Conversion rates are nasty, lying little devils.
Especially the way many marketers talk about them.
Case in point:
A few days ago I was reading a post on Inbound.org about the growing popularity of “welcome gate” style optin forms.
One “marketer” whined that he hated welcome gates and always left a site immediately when presented with one.
Then a second marketer chimed in with a solution:
Instead of showing the welcome gate on the first page a visitor sees, they only show it on the second page.
That way the visitor can read your content first, which builds goodwill before you ask for the optin.
This works WAY better, the second marketer crowed, because the conversion rate on the welcome gate goes up by 200-300%.
Here's the problem though:
If you do this, you will almost certainly get fewer new subscribers on your list.
The maths break down like this:
On a typical website, 75% or more of the visitors only see a SINGLE solitary page.
So by choosing to show an optin form only to the 25% who decide to wander around your site, you're reducing the number of “at bats” you get by three quarters.
The welcome gate “converts better” because only the people who are most engaged see it.
But you still end up with fewer email subscribers overall.
Real life example:
My welcome gate currently converts at around 1.8% when I show it to everyone.
If I only showed it to the one quarter of visitors who view multiple pages, I'd need to covert a herculean 8% of them just to break even with what I'm doing now.
And chances are you wouldn't be reading this.
Higher or lower conversion rates are really meaningless without all the proper context.
To keep from being led astray, measure your success by the end result you're trying to achieve.
Are you getting more total email subscribers, or fewer?
Are you getting more total sales, or fewer?
Conversion rates are easy to manipulate, but bottom line sales don't lie.