Not all conversion rates are created equal

Not all conversion rates are created equal

It’s a question we get asked all the time: what’s a good conversion rate for my website? It’s definitely important information to know, but you can’t necessarily compare two conversion rates and say which one is better. Here we explore why.

Many prospective clients come to us because they simply want their websites to do better. The great thing about digital marketing is that you can always be doing better – but comparing your website to another website can be misleading if you are measuring your data in different ways. Most people use their goal completion rate in Google Analytics as their conversion rate, and that’s fair enough. But to compare apples with apples, you need to make sure you’re being equally brutal on what constitutes a goal.

What makes a good goal?

For most SMEs or ecommerce operators, a good goal should be an action that takes place on your website that results in a customer interaction in your real business. That can be something like:

An enquiry form was submitted

Someone visits your site, browses around for a while, likes what they see and fills in your enquiry form. As a result of the form fill you receive an email or something drops into your CRM, so someone from one of your sales or customer service teams replies to the email or gives the visitor a call. An offline customer interaction as a result of the website – that’s what we want!


An order was completed

Let’s say you’re an e-commerce operator. You love nothing more than that sweet order coming through. The money hits your account, and you pick and fill your order. As a rule of thumb anything that’s resulting in positive cash flow should be a goal – we’ll be using this one for sure.

A visitor created an account

If your website allows the visitor to sign up for an account or a membership, you’re probably going to want to count this as a goal. As a result of the interaction, you have a new engaged prospective customer, complete with contact details – you can follow up with them to see if you can turn that into an order.

What makes a bad goal?

Sometimes, in the urgency to create as many goals as possible we see businesses going a bit too far. A bad goal is pretty much the opposite of a good goal – anything that doesn’t result in a new prospective customer, offline interaction or cash flow. Here are a few examples:

User completed a search

Let’s say our website is used to advertise short term accommodation listings. The objective of the website is to make bookings and create enquiries, not to just have users idly flicking through the search pages. If we set up a goal that triggers whenever someone completes a search on the site – whether they end up enquiring or booking or not – our conversion rate is going to be skewed quite high.

User reached the contact page

While it can be understandably tempting to set a goal to trigger whenever someone reads the Contact page of your website, this again will just skew your results. Someone might say that if a visitor reached the Contact page they must be engaged, but have a think about it; how many times have you reached a website’s Contact page but not given them a call? You can’t afford to be giving the website credit for an interaction that leads nowhere, when what you really want is a paying customer.

Use Events and an Events Dashboard Instead

Google Analytics provides excellent functionality to track non-goal interactions without impacting your conversion rate. If you are using WordPress in particular, or even one of the other modern Content Management Systems out there, event triggering might be built into your website without you needing to do any further programming. To check, have a look at your Top Events report in Analytics:

  1. Open Google Analytics
    TIP: If you don’t have Google Analytics access, ask your web developer! Or, Webfirm can help – give us a call!
  2. Make sure you’re looking at the correct site!
  3. Choose an appropriate date range, perhaps the last 30 or 60 days.
  4. In the sidebar, click Behaviour, then Events, then Top Events.

The Top Events report will show you all the events that have been triggered on your site in the given time period. No events showing? That just means that your website hasn’t been programmed to send this information to Google Analytics, and you’ll need to ask your programmer to give you a hand.

If you have some information here, depending on how it’s been implemented you might be able to gain some good insights. For example, many WordPress installs will be set up to inform you when a file download has been triggered. This is useful information so that you can see how visitors are using the site, but it’s usually not going to be a goal, because no customer interaction nor any cash flow was created.

My conversion rate is bigger than yours!

Hopefully, now you can see that just comparing one conversion rate with another is not always a good indicator of how well your website is converting – because the goals that people define can be subjective! When someone tells you their site converts 20% of traffic, take it with a grain of salt because they might be a little too aggressive with their Google Analytics goal setting.

Tristan Jones

About Tristan Jones

Tristan is the General Manager at Webfirm, with more than a decade of experience managing web development projects and recommending digital marketing strategies.

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