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Most advertising reps for industries like print and radio would tell you to expect between 1.5% and 2% return on your advertising dollar.
What does that mean? When I spend $1,000 on those media, I expect to get 100% of my cost back quickly. Certainly 1.5% to 2.% of the audience won't come in to a retail BM store unless you're giving something away.
A large study a few years ago found 1.8% of visitors bought from major ecommerce websites.
Aren't you guys integrated a blog/forum into your sites? (or is that only for newbies to do as they aren't busy enough hehe)
I'm pretty sure the extra traffic will reduce ROI, but it really depends on how you guage the traffic (coming for the store versus the article).
We, in contrast, rely on purely organic traffic and offer a number of pure info and service-pages in addition to our shop. Average sales ratio amounts to far below 1%, but I am really sure that many of our visitors, who only took a look at the service-pages, will come back later on.
In addition to that: Once you are well established in the serps, you presumbaly attract quite a number of spiders from scraper sites and similar sources, who are only scanning your pages for content but nevertheless count as visitors. For instance, I noticed, that only 15% of our visitors, who entered our shop-system, ever visit a second page there, and I doubt this is only due to bad design: I got this ratio from the session-ids registered, and if I run a little content-grabbing-script with a php-file-command, a new session-id is set for every such command.
Many of your "visitors" are not human beings and the more you rely on organic traffic, the higher this ratio is. Since those von-Neumann-machines hardly ever buy anything, this automatically means, that your sales ratio will be lower.
The fluctuation for me (adwords in this case) is other advertisers so I spend at least an hour over the course of each and every week tweaking and adapting against the usual ad changes and new advertisers.
Best thing anyone can do?
Don't create the ad and then forget about it. From the moment it goes live you have stats coming in. Take time each week spotting trends and patterns as your ad campaign grows in age. Use it all to your advatange and never let it run unchecked.
My sites get around 30% from type in traffic, 15% from CPC, 5% from shopping type sites and less than 1% from general search (slightly better from yahoo and aj than google or msn). Because most of my traffic is from search engines, I average around 1%.
The time of year also changes the conversion percentage. The products I sell are useful year round, but are typically indoor products so they tend to sell better in the colder months. December is typically the best (because of Christmas), but the first quarter (Jan, Feb and March) is my best quarter. Back in the dawn of the internet, the summer slow down started at the end of May, but it has been moving earlier each year. Looking at my long term averages, my summer dropoff should be starting around the end of March this year.
Also, don't pay attention to low volume fluctuations. I look at only multi day averages where small changes aren't noticed. This gives me a smooth graph where I can actually see seasonal fluctuations and website changes. I can also see major holidays and a few special occasions. Looking back over the last decade, I can pick out Christmas and Thanksgiving of each year, 9/11 (my sales fell by 90% that day), MLK day for a couple of years in the mid 90s (the first national 3 day weekend after Christmas saw a boost in sales back in the early years) and a stretch of about a month as the internet boom collapsed on the stock market.