When I review web reports with clients, I get a lot of questions. Why are we getting more traffic from people typing in our URL rather than through a search engine? What is a bounce rate? Why is THAT our top keyword of all things?! Sometimes the answers to these questions are easy, sometimes they’re not. But one of the most important questions I get asked is: “Where did that conversion come from?”

What is a conversion?

First off, let’s talk about what conversions are. When a user on your site completes a set goal, we say they have converted. For product sites, that goal is generally for them to make a purchase. For service websites, a common goal is scheduling an appointment, or filling out a contact form. However, conversions can be a variety of other things. Perhaps your goal is to have user join your newsletter, fill out a survey, or give you a call.

Each or any of these things can be tracked as a conversion (your website isn’t picky what you set). However, you want to make sure that whatever you set as a conversion is of value to your business. This is where the web world meets the real world, and our best way of judging how your site affects your ROI. If you know what your main conversion is, such as making a purchase, but also want to track other user actions, like how many users watch your awesome promotional video, that can be tracked separately as an event. Conversions are the end-all be-all, which is why so many clients ask me where they come from.

So what does get a person to convert?

I wish I could pull out my ruler, smack my report and say “THERE! THAT’S where the conversion came from!” but the customer’s journey is called a journey for a reason. Most of the time converting is not a one-step process, and from the back end of things, it may not seem like a straight line. However, if your site and marketing are set up to integrate with each other well, to the user the experience will be fluid and helpful.

Let’s say you sell coats which are available on your website, which also includes a blog. You use traditional marketing, digital marketing, and several social media channels. How do you make first contact with your potential customer?

Where did this person come from anyway?

Organic traffic: If a user types in “coats” and finds your website, they’ve reached your site organically. It’s possible they may buy a coat right then and there, they were searching for one after all, but in all likelihood, they will look at several other sites and might come back later.

Direct Traffic: If a user hears your ad from the radio, TV, or a remembers you from a friend or a previous time visiting your site, they may just type in your URL. That’s direct traffic, and often is impacted by traditional marketing. As you can image, a lot of factors play into direct traffic, which we have no way of definitively tracking online, because most of that process happens offline. However, when your marketing team has open communication, it’s a lot easier to make educated guesses. Your new television ad just came out? That could be the cause for a spike in organic traffic. Once again, someone might convert right away, or leave the site.

Social Traffic: If a user clicks over to your site from any form of social media, then that’s social traffic. They could be responding to an advertisement, reading your blog, or just curious. When advertising on social media platforms, you can target potential audiences. If you know you mostly attract young adults that travel, you can create that as a custom audience. Once again, when they visit your site, they may convert immediately, or go elsewhere.

Paid Traffic: While you can pay for traffic on social media, paid traffic refers to online advertisements that work outside of social media platforms. Let’s say someone searches for coats, and your site shows up once again, but this time with a paid ad rather than content pulled organically from your site. This is one of the few places you can track whether or not someone converts after clicking on that ad. If you ask where a conversion came from, and it’s through Google Ads, I really can smack the paper and say “THERE!” However, it’s important to note that users that convert through paid traffic may be return visitors, and you shouldn’t discount the other step in their customer journey which brought them there.

Referral Traffic: If someone clicks over to your site because it is mentioned somewhere else online, like another site or even an email (email traffic is often categorized separately), that’s referral traffic. Referral traffic often depends on your reputation with others that have partnerships, whether you’ve partnered together, you’ve contributed to their site, or they are simply recommending you because they think you’re great. Having that online network can be powerful.

The Customer Journey

Now that you know the main ways users reach your site in the first place, you may still wonder “ok, so which did the conversion come from?” Unless a user immediately converted, the answer is all of them. Imagine a user arriving at your site because you have a blog about upcoming winter fashion trends. They want to buy a new coat, but are distracted and leave the site. Later, which scrolling through social media they see your ad and are reminded they want to look for coats. They leave the social media platform to start searching on a search engine. Your site shows up again. They look through some of your coats, as well as those of some of your competitors. They don’t decide to buy one yet, and once again leave your site. While visiting another site, your ad shows up again. Rather than click on the ad, they are reminded of your site and type in the URL, and buy a coat from your site.

So, who was responsible for that conversion? Was it the person running your social media? Or the person who wrote the fashion blog? How about the person who set up the paid ads? It was all of them, and most importantly, a coordinated effort between the different marketing areas.

This is not a particularly lengthy customer journey, and for companies that offer larger products or services, the journey can be much longer. On average, for every 100 times your paid ad comes up in Google search, it only gets 3 clicks. Out of the few that click over to your site, only 3.75% of those clicks end up in conversions as well.

Keep the journey going

You may have noticed that in this fictional customer journey, I mentioned ads showing up on their own as the customer looked through social media and other sites. While this can happen through regular advertising, it is especially effective when targeting user that have already visited your site by means of cookies. This is called retargeting, and plays a huge part in keeping your customer journey going. It could have ended in a non-conversion much earlier, but retargeting kept it front of mind.

Conversions come from a coordinated effort from your marketing team rather than a one-shot wonder most of the time. It’s important to find a marketing team that actually works as a team rather than having their departments in silos. Your conversion didn’t come from just one place, so make sure your can keep users intrigued and engaged from all angles so that they do convert.

Article written by

digital accounts executive/great british baking show enthusiast/crafting connoisseur