Guide To Using Funnels To Master End-To-End Website Conversion Optimization

Sometimes - despite having awesome tools at your disposal like session recordings and page insights - it can be difficult to know where you can get the most bang for your buck when it comes to optimizing conversions on your website. This is especially true if you get a lot of traffic to different webpages across your site, as these tend to generate a lot of "noise" when looking for conversion optimization opportunities.

Thankfully, there's a better way to find these kinds of opportunities rather than looking for needles in haystacks - namely, using conversion funnels:

Tamboo conversion funnels

Funnels let you to model and measure the different conversion paths your visitors can take on your website. Although that might sound fancy, all it really means is that funnels let you see how many visitors move from one page of your website to the next, in a sequence that ultimately leads them to carrying out some goal you have, such as getting them to sign up for a trial or making a purchase.

You might be surprised to hear that your website probably has more than a few conversion paths that your visitors can take.

The most obvious conversion path is the classic "Homepage to Purchase" path, where your visitors come to your homepage and take the direct steps you've outlined that lead to a purchase. A simple example of this funnel might look like:

  1. Visits Homepage
  2. Views Pricing Page
  3. Views Registration
  4. Signs Up for Trial

But the truth is that not everyone who performs a conversion on your website will visit your homepage. And not just that, but this is an example of a macro funnel. There may be a number of other conversion steps embedded in your website that actually lead to a final conversion:

  1. Views Blog Post
  2. Uses Free Tool Mentioned in Blog Post
  3. Views Free Tool "Upsell" Landing Page
  4. Creates a Free Trial Account
  5. Begins Free Trial

As you can see, funnels can be as coarse or as granular as you like. But the key takeaway here should be that your website probably has a number of different paths that you've designed for your visitors to take on their path to conversion - and modeling and measuring each one of them can help you see which ones work best or need work.

Okay, so we've established that funnels let you model the different steps that you've built to guide visitors to conversion goals you've defined. But how do you use that to find opportunities to increase conversions?

How to "read" a conversion funnel

If you haven't yet, you should create at least one funnel for your website - even if it's a simple "Homepage to Purchase" funnel.

Having this in place will really drive home and illustrate the points in this guide, and will help you to start thinking about the other kinds of funnels you might have on your website (or the ones that you could design).

Funnels are actually pretty simple to read (and that's one of the benefits of using them). Let's take a simple example:

A simple funnel

As you can see, this funnel has only three steps:

  1. Visited Homepage
  2. Viewed Registration
  3. Completed Registration

The first thing you'll want to look at is your overall conversion rate. (That's the percent underneath the trophy.) Sometimes, you might be rocking a good conversion rate and there really isn't much to be done in terms of conversion optimization to increase revenue. In those instances, the only way to higher revenues is to increase traffic. But for many of us, that's (not yet) the case - there's still a lot that can be done to "fine tune" the traffic that you have today.

If you think that you've still got room on your conversion rate (and you probably do), the next thing to look at is the number of people who make it through the first step of your funnel.

In our example funnel, you'll see that out of 1,171 sessions, only 76 of those sessions (6.49%) make it to the registration page. In all honesty, that's not half bad. But if we want to boost conversions, that should be the first step of our funnel that we tackle. Not just because it has the lowest transition percent (6.49%), but because any gain that we make with that step will unlock the most conversions possible.

That's because we have way more visitors coming in through steps closer to the top of the funnel than at steps lower in the funnel.

Just to illustrate this point, if we increased the number of visitors we can get to go from Viewed Registration (76) to Completed Registration (29) by 1% (from 38.16% to 39.16%), that would yield us only one more signup. But if we could increase the number of visitors we get to go from Visited Homepage (1,171) to Viewed Registration (76) by 1% (from 6.49% to 7.49%), that would give us 88 visitors total reaching Viewed Registration, which (at the existing 38.16% conversion rate) would give us 5 more signups overall.

And so, the first step you should take is to optimize steps from left to right, freeing up the conversions that are "stuck" by those earlier steps. The gains are far higher than trying to optimize later stages of your funnel.

Watch what's going on.

After you've identified the steps of your funnel that you feel are good candidates for optimization, the next step is to watch session recordings and to examine page insights of the visitors hitting those steps but not making their way through.

Tamboo makes it easy to do this, giving you two main options:

  • Under each funnel step, you can click on the "Watch" button. This will show you all of the session recordings available of people going through that step.
  • In your session recordings list or when looking at page insights, you can filter the information you see based on the funnel steps that visitors have (and haven't) taken. Simply pick your funnel from the Funnels search option and pick the steps that you want to see information for.

You'll want to queue up a few weeks worth of recordings or click data to get the full picture, but watching these recordings and looking at these page insights will help you see what those visitors who don't move beyond a step choose to do instead - which can give you insights into what changes you should consider making.

Then, optimize for your traffic sources.

After you've set up your various funnels and have optimized them at a high level, it's time to dive down deep and to start optimizing your funnels based on your traffic sources.

When looking at your funnels in Tamboo, you'll notice that each funnel contains traffic source statistics:

Conversion funnel statistics

These statistics help you to understand how different traffic sources perform in your funnel. Optimizing your overall funnel is only the first step: Optimizing for traffic sources is the next.

It should come as no surprise that visitors from different traffic sources behave differently from visitors from other traffic sources (at least if you've been paying attention in our other guides): People coming from a Google search when searching for a specific keyword are bound to expect something different than people coming from a blog post you shared on Twitter.

The key is to see how these different traffic sources perform in your funnels and to make sure that you're investing your effort in the right places.

If you find that your SEO efforts perform well in certain funnels while your social media campaigns don't, you may want to do two things:

  1. Double down on your SEO traffic by tuning your funnel to serve them better.
  2. Splinter off your social media traffic into a separate funnel dedicated to serving them better.

It's near impossible to serve two disjointed groups of people with one approach. It's far better to create dedicated funnels that serve each of them better - separately.

The other thing you will want to look for are which traffic sources your funnels perform well with as well as which traffic sources your funnels don't peform well with.

When you see that your funnels perform well with one type of traffic source, that should be a clue that you should be looking to send visitors from other traffic sources that are similar to that traffic sources into your funnel. Let's say that your funnel seems to do well with a particular subreddit - can you find other subreddits that might be similar? Or how about other websites that would have similar people visiting them? The possibilities are virtually as endless as the Internet is.

On the other hand, when you see that your funnels don't perform well with certain traffic sources, that's usually a clue that you should either develop a new funnel specifically for those traffic sources, or that you should give up on those traffic sources altogether. Let's say that you get a fair amount of traffic from comments you make blogs. Either find a way to monetize that traffic with a funnel that will resonate with the readers of those blogs - or give up on using blog commenting as a traffic-building strategy. Remember: If you can't convert the traffic you're getting, it's not traffic worth building.