitors are doing from there. Obviously, there’s a value in people coming to your site, getting a good impression of your brand, and leaving—this increases the likelihood of future purchases—but it’s much harder to tie to an objective metric like conversions.
So to guarantee some level of measurable value for your traffic, the best thing to do is optimize your site for conversions. Here are some of the best ways to do it:
Don’t think you’re done optimizing just because you’ve touched on every bullet point I’ve listed above. Proper conversion optimization is a constant, ongoing process. You’ll need to watch closely to see how your user behavior changes, and make tweaks that gradually increase your conversion rates. With consistent—or even better, growing—levels of traffic, your conversion rates should almost guarantee a profitable investment in marketing (unless you’re spending money on items that aren’t actively contributing to your bottom line).