Website Conversion Failure

Website Conversion Rate Optimization

An Oshawa SEO Case Study

How to get your site to convert the people who visit into callers and then customers. That is the objective isn’t it?

It’s one thing to have people visit your website and it’s another for them to call when they do so.

I have a great deal of fun using Google Analytics to peer into the somewhat clandestine world of website traffic and watch where those visitors go on my clients websites and observe various other behaviours. Very cool stuff.

But……in the world of SEO we are typically not responsible for what those visitors do once they arrive on the website, and, most of the suggestions we make fall on deaf ears anyway.

2 cases in point.

Client A

The first client I am going to illustrate actually ended up giving up on my services and, in a way, it was a relief that they did. Some people you just cannot please.

During the first phone call I had with this client they were very insistent that I replicate their current website into an exact duplicate on another CMS ( content management system). The current incarnation of the site was on the WIX platform and they wanted to move to WordPress. I concurred since it is the system I know best and also I feel that it has the most optimal SEO functionality currently.

I sent them to my web developer friend and he went to work building out an exact duplicate of the site. I knew there were going to be conversion issues with the current design but who wants to step on toes this early in the game, right?

Better to deal with something as touch sensitive as design a little later when some traffic data starts to show up. After all…this was a Wix website and in many cases, you may be dealing with someone who actually built the site themselves. No need to offend a new prospective client before you even get out of the gate. As well, I was just getting them a website built at this point. They had not committed to an SEO campaign with me yet.

The problems began early though. I was also asked if I could handle a small Adwords campaign for the client as well and I said I would. They wanted some immediate traffic to the site and some early sales since they were well aware that the SEO part would take some time to get visitors.

I got a couple of fairly urgent emails one morning about 3 weeks into the Adwords campaign and then a semi-irate phone call from the husband of the husband and wife team that ran the company.

“ Why aren’t I getting any phone calls? “ he asked with a real irritation and attitude in his voice. “ Do we need to like, hire someone else…or what’s the deal?”.

It’s tough to tell people the truth when they are in these situations. The truth, in this case, was many fold. First, I knew the dreaded conversion problem was upon us. Second, people have a hard time understanding that you rarely get instant results with any campaign including Adwords, even though you are shown to the public for searches immediately, it takes a while to get Google to stop showing the client for irrelevant, or low relevance searches. Adwords is a competition and usually your competitors are the, “well healed”, entrenched players that dominate the field and have so for some time.

In this case, we were dealing with the HVAC business. Very high competition and very expensive click rates for many of the better terms. On the low end some of the clicks were $8 and on the high end they were $22. Pretty hard to get any business when the better converting terms are that costly and the client has a $17 a day budget.

I tried explaining this but it didn’t go well. I had to suppress my desire to tell this guy that “ if you want to play in the big leagues in Adwords ( and HVAC in any city centre is getting fairly big league!) then get out your Gold Card and stop “ poking at this thing with a stick!”. I had explained before they signed the agreement for services that

“$1000 for SEO and $500 for Adwords in this industry is the bare minimum.”

What I did say was that I did not control what click rate he paid for Adwords clicks. For the most part, he was likely competing with big players like Enercare who had $50,000 a month budgets and that they had learned over time that the best way to play the Adwords game is to keep bidding up the clicks until you  exhaust your smaller competitors’ budgets. Exactly what was happening.

It’s a “ rock in a hard place “ scenario.

The expensive clicks are the good ones because they have the best “buyer intent”. When you have competitors with large budgets this is the landscape you have to traverse. These competitors have figured out through long testing of their campaigns what they are willing to pay to acquire a client. That client  is going to be worth $300 in wasted click cost because they know how much that client’s ” lifetime value” is  and are willing to stress test their smaller competitors by pushing up the bid rate of those clicks until they “cry, uncle”.

I also reminded the client at his point that I had originally told them that Adwords was not my top skill and that I charge according to that skill level. I was only billing 15% of ad spend which is a trifle compared to the big guys who do nothing but Adwords all day.

Go hire Reach Local or someone similar that specializes in Adwords,” I said. For a $500 a month they will want 60% of ad spend. $300 for the month vs the $75 I was billing. “ I won’t be offended” I exclaimed.

I admit to being a very basic user of the Adwords platform but, rest assured, I am light years more advanced than any business owner would be doing a DIY campaign themselves. I tried to emphasize that. I am particularly adept at the keyword targeting portion of the game since that part is pure SEO which is my first skill set in digital marketing.

But the real monster had not been dealt with yet………. The reason people were not calling after they clicked on the ads and went to the clients’ site!

The conversion issue I had originally imagined was upon us at last.

You see, in case you are a casual reader and do not know, Google gives you tons of data to confirm what is going on in your campaign. I could see that people were clicking on the ad I had created and visiting the client’s site. They just didn’t like something about the message the site conveyed to them. And so they did not follow through and make contact.

And “ Google Analytics” was telling me this by showing an 80% bounce rate when people came to visit after seeing the ad message.

This is a very bad sign.

It means that they are not going to another page on the site and so there is little in-depth investigation being done which shows a lack of interest.
I was sure that I knew what elements on the website needed work but I decided, for the sake of the client and for my own betterment to call in an “ ace”.

