Why You Should Focus On Clicks Before Conversions

Here’s a thought to ponder – clicks are the currency of the internet.

Yes, we sell goods. Real money changes hands. People get rich, people go broke, problems get solved.

And this year, everyone and their mother will be talking about getting more conversions:

Search queries for the term “conversion optimization” continue to trend upward. Graph via Google Trends.

But in our quest for more, we forget a very simple thing.

Without clicks, conversion isn’t possible.

Sadly, we don’t talk enough about the art of getting more clicks outside the context of “how to write better headlines” or “catchy social media images.” This needs to change.

Clicks are the best insight we have into what drives people to action. If you’re not putting click behavior under a microscope on every level, you don’t stand a chance at reliably building online marketing funnels that convert.

If you want to “future proof” an online business, you don’t need to understand “Social” or “Email” or “Search.” You need to understand clicks.

Platforms will come and go, but the internet will always be backed by an economy of clicks.

Understand The Ecosystem Where You Want The Click To Occur

Platforms may be overrated, but it is vital that you understand how your fans and followers use those platforms if you want to have any chance of getting clicks (and later subscribers, sharers, and customers).

This is why a lot of direct mail marketers will tell you, “send your marketing in a padded yellow envelope.” They understand what your mailbox looks like and that a yellow padded envelope is much harder for you to classify as “junk mail.”

Manilla Envelope

Well, the same is true online. If you want to get more conversions, you have to understand the environment in which the click occurs.

The companies doing this best right now are Upworthy and BuzzFeed.

Let’s look at how BuzzFeed presents the same article over Email, Facebook and Twitter:


BuzzFeed Selfie Email



Selfie Olympics Facebook
Notice how they didn’t just republish the same thing everywhere BuzzFeed has a presence? Three different channels, three different images, three different(ish) headlines.

This is because BuzzFeed realizes their Twitter followers are not all the same as their Facebook followers – and that the demographics of each social media platform are very different:

Social Media Platform Demographics

For a business whose entire revenue model is based on getting eyes on content – so they can sell “native advertising” to Fortune 500 clients – it is imperative that they make the most of each channel.

Even though you’re probably not BuzzFeed, the lessons here are tough to ignore.

How To Understand What Gets Clicks

Understanding the different ecosystems isn’t difficult, but it is a lot more work.

The work involves watching trends within your social media followings, diving deep into analytics data, and paying very close attention to the actions your audience takes.

On Facebook

To start, let’s get a high level understanding of your Facebook ecosystem

Using Facebook’s Graph Search you can see what Pages, Books, Authors, and TV shows people who are connected to your Facebook page are interested in.

Tv Shows Fans of Your Page Like

If you “Like” these same pages, and organize them in a separate list, you can get at least a partial view of what your Facebook fans’ feeds look like.

A Glimpse At Your Facebook Fans Feeds

Keeping this feed of interests gives you insight into what other branded content your audience is exposed to on Facebook and what else they’re clicking on.

This feed also reveals what other pages are doing to visually appeal to your fans. Facebook posts with images get 39% more interaction on average, so knowing what everyone else is doing can help you design and select images that really stand out – and get more clicks.

In Google Analytics

It’s easy to think only of places like Facebook and Twitter as ecosystems or “platforms,” but so is your website.

Don’t believe me? Look at the comments section on any Chris Brogan or Copyblogger post, and you’ll find a whole community of people who know each other and like to banter back and forth. That is a platform.

We’re so obsessed with promoting what’s new that we often take for granted the visitors who are exposed to our brand through content we’ve published long ago. Stick with me here, because I’m about to blow your mind.

The path to first engagement (comment, share, subscription, etc.) on your blog might look like this:

  1. Search a topic
  2. Land on old blog post
  3. See more promising content linked to in blog post
  4. Click link
  5. Read 3-4 more posts
  6. Comment or Subscribe

Why aren’t we paying more attention to the actions being taken in steps 3 and 4? Big shout-out to the folks at Buffer for making this one easy to understand using in-page analytics:

Buffer's 6 of The Best Pieces Of Advice From Successful Writers

Paying attention to what people click on on your own platform gives you insight into what they might click on in the future.

