Do You Have Your CTR Goal Backward?

Sometimes we can get too caught up in driving and chasing traffic to our websites that we lose track of where our focus needs to be – website conversion rates. I just caught a good read over at Results-Squared:

Increase Adwords CTR (or Not)

An increase in Adword CTR does not mean that you will make more money or sales. In fact, you don’t want a high CTR until after you have validated the conversion rate of the landing pages and the sales pages. With this, you need to know that if X customers see the landing page X will come through and X will convert to sales.

I build a site knowing that it can take some time before the search engines index then rank it (especially Google). It can be 4 – 6 weeks, sometimes even more before I see a smattering of organic search traffic. Until I can achieve high enough traffic, how can I tell if my pages have an effective layout and copy? Relying totally on organic results can leave you with a wait time of *months* before you know how your site will perform.

Here’s how I use ppc, and at the moment I’m only using adwords for my testing so I’ll speak in terms of using adwords here.

Create an adwords ad, put together a hot list of your most targeted keywords and phrases (a few dozen only), and let the ad loose. Run it and watch. If I have a 1% clickthru on adwords, I’m happy. At this stage I just want to see what visitors are doing on my site. I also don’t worry too much about bid prices, I’m happy to be in the middle somewhere and not concerned about being on top.

Are they moving around, visiting a few pages?
Or are they running off after viewing the landing page?
Are they clicking on the products to view?
Or are they showing no interest in the products?

This is what I mainly watch for when first starting a ppc campaign on a brand new site. If visitors aren’t moving around, if they’re loading the first page then running off – that tells me I have a problem. If they’re moving around the site but not clicking on product links, that tells me the products I have aren’t a good fit or have no appeal. I make the necessary changes. Is it my layout? Is it my product choices? Should I change the landing page I use? Is it clear where to click the product links? What is it that’s turning off visitors?

At this point it’s not even about the sales, I just want to watch what’s happening.

When I’ve determined that the majority of my traffic moves around, clicking product links, yet no sales – I know I have a problem. Am I targeting the right traffic? Have I selected poor product choices (too pricey, poor quality, etc.)? Or do the merchants I selected have ‘issues’ – are there toll-free numbers plastered all over, leaks at the checkout, complicated navigation, poor search features, etc.? Hopefully I watched for all that when I first went out to find products to work with, but if no sales are happening, time to take a closer look.

Once I’ve made any necessary changes and determine that everything’s running well, the website is performing at a decent level, sales are tracking (I settle for 1/100 at the start) – that’s when I zoom in on my adwords ad campaign and look at expanding the number of keywords and phrases and clickthru. That’s when I look at driving as much traffic as possible to my website, but not just any traffic. I really only want focused and targeted traffic.

Of course there are always exceptions to the rules. Is it a seasonal website and is it reasonable to expect a good conversion rate at this time? For example: am I launching a Christmas decorations website in April?

Is it a high ticket item? That draws a lot of browsers, price checkers and the curious. There may be a lot of moving around the pages and product link clicks, but not a great sales volume.

Polishing your website til it shines and performs *before* knocking yourself out striving for a higher ppc CTR ensures that you’ll achieve bigger bang for your buck. Another bonus – when organic search engine results catch up and that traffic starts to arrive, you’re ready and waiting with a well performing website.

Update: Umm fixed that nasty typo! đŸ˜†

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I've been trying to find my way online for more years than I care to admit.