Daniel Burstein

Marketing Research: Average conversion rates

March 19th, 2012

Jon Powell and I recently spoke on a Cisco webinar and were asked that ever-popular question — what is the average conversion rate?

Here’s the answer — 8.2%. You can stop reading the blog post right now.

In all seriousness, I wish I could give such a simple answer. However, the truth is much more complex. We’ll take a look at some average conversion rates in just a moment, but first let me suggest you use this data with caution. And here’s why …


There is no such thing as the ‘right’ conversion rate

There are too many variables that affect conversion to settle on one number, such as:

  • Industry
  • Source of traffic
  • Where that traffic is directed to
  • Seasonality
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • Current marketing campaigns
  • Competitors’ marketing campaigns (if you’re Chevy, and Ford starts giving away free cars, even your best optimization efforts won’t amount to much)
  • Product categories
  • Price points
  • Payment options
  • Even the very definition of what you consider to be a conversion
  • And the list could go on …

The bigger question you need to ask is – why are those who are converting choosing to act, and why are the rest bouncing? A/B testing to produce a customer theory can help you answer that question.

While you’re working on that, let’s look at some of those average conversion rates that everyone is so hungry for. Where they can help you most, I’ve found, is with those inexperienced in marketing.

For example, I was recently helping a local nonprofit, and they were disappointed with the 10% conversion rate they recently achieved on an email send, and were somewhat relieved to learn about some email conversion rates I have seen in the past — theirs ain’t so shabby.

So feel free to turn the below research loose on the inexperienced clients, business leaders or investors you work with.

Since we can’t cover every possible source of traffic in one blog post, I’ve focused on two search marketing channels, using data pulled from recent research conducted by Kaci Bower, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS.


SEO conversion rates


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As you can see in this data from the MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition, while the median is 4% and the average is 8%, we’re not comfortable calling out just one number as the conversion rate for organic traffic. While most marketers achieve conversion rates in the low single digits, there is an impressive range.

And if you just happen to be the marketer nabbing 60% conversion rates from your organic traffic, then drop me a line please! We’d love to write up a MarketingSherpa case study about your efforts. We all could learn from your outstanding SEO efforts.


Paid search traffic conversion rates


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According to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – PPC Edition, the conversion rate for PPC search ads seems only slightly lower than organic search traffic, with a median of 3.5%, and a few more very high performers skewing the average up a little. (Again to the 60%ers, share your tactics with us. We’ll make you famous.)

But there is still a wide variability in conversion rates on paid search traffic. So take these numbers with a grain of salt. Use them to help educate the less marketing-savvy individuals you deal with on a day-to-day basis, but improve your own marketing performance based on your metrics, your KPIs, and A/B testing to learn more about your audience.


Related Resources:

What Your Customers Want: How to predict customer behavior for maximum ROI — Web clinic on March 28, 2012 at 4:00-5:00 pm EDT

Website Optimization: How your peers increase their conversion rate…quickly

Landing Page Optimization: How an engaging headline and revamped layout led to a 26% conversion rate gain

Improving Conversion Rates: How a MarketingExperiments optimization training alum generated triple-digit conversion gains for his client — Web clinic replay

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute Daniel oversees all editorial content coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – working with our team of reporters to dig for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a frequent speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has more than 15 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Marketing Insights Tags: , ,

  1. March 20th, 2012 at 05:33 | #1

    Great blog post! “8.2” is going to be my standard answer from now on, whenever I’m asked what a good conversion rate is 😛

    By the way, I know how to get a 60% Conversion Rate! But you’re not going to like the answer.

    Here’s how to get a 60% CR on SEO: Make a flash based website heavy on beatyfull product images and put only your brand name / domain name in the page title. Oh, and make sure you don’t get any of those pesky links from other sites, they’ll only drive in long tail traffic.

    Here’s how to get a 60% CR on PPC: ONLY make ads on your brand name / domain name and bid 20USD per click. Put a coupon code in the ad copy, that also helps a lot on CTR.

    And in both cases it helps a lot if you sell products where the decision making process or time-to-purchase mind process is very short. Like flowers or condoms, or an outlet on popular brands.

    You won’t make much money, but you’ll get a conversion rate to die for 😀

  2. March 20th, 2012 at 09:01 | #2

    60% conversion rates? If only!
    Whilst I agree that comparing your conversion rates against others can be misleading and may cause you to leave money on the table by not continuing to optimise your site and checkout as much as possible, I think that as an etailer, you want to make sure you are doing the right things and comparing well or doing better than than others within your industry segment.

    This is why I think it would be good to have some sort of listing of average conversion rates by sector. I might be wrong, but didn’t grokdotcom/futurenow used to publish such info?

  3. March 20th, 2012 at 16:56 | #3

    I think this needs to be broken down by type of conversion. Clicks, opt-ins, and purchases would be good general categories. For purchases, about 2% is generally considered average (for most markets).

  4. March 23rd, 2012 at 06:18 | #4

    I agree that for any conversion issue the best number is your own baseline: what you are doing now? Chip away at improving that number.

    With benchmarks, the trick is comparing what you are doing to a very similar scenario, accurately measured and achieved by elite marketers. (Comparing your results to what laggards and incompetent marketers do can only give you a false sense of complacency).

  5. April 11th, 2012 at 09:11 | #5

    Great information—thank you for sharing. If I had a dime for every time I’ve been asked the ‘average conversion rate’ question! Great to see a thoughtful article on it.

  6. April 11th, 2012 at 09:55 | #6

    @David Green Exactly…We have to figure out “your average” and then improve on that every month. If you aren’t moving the needle, you’re not doing something right. Time for some strategy and A/B testing!

  7. April 11th, 2012 at 10:16 | #7

    I’d love to know if enough data has been collected to group conversion rates by general industry categories.
    Drop me a line at namitarp@yahoo.com.

  8. Brecht
    April 11th, 2012 at 10:30 | #8

    Gene nailed it. Which conversions? If my email opt-in rate is 14% of new visitors but my ecommerce transaction rate is 1.25% what’s my CR?

  9. April 11th, 2012 at 12:05 | #9

    The biggest revelation for me regarding conversion rates was the variability from day to day. When I first started doing e-commerce sites, I was under the mistaken assumption that conversion rates would be fairly consistent from day to day, given that nothing was changing on my sites. How wrong! Over a 90 day period, I see variations from a low of ~1.7% percent to a high of over 14%. This is in a niche market, selling a hard good, with an average of 150 visits per day.

    I have thought it would be interesting to do a study that correlates the morning news (or perhaps the phase of the moon ,lol) with conversation rates.

  10. October 24th, 2012 at 21:10 | #10

    Thanks for the information. Very hepfull.

  11. March 10th, 2013 at 23:07 | #11

    wonderful post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists
    of this sector do not notice this. You should proceed your writing.
    I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  12. June 20th, 2013 at 10:26 | #12

    Excelent post. Very useful to know how it moves de conversion rates. Thanks by the content.

  13. October 29th, 2013 at 09:11 | #13

    Nice concise article on average conversion rates. With this being the second ranked article in google for “average conversion rates,” I’m curious what your current conversion rates are for newsletter sign up.

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