In online marketing today, you have hundreds of channels to choose from. Within each, there are thousands of tactics that you could use. If you’re like most marketers, you’re trying to tackle a dozen or more of these channels and tactics at any given time. If you try to do too much with your marketing strategy, it quickly becomes difficult to keep the clarity and conviction you need to simplify, focus, and drive key results.
When you get back to basics, marketing is simple. Marketing means getting people in your store—and once they’re there, getting more of them to buy. Online, this means the following:
New Signups = Traffic x Conversion Rate
Your signups are determined by two variables: the number of visitors you’re getting on your website and the rate at which those visitors sign up. These are the two axes along which you should evaluate every channel, tactic, and conversion opportunity.
I’ve created the following framework for thinking about how to increase conversions (which I will be fleshing out over a series of posts on how to think about conversion, map out a process, and implement it to drive new signups and growth).
The Conversion Map: How to Figure Out What to Improve
Break down all of your marketing channels, landing pages, and content along the following two dimensions: traffic and conversion rate. Then, categorize them all into one of four quadrants:
- High traffic, high conversions: You’re winning along both dimensions. Your only worry is losing it. So monitor both your traffic and conversion rate to make sure that it’s not declining, and constantly run tests to see if you can optimize either dimension.
- High traffic, low conversions: You have traffic exceeding 100,000 visitors, but you need to increase conversion. You have enough traffic to A/B test and execute on standard best practices to drive up your conversion rate.
- Low traffic, high conversions: You’re getting conversions, but not many of them. You need to increase your top-of-funnel to turn your high conversion rate into a significant number of new signups.
- Low traffic, low conversions: You’re struggling along both dimensions. Your path to success goes in order of first getting more traffic so that you can A/B test, and then increasing your conversion rate.
Fundamentally, this framework helps you break down your marketing problem so that you can employ one of the most basic rules of marketing:
Figure out what’s working and then do more of it.
Instead of seeking to drive results by trying various different channels and tactics, dig into the results you already have. Find what’s already working—whatever is driving high traffic, high conversions, or both—and double down by using the conversion map framework to determine your next move.
How to Turn the Framework Into a Process
Your biggest opportunities to improve are your high traffic, low conversion opportunities. That’s where you can most quickly increase the volume of signups with the least amount of work.
- You have to maintain your high-traffic, high-conversion opportunities, otherwise they’ll decline over time. If you can’t figure out how to get more traffic, start looking for new opportunities by experimenting with other channels.
- Low-traffic, high-conversion opportunities require you to increase traffic, which means finding new channels for traffic. Finding new traffic channels is harder than A/B testing, with which you can start getting quick wins just by applying standard best practices.
That’s why you should prioritize your quadrants and execute on them in the following order:
- High traffic, low conversion
- Low traffic, high conversion
- Low traffic, low conversion
- High traffic, high conversion
Put high traffic, high conversion in ongoing maintenance mode to ensure you keep reaping the benefits without wasting time over-optimizing it.
#1 High Traffic, Low Conversion
The top left quadrant is a goldmine of opportunity because you’re rolling in eyeballs. That traffic isn’t productive yet, but you have enough volume to run A/B tests for conversion.
With a lot of traffic, you have a big sample size which means you can run more tests, experiment, and learn faster. Your goal is to understand the type of conversion opportunity that best matches the channel, landing page, or piece of content.
- Challenge assumptions and best practices. At Crazy Egg, we originally used a minimal homepage because we figured less information meant less friction to sign-up. By testing, we found the opposite to be true—our homepage left visitors confused about the product. A long-form home page 20x the length lifted trial sign-ups by 30%.
- Run small, incremental tests to compound growth. Kevin Li and Sergei Sorokin of the Yahoo Growth team managed to drive Yahoo’s mail app to the top of the App Store by running 122 tests over ten weeks. These small tests only led to 2-3% gains each, but together they compounded into a 1000%+ increase to CTR.
- Match the conversion opportunity to the content. For example, Groove turned a post featuring 17 different email templates into a PDF. They tested a generic newsletter sign-up CTA reading “Get all 17 scripts free” against another CTA that added one more line: “In a PDF that you can copy/paste from.” The latter performed better because it offered a content upgrade specific to the page.
