You finally got your new website “live” (amazing how time-consuming it is to create great content, eh?). You installed Google Analytics and configured it to record a “conversion” every time a visitor submits your online quote form. After reviewing your first month’s analytics report, you’re shocked – 500 people visited your website and some of them even used keywords other than your company name! Your excitement quickly turns into depression when you click on the “Goals” tab within Google Analytics and realize that less than 1% of your visitors filled out your online quote form.
Three questions immediately pop into your head:
- What should my conversion rates be?
- I wonder what my competitor’s conversion rates are?
- How can I turn more visitors into leads?
While stats exist about online conversion rates for large, publicly traded e-commerce websites, there’s no single website that details visit-to-lead conversion rates for local service companies. Few competitors are going to provide you with accurate numbers and the numbers coming from internet marketing companies looking to sell you their services are going to be significantly inflated as well.
Blue Corona started as, and continues to be, a marketing measurement company. We help (mostly) business to consumer service business owners more accurately track their advertising investments – online and offline. Ever wondered how many leads you’re really getting from your full-page Yellowbook ad? Our tracking customers can tell you not only how many calls they received from a particular ad, but also how many of those calls were legitimate leads and how many dollars in revenue were generated for each advertising dollar spent!
We’ve been tracking close to 100 websites, from a multitude of industries, for nearly 5 years. The companies vary dramatically in size and reach, but we’re starting to see some trends emerge with respect to website conversion rates. For example, it’s not uncommon for service businesses like HVAC and plumbing companies to have website visit-to-lead conversion rates in excess of 15% (this includes phone call inquiries). Think about it – if you go to a plumbing company’s website, you’re probably not there to browse. You likely have a plumbing issue and you’re going to call to see how much it’s going to cost to get them out to your house and how quickly they can be there!
On the other end of the spectrum, bigger ticket products and/or non-essential services, like high-end home remodeling companies can expect much lower online conversion rates (especially when economic times are tough) – often in the 1-3% range (in boom times, the conversion rates appear to have been closer to 2.5-5% for this category).
So, what should your website’s conversion rate be and should you try to improve it or focus on getting more traffic to your site – or both!?
If you operate an essential service business – an HVAC company, plumbing company, roofing company in Maryland, etc., and your website’s visit-to-lead conversion rates are less than 10%, there’s a good chance you would benefit from a website conversion rate optimization. Similarly, if you own a high-end bathroom remodeling company and your website’s visit-to-inquiry conversion rate is less than 1%, you too have some conversion rate issues to address.
However, no matter which industry you’re in, you should also consider the total number of visits you get to your site each month before making website changes designed to increase your conversion rate(s).
Even with the data derived from Blue Corona’s advanced website tracking tools, increasing website conversion rates is still very much an art form. Different web visitors respond to different messages, colors, site layouts, pictures, etc. Often, improved conversion rates happen through multiple marketing experiments and sometimes even by accident (although, you’ll never hear that language from the conversion rate optimization company that improves your performance)!
Before you and your staff start changing web page headlines, adjusting calls-to-action or changing website buttons from red to green, take a look at your monthly traffic. If you don’t have a certain minimum number of visitors per month, it’s going to be very difficult to judge whether your changes worked, had no impact or actually made the situation worse! If you run a plumbing company and you only get 150 visitors per month, a 5% conversion rate is only going to net you ~7 leads per month. If you make changes to the call to action that precedes your online contact form and your conversion rate increases to 6%, a 20% increase, it’s unlikely that you’ll even notice. You certainly couldn’t attribute those 2 extra leads to the website changes you made – not with any confidence. Now, if you had 1,500 visitors per month instead of 150, that 1% improvement would be a difference of 15 leads.
The “increase traffic or increase conversion rate” conundrum is one of the challenges online marketing companies face when they agree (perhaps mistakenly) to do short-term SEO campaigns for low-traffic websites in industries with low conversion rates (note: ideally you increase conversion rates and then increase traffic, but the real world is far from ideal).
When a business owner invests in SEO, he or she wants to see tangible results measured in increased leads per month. Maximizing leads per month requires getting more qualified visitors to the site (and SEO is a great tactic for this) and optimizing the website to convert more visitors into leads. But, to do the later well (conversion rate optimization), you need certain levels of traffic and many small business owners simply don’t have the budget or patience to wait for it.
Take the high-end bathroom remodeling company serving (only) a handful of upscale cities. They have a full flash website which receives less than 5 visitors per month from non-branded organic search terms and a visit-to-inquiry conversion rate of .66%. They get a new website with SEO which almost immediately results in a 700% increase in visits from non-branded organic search and a 400% increase in their visit-to-inquiry conversion rate, but they don’t think the results are good because they’re still only receiving ~8 leads per month.
All service business owners should think of their website is a sales rep and maximizing your website’s performance requires (at a minimum) three things:
- Accurate tracking
- Clean, goal-oriented website design with specific calls to action
- Significant visitor volumes
By definition, it’s impossible to maximize your website’s performance without an accurate tracking system in place. Operating the marketing side of your business or your website without tracking is like running a business without financial statements. You might get away with it for a short period of time, but no consistently high performing business operates this way.
Although there is no authority (yet) that offers insights into the conversion rates of local service business websites, “essential” service businesses (HVAC, pest control, plumbing, roofing, etc.), should expect visit-to-lead conversion rates to exceed 10%. If you own this type of business and your conversion rates are lower than 10%, you have a conversion rate problem and need to consult with a conversion rate optimization firm to get your company on the right track. If you sell a non-essential service or product – ex. high-end remodelers, luxury bathroom remodeling companies, home theater companies, etc. – you should expect much lower online conversion rates – likely in the 1-3% range.
While there are proven methods for increasing online conversion rates, it is still a mix of art and science. Often times, it is far easier to cost-effectively increase website traffic and get more qualified visitors to a website than it is to improve the site’s conversion rates. Ironically, the extra traffic also makes improving website conversion rates easier because trends are more easily seen with larger numbers. Local service businesses in medium to large markets (plumbers, hvac companies, etc.) should shoot for a minimum of 2,000 visitors per month. High-end, non-essential service companies serving local markets might shoot for somewhere in the 1,000 visits per month range.
Finally, when it comes to maximizing your marketing (and website) performance, adopt an “always be testing – track, test, analyze, tweak, repeat” attitude and, in the long-run, you’ll get to where you want to go!
Want to learn more about improving your website’s conversion rates? Send your website address and a description of your situation to: ben AT bluecorona.com