Getting More Conversions from Organic Search Traffic

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Jan 21, 2008
More Articles by Janet


In the search marketing business, a common strategy for improving conversions from pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is creating and A/B testing landing pages for campaigns. However, when it comes to converting traffic from organic search, many companies overlook the organic traffic conversion. Conversion from organic search traffic should be just as important as traffic conversion from PPC traffic, but how can you test pages on your website as easily as you test PPC landing pages?

PPC landing pages certainly offer insight into elements and designs that may be more effective than others, but in the end, organic website traffic is ultimately different than the PPC traffic. While testing conversions for organic traffic, you have to be sure you’re giving visitors a “conversion path” — a clear way to move towards conversion as quickly as possible.

So how can you start testing your web pages?

  1. Program your website in a dynamic programming language, such as ASP, PHP, etc.
    These programming languages will allow you to create flexible, multiple designs on the same page.
  2. Rotate versions of a page using a conditional statement to rotate page versions based on time.
    By creating a conditional if/then statement, you can rotate versions/designs of a page based on the time that the visitor reaches your site. My favorite method is to use the second of the time. For example, if I’m trying to rotate two versions of a page, my ASP conditional statement might look like this:

    if second(time) > 0 and second(time) < 31 then
    ‘show version 1
    else
    ‘show version 2
    end if

    Using the visitor’s visit time as the condition for which version they see is a great way to somewhat evenly split which page is shown.

  3. Create a cookie to remember which visitors saw which versions of the page.
    Next, you’ll need to create a cookie to track which version of the page (1 or 2) that the visitor saw. That way, if the visitor returns to this page on your site, he/she can always see the same version as long as you are testing the two versions. To use the example above, I’ve added a cookie (that expires 5 years from today) to the conditional statement:

    if second(time) > 0 and second(time) < 31 then
    ‘show version 1
    Response.Cookies(“version”)=”1″
    Response.Cookies(“version”).Expires=dateadd(“y”, 5, now)
    else
    ‘show version 2
    Response.Cookies(“version”)=”2″
    Response.Cookies(“version”).Expires=dateadd(“y”, 5, now)
    end if

  4. Based on the version you set, use conditional code to show the page design or element you’re testing.
    For example, let’s say you’re testing a button. One button version reads “Add to Cart” and another button version reads “Buy Now”. To test which version converts more buyers, when the button is added to the web page, show one or the other based on the cookie you set for version above:

    if Request.Cookies(“version”) = “1″ then
    ‘show Add to Cart
    <img src=”/images/addtocart.jpg”>
    else
    ‘show Buy Now
    <img src=”/images/buynow.jpg”>
    end if

  5. Track cookies using analytics.
    In many analytics packages, you can track your cookies as well. In Omniture, you can also set specific landing page cookie IDs to track success in Omniture.

  6. When a visitor converts, capture the page version cookie.
    Finally, when you’re capturing the conversion data to convert the visitor (on your form or in your checkout process), be sure to pull the value of the version of the page that the visitor saw. Then you can better evaluate how well the page converted visitors — for both quantity of conversions and overall conversion value.

What should you test on your pages? Test everything — design, page elements, colors, wording, etc. You may be surprised with the results, and the results may take you down a path towards better conversion that you may never have considered before.

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