Here are the kinds of links I’ve found to be successful:

If you know which internal links people are clicking on to go deeper into your site you can replicate that when creating future links.

Remember: The deeper readers dive into your content, the more likely they will be to convert to a lead and eventually a customer.

Do this:Open up your in-page analytics report in Google Analytics and navigate to the pages on your site with the lowest bounce rate – these are the pages that draw people in.

Look at the internal links that get the most clicks and ask yourself why someone might click that link. What was it about the phrase that made it clickable?

Look at factors like:

  • The website that referred them to the page
  • The keywords used to get to the page
  • The last page they visited
  • The next page they visited

This data gives you a better understanding of what those visitors are looking for and can help you create a straighter path for them to click and convert.

For example:

Start by going to “All Pages” in the “Behavior” section in Google Analytics.

Behavior Tools in Google Analytics

Let’s say I noticed a page about “entrepreneur self deception” was receiving decent traffic and that the bounce rate was lower than my site average – I would know that people who come to this page are typically digging deeper into the site.

First, I’d use in-page analytics to see how I’ve phrased the links that get the most clicks on this page.

I look at this because I want to understand what these people might be looking for. Clicks don’t just happen; if they’re clicking it means they want something.

Now that I know where they’re going, I want to understand where they came from.

Referral Path Report Google Analytics

Looking at the “Acquisition” drop-down, I’d look at “Source” and “Referral Path” so I can see the exact websites and external pages that visitors came from.

If I want to guide visitors toward a goal, it’s much easier to do this when I know where they’re coming from.

Basically, I gather as much information as I can to reverse engineer how they got into my content.

For example, if I notice traffic to the “entrepreneur self deception” page is coming from a link within a guest post I wrote a few months back, I’ll re-read the guest post to look at everything leading up to that link and try to understand why the click took place.

I’ll also check if that guest post ranks high for a particular keyword and see what other content ranks for that topic – giving me an even better understanding of why they clicked on that guest post in the first place.

Clicking to The End of The Funnel

Yes, this involves a lot of work, but it’s all so I can understand what drives actions and behaviors within my target market.

It’s only once we begin to understand what gets people to click that we can really understand what gets people to convert.

— Tommy Walker

About Tommy Walker
Tommy Walker is the founder of WalkerBots Content Studios, a content marketing consultancy for growth-stage B2B startups and enterprises. Prior to forming his own consultancy, Tommy was the Global Editor-in-Chief of the QuickBooks Resource Center, the Editor-in-Chief at Shopify Plus, and CXL before that.
» More blog posts by Tommy Walker


  1. Dan Levy

    I love this post, Tommy. Especially the part about looking at your pages with the lowest bounce rate to see what sort of content inspires people to drill deeper. We’re always thinking about how to create content that nudges readers further along our customer lifecycle and I think you’ve zeroed in on a really important and under-appreciated metric.

    I wonder how other content marketers out there use bounce rate data to optimize their content?

    • Tommy Walker

      It’s a metric I only started taking more seriously over the past year when I tried to understand “why” people were interacting with my content.

      It was through those pages that I learned the little “hooks” that get people deeper into the content. From there, I was able to incorporate that into future blog posts, guest posts, and tweets in order to pull more traffic from all directions.

      Kind of neat, really

      • Oli Gardner

        Agree with Dan. EVERYONE looks at “high bounce rate pages” for that opportunity to optimize.

        But looking at pages that are really successful, can provide a ton of insight that you might be able to translate to those other, weaker pages.

        Nice one.

  2. lily prichard

    I definitely agree with you but I am a big believer in starting off with a great convertible website before focusing on getting traffic, if its paid or organic or whatever. I know you need to have those clicks to do a/b testing and see what converts better but I already know what converts – above the fold cta’s and hence i focus on the conversion before spending money or effort on the clicks.

    • Tommy Walker

      I think you misunderstand the post. It’s not necessarily about getting “more” traffic, it’s about learning what gets people to click, so they can go deeper into your site.

      If you understand that, you can pull significant amounts of clicks no matter what part of the page someone is on, above the fold or otherwise.

      (figure, further down the page clicks are usually people doing more research) Trying to approach them the same way as your above the fold clicks (impulse clickers) means you’re not optimizing the page for all buyer persona types.

