One of the most effective ways to boost your business revenue is to optimize your website to maximize the conversion rate. A few changes to the words and layout could lead to a significant boost in the conversion rate.
So before you go off and spend a ton of money on ad campaigns, I suggest you to invest your time and resources to optimize your website so that it becomes a mean, money making machine. Website traffic by itself doesn’t mean much if the visitors are not taking the desired actions when they are on your website.
What is Website Conversion Optimization?
Website conversion rate optimization is about enhancing the design and optimizing the layout, copy, and the different elements on your website to successfully persuade your visitors to take the desired actions.
Conversion optimization is a complicated science, involving skills and knowledge in many disciplines including design, copy writing, analytics, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and psychology.
The good news is that you don’t need to get a PhD in any of the above mentioned subjects in order to improve your website conversion. Drawing upon my years of testing experience, I am going to provide you with a framework you can apply to dramatically increase your website conversion rate and boost your revenue.
Let’s get started!
1) Identify Your Ideal Customer & Understand as Much as Possible about Your Target Audience
To be able to sell to your target audience, you must first identify the type of customer that you can build a profitable and mutually beneficial relationship with. Not everyone can be a good fit for your business. Either they may not get the desired values or that they may not be able to afford what you offer. Thus, it’s more efficient and effective for you to focus your resources on attracting the ideal customer.
Next, you must fully understand the pains, problems, frustrations, or desires of your target audience. Most people are either looking to get rid of a pain point (i.e. treat back pain, get rid of acne scars) or fulfilling a desire (i.e. improve business productivity, increase revenue, look younger, etc.).
The best way to know and understand your target audience is to survey existing customers and prospective customers. You can interview them, ask them to fill out a survey, or send them a link to fill out a survey on SurveyMonkey.com.
Pay attention to the exact words and language they use in describing their problems or desires. Besides the typical demographic related questions, these are the critical questions you should ask them:
- For the non-customers, ask them to describe the problems they are facing with or the desires they are seeking to fulfill. If they are already using a competitor’s product or service, ask them what they like and don’t like about it. Next, ask them what are the benefits and improvements they seek in their search for the next product or service.
- For existing customers, ask them what they like or don’t like about your product or service, how has your product or solution solved their problems or improved their lives, and why did they choose your product or service over other alternatives.
In addition to doing the survey, you should also talk to your sales and customer support teams. Since they interact with the customers often, they may have valuable information about the customers that could help you optimize your website.
2) Clearly and Concisely Describe What You Offer and for Whom
Within a few seconds, your visitors must know exactly what products or services you offer. In addition, your visitors should know whether your offering is right for them or not. Don’t use fluff or empty words such as “best in class”, “state of the art”, “innovative”. Be descriptive and use words that provide information that is meaningful and relevant to your target audience.
I have come across many websites in which I have no idea what the companies do or offer. Don’t make the same mistakes that they do. You may also want to experiment with using a short video (2 minutes or less) to explain how your product or service work. Video is great for engaging the audience and for explaining a complex product.
3) Convey Your Value Proposition Using Clear, Concise, and Benefit Laden Copy
Good copywriting can add a big boost to your conversion rate. The copy and message on your website need to clearly and concisely addresses how you solve your target audience’s pain points or how your product or service fulfill their desires. Keep in mind that people are not looking to buy a product or solution. They are looking for real results! The layout of your home page can follow the format below.
- Be sure to incorporate the exact words and language commonly used and understood by your target audience gathered during the surveying exercise.
- Use a strong headline and a few sentences to clearly convey the compelling values, benefits and results that your target audience will get if they buy your product or service. This is your value proposition and it’s the most important component of your copy. Your value proposition should make your offer highly desirable, credible, and distinguished from your competition. The more your visitors perceive your offer as having compelling values and benefits, the more likely they will take the desired actions on your website.
