Counting Conversions

Stephen Yagielowicz
Get a group of adult webmasters together and one discussion that you are likely to hear revolves around today’s rapidly declining conversion ratios; with some operators reporting rates in the 1:40,000+ range on general traffic — a rate which is a far cry from the “1:200 is doing OK” days.

Conversions — it is a widely used term that means different things to different people, but in the premium adult website market, it typically means the ratio between the number of prospects visiting a site and the number of sales made to that prospect pool.

Is it that simple? Well, yes and no. Let us dig a little deeper:

Comparing Apples to Oranges: The Affiliate Factor

One of the first issues to examine is the differing ways by which sponsors measure the traffic sent by affiliates; a factor that directly influences reported conversion ratios. This is not a matter of “raws” vs. “uniques,” but of which page the visitor is required to hit before the affiliate receives credit. For example, “Sponsor A” counts all visitors sent to its sites, while “Sponsor B” only counts visitors that click through a warning page and into a website. “Sponsor C” may only count those visitors that actually hit the join page.

This matters because an affiliate could make one sale by sending the same volume of traffic to each of these sponsors; but Sponsor A might report a ratio of 1:1,000, while the second sponsor might report 1:100, and Sponsor C, 1:10.

In this example, although each sponsor received the same volume of traffic and made the same number of sales, the ratios appear to be much better for Sponsor B, and even more so for Sponsor C.

This is not a problem when you are sending traffic to your own paysite, since you can count your conversions however you want — but it underscores the vital importance of counting your own affiliate out-clicks, so that you can make intelligent clicks-to-revenue assessments of those relationships. Carefully check your sponsor’s terms of service to see if it specifies which page a surfer needs to hit; but your own raw counts divided by actual payouts is the only consistent comparison of conversion rates between different sponsors.

For an even closer look at sponsor conversions, some companies allow and enable the use of Google Analytics code within affiliate links. For operators that are serious about tracking their conversion rates, whether they are affiliates or not, Google Analytics offers a free, robust toolset that visually represents all of the steps along the conversion chain, illustrating any problem areas and missed opportunities.

Mind Your Own Business

While affiliates can observe the conversion ratios of their sponsors, webmasters are able to change the conversion ratios of their own sites. I used the word “change” because any alteration you make might not be an improvement — underscoring the need to test and evaluate the net result of any changes using a tool such as Google Analytics.

Examples of conversion ratios you might want to monitor include the “bounce rate,” which for adult sites may involve the percentage of surfers that hit a warning page and then do not click through into the website — rather, they “bounce” off it. This is partially due to folks who did not want to see porn, now warned away; partially due to your site’s design, content and presentation; and partially due to crawlers or other entities that may not be able to trigger a JavaScript “enter” link — an effective strategy for filtering access by unwanted useragents.

There is more to improving your conversion ratios than filtering traffic. There are a number of on- and off-page factors and basic business decisions that influence conversions, including credibility and price points.

Pricing and Payments

There is no discounting the effect of the global economy on discretionary spending — and this includes paying for porn. Trying to sell the same over-priced content to budget conscious consumers, when they have so many free options available, plays a huge role in declining conversion ratios — and while the content may remain the same (lowering production costs), pricing needs to change.

Adult paysite pricing has historically been very arbitrary, with folks’ basing pricing and affiliate payouts simply upon what “the other guy” is doing — rather than upon an actual cost and P&L analysis.

It’s all fine and dandy to say “I’ll charge $29.95 and payout 50 percent,” and many sites use this (or a similar) “strategy” — but that strategy is only the copying of what someone else copied from yet another guy, and so on and so on. Picking numbers like that out of thin air and hoping it’ll be fine because it worked 10 years ago, simply isn’t good enough in 2010 — and it really wasn’t good enough in 2000, either. You have to grab a calculator and spreadsheet and then figure out your own cash flow.

You have to know exactly what your costs are (not guess what they are); including the average bandwidth, content and other overhead expenses for each member, to know how much you are making (or even if you’re really making anything), before you can decide how much you can afford to pay out as a referral. Once you have a figure, make payout offers on the high side of your profitability range to attract more interest, but it all starts by setting a price point that is superattractive to consumers and boosts conversions.

You also need to make sales easier, so that you will make more of them. Set your site up to take as many payment options as possible, preferably in an automated cascade, and make it fast and easy for the customer. Remember, however, that each payment method and each payment provider faces unique circumstances that can affect your conversions at any given time — such as intervention from banks and other agencies — but the more options you offer, the more sales and better conversions you will enjoy.

Seals and Security

With all of the media attention given to online security, coupled with the personal experiences and anecdotal stories of adult consumers, giving the prospect a sense of security is another vital ingredient of making the sale and boosting conversions.

There are a number of certification programs available, such as, along with other “safe site” and “hacker proof” programs that make the customer more comfortable — and thus more likely to purchase when they see that “seal of approval.”

The use of secure HTTP (https://) for at least your payment pages, and perhaps the entire tour or website, is another great way of boosting consumer confidence (and a part of PCI compliance for the former). You can increase your site’s conversions by pointing out this secure connection to the prospect, explaining how its security benefits help to protect the transaction’s privacy.

As you can see, there are many factors influencing conversions and many ways of improving them. With the dwindling numbers often seen today, it looks like many sites are in need of making some improvements — at least to those factors under their control.