To have any website make money, you must have in place a successful sales funnel. Building it is the hard part, but if you know how to do this and can get one particular formula to work for you, it’s only a matter of replicating it in other projects and further using it on your website to increase it’s profits.
In this case study, I am going to explain my particular sales funnel that I use on this site and a number of others which has helped me increase conversions (sales) and has led to a positive improvement in business. One of the other things I will also cover is common mistakes website owners make with their funnels.
The basic blueprint of my sales funnel:
- We have our niche site in place: Make money online.
- I write articles for my site on my niche topic.
- I have a few pages where I promote specific products to people.
- I link all of articles to one or more of my promotions.
- My goal is to give people a great experience on my site by offering very high quality information and then steering them to an affiliate promotion that helps them.
Understanding the flow of the funnel:
This has given me a conversion rate somewhere between 7-10% which in my estimate is very good considering this is the flow we have:
Most people land on one of more of my articles.
Less than half visit my affiliate promotion. This is normal.
Less than half of the people who visit my affiliate promotion, click on it and a fraction of those people register on the site.
Of the people who register on the site, even less buy the product.
As you may notice in this flow, the closer we get to the actual sale being made, the less the number of people. This is normal with sales funnels. You can probably never have everyone who visits your site buy what you want them to.
- Some people just aren’t interested.
- Some people just forget and click away.
- Some people are too busy or something else comes up and they forget.
- Some people just aren’t ready to buy.
- Other miscellaneous reasons.
It happens, it’s normal…
The job of the sales funnel is to make the entry into the actual sale be as simple as possible, while at the same time being informative, eye opening and trust worthy.
Illustrating this with REAL numbers:
Let’s do a month’s worth of analytical data to see how my sales funnel was doing:
From May 1-May 31, my website received 22,329 visits, most of which were new visitors:
Of those 22,000+, 7,004 people visited the page from which I promote my main program: Wealthy Affiliate. Putting that into percentage, that’s about a 31% CTR (Click through). So basically nearly 1 in 3 people visit my page.
From the stats I have on my affiliate analytical page, it said for the month of may I received 1,876 clicks. In other words, on my affiliate page, out of the 7,004 people who visited, 1,876 clicked through to see what I was promoting. That’s a 26% CTR. Not bad so far.
Out of the 1,876 people who visited the affiliate page, 508 people joined. That’s a 27% sign up rate. Very good in my opinion!
BUT the thing about my affiliate promotion is that when people join, it’s for free. There is a paid sign up from there which if they join, I get a commission and that’s where the sale is made. Remember, it’s a pretty long funnel!
So out of the 508 people who joined, in the month of May, I had 52 new sales. That’s a 10.2% conversion rate from that number alone.
So is that good or bad and if it’s bad what needs to be done?
I happen to think that a 10.2% conversion is excellent, but the problem I see with this funnel is that not enough people are getting through to my main affiliate page. Remember, out of the 22,000+ visits, 30% came through.
If I can theoretically increase that number from 7,400 to say 10,000 or even half, naturally the pattern of people joining would rise. So how can I do this?
Well I can:
Write more content, rank more, pull in more traffic and funnel that into the affiliate promotion.
I can also add more outgoing links to my main promotion from other articles I’ve written. The best way to do this would be to target the articles which are getting the most traffic out of those 22,000+, add more outgoing links and see how it affects overall visits.
Things I’ve added which worked and then didn’t work:
I have tried to increase clicks to my main affiliate promotion and it worked, but ironically, more clicks did not actually increase conversions! What I learned was gold, even though it was technically a failure.
I want to help you understand this as well, so let me explain what mistake I made…
Here is the current look to my site from the homepage. Notice how often I link from here to my main affiliate promotion:
So just through my homepage, we currently have at least 3 links pointing to my main promotion. But here’s a funny thing: These links hardly ever get good click thoughts.
The banner you see to the bottom right gets an average of 7 clicks a DAY when my average visitor count is 600+. That’s a 1.1% CTR and even less on some days. This is horrible considering the double digits I just showed you.
But what I did which I though worked, but then actually ended up making me LESS sales was this:
I replaced that same ad with a picture (see it on the right, and I did link it) of myself giving a brief author bio where I introduce myself and then link people to my affiliate promotion. How did this affect clicks?
It actually quadrupled (4x) and even quintupled (5x) them! Now instead of the usual 7 clicks on average, we jumped to about 45 a day, which is 7.5% (600/45) vs the 1.1%.
You would think now that my main promotional page was getting more hits, that I’d be getting more sign ups and naturally more sales right?
Actually…it didn’t. In fact, my sign up rates went down! I estimate they went down about 10%!
Why this happened:
Although I was baffled at first, then reason this happened became so obvious so quickly and here it is:
This picture, although very attractive (yeah let me flatter myself for a little bit! :() was distracting people from my content!
People who landed on my site were mainly those wanting to read content to what they were interested in and I learned, you HAVE to give them information on their content of interest BEFORE you send them to your main promotion. That’s how you warm them up to it!
Anyone who visits my site doesn’t immediately land on my promotion page. They will land on a product review or informational article. It is there that I MUST give them plenty of valuable information before sending them to the promotion.
