How to Get Traffic That Converts

How to Get Traffic That Converts

It’s not unusual in our line of work to see the exact same landing page convert at 11% one month, and 55% the next – without making any changes. How so?

Your conversion rate is mainly determined by the quality of traffic. The right traffic with the right expectations makes all the difference. This post will tell you how to get traffic that converts. 

Not all traffic is created equal

Some traffic sources convert better than others. Some send you tons of traffic which doesn’t convert at all (I’m looking at you, StumbleUpon!).

Just because you can take a look at your Google Analytics stats to see how much traffic you get and what it’s converting at, doesn’t mean you’re seeing the full picture.

To illustrate that point better, let’s take a look at a real life example.

Case study (kind of)

ThinkTraffic had a post about a start up experimenting with different traffic sources. They chose 12 different strategies to drive traffic to find the one that converts the best. Those strategies included Google Ads campaign, social media, blogs, e-mail newsletters, forums, videos, SEO and the like. The act of conversion was opt-in to their email list.

The total traffic and conversion numbers in this “case study” are of course ridiculously low and mostly not statistically significant at all, but serve as an illustrative example.

12 strategies

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What we can see is that the total traffic does not necessarily correlate with total conversions and has little to do with conversion rate as a percentage.

Don’t take this as a guideline to traffic sources that convert. Before you say “AdWords sucks!”, realize that there are many things we don’t know. Where did the traffic land on – home page or landing page? Did the ad copy match the landing page copy? Which keywords triggered the ads? Relevancy is everything – and it’s relevancy that determines conversions, not the exact source.

You can have the best tractor website in the world and send me there, but I’m not going to buy one since I don’t need nor want one. You have to target people that actually need and want what you offer.

The best traffic source is…

… wherever your ideal customers hang out!

  • If you sell stainless steel lunch boxes, go where all the health-conscious and stylish moms hang out.
  • If you help small businesses figure out how to take advantage of LinkedIn, go where small businesses are.

You get the point. And it’s not just the source that determines the conversion, it’s also the message, the offer, the landing page and so on. All of it needs to be in play to ensure relevancy for the user.

Also: see which of your current traffic sources converts, and focus on that. (And don’t waste your time on sources that don’t).

Traffic analysis with Google Analytics

The easiest way to see conversion numbers for each traffic source is by using custom reports.

With custom reports you can create, save, and edit to get a specific view of your data. You can choose the information you want to see, organized in the way you want to see it, by using a drag and drop. They are highly useful.

Thankfully you can plug custom reports right into your analytics profile by just clicking on them. Here are some useful ones:

Note: You might have to edit the settings of these reports a bit as your Goals might be configured differently (e.g. Goal 1 is for email signups and Goal 5 is sales). So check that before you blindly look at the data.

In the report below we see that Google AdWords is rocking our world in terms revenue and conversion rate (we don’t see the cost here, but can do the calculations easily). Also comparison search engines are worth keeping. Traffic from Amazon ads rocks.

(Click to enlarge).


Some more resources:

Analyzing the data

You want to pay attention to 3 metrics: total conversions per source, total revenue per source (if measurable) and conversion rate per source. If you have ecommerce tracking switched on, you should also pay attention to “revenue per visit”.

What you want is to keep doing more of what’s working (more guest posts on blog that send quality traffic, more ads on site that send traffic that converts etc) and stop putting in the effort in traffic sources that don’t convert – either low total conversions or very low conversion rate. Very low conversion rate can be tolerable if the absolute numbers are high.

How to boost conversions from common traffic sources

Conversions don’t just happen. Here’s how to help them along.

Forums & online communities

Although forums might not be the first place to think in terms of getting traffic that converts, you might be surprised. The beauty of them is that they have communities of like minded people discussing over common interests. If your service/product fits those interests you may just have found your pot of gold.


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Many of our customers say that a positive thread about their business in a forum results in lots of traffic and sales.

