Funnels, conversions and tracking, oh my!

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So say you’re a Kansas farmgirl with a little dog. You happen on Google, click on a listing, and land on a site’s Home page (in full color of course). From there, you follow a clearly-defined path to the online store, where you purchase a fantastic pair of ruby slippers, and go on with the rest of your day.

You my friend, have just taken an amazing trip through the conversion funnel.

Yes, a conversion funnel does look a bit like the cyclone in the Wizard of Oz; but in fact, it’s a model created by online marketers to illustrate the pathways users take to a given conversion point (like a purchase, or a request for more information). The wider top part of the funnel usually represents entry into the site from a search engine, advertisement or other acquisition channel. Once in the site, the funnel narrows as the user moves along the path, making decisions, and following instructions that will lead her to the narrowest part of the funnel, or the conversion point.

Many people find this tool to be useful when it comes to evaluating how effective their site is at converting users to customers. They measure how many people entered the funnel, and compare those numbers to how many got to the next step, and beyond to the actual conversion. They then use those numbers to evaluate and fix any weak points in the conversion process.

For example, if 5,000 people click on your listing in Google and enter the site, but only 50 people actually purchase your product, then you know, somewhere along the line, the other 4,950 users left the path. If you can detect the point where most people left the path, then you’ve got a shot at making changes that will convince a higher percentage of people to purchase your product.

As with any model, there are skeptics – especially when it comes to talking about human behavior. (We’re not always a linear bunch.) If you’re new to this, however, and you’d like to evaluate the model for yourself, then you might want to consider checking out a free webinar currently being offered by Omniture and applying some of those concepts to your own internal tracking.

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