I can’t just write “hey this product sucks, so buy what I have to offer”. That doesn’t work! I must get into detail on the other products and explain very carefully why what I am promoting is better, THEN link them to it, where they are already exposed to it to a degree that they are more willing to check it out!
So when I put up the picture, I figure people who landed on other content pages, saw it, read the part about making money, clicked on it, visited the page, but because they weren’t warmed up to the product and they didn’t have enough time to read the original content, they were less likely to join!
Thus I had to take down my picture and return to the old banner which while getting me less clicks, ended up bringing in more sales and conversions, leading to a more successful sales funnel.
Now the mistake I made was something that MANY other people make with their sites, but in many cases, FAR worse. Here is an example:
The problems here are:
1. There’s TOO many menu items. People can get confused.
2. Too many banner product promotions leading eyes away from the site. This can cause what’s known as traffic leakage.
These are all things which DISTRACT people from reading the content on the site. And you saw how just 1 banner change hurt my sales funnel. Imagine how much worse it is with this!
That model above might work for BIG sites, but for niche sites, I think this is the wrong way to go. This is how I would change it:
Now there are less roads to go and people are more likely to stick to the content and go where you want them to go. You don’t want to create a maze. You want to create 1 concrete route and let people follow it.
Likewise when people visit one of your articles, you don’t want this:
While people are reading what’s in the red box, the banners are distracting their eyes. You don’t want this. Also do NOT add multiple promotional images IN the actual red box of your content UNLESS it’s relevant to the content.
I would make it like this:
The KEY to a good sales funnel is this:
- The successful sales funnel begins from the very moment someone enters your website. This is why the majority of this article is focused on the starting point, not the end (which is where people buy from your site). Handle the start and the end will be much easier to make sales from.
- Write EXCELLENT content. This is what people will focus on most on your site so make sure they aren’t distracted while reading it.
- Design the content page such that there are MINIMAL distractions. No shiny banners distracting the eye. All images MUST make the content MORE readable.
- Link to your promotion somewhere in the middle or end of your content (multiple times is also good as long as it’s not overly done).
- On your promotion page, DO NOT link to ANY sites/promotions other than your main one. Do not link to outgoing pages on your site either. Link ONLY to the one promotion on the page. You’ve already got the person on your page and interested, the last thing you want them to do is leave. If they visit a page where you are promoting something else, link ONLY to that product.
Start making these changes to your site:
If you have a website which is at least getting 50 visitors (from search engines or paid advertising like PPC) a day and you are NOT making any sales, check out the flow of how your site is structured. One of the main causes of it not doing well might be the sales funnel and odds are, you’re not building it so the focus of the readers eyes is focused on the content.
Most people are overselling and putting in affiliate links and banner ads wherever they can. Again, it’s distracting and the more you try to make your sale, the less chances it will sell.
Focus on the content. Put all efforts to make it as EASY as possible to focus on and read and only add the links to affiliate products and affiliate promotional pages once people are well into reading the content, which as I said is about in the middle or ending areas of your article.
Doing this will help you build a much better sales funnel and you should absolutely also use these tools to record your numbers:
Google analytics (here’s what you need to know about it and how to set it up).
Pretty link. This free plugin is going to help you see how many people click on different links on your site. You’ll be able to plug this into your funnel formula.
I used Google Analytics to show me how many visitors I was getting, then for the period I was testing (May 2015), I saw how many people clicked on the link/s to my promotional page which was a pretty link. That’s how I was able to see what was leading to more and more clicks.
As you saw, in some situations, more clicks is not a good thing. The rule I learned from that is to keep the focus on the content and advertise less. Only advertise when you have given enough information to show that what people were reading about isn’t good enough to meet their expectations.
Try adding this as well…
On my site, what has worked VERY well was adding a banner to the end of each of my articles. It also links to my main promotional page. You’re going to see this banner after you finish reading the article.
It’s not a bad thing to add because by the time people get to it, they have already absorbed the content I wanted them to and this ad is now going to work VERY well.
If I put that ad up top before every article, I guarantee you the results would be horrendous, but in this position, it worked out very well. It gets about 70 clicks every day on average which if you add to the average 600 visitor count, that’s a 11%+ CTR.
Look at this article as the final example:
As you were reading through it, how often did your eyes move away from it? If you say very little, then I did the right job. Anyone who reads this should focus on the content. A white background and little to no distractions, while adding images to show my points is how I believe a sales funnel should be done.
Making the actual sale:
So you’ve got the site set up properly, clicks are going through and the number of people going to the page where you can get paid is increasing. But how do you NOW make the people buy?
Well if you were flowing well before and helping people with good content, on the page where you promote the offer, you should continue along the same path. Give information on why the thing you’re promoting is good, but don’t exaggerate either.
Read the review I put up of Wealthy Affiliate. I add my REAL experiences and tell people the facts. People love experiences so when you promote something, you should try to tell people how it’s worked for you. Sometimes even buy what you’re promoting if it’ll make the review and sales funnel better.
I hope I didn’t put up too much information! As much stuff as there is to read here, it’s really a simple matter once you experience it’s success a few times. You learn from doing, not theory. Also I just wrote up another case study which will add to this one very well. Check out case study 8, how a “broke” website was revived!
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your site and test your sales funnel. Give every test at least a week before you make conclusions on what works, then stick to whichever one brought in the best results, and repeat the same formula for your other websites.