As the owner of a new website, you’re probably eager to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. You want everything to be better, faster and more efficient, and you want it all to be optimized yesterday.
I’ve been in this position, so I’m well familiar with it. But unfortunately, most entrepreneurs aren’t in a position to actively improve everything all the time. You’re limited in terms of budget, time, help and resources. That means you’ll have to make some hard choices about what you want to improve and what you want to delay.
Why traffic and conversions are both important
In case you’re not familiar, traffic refers to the number of people visiting your website. You can get traffic through several different channels, including organic search, external websites and social media. Getting more traffic means more people are going to see your website, your brand and your offers.
Conversions refer to any meaningful action taken by a user on your website that eventually leads to a revenue opportunity. It could mean buying a product, completing a form or even watching a short explainer video. In any case, more conversions translate to more revenue for your brand.
You can already see why both traffic and conversions are important; without traffic, your conversion rate is practically meaningless, and without conversions, your traffic is not generating revenue.
The case for optimizing for traffic
There is a case to be made for optimizing your site for traffic first.
- Any conversion rate will scale with traffic. As long as you have any positive conversion rate, increases in your traffic are going to lead to greater revenue. For example, if you have 1,000 visitors to your website and a conversion rate of one percent, you’ll end up with 10 paying customers. If that conversion rate remains the same and your number of visitors increases to 10,000, you’ll have 100 paying customers. In other words, you can afford to have your conversion rate remain stagnant temporarily.
- Reputation comes first. Conversions and revenue generation are important, but if you care about the future of your business, your reputation is probably an even bigger priority. Traffic isn’t just about getting people to spend money with your brand; it’s about making them more familiar with your brand and improving its reputation with non-customers. Accordingly, building your traffic before your conversion rate could be valuable for supporting a better brand reputation.
- Traffic grows slower. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to grow traffic to a website. It also costs a lot of money. Even after weeks of investment, you might be slow to see real results. Accordingly, many business owners want to start building traffic as early as possible. This way, they’re not as affected by delays, and they can start seeing the results of their scaling much sooner.
- Higher traffic makes conversion optimization easier. Having more traffic flowing to your website means you’ll have more data you can measure and analyze. You can better study behavioral patterns when people get to your website and have a much easier time optimizing for conversions.
The case for optimizing for conversions
However, you can also make the case that it’s better to optimize for conversions first.
- Traffic is meaningless with no conversions. If you have a positive conversion rate, increasing your traffic is valuable. But if your conversion rate is practically zero, no amount of traffic is going to help you. If you’re struggling to get any initial conversions, you need to focus on your conversion rate before you do anything else.
- Conversions are cheap and easy to optimize. Compared to increasing traffic streams, it’s relatively cheap and easy to optimize a website for conversions. Experiments can be conducted faster, changes can be made with a click, and you can see the fruits of your labor within a few days of making a change. Because of this, conversion optimization often seems like the better initial choice to new entrepreneurs.
- Fewer lost opportunities. Generating traffic to your site gives you confidence that your idea is working. Each new visitor to your website is someone interested enough in your brand that they might buy something from you. However, if you don’t invest any initial time into conversion optimization, you might be tempted to see all your new traffic as a stream of lost opportunities. You may be getting thousands of visitors, but if none of those visitors are converting, they may move onto another site and never return to yours. With early conversion optimization, you’ll have fewer lost opportunities.
The nature of your organization and your goals should dictate if you first optimize for traffic or conversions. For example, if you’re operating on a small scale with a limited budget, you might not have the money or the resources to support a big marketing campaign or a much bigger customer base. Accordingly, your best bet will be optimizing for conversions.
If you don’t feel a strong pull in one direction or the other, you should balance your time and resources to optimize for both traffic and conversions simultaneously. This can be a difficult balancing act to maintain, but you’ll end up seeing far steadier and more reliable improvements to your revenue over time.