Segmenting Visitors to Drive Higher Conversion Rates
About The Author:Janet Driscoll Miller is the President and CEO of Search Mojo, a search engine marketing agency focused on B2B lead generation. You can read more from Janet at Search Mojo’s blog, Search Marketing Sage, at http://blog.search-mojo.com or learn more about Search Mojo at http://www.search-mojo.com.
Post-click marketing is not a new marketing tactic, but many of online marketers have focused primarily on one aspect of post-click marketing to date – the singular landing page. And while it has been proven that the typical custom landing page often outperforms standard website pages in converting visitors to leads or sales, few marketers have expanded the landing page into a full conversion path.
What Are Conversion Paths and Segmentation?
In today’s economy, marketers must begin to re-evaluate how best to spend their budgets to maximize return on investment (ROI). Creating and improving conversion paths allows marketers to convert more of the online traffic they have already generated through a variety of tactics, such as search or email marketing, instead of having to try to spend more money to drive more traffic.
Conversion paths are a series of pages that lead a visitor down a path to conversion, often using segmentation techniques to further define the visitor’s profile to ultimately provide the visitor with the most relevant data to the original search query. Segmentation involves using methods of dividing visitors through a decision-making tree.
Caption: Sample Conversion Path
There are three main reasons that segmentation may be coupled with search engine marketing:
• To provide a more personalized, targeted message or offer
• To pre-qualify leads through segmentation
• To increase quantity of lead generation while also gathering valuable lead data
Providing a More Personalized, Targeted Message or Offer
While Google AdWords and other search engine advertising platforms often yield higher click through and conversion rates than other methods of online advertising, there is still no easy solution to the problem of keyword semantics. Imagine that a searcher queries the term “mutual fund information.” Can we tell by that query whether the person is looking for news, blog posts, mutual fund rankings, or something else? Segmentation helps us determine the type of visitor to a landing page and then direct them down a conversion path by providing related, pertinent information to that unique visitor.
That very issue was a challenge for MUTUALdecision, a mutual fund information provider. When searcher queries the term “mutual fund information”, what type of information is the searcher looking for? MUTUALdecision offers mutual fund rankings, the latest mutual fund news, a blog about mutual funds, and more. So what exactly might a searcher be looking for when performing a query on “mutual fund information”?
By using a conversion path with segmentation, MUTUALdecision was able to direct searchers to specific types of information faster, reducing landing page abandonment rate.
Pre-Qualifying Leads Through Segmentation
Clovis Group is a recruiting firm specializing in placing candidates with companies seeking IT, sales or HR employees. However, like many recruiting firms, Clovis has two audiences – hiring companies and job seekers.
While recruiting companies like Clovis may not be targeting job seekers via paid advertising, inevitably, there are keyword terms that both potential customers (hiring companies) and job seekers will use to find a company like Clovis. Without segmentation, Clovis was receiving many job seekers in their sales queue, because job seekers would respond to a search ad, visit the landing page, and fill out the form – even though they were not the target audience.
By implementing a conversion path that incorporated segmentation, Clovis was able to direct hiring companies to the sign up page while also guiding job seekers to what they were looking for –job openings . This meant less job seekers ended up in the sales queue – saving the company time, effort and operational costs of following up with job seekers, thinking they might have been potential customers. It gave Clovis’ sales force more time to focus on truly qualified leads – visitors who were likely employers rather than job seekers.
Increase Lead Quantity and Quality
What if you have a long form or many qualifying questions you want to ask? A multiple-page conversion path can help achieve that goal. Most of us know that shorter forms often lead to increased conversion. The longer the form, the less likely the visitor is to fill out all of the information. But shortening a form comes with sacrifices – the fewer fields on a form, the less your sales force will know about the lead and, therefore, the more difficult the lead pre-qualification and prioritization process.
But what if you could both increase the quantity of leads and preserve or improve the quality of the information you receive about those leads at the same time? Ideal, right? It can be achieved with a conversion path.
Allegiance, a provider of feedback management software, wanted to increase the quantity of leads it was driving from search engine marketing, but it also wanted to ensure that the lead pool was not being flooded with unqualified leads. They implemented a conversion path involving two form pages. The first form page had a reduced number of form fields to increase the quantity of conversions, only asking for information absolutely required by the sales team to follow up with a lead.
After filling out the first form, visitors were taken to a thank you page containing a second form containing optional, qualifying questions.
Incredibly, 78% of the visitors that arrived at the second page filled out the optional information. By providing the extra qualification data to the sales force, they are now armed with more information about the prospect and can even prioritize prospect better based on this information.
Apply What You Learn to Your Website Too
While many organic website listings in the search engines point to the home page of a company’s website, home pages are rarely good conversion pages and often have the highest abandonment rate of any page on the company’s website. Because the home page speaks to so many varied audiences (customer prospects, job seekers, investors, reporters, etc.), it often has too many calls to action and the messages to one particular audience can be diluted.
Websites often lack clear conversion paths, especially from the home page. Apply what you learn from conversion paths and segmentation in your advertising campaigns to your website as well, testing the same types of approaches against your current website paths and thus increasing the conversion ability of your website for other traffic sources, such as organic search.
Putting It All Together: Technical Requirements
Internal Database, CRM or SFA System
So what do you need to get started? First, if you’re not doing so already, be sure to have a back-end database that captures your web leads and stores the information. Many companies have a customer relationship management (CRM) or sales force automation (SFA) tool, such as Salesforce.com (SFDC), installed.
If you’re using SFDC, you’ll need either a marketing automation tool (Eloqua, Silverpop Engage B2B, Marketo, etc.) or a deduplication tool (RingLead) installed to ensure that records in SFDC can be appended with new information as visitors progress down the conversion path. If you do not have a deduplication method, SFDC will create a new lead each time a web form is completed.
Testing Tool or Dynamic Programming Language
A popular tool for A/B or multivariate testing is Google Website Optimizer. This free tool allows you to easily create tests and track which versions convert best (either on your website itself or landing page conversion paths).
Additionally, using a dynamic programming language, such as PHP or ASP, allows you to manually program tests and paths on your pages as well.
In summary, with the economic conditions as they are, marketers are well-served to be careful not to throw good money after bad. Before investing too much more in advertising, be sure to implement conversion paths and segmentation to learn more about your lead conversions and improve your existing conversion rate, then turn up the volume. A well-constructed conversion path will often make a dramatic difference in your success rate.