Introduction to Conversions
This initial introduction to tracking conversions will cover what a conversion is, why you MUST be tracking conversions, and finally an introduction to technically setting up conversion tracking on your website, blog, or shopping cart – using Google Analytics. Future articles will include some advanced tips and techniques on how to get the most of your existing traffic and audience, for now – let’s start with some basics.
Before we get to the actual tracking, let’s talk about conversions for a second (be they Google Analytics Conversions, Google AdWords Conversions, or Pay Per Click Conversions).
I’m guessing you’re in one of two boats – you’re either a publisher – you have a sweet site and want to place some ads on it in an attempt to bring in some cash. Or… you’re an advertiser, you have a product or service that needs to get out to the masses.
In both cases tracking is important.
As the old saying goes…
NOTHING MEASURED, NOTHING GAINED
And there is no place where this holds truer, or more completely than online, in fact I would argue that the reason the online space has grown so quickly, and completely is the fact that nearly EVERYTHING is measurable.
WHAT IS A CONVERSION?
I find it funny that the owners of new websites roll their eyes when “conversions” are mentioned. Odds are that you’re a sophisticated web entrepreneur if you’re reading this blog – but I’ve encountered too many business owners who equate online success to simple viewership (the number of visitors). But the truth is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I was actually reading a book just yesterday about sales, and I draw a connection with great websites and the conversion process.
Your Website is the Greatest Sales Tool Ever Invented – Besides You of Course
In this book one of the contributors draws an analogy between the sales process and rainbows. One end of the rainbow – the “beginning” – is full of tire kickers, people simply shopping around, not truly interested, or not the best fit. At the other end of the “sales rainbow” is the close, the final process of shaking hands, closing a deal, and getting that post-sale high as you deposit a check – the proverbial pot of gold, sans leprechaun.
Okay… you can have a leprechaun if you want.
This translates nicely online.
You may have noticed in your own dealings that much of the website marketing/design process concentrates at the start of this rainbow. Concentrating on traffic does not necessarily spell success. Concentrating on conversions does. Tracking conversions is like teleporting to the end of the rainbow. Kind of like Thor and the Bifröst (sans the Warriors Three).
You need to jump to the end of the Sales Rainbow – you need to concentrate on – and track conversions!
So back to the original question, what is a conversion?
It’s whatever you want it to be… for the first camp out there (you publishers with content that you desperately want to monetize), a conversion may be a contact from an advertiser, or the clicking of an existing ad on your website.
For an advertiser, a conversion is most likely a visitor from a website you’re advertising on, a lead or contact form submission, or an actual sale.
You decide. Every business, every website, is different – so when setting up your conversion tracking tools (which we’ll get to in just a second) you’ll also setup a few or many “conversions” actions your visitors take that you want to record, measure, and grow.
Why Track Conversions?
We’ve defined that conversions are simply goals, or milestones (most likely contact form submissions, signups, or purchases) made through your website. So why track conversions?
Again – nothing measured, nothing gained. Through conversion tracking we can see how effective various changes to our site are, or analyze the effectiveness of a particular marketing effort.
Measure and track conversions so that you can grow your website and company!
How to Track Conversions
There are an infinite number of ways to track conversions on your site. The first step involves making sure you have a good piece of analytics setup (software to track visitors, how they come to your site, and their behavior on your site).
I’m going to assume you have analytics installed on your website. If not – check out: http://knol.google.com/k/how-to-install-google-analytics-in-5-minutes-or-less (I prefer Google Analytics – and I would also setup “ecommerce tracking” – even if you don’t have a shopping cart!).
Tracking conversions involves two equally important steps:
Tracking the actual registration (the physical contact, lead, or sale)
Tracking where the conversion comes from?!
Lucky our analytics software pretty much does both of these things without any tweaks or setup – although there are some things we can do to help us (they’re called setting up “goals” which I’ll get to shortly).
General conversions can be registered as easily as visiting a “thank you” page in your analytics. Most contact forms will re-direct users to a page thanking them for their contact submission to you. To see this conversion you simply have to login to your analytics account and pull up the information on that page. Take a look at the attached image.
Here you can see an example of a small website’s conversion “landing page.” In this case – after a visitor has submitted their contact information they are directed to the page /join/thanks/. This takes care of the first step in total conversion tracking – tracking the registration.
For the second step I prefer to actually setup analytics’ tools for conversion tracking or goal tracking.
To setup conversion tracking in Google Analytics it’s as simple as:
- Login to Google Analytics
- Select “Edit” next to the website you wish to setup
- Scroll down to Goals and select “+add goal”
- Give your goal a name – get specific – you may have very similar goals, but the more specific and more you can break them up the easier it will be to track in the future
- Make sure the status is set to “on”
- Select a Goal Position – this is kind of like a “bucket” simply a tool for you to stay organized
- Select “Goal Type” – for 99% of you this will be URL destination (remember we want to track when people sign up or purchase a product)
- Type in a Goal Url – As google explains, here you are to type in the final destination that, when visited, you want a goal marked as “registered.” In the above analytics example, we would put /join/thanks/ – as this is the page that users are taken once they submit a contact form.
- Turn on Case Sensitivity – Check to see if case sensitivity matters on your server (most linux servers will be case sensitivity) you can check by simply pasting the “Goal URL you just typed in above after the web address in a web browser and visiting the address
- Select a Goal Value – this is completely optional, but may help you measure the return of your website marketing over time
- Goal Funnel – For the purposes of this example a goal funnel is overkill, however a goal funnel allows you to track a series of pages leading up to your final goal (for example checkout pages in the purchase process of a shopping cart).
And you’re all done!
In the example below we’ve filled in all of the above example details into analytics:
From now on, as soon as you login to Analytics you’ll be able to see total number of completed goals right from the main screen as well as be able to access some more advanced features within analytics.
Tracking Conversions Step 2 – Tracking Where the Conversions Come From
Okay, simple part is done – you’re tracking conversions, let’s analyze where they are coming from (much of this assumes some familiarity with Google Analytics). You’ll notice in your Google Analytics account (once you’ve click on an actual website), there is a tab on the right called “goals” this contains a bunch of information on your conversions.
However, I prefer staying OUT of the GOALS section of analytics and instead clicking on “advanced segments” at the top right of the screen and scrolling down and selecting “visits with conversions”. Select APPLY!
Google Analytics’ segments is a helpful tool for viewing ONLY sub-sections of the people on your site, in this case we only care about those people that contacted – we want to see where they came from, what they did, etc.
With only conversion traffic now showing you’re now the master of the universe. (and Dolph Lundgren didn’t even need to get involved).
Now as you click around analytics you’ll only see information pertinent to those that contacted you or converted. Of particular interest to many business and website owners here is the “traffic sources” tab. From here you can see what source led to the conversions. By selecting anyone of the drill down options you can learn a deeper and deeper understanding of how people came to your site. Now you can see for example:
- What day a conversion happened
- From what physical location conversions happened
- From what keyword a conversion happened
- And so on…
The possibilities – and minutia – are endless.
Which brings me to my final point, don’t get caught up in all of the data. The Internet and this kind of conversion tracking can be daunting both at first, and even seasoned professionals have trouble sorting through all of the data. Determine what is important to you, and try to grow that metric month-over-month. If you notice for example that a particular website is sending traffic that is converting – try strengthening that relationship. If an ad you purchased on BuySellAds.com is doing well – explore other advertising options or purchase more/larger ads on that web space. Record that change and track your changes over time. Google Analytics makes that very easy too – with their “compare to past tools.”
In future articles we will discuss tracking social media conversions as well as some best practices when measuring results when tracking conversions over time.