- Use simple words and layman’s terms, simple sentence structures, and lots of bullet point statements. The bullet point statements make it easier for your website visitors to scan your site for key information.
- Use lots of “You” words in your copy. The focus should be on your target audience, not on you. So talk about their problems or desires, what you can do for them, and how their lives will change with your help.
- Break up your copy into several sections with descriptive subheadings. This allows for ease of scanning. Remember that people do not like to read on the web. So, make it easy for them to quickly scan your web page and quickly see the main components of your web page!
4) Convey Credibility and Trust
In general, people are wary of trying something new because of the fear of the unknowns and uncertainties. This is especially true in high stakes B2B transactions. Most people would rather stick with the status quo rather than risk trying a new vendor or supplier. To alleviate these fears, most people would follow along with what other people do, especially people that they know and trust. So, to help your prospects alleviate the fears of the unknowns and uncertainties, there are a few things you could do to increase your trust and credibility with them.
- Show logos of customers that you have done business with, especially logos of recognizable clients (i.e. IBM, FedEx, Wells Fargo, Nike, etc).
- Show testimonials of existing customers, especially testimonials that describe how they have benefited from your products or services. Testimonials are more powerful in videos or if accompanied with photos of the clients. If you have an e-commerce business, then include reviews for the products from customers.
- Share case stories and describe how your solutions or products have helped your clients achieve the desired results or outcomes. Be sure to include quantifiable data if possible (i.e. helped client X increase sales by 50%).
- Improve the look and feel of your site so that it looks attractive and professional (more on this in the section below). An ugly looking site can come across as spammy or not trustworthy.
- Show off any press mentions your business received.
- Include an iron clad no risk guarantee.
- Show off any awards, certifications, and licenses your business have earned or acquired.
- Include your company’s address and phone number in the footer and in the “contact us” page.
- If you have an e-commerce business, you should display your site security certificates such as the ones from VeriSign and McAffee.
5) Enhance User Experience
Your website represents your brand and your image. As such, it is important that your website provide your visitors with a positive experience when they visit your website. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression. If your site design looks ugly or not user friendly, you will turn off your visitors and they will mostly likely hit the back button and start searching for a different site to visit. So, be willing to pay good money for a skilled designer because the investment is worth it!
Here are some tips to improve the user experience:
- Don’t use too many colors. Use 2 main colors, a background color, and 1 accent color for call to action buttons or to highlight something important. The colors you pick should work well together. Check out colourlovers.com for color palettes and color ideas.
- Use ample white spaces to separate each element (texts, image) from each other so that your site doesn’t look cluttered and busy. What you should aim for is a “clean” design that visually guides the visitors to consume the content from top to bottom and left to right (F-shape).
- Use professional looking graphics and images. Avoid using stock images as much as possible. Rather, use photos of actual people and actual products from your business.
- The navigation should use words that are intuitive and should be in places that are common on most websites, which is usually on the top of the page and beneath the header or on the right side of the logo.
- Avoid long sentences and long paragraphs of texts. Each section should have a subheading title and the paragraphs should be short. Use bullet points as much as possible. On the web, people scan rather than read.
- Use a light color for the background color and a dark color for the texts. Dark gray texts on white background is quite common.
- Bright colors should be used sparingly and should only be used to draw people’s attention to important elements on your site, such as the “Call to Action” button (i.e. “Add to Cart”, “Contact Us”, “Get Free Trial”, etc).
- Do not present your visitors with too many choices or too many actions. Too many choices and options could paralyze theirs decision making process. As a result, they may end up not taking any actions at all. Each page should have a focused message and 1 primary call to action. You could have a secondary of alternative call to action, but it should be less subtle and should not compete with your primary call to action.
- If you use a form to collect visitors’ information, don’t include more fields than necessary. The more work you ask your site visitors to do, the less likely they will follow through with the desired action.
