Let’s say you’ve got your search-engine marketing and even your offline programs revved up and working to attract visitors to your site.  Now what?

Well, the answer to that is conversion.  Not in the religious sense, of getting them to change their entire philosophy of life, the universe and everything;  but more in the chemistry sense, of moving them from some State A to a State B that is “better” for both of you.

In State A, your visitor may simply have a quick question they’d like answered…

  • What were your company’s revenue and profits last year?
  • Is your company looking to hire accountants? …new college graduates?
  • Will your firm be exhibiting at Linux World?
  • What are industry analysts saying about your flagship product?

…etc.  It’s even possible for a visitor to arrive at your site by accident, as a result of an unintentionally broad search for something completely different.  But the common denominator of State A is that the visitor is (relatively) loosely bound to your website and your company;  and in most cases, you’d like to change that by moving the visitor to a State B where they are a bit more tightly bound …if not starting to feel downright warm & fuzzy.

You do that by conversion, which doesn’t only mean capturing their contact info as though they were a full-fledged lead …although that’s certainly Job 1 from your perspective as marketers.  It means first serving the information they came looking for, of course;  but then also stimulating something more, such as…

  • a longer visit… possibly including a 2nd or 3rd page view
  • a return visit (maybe even creating a user account for many return visits)
  • downloading a white paper, podcast or product brochure
  • signing up for a webinar or other event
  • linking to your blog, or perhaps to a partner’s site

You can encourage such actions by a variety of means, including:

  • design that’s both attractive/inviting and appropriate to your company and image
  • clear navigation that anticipates user segments and their most likely needs
  • clear messaging …especially “elevator pitches” / value propositions
  • staged, “drill-down” content
  • “meaty” content that conveys thought leadership
  • currency:  absolutely no out-of-date material

(Actually, we’ve put together a mini-book on the subject: “Elements of Web Usability”)

OK, now that you’ve got your visitors hopping all over your site, coming back days or weeks later, downloading various informational goodies, jumping over to your partners’ sites, etc. – you’ll need to track all that activity, so that your boss gets as excited as you are and rewards you with a budget increase large enough to fund your pay per click proposal.  Some events (visit duration, page views, downloads) will be tracked automatically by your website, and can be analyzed by a careful review of its log files.  Others – such as return visits, or hops out to an external blog or partner site – may require some retooling of your web site in order to track properly;  if so, a return visit from your web-design firm may be well worthwhile.