How to successfully apply our methodology when you have low traffic

We often get asked whether our methodology works for low‑traffic websites. The answer is yes, and we’ll show you how in this article.

If you are a startup or a small company, you are in a chicken‑and‑egg situation:

  • To afford visitors, you need a good conversion rate.
  • But improving your conversion rate is hard if you have no visitors.

So how do you improve your conversion rate if you have low traffic? You need to solve two problems:

  1. How can you understand your visitors? For example, how can you determine what’s stopping them from taking action?
  2. How can you measure what works? High‑traffic websites rely on A/B tests to measure whether their changes make a statistically significant difference.

Let’s tackle those two problems in turn.

An empty store.
If only tumbleweed could tell you how it feels: It’s hard to understand your visitors when you don’t have many of them.

How to understand your visitors

Step 3 of our methodology is “Understanding your visitors (particularly the non-converting ones).” Some techniques we use rely upon a website getting lots of traffic. Some surveys, for example, typically get a completion rate of 3%.

We recommend that businesses with low‑traffic websites—even those with just a few visitors a day—make the most of the following techniques:

  • User tests are the most fruitful technique. Ask a friend—or anyone you can get your hands on—to participate. Once you’ve refined your website enough, user‑test it on people from your target demographic and psychographics.
  • Watch session recordings of the visitors you have. Doing so will give you insight into how web visitors see your website. Plus, you’ll see your creation through fresh eyes.
  • Speak to salespeople (what we call “VOC Aggregators”)—people who have sold the same type of product (or similar products) face-to-face.
  • Analyze competitors’ websites. If you don’t have any obvious competitors, look at successful companies in adjacent fields.
  • Add your phone number to the top of every page so you can speak directly to your customers. Even if you have no plans to encourage phone calls on an ongoing basis, it can help to get at least a few of them. You may be able to charm your early callers into becoming long‑term user testers.
  • Offer incentives for visitors to complete surveys. The more you offer as an incentive, the higher the percentage of responses you will get.
  • Panel survey tools can be helpful. You choose your target audience from the panel of users, type your questions, and receive responses within hours. They work best for products and services that have broad appeal.

How to measure what’s working

Step 8 of our methodology is “Carrying out experiments on your website.” Many people with low‑traffic websites believe that testing isn’t for them because tests will take too long to reach significance, and ultimately it’s not worth the effort.

But that isn’t the case. If you follow the advice below, there’s no reason not to frequently test on your website—and realize all the benefits that go with it.

Test big, bold ideas

Testing big, bold ideas is especially important when you have a low‑traffic website. Test things that your visitors care about. Overcome their main objections. Highlight the things they love. Change the offer, or at least how it’s presented. Test things that might double the conversion rate.

User testing

We highly recommend user‑testing your ideas. User tests are a great way to understand visitors and measure the performance of pages. User tests have many huge advantages over A/B‑tests:

  • They are quick to carry out. A user test can take less than ten minutes.
  • They allow you to gather qualitative insights. A two‑month A/B test may tell you which page performed better, but a ten‑minute user test tells you why.
  • They provide granular insights. An A/B‑test will only reveal which page is better—that’s just one fact about the whole page—but a user test will reveal which parts of the page work.
Usability‑testing tools can make you want to cry.
The best user tests make you want to cry. Because the truth hurts. For that reason, most marketers shy away from them. The best marketers are those who rapidly accept the criticism, use it to improve the page, and then user‑test again.

A/B testing

How many conversions do you need for A/B‑testing? It depends on the following factors:

  • Your current conversion rate. The fewer conversions you get, the longer it takes to detect an increase.
  • The increase in conversion rate that you’re trying to detect. A 100% increase can be detected about four times faster than a 50% increase.
  • How statistically confident you want to be. If you wanted to be 99.99% sure that your new page wasn’t winning just by chance, you’d have to wait a long time.

Using a A/B‑test‑duration calculator (like this one), you can estimate how long an A/B test would take. If the calculator shows that all your tests would take more than six weeks, we recommend you only user‑test ideas and return to A/B‑testing once your business has grown.

If you’re able to run A/B tests on your low‑traffic website, here are several effective strategies:

  • Measure “micro‑conversions.” Imagine conversion goals as a spectrum. On the right‑hand side of the spectrum is what you ideally want—something like net profit or lifetime customer value. Such metrics tend to be untimely, meaning that you’d take months or years to measure their true value. On the left‑hand side of the spectrum lie metrics like click‑through or engagement rate. Such “intermediate” metrics are much larger in number and can be measured instantly, but you can’t be confident that they correlate with overall long‑term success. The less traffic your website gets, the more you need to rely on “intermediate” metrics towards the left‑hand side of the spectrum.
  • Test on important pages. This one may be obvious, but test only those pages that almost all of your customers see, like your main landing page or checkout funnel. Or you can go one step further up the funnel: If you run online ads, you can experiment to see which ad messages get the highest click‑through rates. Ads get loads of impressions—because typically fewer than 10% of viewers click through—so you can reach significance more than ten times quicker. The same goes for TV ads, provided the ad has a trackable URL (which it should).
  • Combine similar pages into one test. If you have ten landing pages and want to test the call‑to‑action button, then apply the same change to all those pages and include them in the same test. Some companies have many more landing pages than they need, maybe because they want to make each landing page bespoke to a particular keyword. We often consolidate such pages into one, then optimize the heck out of it.
  • Reduce the statistical significance at which you’ll declare a winner. It has become the norm to declare a winning test at a statistical significance of 95%, but that’s not to say you can’t use a different figure. It would be a shame to conclude, “If I can’t have 95% confidence, I won’t run an A/B test at all.” That’s like saying, “I’m a perfectionist. If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all.” Most marketing decisions are made without any measurement, so don’t rule out the possibility of ending a test at, say, 90% confidence—or even 85% confidence—especially if the alternative is to launch the page and hope for the best. Sure, your chances of declaring false positives increase, but the benefits of testing ideas usually hugely outweigh the slim risk of promoting a losing page.
  • Fixed‑period testing. Many A/B‑testing tools now monitor your tests continuously and tell you when there’s a winner. In addition, you may specify a maximum duration for each test, after which you’ll make a decision regardless. If the control was winning at that point, you might choose to promote it. If the challenger was winning, and you’re confident it was based on a research‑driven hypothesis, you might decide to promote it. If the challenger was based on a risky hypothesis, you might choose not to take the risk. Either way, this approach is more rigorous than how most early‑stage companies make decisions.
  • Temporarily increase the amount of traffic to the page being tested (assuming it’s of a similar target audience), even if it means sacrificing some profitability. If the new page wins, the traffic may turn out to be more profitable than you had expected.

You’re in good company

The techniques described in this article are invaluable. We know no better way to grow low‑traffic websites such as startups, B2B, and early‑stage companies.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take heart in the knowledge that every successful company has had to pass through this stage at one point. And things will only get easier.

As in many fields of creativity, it helps to have a spirit of experimentation. So don’t give up because your first attempt did not reveal insights.

Try, fix, try again, fix, gather insights, make changes…

…and get one of those graphs that goes off the scale.

If you need help, we have worked with businesses like yours in over 80 different verticals, 40 countries, and 11 languages. So whatever your situation, chances are we already have experience with something very similar. (If you’re curious about this, ask us.)

To see how dramatically we change our clients’ lives, see the 100+ client testimonials and success stories on this page. For example, one of our clients went from a startup with five team members to a $1 billion valuation. Another was awarded entry into Deloitte’s U.K. Technology Fast 50 for an incredible 875% growth.

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