The best way to go about forum marketing is by becoming a part of the community – by being there and helping others without asking anything in return. Yes, it’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time, but you’ll reap the benefits.

A good example is Patrick McKenzie who’s an active member of Hacker News start-up community, known for being very helpful. When he launched his Lifecycle Email Marketing course, news about it became #1 on Hacker News (community voted the story up) and drove tens of thousands of people to his sales page. I don’t know how many bought it, but I bet it was a ton.


Blogging is quite obvious – if you still aren’t doing it I strongly, strongly advise you to start now.

Once you get blog traffic, you need to get it to convert as well. 2 key strategies here:

  • add value like there’s no tomorrow, so they’ll start to trust and like you,
  • add visible calls to actions to learn more about your products or services when they’re ready.

I’ve written in more detail about it in this post.

Guest blogging

The idea behind guest blogging is that you find someone who as a large following already and use that to drive traffic to your site trough excellent writing.

Writing is time-consuming and hence you should be very sure that it pays off.

Peep has written guest posts for Think Traffic (now known as Sparkline) and Smashing Magazine, and the traffic coming from those posts converts extremely well. Makes sense – the audience has a definite overlap. He also wrote a post for Kissmetrics blog that doesn’t send much traffic and it doesn’t convert either. Does that mean Kissmetrics sucks as a traffic source for CXL? I wouldn’t say so.

The blog post was about gamification  – which is not something most Kissmetrics readers are really interested in (hence the lack of clickthroughs) and it’s not what CXL is about either (=low conversions).

So again – it’s all about relevancy.

Social media

We wrote a whole post about driving sales with social media. Read it here.

Google Ads

Want to get traffic that converts from paid media (e.g. Ads and others)? Make sure that

  • pre-click and post-click message are the same (ad copy matches landing page copy),
  • you make specific offers that take users to specific landing pages (no PPC traffic to the home page),
  • the search keyword bring up relevant ads to that keyword (each ad is tailored to the keyword),

.. and so on.

If you just put 1 ad up on AdWords, use it for 20 different keywords and send all of the traffic to your home page – frankly, you’re an idiot and might as well use the money as wallpaper. Read about 6 common mistakes that make you lose money with AdWords.

We built a landing page for our client, and the conversion rate seemed unexpectedly low. What’s going on? Turned out that our client was posting ads on Facebook that drove traffic to the site. BUT – the ad copy had nothing to do with the landing page copy, so there was an immediate disconnect. The ad was featuring a testimonial on the landing page “See how person X achieved Y”, and people clicking on the ad were expecting a case study of some sorts when in fact it was just one testimonial out of 4 on the page, and a low-priority item.

As soon as the client changed the ad to match the landing page copy, conversions shot up.

If you do a lot of advertising, you need to use dynamic landing pages where the landing page copy changes based on the ad copy. Of course, ultimately the offer needs to be interesting and at a price the user can afford and so on. It’s not just this or that, it’s all about relevancy.

Organic keywords

Using the best converting keywords custom report we talked about before, find out which keywords are driving the most conversions.

What to do with this information:

  • If you know which keywords convert better, try to rank for other similar terms (long tail). It’s a good indication that people using this wording want what you offer.
  • Use those keywords in your sales copy. People are finding you based on those words, using them in your sales copy will increase the relevancy.


Getting traffic that converts is absolutely critical to your survival and growth. In the end conversions are about relevancy – does what you offer (advertise, write about etc) match what they’re interested in at the time when they want it? Sometimes it’s okay to throw some spaghetti onto the wall to see what sticks, but then you have to relentlessly cut and optimize.

Figure out what works and keep doing it.

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Join the conversation Add your comment

  1. Thanks for the inf.
    Wop, but something bad happened with the links Best converting traffic sources, etc.
    Take care Peep!

    1. Avatar photo

      Paul, the links will connect to your Google Analytics account and you can add the custom reports to your web profiles.

  2. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    I’ve already posted a link to my social networks and will be re-reading it all later to make sure I’ve not missed anything with my GA set-up.

