The 2021 Website Optimization Guide for Higher Conversions

The start of a new year is the perfect time to reevaluate your website’s performance and set new benchmarks and goals for what you want to see over the next 12 months. And when it comes to website performance, there’s arguably no measurement more important than the conversion rate. Could 2021 be the year that you give your conversion rate some new momentum?

What is a Good Conversion Rate?

Before we can dig into the challenge of improving conversion rates, we need to start by understanding what a conversion rate is, as well as what’s considered low, average, and exceptional.

If you’re a total newbie, we’ll give you a working definition. In the simplest terms, your website’s conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who take a desired action. For example, if you have 100 people visit your website on Monday and three of them make a purchase, your conversion rate is three percent (3 purchases / 100 visitors). If 100 people visit the following day and five of them make a purchase, your conversion rate for that day is five percent (5 purchases / 100 visitors). The cumulative conversion rate for both days combined would be four percent (eight purchases / 200 visitors).

“While conversion rates are discussed most often for ecommerce sites, it’s a concept that matters to everybody who cares about the value of design projects,” Nielsen Norman Group explains. “Conversions don’t have to be sales but can be any key performance indicator (KPI) that matters for your business.” 

Examples of conversion events include:

  • Signing up for an email list
  • Opting into a free software trial
  • Downloading a lead magnet or white paper
  • Using a particular feature on the website
  • Downloading a mobile app
  • Returning to the website X number of times within a one-month period
  • Etc.

Anything that’s specific, measurable, and desirable for your business can be considered a conversion event. And the more you track your conversion rates, the more comprehensive your knowledge of the business will be. Whether they’re currently low, average, or exceptional, there’s always room for improvement.  

The next question most people have is, “What’s a good conversion rate?”

To be frank, asking that question is a lot like asking, “What makes a good sandwich?” The answer is dependent on so many different factors – most of which are subjective.

But even with the subjectivity and variability, there are some very generic benchmarks you can reference just to see where you stand.

According to research conducted by WordStream, a good conversion rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of two to four percent. Anything above four percent, is typically considered very good. Anything below two percent indicates room for improvement.

As WordStream explains, “About 1/4 of all accounts have less than 1% conversion rates. The median was 2.35%, but the top 25% of accounts have twice that – 5.31% – or greater.”

But if you study very successful websites, you’ll find that many of them have way more impressive numbers. In fact, the top 10 percent of Google Ads advertisers have average conversion rates north of 11.45 percent!

Typical conversion rates also vary by industry. For example, the median conversion rate is just 1.84 percent in ecommerce, while it’s 5.01 percent in finance. And if you study the top 25 percent in each industry, the median conversion rates are 3.71 percent for ecommerce and 11.19 percent for finance.

5 Tips for Exponentially Increasing Conversions

We just threw a lot of numbers at you, but don’t get so caught up in industry averages that you lose sight of what really matters: your conversion rate. It doesn’t matter if another company is averaging 5.31 percent, while you’re averaging 2.4 percent. The goal should be to increase your rate over time. Eventually, steady improvement will put you on par with the highest converting sites in your niche. The only question is, what do you do?

Here are a few of our favorite tips:

  1. Use a Consistent Measurement Period

The first key – and this is one that a lot of businesses don’t spend enough time thinking about – is to use a consistent measurement period. In other words, you need to have the same baseline timeframe for conversions; otherwise, your numbers will be skewed. 

“The measurement period should be short enough that you have time to track the conversion rate across multiple periods and still make an impact on the business,” Nielsen Norman Group mentions. “If you use a full year as the measurement period, you would get very solid numbers, but your company might be out of business before you could conclude anything to increase profitability.”

The measurement period should be long enough that you aren’t exposed to random fluctuations that could throw your data off and make it difficult to gain a realistic understanding of your data. For example, a B2B website probably shouldn’t track conversion rates on a daily basis. (There’s going to be less traffic on the weekends when offices are closed.) A longer period is necessary. 

Every business is different. You’ll have to decide what’s right for you, but you’ll probably extract the most value from weekly or monthly tracking. 

  1. Enhance Your SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a key role in elevating your conversion rates across the board. For starters, it helps you generate higher traffic numbers. But more importantly, it filters your traffic by helping you zero in on the right types of visitors – e.g. people who are more likely to follow through on a conversion event. 

There are literally hundreds of ways to optimize your website’s SEO, but don’t get overwhelmed. Marcel Digital has created a number of SEO checklists for 2021. There are checklists for basic SEO, keyword research, on-page SEO, technical SEO, content SEO, link building SEO, and local SEO. 

Comb through each of the checklists above and begin with the low hanging fruit. If you can perform a task in 20 minutes or less, tackle it now. Then, once you’ve knocked off the easy stuff, you can look for other glaring issues that need to be addressed. Take care of them next. 

As you optimize your website’s SEO, you’ll feel a sense of momentum. Let this bleed over into other areas of your website and set the table for higher conversion rates in 2021 and beyond. 

  1. Focus on the Customer

Far too many companies make the mistake of building selfish websites where all of the content and design elements are made to make the business look great. But this is a serious misstep (and it costs in the form of conversions).

Customers don’t care about you and your business – especially if they’ve never purchased anything from you in the past. They don’t care about awards or what you’re doing for the community. They might a little bit, but it takes a backseat to their real priority: themselves.

The customer cares about the customer. If you’re spouting off about your accolades and corporate culture, they’re going to drown in a sea of boredom. Your entire site – from the copy down to the graphics – should put the focus on the customer. Show them how your products and services will serve them and satisfy their deepest wants and needs.

As one bestselling author puts it, the customer wants to be the hero of their own story. Your brand is merely the guide. You want to position your brand so that the customer needs you, but you’re ultimately empowering them to solve their problem. (At least that’s the vibe you want to create.)

  1. Remove Friction

Friction is the enemy of conversions. Any element that slows a visitor down, distracts them, or requires more energy is considered friction. As you eliminate and/or smooth over points of friction, you’ll see your conversion rates improve.

Examples of friction include: large and clunky menus, poor website navigation, distracting visuals, too many form fields for opt-in, lack of content above the fold, slow page loading speed, inconsistent branding/design, and chunky copy. 

  1. A/B Test Everything

The real key to increasing your website’s conversion rate is to A/B test everything you possibly can. From headlines and graphics to colors and calls-to-action, a good split test will help you see which options perform best. Then, based on this information, you can make the right tweaks to enjoy sustained success.

Not sure how to run an A/B test? There are plenty of plugins and tools you can use to streamline the process. You can also check out this informative guide.

Give Your Business New Life

When you have a low conversion rate, it can only mean one of two things. Either you’re attracting the wrong traffic, and/or you’re failing to convince the traffic that you’re attracting that you have something valuable for them.

While you should definitely consider where your traffic sources are coming from and if you’re targeting the right customers, it’s much more likely that your website is poorly optimized for the traffic that you’re generating. By implementing some of the changes we discussed in this article, you can inch these numbers up in a positive direction.