I reached out to the SEO community I network with and asked if there was anyone who was an Adwords expert who could lend a hand evaluating a campaign. I got an immediate response from a fellow name Chavdar Iliev who happened to be a 10 year veteran of the game and was a curator of, in excess of, $200,000 a month in Adwords. I had him go through the campaign looking for weaknesses on my part first and he seemed to feel that I was doing an OK job for the most part and made a few suggestions for me regarding splitting the campaign into segments based on certain keyword terms and that I would get better analytics data this way.

Then he asked to see the “landing page” i.e.: the website.  I showed him and the first and very immediate reaction was “ the website is shit and will never convert”. I asked …….why? ( Even though I was sure I knew the answer) He said that it was too busy, the phone number was too small and improperly placed on the site. There was too much irrelevant info on the top of the site, no firm “ call to action” and a lack of testimonials “above the fold”. I agreed.

Those are industry terms for “conversion elements”. There are just certain things humans have been shown to react to a certain way and, through testing, have been demonstrated to seem to want to be presented with so as to cause them to want to know more and investigate your offer further.

There is a rule in marketing that goes like this.

Question: What is the purpose of line one of an advertisement?

Answer: To get you to read line 2!

Question: What is the purpose of line 2 of the advert.

Answer: To get you to read line 3

You can guess how the rest goes!

Getting more engagement from our website visitors

The point is that we want engagement from our website visitors. When people get engaged in your message they eventually get compelled to want to know more. In a case of an ad campaign such os this that whole process could take place in a 30-second span. But it does take place nonetheless. the way people react to the internet is much quicker than with other types of media. It seems to be the nature of the medium.

It is too easy to open up 5 websites in 5 tabs and have a quick glance at them looking for the right “ impression”. Part of the problem is that site owners are often too hung up on design instead of function when they are giving guidance to their web designer. Instead of focussing on sending the message that will get the correct human response when someone visits the site they get busy pouring over color schemes and pictures and trying to cram too many messages unto the screen. They falsely believe that by putting every element of what they are about on the front page they are being informative when in reality they are often doing the exact opposite. They are confusing people. And what do confused people do? They make the choice to go elsewhere or make no choice at all. Sorry. Behavioral Psych is very clear on this data when testing large cross-sections of the public.

Another hard and fast rule of marketing. “Put your most important message or selling point, and only that one message, front and center!”

I know it seems counter-intuitive to do so when you feel you are leaving so much out of “ who you are”. Trust me….if you are an HVAC company…..PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU DO!!!!

Another rule of marketing is. “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

And how will they know this?


I had a high bounce rate on my agency website for a long time and didn’t give it much thought. In the SEO business, a large number of our visitors to our sites are often competitors who are spying on us. They take a quick look and then leave the site. Despite that, I had never put my client testimonials on my site. So much for telling my clients how to manage their conversions when I am not taking the same medicine!

So I decided to put them on my site right under the header. To my amazement, my bounce rate went from 78% to 41% in a week. My “depth of engagement” in Google Analytics went from 6 levels deep to 12 levels deep. Wow, what a difference.Google Analytics,depth of engagement

I regret to announce that after informing the HVAC client of what were perceived by experts in their field to be some serious shortcomings on their website I was met with disdain and eventually it seemed to be the beginning of the end for our business relationship. I admit I was a bit hostile with them at one point, but I felt it was deserved after I had gone over and above the call of duty to deal with an area of their site that I strictly avoid for the very reasons I have demonstrated above.

You just cannot win when it comes to telling people that their website isn’t right. They seem to have to go through the pain of figuring this out themselves. I think if they paid someone for that advice they would probably take the advice more seriously. This seems to be another failing of human nature. We only value things we pay for and that seems to include good business advice, apparently. I actually offer to pay the Adwords expert, Chavdar, out of my own pocket just to get things right. The client does not know this and probably doesn’t care either but he insisted to help me out for free. Thanks again my friend!

So now on to case # 2 of conversion failure.

The site redesign. To be continued……. Client #2

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Green Genie SEO  2953 Hwy #2 East Bowmanville On L1C 3K5

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. James Allen

    That has to be the best explanation I’ve read/heard on website conversion and why good traffic can be wasted if website owners aren’t conscious of it. Sad that your client couldn’t see the valuable advice you were giving them due to their ignorance/arrogance. Like you said, strange that you have to put a monetary charge on something to get people to make smart decisions. Thanks for the good read Tom.

    1. Tom

      For sure James. And they needed all the help they could get too.

  2. Amit Jain

    Great article Tom and the candid view you share. We also find customers who lack patience and understanding of the process. With the right tools at hand and ability to share value-based information with them, has helped us tremendously in the past.

  3. Vincent

    I very much like your open approach in the way you’ve dealt wwith this client. Going out of your way and taking someone in, who’s more knowledgeable in a side topic like Adwords shows specialized side topic shows, how much you care about the results your clients are getting at the end of the day. Great post! A valuable bit I haven’t fully integrated on my sites is, to put reviews above the fold. Thanks Green Genie 🙂

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