Note: For the sake of this article, ‘conversion’, refers to how many potential/signed clients you get as a result of their visiting your website.
I am going to lead this article with a story. Recently, we inherited a website for a new tax client that had been designed by one of the large legal marketing providers. On the surface, the site looked great, it was aesthetically pleasing and appeared to prioritize all of the right things. The problem was that this aesthetically pleasing website was not producing new clients. The traffic was there, the visibility was seemingly there (it wasn’t), the phone calls were not. This attorney had paid top dollar to have his site developed and by the time he decided to cut the cord, he had not signed any new clients for months and tax/audit season was approaching. He brings us on board and we run tests and go through the backlog of behavior data we already have. Several problems become apparent. Some problems so glaring that it is crazy to think how any national legal marketing agency could have missed them. Note: I am not talking about the contact form being broken or something that immediately apparent, I am talking about things such as targeting issues, navigation flow, content presentation, etc. We take the data we collect and use it to prioritize what changes need to be made. We launch a new site. The second week after the launch of the new conversion-focused site, the attorney signs a client from the web for an issue that will result in six digits in fees.
Conversion is (Always) the Issue
It was hard for our client to stomach having spent so much on the original web presence when it produced no return. What I contend should be harder to stomach is the fact that our client would have missed out such a large matter if he hadn’t made the difficult decision to scrap that design. How many similar types of matters had he missed out on?
Every aspect of law firm website design (element placement, aesthetics, navigation flow, branding, and load time) subtly affects user experience, user behavior, and ultimately conversion. For many firms, conversion is not a front-of-mind concern. Those that have a well-designed web presence may not be using ongoing conversion tracking/testing to improve their site’s ROI. Some sites that you think look ugly convert at a high rate and others that you think look flashy and expensive don’t convert at all. Sometimes it is as simple as moving a contact form or changing the flow of your navigation. Other times, a full site redesign is the only option. There are other things that matter too – things like these tests we ran on the use of the word ‘lawyer’ vs. ‘attorney’, or the use of stock imagery vs. actual photos. There are a seemingly endless list of things that matter. The important thing is that all of this is measurable. You can track, test, and test again. Never rest on your current conversion rate, it can always be better.
Here is the only reason that conversion should be important to you – nothing else attached to your website matters if your conversion is off. You can rank first in Google, you can get 10,000 hits from an article, you can go viral – if your conversion is off, you are missing out on new clients.
The other thing is that there are plenty of your competitors that work on improving conversion every day. These firms are not relying on intuition or talking heads promoting ‘best-practices’ – they have a trove of actionable data to back up conversion improvements they are making.
Ask yourself this question – do potential clients contact you as a result of hitting your website first? For the sake of this article, I am not talking about generating traffic, visibility, or content marketing – those are all other issues. Do people call you regardless of the inbound channel? Do you know if the number of people calling is a good proportion of the total number of people that hit your site?
If the answer to any of those questions is no or uncertain and you’ve paid to have your website designed in the last three years, you are not marketing your practice correctly.
So how do you go about tracking your website’s conversion? First, it is critical to mention that you should never rely on subjective elements of your website’s appearance to justify what someone thinks might work. User behavior is constantly changing. Even data-driven assumptions that are outdated should not apply. Come in ready to work with a blank slate.
The second important thing to keep in mind is isolation of data. You do not want to go about making changes to one aspect of your site only to realize that the behavior attached to it was daisy-chained to another element. Each converting element of your site should be viewed and judged independently of others within each traffic channel. Some of the initial elements to take a look at:
- Navigation (path, hierarchy)
- Accessibility to Intended Information
- Performance of the Call-to-Actions
- On-Page Behavior Site-Wide
- On-Page Behavior Segmented by Traffic Type
- On-Page Behavior for Poorly Performing Pages
- On-Page Behavior for Well-Performing Pages
- Intended Audience Behavior
- Actual Behavior vs. Intended Behavior
Within those elements, you will want to use all of the tools at your disposal for analysis. There are numerous free, nearly free, and affordable solutions to better analyze your visitor data so that you can drive traffic and convert more of the users who view your site. Some more advanced features of Google Analytics that can help you take a better look at your conversion are:
• Multi-channel funnels – This feature permits you to segment and judge the performance of different inbound channels that have played a role in driving the visitor to your site. This is especially useful when you think about how each of these types of visitors is likely to convert in a different way. Someone who comes to your site from paid search may behave very differently than someone seeking information about a very technical topic. You can also have repeat visitors who behave in a way that you want to ignore or track separately.
• Event Tracking – This analytics feature permits you to track and remain aware of when certain actions are performed, errors are encountered, or how often certain conditions are met.
• Campaign tracking – This allows you to set up customized url strings and contact forms for different campaigns, be it pay-per-click, advertising, or referrals from other websites that you pay to be featured on.
• Flow tracking – One aspect of flow tracking is seeing the path visitors may (or don’t) take through your website. Flow tracking can help you understand what links are being clicked and what pages and content meet the needs of your visitors.
While this is a good start, Google Analytics alone is not enough to get adequate conversion tracking data. Services and software like user testing (paid) and heat map visualizations (usually paid) of where your visitors scroll, click, or linger, can de-mystify user behavior. Further utilizing add-on services can help you identify design, branding, and presentation problems that Google Analytics will not. All of these services can help reveal the reason behind the data that you see in Analytics. Perhaps we are stating the obvious, but analysis that combines multiple data sources thereby encompassing more elements of user behavior is more likely to produce actionable data. If you are interested in a list of useful conversion tracking add-on services, feel free to read reviews or contact me.
Using Data to Test Improvements
Once you have identified potential problems, you should run tests that implement different variations of a solution and track how these pages perform. These tests are known as A/B tests. Essentially, you drop a snippet of code into your site that displays a different version of a page to each visitor at random (or based on a target). There are several services you can use to A/B test webpages with different aspects. Optimizely.com is a popular one. An issue with A/B tests is that you need to get a large enough data set to get usable information. That means you either need visitors or a lot of time. Try to work in a couple of non-overlapping solutions into each test to see how that individual aspect of the new page performs. This will shorten the time necessary to test multiple solutions.
At this point you might be wondering, “Great, but where is the concrete advice that I can plug right into my site?” The point I hope I have made is that your conversion practices should not be based on intuition or blind application of what someone on the web suggests. It has to be specific to your practice, target audience, and target geography. Advice is a good starting point regarding what to look for and some suggested fixes, but ultimately your conversion strategy must be driven by your data and refined by your conversion testing. It should never stop improving.