Column: Relevance -- The Key to Unlocking Conversion

Conversion or conversion rate are terms that take on various meanings depending on your marketing objectives. They can mean the ratio of visitors to buyers, the percentage of visitors who sign up for a newsletter or request information, or just general product understanding. Conversion is most useful when it applies to a specific advertising or marketing campaign where it is the ratio of visitors to the subset who complete a desired action.

While there are several keys to opening conversions, including site usability (ease of navigability) and persuasiveness (the offer), I would like to focus on a challenging and often overlooked key: relevance. Relevance should not be a partial consideration, but a crucial necessity in unlocking doors to conversions. In many cases it is the toughest category of change to accomplish, as it requires a great deal of testing and optimization. A marketer needs to vary content on a landing page (or create several URLs) to match the expectations of different visitors groups in order to reach an optimal conversion rate. For example, a person interested in finding a sporting goods store and a person looking for wholesale sporting goods are very likely going to react differently once they land on your page. The challenge is anticipating this and delivering the appropriate content based on the pre-click expectation of each.

Another way conversions may suffer from a lack of relevance can be demonstrated with the following example.

Say a marketer is using search to promote an online sweepstakes. Undeniably, sweepstakes are a great way to capture user data as a means of generating leads or immediate sales. In this hypothetical example, the marketer’s ad is displayed as a sponsored link and appears when a user is either actively searching for the company’s product, or where it is contextually matched. The campaign objective is to catch the attention of consumers, get them to click on the text link, and redirect them to a landing page, where they can enter the sweepstakes. Before they can enter the sweepstakes, users are required to opt in to the company’s e-newsletter. If there is any disconnect between what consumers expect based on the company’s ad message and what they are fully required to do once they land on the page, there will be a negative impact on signup conversions.

Relevance also encompasses how closely aligned your advertisement is to your potential customer’s interests. You need to be there when your product or service is top of mind, and that means being timely. Contextually targeting your ad to an environment that it is congruent with is one way to be relevant. Contextually targeted ads will always outperform untargeted ads from a click-through standpoint and for conversions. By adding a behaviorally targeted element to a contextually targeted placement, you are ensuring that the right eyes are seeing your ad. Time targeting is a third filter you may attach to your campaign to ensure relevance.

Relevance equals conversions and is guaranteed to raise your conversion rate (regardless of what you are counting as a conversion). However, it cannot guarantee that you will achieve optimal acquisition cost. Why? Because without careful research into site selection, and the appropriate buying platform (CPM, cost-per-click, cost-per-acquisition), your media execution costs can potentially render your cost per acquisition inefficient. This is without even accounting for additional fees that may add to the media cost, particularly when running a rich media campaign. A flashy in-banner or in-stream video execution will certainly garner greater click-through rates than a standard static banner unit, but not necessarily greater conversions.

The relevance of the advertising message to the product, as well as to the target audience, makes for a more successful campaign and better experience for consumers. They are certainly more likely to convert, or at least come back.

Jeff Giachetti is the media supervisor at Earthquake Media.


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