  3. Hey Peep nice post, thanks for mentioning my think traffic post. It’s been a long time since I posted it I probably should do a follow up. How about a guest post on here?

    Most of the results have held up to be fairly accurate with 3,000+ opt ins now but a few things have changed.

  4. I think now Google Analytics has made tracking the same visitors who access your site from different devices easier you gotta use the Multi Channel Funnel reports otherwise you will miss a ton of opportunities.

    Don’t think those reports above will take into account assisted conversions, so as an example say CXL ranks in position 7 in Google for “value propositions”, it’s bringing a lot of traffic but no direct conversions. But it may have been the start of the funnel for 50 conversions that have subsequently been attributed to direct, adwords or a branded keyword just because GA uses last interaction.

    Before you might have thought it was a worthless keyword but it’d actually be worth trying to rank higher for it. Maybe the same will apply to the Kissmetrics guest post if you check it out.

    To anyone reading just go to:
    Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions

    Then on channel grouping click on “Organic Search” and change the primary dimension to Other > Traffic Sources > Keyword.

    A wealth of data!

    1. Avatar photo

      Yes absolutely, assisted conversions are very insightful! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hey, thanks for sharing those GA reports.

    Quick question, how do I share reports I’ve made?

    1. Avatar photo

      Click on the Customizations tab, and then there’s an “Action” button next to each custom report you’ve created. One of the actions is “share”.

  6. Hey Peep. Thanks again for your most informative post. As a relative newbie to this, I’m starting to get traffic but no conversions yet. Your post has inspired me to do a relevancy check on my site.

    One area of ambiguity for me is that people could arrive at my site in one of two mindsets (the employer or the employee) with quite different needs. Have you ever run a poll/survey to try to tell who’s visiting your site (all of my traffic is organic via google so no guidance there)?



    1. Avatar photo

      You can use something like Qualaroo to poll users, or any of the polling tools you can embed on your site.

  7. Great article! I really like the Google Reports so we can track more of our metrics.

    We started using Google Tag Manager to track even further and have our metrics code fire only for conversions and specific pages. If you haven’t checked that out, look into it. It’s really awesome.

    Great blog!

  8. Newb question: What about New vs Returning visitors and how that skews the conversions? This is the thing that bugs me about conversions, how can you separate New visits from Return visits and measure those conversions?

    Downloaded some GA settings, thank you very much!

    1. Avatar photo

      New vs returning visitors have different needs, so your layout needs info and links for both of them. New visitors have to see your value proposition and CTAs to learn more, returning visitors might want to sign up right away, log in and so on. Identify the different user intents, and design accordingly.

  9. I’m not a consultant or a conversion expert. I’m a guy that has a site in the fitness niche and I do this stuff everyday…

    I haven’t even read the whole article, but the headline is 100% spot on…

    I am constantly sending PPC traffic (Bing and Facebook) to my squeeze page and get pretty disappointing optin rates. I’m realizing, from trial and error, that warm traffic converts way better than cold traffic.

    The tough thing is finding warm traffic in the form of joint ventures, guest posts, email drops, etc.

    But yes, from a guy that does this day in and day out in a NON “make money” or “internet marketing” niche, having a tight “message to market” match is critical.

    It’s tempting to think that I can just buy traffic and increase my optin rate, but like you said, in the fitness niche at least, I have to participate more in online communities like blogs and forums.

    I did actually go back and read the entire article after writing my comment!

  10. By the way, I really like your site, your free report, and all of your articles. That’s why I subscribed to your site when I found out about you last month.

    But could you please add a “subscribe to comments” button to your comments so I can read any comments other people add?


  11. Great article Peep, this info is basically the starting point for any conversion optimization process. It’s hard to sell a duck, when your visitor is searching for a dog when reaching your landing page.

  12. Thank you very much for this great post.

    The information is super useful, especially the custom reports on what I’ve never had time to create.