#2 Low Traffic, High Conversion
Low-traffic content that does a good job converting can often be found further down your funnel. It usually provides nitty-gritty, tactical advice that’s close to the product, but might lack broader appeal. If a lot of your marketing efforts fall in this quadrant, you may understand your customer, but not your audience.
Your goal should be to grow traffic to your content to 100,000 visitors. Along the way, you’ll develop a core understanding of what content resonates with your audience that you can use repeatedly to increase traffic to your high-conversion pages.
Note that as you increase traffic, your conversion rates will decline. When you had 100 visitors, everyone who visited the page had actively sought it out. At 100,000 visitors, the intent to convert will be much lower. Rather than transitioning to the high traffic, high conversion quadrant, you may find yourself in the high traffic, low conversion quadrant. If so, you need to transition from increasing traffic to A/B testing to increase conversion.
- Re-publish old content in new channels. Don’t let high-converting content go to waste—wait a bit, and try to get more eyeballs on it by recycling it somewhere new. By taking old blog posts and getting them in front of a new audience on Medium, Buffer increased its traffic on the channel by 1,215%.
- Ask qualitative questions to know your audience better. High conversions mean you’re delivering value to your customers—you just need to get in front of more of them. Getting qualitative feedback allows you to understand your visitors better and create better middle- and top-of-funnel content that drives more traffic.
Example surveys in Qualaroo
#3 Low Traffic, Low Conversion
When you’re not seeing traffic or conversion, you have one goal: get more traffic any way you can to move into the top left quadrant.
This is where most early-stage startups find themselves, and that’s why content marketing is the right choice for many SaaS startups looking to build their traffic and brand.
- Create top-of-funnel content with broad appeal. StatusPage found that a single post they’d written about getting to $5k MRR in 2014 still drove 10% of traffic a year later. Even though the company has a niche product, they were able to reach a big audience by writing about a topic everyone can relate to.
- Focus on topics instead of keywords. Over the course of three months, HubSpot’s Anum Hussain helped grow the company’s new Sidekick blog, growing organic traffic by 13% week-over-week. The highest leverage strategy that the Sidekick team tried was focusing on a single topic across all types of content, from landing pages to blog posts.
- Leverage networks to build your audience. SaaStr’s Jason Lemkin has posted over 2,000 answers on Quora—ranging from short, one-line responses to full-on blog posts. It’s paid off. By leveraging the Quora community, his Quora has netted over 25 million views, which translates to over 1.5 million views a month for the SaaStr blog.
#4 High Traffic, High Conversion
When you’ve got high traffic and high conversion, you’re living the marketer’s dream. Do a happy dance because you’ve made it.
HubSpot Co-Founder and CEO Brian Halligan does the content happy dance.
Just make sure to monitor your content carefully to maintain it. This is your cash cow, which you use to fund your other growth experiments, so never take it for granted.
- Constantly nurture SEO. At KISSmetrics, a single infographic on color psychology generated 15-16% of total backlinks for our blog. We rested on our laurels, and were knocked off the front page of Google by companies like Help Scout. If you don’t focus on creating the best content for your audience, someone else will.
- Keep testing. At KISSmetrics, we hit our biggest conversion wins within the first few months of testing our landing page. By tweaking our sign-up CTAs, we saw a double-digit conversion increase. Over time, these got smaller and smaller—but we kept testing, and over the course of a year, hit a 1,145% increase in trial sign-ups. Small, incremental improvements to your conversion rate compound over time as you build more and more traffic.
Play the Long Game
At KISSmetrics, we were able to reach a cost per acquisition through content of around $3 per trial sign-up, compared to the several hundreds of dollars it would have cost on Google Adwords. Even when our overall traffic dipped, we kept growing the business by doubling down on conversion.
Content marketing is a long-term investment. When you start out, you’re trying to carve out a foothold by building up little islands of content and an early audience. Over time, as you load up on high-quality content your audience loves and shares, these islands start to group together and form continents on the internet that people land on.
You don’t get there by focusing on one-off tactics or a Hail Mary. You get there through a deliberate process, moving one step at a time.