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What is website conversion? (And why it’s all about your users)

When you think about website conversions, you might think about percentages and averages that measure metrics and data points—like orders completed, subscription upgrades, and click-through rates.

But what do those metrics and data points actually tell you about your customers—the people you want to serve; the people you want to captivate, engage, and persuade?

CRO
Marketing

Last updated

20 Sep 2021

If you don't understand what website conversions mean for your business—or how to translate conversion metrics into actionable steps to improve your product or service for your customers—the only purpose they serve is to report numbers and percentages.

To understand (and increase) website conversions, start by understanding your users: what drives them to your site or product in the first place, the blockers and pain points they experience, and the hooks that persuade them to take action.

Instead of focusing on the final outcome, the conversion itself, focus on what happens before: the user experience.

This article will help you shift your mindset, to help you consider how website conversions inform the user experience (UX). We cover:

What is website conversion?

A website conversion happens when a user completes a desired action on your website, like making a purchase or filling out a contact form. Every business website is built to generate conversions.

There are two types of website conversions:

Micro-conversions

A micro-conversion happens when a step toward your end goal is achieved, like subscribing to a newsletter, downloading an ebook, or watching a product video.

Micro-conversions are events that occur before a macro-conversion.

Macro-conversions

A macro-conversion happens when your end goal is achieved, such as a sale, a new paid subscriber, or a completed contact form.

How to calculate website conversion rate

To calculate your conversion rate, divide the number of conversions (desired actions taken) by the total number of visitors, then multiply by 100 to get a percentage.

For example, if your web page had 17 sales and 500 visitors last month, your conversion rate is 17 divided by 500, multiplied by 100 = 3.4%

What’s a good conversion rate?

Conversion rates vary depending on your:

  • Type of industry (information technology, consumer goods, finance, etc.)

  • Audience demographic (age, income, occupation, etc. )

  • Conversion goal (ad clicks, checkout completions, newsletter subscriptions, etc.)

Depending on the factors above (and your source), a good conversion rate can range from 2% to 5%.

Looking up industry averages may give you a useful benchmark to start from, but you’d be much better off developing an understanding of what’s actually happening when your users interact with your website and how you can improve the user experience. If you can do this, conversions will follow.

2 reasons to measure your website conversions

Conversion rates can tell you a lot about your website and product: it’s not just about revenue.

Here are two reasons to measure your website conversions:

1. Understand your customers

To find out what your customers want and need from your business, you need to understand who they are and what they like (or don't like) about your site or product.

Website conversions can help you understand your users. For example:

  • A low conversion rate on a product page could suggest that you need to further explain or clarify your product's benefits to your users.

  • A high conversion rate on a landing page's CTA shows that you’ve successfully persuaded your audience and have removed any blockers or objections your users might have.

🔥 Pro tip: place an on-site survey on a low-converting page to understand what your customers want and need from your site or product. Experiment with open-ended questions (“What are your main concerns about our product?”) and closed-ended questions (“Did you find what you were looking for today?”).

For visual feedback, place an Incoming Feedback widget on problem pages to let users share their feedback in two clicks—and even highlight specific elements on the page they're having issues with.

2. Understand the user experience

When you know how your customers experience your site or product and identify what works (and what doesn't), you can prioritize changes and optimizations to improve UX (and increase conversions).

Your site's conversion rates can give you clues to help understand the user experience. For example:

  • A low conversion rate might indicate a poor user experience, so you'll need to investigate and uncover the pain points and blockers your users are experiencing.

  • A high conversion rate probably means you're doing something right (yay!), so you might want to try replicating that success on other parts of your site.

🔥 Pro tip: find out how users are experiencing and interacting with your site or product by looking at heatmaps on high- and low-converting pages, which highlight the elements on your site that are drawing users' attention (or not).

Then, look at session recordings of the same pages to see and compare how users navigate and interact with your site from page to page, and identify any blockers or issues that stop them from converting.

3 steps to improve website conversions

Sometimes the secret to improving your conversion rate is as simple as changing the colors of your call to action (CTA) button, using a larger font, or having fewer fields in your sign-up forms.

Minor improvements to your site or product are beneficial, and they may result in a small and temporary uplift to your conversion rates—but if you want to improve your conversion rate in a more meaningful, significant way, you need to look at the big picture.

You need to discover what your users really want, and then give it to them.

Do this in three steps:

Step 1: find what drives people to your website

To convert your visitors, you need to understand what they want and care about, and in particular what drives them to your website or product in the first place. One of the best ways to find out is to ask them to describe what brought them to your site and what they’re looking for in their own words.

Place an on-site survey on a high-traffic page: ask your visitors to introduce themselves, tell you why they’re visiting your site, and whether anything is stopping them from taking action.

🔥 Pro tip: ask different survey questions at each stage in the buyer’s journey to give you valuable insights to improve the user experience. Check out our 70 examples of survey questions and our list of the 15 best survey questions to ask.

Step 2: find what might stop potential customers from converting

A HOTJAR SCROLL HEATMAP (L) AND MOVE HEATMAP (R)

Now identify the barriers that stop potential customers from converting. Use a tool like Google Analytics to identify poorly-converting pages, then:

  • Look at heatmaps to see how users click, tap, move, and scroll, showing you where they spend the most (and least) time on your low-converting pages.

  • Watch session recordings of the same pages to see how users experience and interact with your site from page to page, and uncover UX issues or blockers like website bugs or broken links.

  • Place an Incoming Feedback widget on your problem pages, and let users tell you about their experience.

🔥 Pro tip: set filters on your session recordings to look at specific user segments. For example, users who exit your site from a particular page, users who come from a particular country, or users who access a set number of pages.

For additional insight, you can connect your feedback responses to your session recordings to understand how what your users said relates to what they experienced.

Step 3: find what persuades visitors to act

Finally, set up a post-purchase survey to ask customers who've just converted what persuaded them—and what almost stopped them!—to find out what does and doesn't work. Ask questions like:

  • How would you rate your overall experience?

  • What can we do to improve the experience?

  • What did you love most about the experience?

  • What almost stopped you from completing the purchase?

You can also invite customers to participate in an external link survey to ask them more detailed questions. Find out what their biggest concern was before they converted and how their experience could be improved, or use an NPS survey to find out how likely they are to recommend you to a family member or friend.

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