  13. I help Finnish companies with their conversions and sales. It’s unbelievable how often relevancy is overlooked and then the client wonders why their pages don’t convert. I like how Converian put it few comments above.

    Oh, and thanks for the analytics reports. :)

  14. Thanks for the article, those custom Analytics reports will definitely be useful.

  15. Another tip for ecommerce sites is to look at the abandon rates from your checkout funnel, by source of the visitor. In particular the abandon rate between the cart and the first stage of the main checkout process.

    Sources of visitors who get so close to buying are much more promising than sources which don’t even get that far. Those sources deserve some investigation.

    GA Custom reports and custom dashboards are great for this, since the Goal Abandon rate is available even though it doesn’t show up in standard reports.

    A ‘micro funnel’ with just the cart to checkout stage works well. You can have a dashboard widget showing that rate by source/medium can be really useful (include ‘funnel starts’ as the first metric so you only see high-volume sources).

  16. Another really good strategy for analytics is to use the custom segments feature in google analytics. When you create a custom segment, choose “page” from the drop-down menu and then put your sale success or post-form thank you page (e.g. “/forms/thanks.php”)

    This will allow you to track what services or marketing methods that you provide that your clients or contacts use. Knowing what helps converts someone is really useful, but for those of us who provide subscription services, knowing what your current clients or contacts use can also help keep them around.


    The most freakin awsome CRO content i have ever read on the web !

    Chapeau Bas !


  18. I wonder if you ever pitch your services, or u just let your content do the pitching !

    Y, again !

  19. each major source of traffic has their own unique risks.That’s why you have to diversify your traffic channels like your personal investments. If Google’s Penguin Update makes you lose half of your SEO traffic, then you need to figure out how your other sources are going to replace it.Thanks for sharing this article!

  20. With the “Best converting landing pages” report, does this record *eventual* conversions against the first page a visitor lands on?

    i.e. The visitor doesn’t have to convert on the very same landing page they landed on; they could browse around first, and their eventual conversion would be recorded against the first page they landed on.

    Or, does it record the page immediately before the conversion occurs?

  21. Great post, thanks for sharing. I’ll follow all the steps on my blogs to improve traffic for theme.

  22. People will convert if you provide a hot product that will change their lives for the better. I strongly agree with you, __Your conversion rate is mainly determined by the quality of traffic. Targeted Traffic is always best. Thanks for sharing your advice.

  23. Hello, can I purchase a solo ad from you ?

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  25. Good read. Some of my favorite methods of getting free traffic have been on forums, also guest blogging works great if you can get content up that helps your readers. It’s always good to track your traffic that way you can see which sources of traffic are producing the best results.

    Matthew J Trujillo

  26. Making money online is all about driving traffic to your website, product, or offer. If you don’t have traffic there is no way that you can earn much online. I received this report a couple years ago when I was struggling to make money online. I had to buy it, but I’m going to pass it along to you for free. Access it here: http://rebirthmediagroup.com/trafficreport – This will show you how to make money online the right way.

  27. Great info thanks, after a good 6 months building up my sites I’m just started to take more noticed of which traffic is bring me the most conversions and tilt my promotion efforts in those directions. Good to see this sort of data laid out as it helps people to think about the quality of traffic instead of wasting time of visitors of the tire kicker variety.


  28. Great Read. I will follow your steps to raise my site ranking and traffic Thanks Ott Niggulis for this post.

  29. Thank you for this article, so much to learn, but because people like you write for people like me, I can pick up great tips and avoid many of the pitfalls. I work hard on my SEO, my ads and my site, I think my products are great (or I wouldn’t sell them) but none of that’s any use to me if I don’t learn the lessons needed to survive the lean months and start converting visitors into customers, so I’m off to put this information to work! Wish me luck.

  30. I just have to say man that your post has helped me so much. I have changed a lot of things on my site that you recommended to do. Thanks

  31. Thank you so much for the info buddy, really got to learn alot…

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