By Melissa J Luther

Your Web site is a form of advertising for your business. Many of your advertising campaigns, as well as the search engines, will direct interested visitors to a landing page on your Web site. As with any advertising campaign, you want to know how well it is working, and calculating your Web site conversion rate is an effective method of measuring this.

Conversion rate is, in simplest terms, the ratio between the number of visitors to your Web site and the number of visitors who take some predefined action. In reality, it is not quite that simple, but a good analytics program can do the hard work.

Onsite Conversions

The free but powerful Google Analytics allows you to set up pathways for each type of conversion you want to track. You can even segment your visitors by traffic source.

To set up a conversion path, first determine which pages on your site contain your desired conversion action, and then work backwards to either the home page or a likely landing page for someone arriving at your site who might be likely to convert. Plug this pathway into your analytics program, and it will track visitors all the way through the path as well as show you where visitors abandon the path.

For a simple example, consider that you have a newsletter signup box on your home page. The conversion would be entering an email address and clicking a submit button, which would direct the visitor to a thank-you page and signal the analytics program that the conversion was completed. The path would be home page to thank-you page.

It’s not strictly necessary to create a conversion path; your goal could simply be the final page, but understanding where people leave the path can help you refine it and increase your conversion.

Most analytics programs will calculate the conversion rate for each conversion path. In general, a conversion rate between 1% - 3% is considered acceptable, but this number will vary by industry and type of conversion.

Offline Conversions

Some conversions that start on your Web site actually are completed offline, and tracking these is a little trickier.

To track phone calls, it is possible to have a unique 800 number on your Web site, and then you can track calls coming in to that number. You can also segregate those calls by those asking for more information versus those wanting to make a purchase by phone. A service called ifbyphone even allows you to integrate phone call tracking data with Google Analytics.

Tracking conversions from a Web site visit to entering your brick-and-mortar store could be done with coupons for a small freebie or a percentage off a first purchase, up to a set amount. Each coupon you get back is a conversion.

This may all seem very complicated at first, but after the initial set-up hurdle, the software does most of the hard work, and you have an invaluable tool to help you see where your Web site is working and where it needs improvement.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC helps small businesses create and maintain a strong online presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an online presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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