It’s not unusual in our line of work to see the exact same landing page convert at 11% one month, and 55% the next – without making any changes. How so?

Your conversion rate is mainly determined by the quality of traffic. The right traffic with the right expectations makes all the difference. This post will tell you how to get traffic that converts. 

Not all traffic is created equal

Some traffic sources convert better than others. Some send you tons of traffic which doesn’t convert at all (I’m looking at you, StumbleUpon!).

Just because you can take a look at your Google Analytics stats to see how much traffic you get and what it’s converting at, doesn’t mean you’re seeing the full picture.

To illustrate that point better, let’s take a look at a real life example.

Case study (kind of)

ThinkTraffic had a post about a start up experimenting with different traffic sources. They chose 12 different strategies to drive traffic to find the one that converts the best. Those strategies included Google Adwords campaign, social media, blogs, e-mail newsletters, forums, videos, SEO and the like (for a full list of their chosen strategies see here). The act of conversion was opt-in to their email list.

The total traffic and conversion numbers in this “case study” are of course ridiculously low and mostly not statistically significant at all, but serve as an illustrative example.

12 strategies

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What we can see is that the total traffic does not necessarily correlate with total conversions and has little to do with conversion rate as a percentage.

Don’t take this as a guideline to traffic sources that convert. Before you say “AdWords sucks!”, realize that there are many things we don’t know. Where did the traffic land on – home page or landing page? Did the ad copy match the landing page copy? Which keywords triggered the ads? Relevancy is everything – and it’s relevancy that determines conversions, not the exact source.

You can have the best tractor website in the world and send me there, but I’m not going to buy one since I don’t need nor want one. You have to target people that actually need and want what you offer.

The best traffic source is…

… wherever your ideal customers hang out!

  • If you sell stainless steel lunch boxes, go where all the health-conscious and stylish moms hang out.
  • If you help small businesses figure out how to take advantage of LinkedIn, go where small businesses are.

You get the point. And it’s not just the source that determines the conversion, it’s also the message, the offer, the landing page and so on. All of it needs to be in play to ensure relevancy for the user.

Also: see which of your current traffic sources converts, and focus on that. (And don’t waste your time on sources that don’t).

Traffic analysis with Google Analytics

The easiest way to see conversion numbers for each traffic source is by using custom reports.

With custom reports you can create, save, and edit to get a specific view of your data. You can choose the information you want to see, organized in the way you want to see it, by using a drag and drop. They are highly useful.

Thankfully you can plug custom reports right into your analytics profile by just clicking on them. Here are some useful ones:

Note: You might have to edit the settings of these reports a bit as your Goals might be configured differently (e.g. Goal 1 is for email signups and Goal 5 is sales). So check that before you blindly look at the data.

In the report below we see that Google AdWords is rocking our world in terms revenue and conversion rate (we don’t see the cost here, but can do the calculations easily). Also comparison search engines are worth keeping. Traffic from Amazon ads rocks.

(Click to enlarge).


Some more resources:

Analyzing the data

You want to pay attention to 3 metrics: total conversions per source, total revenue per source (if measurable) and conversion rate per source. If you have ecommerce tracking switched on, you should also pay attention to “revenue per visit”.

What you want is to keep doing more of what’s working (more guest posts on blog that send quality traffic, more ads on site that send traffic that converts etc) and stop putting in the effort in traffic sources that don’t convert – either low total conversions or very low conversion rate. Very low conversion rate can be tolerable if the absolute numbers are high.

How to boost conversions from common traffic sources

Conversions don’t just happen. Here’s how to help them along.

Forums & online communities

Although forums might not be the first place to think in terms of getting traffic that converts, you might be surprised. The beauty of them is that they have communities of like minded people discussing over common interests. If your service/product fits those interests you may just have found your pot of gold.


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Many of our customers say that a positive thread about their business in a forum results in lots of traffic and sales.

The best way to go about forum marketing is by becoming a part of the community – by being there and helping others without asking anything in return. Yes, it’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time, but you’ll reap the benefits.

A good example is Patrick McKenzie who’s an active member of Hacker News start-up community, known for being very helpful. When he launched his Lifecycle Email Marketing course, news about it became #1 on Hacker News (community voted the story up) and drove tens of thousands of people to his sales page. I don’t know how many bought it, but I bet it was a ton.


Blogging is quite obvious – if you still aren’t doing it I strongly, strongly advise you to start now.

Once you get blog traffic, you need to get it to convert as well. 2 key strategies here:

  • add value like there’s no tomorrow, so they’ll start to trust and like you,
  • add visible calls to actions to learn more about your products or services when they’re ready.

I’ve written in more detail about it in this post.

Guest blogging

The idea behind guest blogging is that you find someone who as a large following already and use that to drive traffic to your site trough excellent writing.

Writing is time-consuming and hence you should be very sure that it pays off.

Peep has written guest posts for Think Traffic and Smashing Magazine, and the traffic coming from those posts converts extremely well. Makes sense – the audience has a definite overlap. He also wrote a post for Kissmetrics blog that doesn’t send much traffic and it doesn’t convert either. Does that mean Kissmetrics sucks as a traffic source for ConversionXL? I wouldn’t say so.

The blog post was about gamification  – which is not something most Kissmetrics readers are really interested in (hence the lack of clickthroughs) and it’s not what ConversionXL is about either (=low conversions).

So again – it’s all about relevancy.

Social media

We wrote a whole post about driving sales with social media. Read it here.

Google Adwords

Want to get traffic that converts from paid media (e.g. Adwords and others)? Make sure that

  • pre-click and post-click message are the same (ad copy matches landing page copy),
  • you make specific offers that take users to specific landing pages (no PPC traffic to the home page),
  • the search keyword bring up relevant ads to that keyword (each ad is tailored to the keyword),

.. and so on.

If you just put 1 ad up on AdWords, use it for 20 different keywords and send all of the traffic to your home page – frankly, you’re an idiot and might as well use the money as wallpaper. Read about 6 common mistakes that make you lose money with AdWords.

We built a landing page for our client, and the conversion rate seemed unexpectedly low. What’s going on? Turned out that our client was posting ads on Facebook that drove traffic to the site. BUT – the ad copy had nothing to do with the landing page copy, so there was an immediate disconnect. The ad was featuring a testimonial on the landing page “See how person X achieved Y”, and people clicking on the ad were expecting a case study of some sorts when in fact it was just one testimonial out of 4 on the page, and a low-priority item.

As soon as the client changed the ad to match the landing page copy, conversions shot up.

If you do a lot of advertising, you need to use dynamic landing pages where the landing page copy changes based on the ad copy. Of course, ultimately the offer needs to be interesting and at a price the user can afford and so on. It’s not just this or that, it’s all about relevancy.

Organic keywords

Using the best converting keywords custom report we talked about before, find out which keywords are driving the most conversions.

What to do with this information:

  • If you know which keywords convert better, try to rank for other similar terms (long tail). It’s a good indication that people using this wording want what you offer.
  • Use those keywords in your sales copy. People are finding you based on those words, using them in your sales copy will increase the relevancy.


Getting traffic that converts is absolutely critical to your survival and growth. In the end conversions are about relevancy – does what you offer (advertise, write about etc) match what they’re interested in at the time when they want it? Sometimes it’s okay to throw some spaghetti onto the wall to see what sticks, but then you have to relentlessly cut and optimize.

Figure out what works and keep doing it.

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