Conversion vs Traffic: What You Should Focus On

Abby J Wilson
6 minutes

“Hi Abby, I’ve been selling and running a sales organization since you were in high school or perhaps middle school maybe.”

When I saw that intro line in my inbox I didn’t take it too seriously. It was an email from an inbound lead asking for, “a sales machine instead of a troupe of sales people to manage!” But as we spoke it made me reconsider that opening line. 

He was focused on getting more traffic. I was focused on increasing conversions on his website to make the most of his current traffic. In other words, conversion rate optimization (CRO).

This inbound - let’s call him Ben - had spent about 6 months investing half of his time in content marketing and wasn’t seeing any results. Although he was ranking for some of his target keywords and seeing more traffic, he wasn’t seeing any sales. 

I told Ben that I could help him generate revenue but it seems like we had different ideas of the best path to take here. 

He asked me if I have a legacy site with a better SEO and keyword score than his. 

Not exactly the right question if you’re trying to generate revenue from your website.

SEO and keyword strategy are great for bringing more people to your website. Traffic is definitely the first step to turning your website into a sales machine.

But people don’t making purchasing decisions based on your keyword score, Ben!! How is SEO is going to entice people to buy. 

Let me put it this way. 

Just because someone walks into the Apple Store doesn’t mean they’re going to buy anything. Which is why Apple invested so much into the aesthetic and customer experience. 

What Comes First? Increase Traffic or Increase Conversions?

If your website is getting very low traffic (

If that’s you, invest in standard UX and UI design that’s user-friendly.  You also want to make sure that there’s a clear path to purchase. If people find your website difficult to use, they’ll leave and the majority will never come back.

So use best practices to optimize for conversions if you don’t have the traffic to study.

Once you do have more visitors, start doing user research (my blog on research) to establish a baseline of user behavior and begin testing. 

So while you can’t do research based conversion optimization without data i.e. traffic, you should always follow best practices to help people along the path to purchase. 

Always be optimizing.

How conversion rate optimization can save your marketing budget

A simple way to get the highest ROI for your marketing and advertising budget, is to extract as much as you can out of the existing traffic. In other words…

Maximize what you already have. If you double your conversion rate, you can potentially quadruple the ROI of your marketing dollars. On top of that, any new traffic you attract can help your business grow. 

You’re wasting money if you try to get more traffic without investing in conversion rate optimization. It’s the equivalent of sending your best leads to your worst performing sales team. Not every website is primed to make the sale. That being said, traffic and conversions are a bit of the chicken and the egg situation.

How to Calculate your Conversion Rate

It’s important to assess the current situation. Don’t assume everything’s fine when it’s not.


Assuming you’ve made the investment to increase traffic to your website it’s time to evaluate your conversion rate.

First, define what qualifies as a conversion for your website. For some websites it might be making a purchase.

On my own website scheduling a call with me counts as a conversion.

Once you’ve decided what a conversion looks like for you, take the total number of clicks on  that call to action button (CTA) and divide that by the total number of visitors. 

The average landing page conversion rate is 2.35%.

But I’m not here to tell you to strive to be average. Whatever your current conversion rate is, even if it’s higher than 2%, you can improve it. 

Two approaches to evidence-based conversion rate optimization

Once you have traffic and you’ve done user research to establish a baseline, it’s time to assess the situation. 

Map out your ideal path to purchase. This is one that I worked on for a client based on the website for their online school. I used XMind to make this diagram but you can map this out however you like. 

Ideal paths to purchase


Their website had a straightforward layout. From the home page there were CTAs and a navbar that lead to the Certificates and Courses pages. From those pages, people could immediately apply. 

If they weren’t ready to apply they could click on Learn More and were given more information about the classes. At this stage in the path they were offered another chance to apply or request a demo. 

Now if we lived in a perfect world, everyone would follow the path to purchase and convert. But that’s not the world we live in.


In this example, what happened in reality was that the majority of visitors bounced off of the home page before investigating further. Of the few that made it to the Course of Certificate page, even fewer converted.

The goal of your conversion rate optimization strategy should be for more people to follow the ideal path to purchase. 

So map out what the ideal path to purchase would be for your website and compare it to what’s really going on. 

If people are following the path but dropping off along the way, you can probably do A/B testing to improve the conversion rate. But if people are going on completely different paths all over your website, it’s time to redesign your website. 

Always Be Optimizing 

Regardless of your conversion rate or traffic level, there’s always room for improvement. 

If you have good traffic, extract the most data you can from it. Develop A/B testing and see what your visitors respond to. 

Even if you don’t have good traffic, there’s still room for optimization. Follow UI and UX best practices and make sure there’s a clear path to purchase. 

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