(Daniel Page is the Director of Business Development for ASEOhosting, a leading provider in SEO hosting and multiple IP hosting. Follow ASEOhosting on Twitter at @aseohosting, Like them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/aseohosting.)
Consider this hypothetical site deployment scenario. A new business hires a designer to create a website for them. She does a great job and the owners of the business are very happy. They have a writer produce optimized content, and, with much fanfare, the site goes live. The owners go into marketing overdrive: producing press releases, guest blog posts, and dedicating their time to networking and social media outreach: everything a competent founder would do to drive traffic to a site.
The marketing push is a huge success, but there’s a fly in the ointment. Although traffic is showing an agreeable upward curve, conversion rates are abysmal and bounce rates are unacceptably high.
This is a tale frequently told. Many businesses fail to take advantage of their early traffic surge because they have neglected to pay sufficient attention to how their site performs. A business site has one overarching goal: to create conversions by generating leads or selling. Everything else is of importance only insofar as it contributes towards conversions.
A marketing campaign that successfully generates traffic is a positive achievement, but, marketing campaigns are expensive. Every visitor generated costs some proportion of the marketing budget. For the marketing campaign to produce a positive ROI, conversion rates must be sufficient to cover the costs.
A low conversion rate can be disastrous for a new business, particularly if the owners have plowed all of their capital into marketing and web design. If they cannot generate sufficient revenue right off the bat there is a chance that the business will fail altogether. Failing because of low conversion rates is no better than failing because the site failed to generate traffic.
Site design, conversion rate optimization, and search engine optimization are iterative processes. A good web designer / developer and a skilled content writer will hopefully apply conversion rate and SEO best practices, but there are too many contingencies to fully predict the effectiveness of a site on its first release. The site a business first goes live with should be considered a beta and carefully tested with a limited audience that will help generate the necessary metrics to iteratively improve its performance. The big marketing push should happen after this process, when the 1.0 release of the site is ready and the business is reasonably certain that the “machinery” of the site converts effectively.
We can imagine a different scenario. It begins the same: with a design and its implementation, but rather than jumping the gun and going all in on an uncertain hand, the owners gradually begin to spread the word, generating a trickle of traffic whose use of the site they carefully analyze. During this process they spot choke points and inefficiencies in their visitor’s journey and use that information to develop split tests: iteratively tweaking the site’s design and information architecture until their test users are converting at an acceptable rate. Only then do they embark on a big marketing campaign, and, because the site is now an efficient conversion machine, the traffic that it produces generates sufficient conversions over the first few months to cover the cost of the campaign and the site design and begin the path to a positive ROI.