  3. edwin eder

    Dear tommy,
    i am a new blogger 1yrs old i called it, i start nov 2013 now its 2014. yeah its al about “click” i dont know if my blog is optomize so that i can generate click from blog to my facebook page. im struggling in this area i learn of my own. i got white paper in my 4th blog “rock harder effect” the only matter i dont to optomize who were. im G+ you check my name
    thank you,
    respecfully yours,

  4. Rob Rosenblatt

    As a relatively new member of the marketing world, Is this just a reminder (excellent, by the way) about the importance of engagement? Placing clicks in the proper perspective of a long term, strategic context?
    I agree completely, that clicks>conversion. It seems unlikely that your best advocates will promote you if their interactions with your site are superficial at best.
    Case in point..I’ve read your article, clicked on some interesting hyperlinks and then checked out some previous posts of yours…and here I am asking a question.

    • Tommy Walker

      That’s a very good question Rob!

      It’s more about looking at the data you already have to make every aspect of your content stronger.

      All to often we’re so focused on producing more and more, that we forget to look at what’s “working” already. So, we end up in this void, wondering what to do next.

      If you can look back at what’s already getting attention, and have a better understanding of your competitive landscape, you aren’t just guessing & hoping when you create, you’re doing it in a way you know already stands out.

      Take it away from clicks and conversions for a minute, and lets look at movie trailers.

      If you read some of the research on what makes a good movie trailer, you’ll notice that trailers will use certain kinds of music, pacing & color pallets “borrowed” from successful films in order to get potential movie goers excited to see the new movie.

      They do this, because there’s already positive associations with the first film, so they use what they know to make the new film look even more enticing.

      That’s essentially what we’re doing here. analyzing user patterns within each platform (both visually and “verbally – through text) to have a better understanding of how to stand out, and get attention within each platform.

      Or, in short, we’re crunching a ton of data to become more “familiar” and get more clicks, no matter where we are.

  5. Transfer Etiket

    I love this post, Tommy. Especially the part about looking at your pages with the lowest bounce rate to see what sort of content inspires people to drill deeper.

  6. Ian Campbell

    Excellent article Tommy, this has really made me think about what I am measuring on my blog and what I produce for social media. I particularly like the part about analyzing links on your own blog to optimize future content. I had not considered that before and like a lot of other people I was more interested in getting people to my site rather than keeping them there when they came. Thank you for the ideas, much appreciated. ~Ian

    • Oli Gardner

      It’s a great mindset. Trying to keep people around, through intelligent content pathways will enhance the love people have for you, your site and naturally your business.

  7. David Rothwell

    Excellent article.

    And before Clicks, comes – Impressions. And before Impressions, comes – Context. http://www.clickscustomerscashflow.com

  8. Suttida Yang

    Great tips! Another way to understand ‘clicks’ prior to conversions is to employ and harness the power of in-content links (aka hyperlinks). This is a great way to understand the following:

    – Which hyper-linked keywords are driving the most traffic to the other content on your website. With 71% of marketers expected to increase content marketing budgets this year, it’s important to understand this metric (i.e. link-to-text ratio) to help with editorial decisions and then tie it in with the other channels of marketing as well (e.g. email, landing page copy, SEO, etc.).
    – Increase credibility and also look for new revenue streams by linking outside of your website to like-minded/relevant content without interrupting the reader/visitor experience. Tools like LinkSmart, help marketers and bloggers do this really well.

  9. Sunitha

    Very nice post to get higher clicks and gaining huge visitors! Enhancing the readability experience of the user is very essential.

  10. Nick

    I disagree with this premise, as I have gotten high traffic (1,000 per day) and very low conversions rates (>0.1%) since I started my newsletter. It’s better to find something that has a high conversion probability before investing a lot in advertising.

  11. Denny

    I really needed the part on facebook… very precious for me ..thx a lot!

  12. SAM

    thanks for explaining us in detail. This post is really very helpful for us

  13. Valves

    actionable post this is what i was looking for thanks for sharing with us.
    you did a great job thanks a bunch..

  14. Mobile Chiller

    Very useful info. Bounce rate is very serious when it comes to sales business because it decreases the conversion rate which result in less sales.