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Various icons indicating content analytics and a central pie chart indicating that  95% of your audience (non-converters) are golden

Conversion obsession is killing your business 

When 95% of site visitors don’t convert, it’s time to think of them as untapped opportunity worth investing in.

- By Iza Misiorny - May 28, 2024 martech

Various icons indicating content analytics and a central pie chart indicating that  95% of your audience (non-converters) are golden

Across the marketing industry, five percent is considered a good conversion rate, right? That’s the figure we all focus on, to distraction. I’d like to counter that we should flip the script and focus on the 95 percent that don’t convert — that’s where untapped opportunity lies, particularly as martech evolves to provide us with more and more actionable data.  

The truth is, non-converting visitors aren’t just dead ends with no value. The moment they land on your site, they become aware of your brand, which can pan out as a first step in their own journey or fuel word-of-mouth marketing.  

Moreover, their every action on your site contributes to a larger data story that you can leverage to give you more control over the customer journey. That makes them breadcrumbs that lead to conversions — and a veritable goldmine for long-term growth if you use the right tools intelligently.   

The conundrum of conversions  

I get the appeal of tunnel vision when it comes to conversion rates: The metrics are clear and tangible results, such as revenue generation and customer acquisition, are almost immediate.  

But in a way, being overly focused on conversions is a cop-out that relieves you of having to understand the entire story. It’s a simplistic approach to something very complex, and I’d argue that it’s a mistake to assume that conversion rates are the only reflection of a marketing team’s success. Rather, they’re just one indicator among many.  

Conversion obsession is also rooted in short-sightedness, when the truth is marketing is a long game. And, when you think that conversion is the only metric that matters, you risk being so rigid in your approach that you can’t adapt to the ever-changing landscape of consumer preferences and market trends. 

The power of the hidden narrative 

Understanding how visitors behave on your website isn’t just about data collection; it's about being able to decipher hidden patterns that can inform your strategies.  

While it's true that not all data has equal value, any piece of information that offers insight into visitor behavior is worth examination. For example, when you can observe trends in the pages visitors frequent or see how visitors from paid ads interact with your site, even if they don't end up converting, your persistence can yield valuable clues about their preferences and interests.  

Each visitor path isn't just a series of random clicks — it's a window into the quality and relevance of your content. Every action (and lack thereof) gives insight into what resonates with your visitors and what doesn’t. Maybe they spend more time on certain pages because they find the content particularly useful, or maybe they bounce quickly because something about a CTA isn't quite hitting the mark. Either way, these insights give you a starting point on your journey to better content and a more engaging user experience. 

Furthermore, delving into why some visitors don't convert can provide invaluable insights to optimize your conversion funnel (and even compare funnels) and identify potential barriers to conversion. This data is critical if you want to understand your target audience on a deeper level and tailor your strategies to better meet their needs and preferences.  

Never forget that visitors who don't convert today might tomorrow, or six months or a year down the line, or they might tell a peer or colleague about your company. Take a page out of the sales playbook, where it's understood that it takes months of nurturing and relationship-building to close a deal; patience and persistence are what convert visitors into loyal customers.  

So how do you switch metric-obsessed marketing teams away from just conversion rates? You change what you measure. 

Enter Visitor Engagement Score 

While there are plenty of existing ways to measure engagement, if your data output is unaggregated (meaning it doesn’t add up to something that’s easily digestible), it’s hard to get an overall picture of whether your strategies are working. (Not to mention difficult to share progress with senior management.)   

That’s why we created our new Visitor Engagement Score, a groundbreaking tool designed to offer a clear, easy-to-understand score that assesses visitor engagement with your content. 

With a Visitor Engagement Score, marketers can easily measure and report on visitor engagement — the first step to unlocking the insights that drive increased engagement and ultimately boost conversions. This isn't just another metric: It's a personalized scoring mechanism that changes how you look at your audience. 

The Visitor Engagement Score gives you a quick understanding of how your non-converting audience behaves. You can customize the scoring mechanism based on your business needs, including different levels of granularity that go beyond a single score. From average scores across your website to detailed breakdowns of interaction drivers, and from measuring progress over time to comparing engagement across different audience segments, the Visitor Engagement Score provides new, incredibly comprehensive insights that can inform your decision-making.   

The six-step shorthand to flipping your strategic script 

Overhauling the guiding metric of your strategy is a significant course correction. Here is a simple breakdown for how to go about it: 

  1. Adopt a holistic approach to website optimization: View your website as a complete ecosystem, where every element, from design and content to user experience and technical performance, plays a crucial role in shaping visitors' perceptions and actions. Ensure each visitor (converting or not) can enjoy seamless navigation from one piece of engaging content to the next, no matter which device they’re using.  
  1. Understand the value of nurturing relationships over time: Recognize that trust and loyalty are built gradually through consistent interactions and experiences. Prioritize strategies that support long-term engagement and relationship-building, such as personalized communication, genuinely valuable content, and exceptional customer service. 
  1. Value engagement with the other 95 percent: Shift focus from converting visitors to engaging with and nurturing the broader audience members who may not immediately convert. Every interaction contributes to brand advocacy and long-term success, so invest in strategies that prioritize engagement, such as educational content, community building, and social media interaction. Those approaches are key to cultivating a loyal and vocal customer base. 
  1. Align strategies for sustainable growth: Ensure that your business strategies are aligned with your long-term vision of sustainable growth. Consider the broader impact of your actions on brand reputation, customer satisfaction, and market positioning, rather than solely focusing on short-term gains. 
  1. Revise success metrics: Expand your definition of success beyond traditional metrics like conversion rates and sales numbers. Consider incorporating qualitative measures of engagement, satisfaction, and brand advocacy into your performance evaluation framework. 
  1. Invest in understanding visitor behavior: Leverage marketing analytics and tracking tools to gain insights into visitor behavior, preferences, and motivations, regardless of whether they convert or not. Invest in user behavior analysis, heatmaps, and session recordings to understand how visitors interact with your website and identify areas for improvement. By gaining a deeper understanding of visitor behavior, you can optimize your website and marketing strategies to better meet the needs and expectations of your audience. 

Follow these steps and you'll be well-equipped to navigate the transformation of your strategy and drive long-term success. 

Changing conversion-oriented hearts & minds 

Even with the above breakdown, the switch from conversion-focus to engagement won’t be an easy transition. Exclusive focus on conversion is a mindset with lots of advocates and stakeholders who operate with an ingrained belief that goes all the way to the top of most organizations. To sway business leaders to the potential of this paradigm shift, focus on the big hitters:   

  • The value of long-term sustainability over short-sighted conversions 
  • How conversion can fit within a holistic strategy without being the sole focus 
  • The transformative potential of non-converting customers 
  •  Visitor Engagement Score data 

My team at Siteimprove knows I want them to focus on that 95 percent; I’ve made a point of conveying to them that that’s where our future lies. And yes, we use the Visitor Engagement Score ourselves, and yes, our CEO is entirely on board with taking a longer view of what defines success. Thus far, it’s been a fruitful paradigm shift.  

Want to learn more about Visitor Engagement Score, or how to lead this mindset shift within your own organization? Talk to us today to get started.