By Katy Katz
In novels, a “red herring” is a plotline that is inserted by the author to distract the reader from the real culprit or source of mystery. You know, that aha moment that you’ve been following that red herring along through the book looking for signs, when the best friend’s aunt was hiding under your nose the whole time.
The expression, which has been traced back to escaped convicts who used red herring to throw off the scent of search dogs, is used quite a bit in business. This is not surprising, as the world is full of shiny objects that seem important or steal our attention.
When it comes to website optimization, one of the worst of these traps (that’s easiest to fall for) is traffic. While traffic can be a good indicator of your search rankings and overall brand growth, at the end of the day, driving traffic to your site will not in and of itself result in leads.
So, Where Are the Leads Hiding?
Nothing is more frustrating than putting in a vast amount of time and effort and coming up empty-handed. Perhaps you are tracking keyword performance and rankings are climbing; or visitors are doubling month over month. But if you aren’t seeing those numbers translate into qualified leads, your boss—or your investors, or your accountant—will likely lose patience quickly.
Fear not. There is usually a logical explanation for why quality traffic isn’t translating into qualified leads. Read on to learn more about the seven most common culprits.
1. You haven’t properly identified your target market.
If I had a dollar for every time my answer to a digital marketing question was, “have you adequately identified your personas?” I would probably be writing this from a beach somewhere—or better yet, paying someone else to write this while I sipped a mimosa on a beach somewhere.
All of your marketing efforts should stem from your persona research.
That’s worth repeating. All of your marketing efforts should stem from your persona research. Your persona profiles should address your target market’s wants, needs, desires, and fears. It should tell you exactly what questions they have and how to help them achieve their desired outcomes. So if that data is incomplete or wrong, how can you be sure that you are in fact answering the right questions on your website?
When conversion is suffering, take a look back through your personas and see if it’s time for a refresh.
2. Your buyers’ journey maps are incomplete.
Personas and buyers’ journeys go together like peanut butter and jelly. Once you have the key identifiers of your target market catalogued, a buyer’s journey map fills in the process that your personas take from trigger to purchase. When complete, journey maps outline all of the questions your prospects are having as they navigate the decision process. Double-checking that this map is complete will help you spot check your website for any holes in the buyer’s journey.
3. There’s an issue with your website navigation.
There’s a psychological knowledge bias that makes it difficult for us to remember what life was like before we had knowledge of something. Because of this, it can be hard to check your website yourself for usability because you already know all of the answers and where everything is. If conversions are down, it may be worth digging into Google Analytics and running some user tests on your site to see whether visitors are struggling to find out where they need to go.
4. You need more (or fewer) opportunities for conversion.
Another important conversion optimization factor to consider is whether you are taking enough opportunities to direct your prospects to the next step. There is a whole science to call to action optimization. Perhaps your CTAs aren’t clear enough, or they’re not the right color, or maybe they aren’t covering enough phases of the buyer’s journey. The last one is actually one of the more common mistakes that marketers make—pushing prospects to “demo now” when in reality, 73% of leads on your website are not sales ready and require a little more nurture time. Make sure you have CTAs for all of the stages of readiness.
5. You’re not nurturing TOFU contacts.
Speaking of those leads who are not yet sales ready, once you have the right buttons in place, you will also need methods to nurture the contacts at the very tippy-toppest part of your funnel (that is a technical term). Just because someone doesn’t currently fit your definition of a “qualified lead” does not mean that they never will. Given this knowledge of how few leads are actually sales ready, it’s important to fill your pipeline with leads at all stages to grow your qualified lead conversion rate in the end.
6. You’ve misidentified what a qualified lead actually is.
A marketer is only as good as the data that he or she has to work with. A lack of qualified leads may boil down to simply looking for the wrong identifiers in the first place. While you are going back and double-checking personas and buyers’ journeys, be sure to pay special attention to the factors you’ve chosen for identifying qualified leads. It may be worth tweaking your forms for capturing a different set of qualification data.
7. Your customers want more of you!
Last, but certainly not least, a low qualified lead conversion rate could have to do with the basic sales principle of contact rate. Not only do prospects prefer immediate insights to their question, but studies show that they often need to hear a message multiple times before making a choice. Look into ways to increase your contact rate and timing with your prospects—check the timing that live chat is available on your site, improve your response times on social media, and perhaps take a closer look into your email marketing.
It’s as Simple as ABC: Always Be CRO-ing
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have a job without harnessing strategic methods of driving traffic to client websites. But that is only part of the inbound marketing puzzle. Your website needs to be optimized for converting all that juicy traffic upon arrival. And it’s not a one-and-done process, either. As your brand, customers, and product lines evolve, you need to revisit each of the seven components in this list to keep your funnel churning.
Too much on your plate to start planning your move to boost lead gen? Check out our Busy Marketer’s Guide for Improving Lead Generation. We’ve got your back!