Monday, 25 January 2016

10 steps to take if your conversion rates drop — first, don't panic

Plummeting conversion rates can spell bad news for a business that relies primarily on online sales, and how you react is critical. Factors such as technology failures and sales funnel issues play into sudden conversion rate drops, as do overall market changes — but you won't know the real reason, or best way to respond, until you investigate the source.

Before you panic, take some time to analyze what might have gone wrong. I asked 10 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to weigh in on what to do after spotting the initial decline. Their answers are below.

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1. Trace your steps

Syed Balkhi

If you see your conversion rates are dropping suddenly, then the first thing you need to do is figure out what's causing the drop. Is it directly related to a drop in your website traffic or is it something else?

If your traffic is the same and the conversion has dropped, then you should run through your checkout process and test that it is working in all different browsers. Often you will be able to find the problem during this process and fix it. If the drop in conversion is caused by drop in traffic, then you should look at any outlier drops. For example, if Google was your No. 1 source and it's down 80%, then log into your Webmaster tools to see if there are any penalties against your domain.

— Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

2. Analyze your acquisition channels methodically

Joshua Dorkin

First, break out the data into your acquisition channels. From which acquisition channels are your conversion rates changing? Is it all of them or just one?

If it’s all of your channels, that’s indicative of a changing market. Perhaps a competitor is outdoing you, or perhaps your market is shrinking. You need to take a holistic view of your business and product and transform it to match the changing market landscape.

If it’s just one or two of your channels, even if they are major ones, that’s probably due to a lack of accountability or innovation within your marketing team’s control. Examine each step of your funnel and look for weak points. Engage in split testing and hold your staff accountable for getting those conversion rates back up.

— Joshua Dorkin, BiggerPockets

3. Consider seasonal effects

Justin Boggs

It is something I like to call buyer's fatigue. It is what happens to consumers right after the holidays, towards the end of January or right after Valentine's Day, when they are less willing to part with money anymore. They are still browsing, but aren't as quick to pull the trigger. The effects are rather sudden. While you might be getting the same level of traffic, less people are converting. It is important to think about these seasonal effects so that you don't inadvertently make changes to your site that may actually be detrimental to its success.

— Justin Boggs, ZeeBerry.com

4. Check the top of the funnel

Neil Thanedar

The longer you run the same marketing campaign, the less effective it becomes. This is true of paid and unpaid customer acquisition channels. Check to see if the quality of your incoming traffic has dropped recently. If so, it's time to build new content and test new platforms.

— Neil Thanedar, LabDoor

5. Act like a customer

Kevin Henrikson

Look at where your customers are coming from. Your answer will be different depending on whether your customer came from organic traffic, social media or paid advertising. Remember that within each of those groups are subgroups. Also check the functionality of the page they're landing on — something might be misfiring. I always prefer to do a test transaction myself on each of the major channels.

— Kevin Henrikson, Acompli (now Outlook iOS/Android @ Microsoft)

6. Take a look at your analytics

Jayna Cooke

This is a major issue that should be addressed as early as possible in order for it to not snowball into a larger problem. You need to dig into your analytics and look to see if the traffic that is coming in is the same as it has been. Ask yourself if you changed anything about your landing pages. I would have a friend randomly test it on your website so you can get honest feedback. This issue is originating somewhere and you need to decipher where it is coming from in your analytics.

— Jayna Cooke, EVENTup

7. Look over paid search campaigns

Miles Jennings

Give a once-over to your paid campaigns and their locations, and see if there have been any changes that you did not keep track of or were not aware of. Was the landing page for one of your links changed? Was a special offer or coupon removed from your landing page content, therefore bringing a lot less traffic to the site? Was your campaign budget hit? All of these things should be looked into and measured right when you see any kind of decrease, so that in the future you will know what may be causing a decline in conversion.

— Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com

8. Go through your lever checklist

Zach Robbins

Consider all of the levers influencing your conversions and investigate each of them. For example, I would run down the following checklist to see where the drop is coming from:

Test the conversion flow.

Dig into your back end for potential issues (tracking, attribution, configuration, etc.).

Check impact of any tests that are running on ads, landers, etc.

Check for increases in competition.

Drill down into individual traffic sources.

Segment out conversion rates by device, browser, geo, etc.

Account for any industry trends or seasonality.

Then, most importantly, prioritize where there’s the biggest opportunity to move the needle and get to where you need to be.

— Zach Robbins, Leadnomics

9. Check your technology

Joel Apfelbaum

Make sure all your technology is working. Your could be having server issues, your forms may not be working, etc. Performance is typically a huge issue — people don't have patience to deal with slow websites or glitchy software. Thoroughly test all your technology.

— Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

10. Don't panic

Justin Gray

Any market change has to be respected. First, don't panic — it isn’t time for sweeping change at the slightest indicator. Next, take a look at Google Analytics — what changed? If absolutely nothing has changed in terms of calls to action, digital assets, site ranking and authority, then the issue is simply that you haven’t followed the market. Take that as a cue to revisit your buyer personas and do a refresh. I will say, however, 9.9 times out of 10, something major has changed in terms of the site structure or content. Markets don't often turn on a dime — unless its 2000 or 2008.