6) Tell your Visitors What They Need to Do and Why They Should Do it Today
When visitors visit your site, you just don’t want them to leave without taking any actions. You want them to click on the “buy” or “add to cart” buttons, sign up for a free consultation, fill out a short form to download a white paper, or sign up for a free webinar. Whatever action that you want them to take, make it very clear what they need to do and make it very easy for them to take that desired action!
- Each web page should have only 1 primary call to action and everything on your web page should work together cohesively to persuade your visitors to take that primary action. You may include alternative actions (i.e. see tour of the product, download a free white paper, etc) that your visitors can take they are not yet ready to commit to your primary call to action.
- Use a prominent color (orange, blue, red, green) that stands out from the color scheme on your website for your primary “call to action” button. For the alternative call to action, you may use a less prominent color for the button or just use a text link.
- Instead of the useless”Submit” for your “Call to Action” button, use action words that convey what your visitors will get (i.e. “Add to Cart”, “Sign Up for Webinar”, “Get Free Consultation”, “Download White Paper”, etc).
- Convey the importance of taking action today and what your visitors stand to lose if they don’t take action immediately.
7) Continuously Test and Optimize
While the above guidelines should provide you with a good starting point, the key to maximizing conversions is to continuously test and optimize. Certain things that work for other businesses may not work well for your business. The only way to know for sure is to test and let the data speaks for itself.
The 2 methods of testing commonly used for conversion optimization is A/B testing and multivariate testing. In A/B test, you are testing 2 different versions of a web page or landing page to see which version result in more clicks, more purchases, more signups, or more subscriptions. If you are using an A/B testing software, the software would automatically send half of the website traffic to a control page and the other half to a treatment page. Some of the popular testing applications you could use include Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer.
In Multivariate testing, you can test different variations of the key elements on your website. Multivariate requires a lot of data points and testing duration could be very long before you could achieve statistical significance. In most cases, I recommend to go with an A/B testing plan.
A/B testing has become quite common in e-commerce as well as B2B businesses. Even President Obama’s campaign team has successfully employed A/B testing to turn site visitors into more subscribers. Some of the things they tested include the images on the splash page as well as the word choices (“Learn More”, “Join Us Now”, “Sign Up Now”) on the call to action buttons.
Follow these steps to set up your test experiments:
- Analyze the data from your web analytics program, user survey, usability testing, and heat map data to get insights into how visitors behave (check the bounce rate) on your web page and why are they not taking the desired actions.
- Form your hypothesis – After analyzing the data gathered from step 1, you should now be able to form a hypothesis on the possible reasons why your visitors are not taking the desired actions and what can be done to improve the conversion rate. It could be that the offer is not attractive enough or the benefits are not compelling enough, or that layout and copy do not do a good job of conveying the value proposition.
- Decide on what you want to test – If you initial conversion rate is very low, you could opt for a radical test plan in which you change multiple elements on a page. If you just want to fine tune and make incremental improvements, then you should change 1-2 elements at a time. Here are the elements and variables you could test:
- The offer
- The layout
- The headline
- The copy and messaging
- The length of the copy (long copy vs. short copy)
- The “Call to Action” button message
- The image
- Video vs. image
- Run your test until you achieve “statistical significance” – If you’re doing A/B testing, you’re testing the treatment against the control. Achieving statistical significance means that you have enough data to have a high level of confidence (usually 95%) that the difference between the control and treatment is not due to random chance. So, you would want to have enough data to feel confident that the samples are representative of the population of your target audience’s behaviors. You should also account for any environmental or market conditions that could favor one treatment over the other. Visual Website Optimizer has an A/B test duration calculator that may be useful for you.
- Analyze the data to get learning – After running the test, you should analyze the data to get insights on how your target audience respond to the different test elements and most importantly why they respond in such manners. The goal of testing is not always to get a gain. Even if your treatment performs poorly compared to the control, you could gain some valuable insights that help you to understand the behavior of your target audience better and how they respond to certain elements or features on a web page.
Tools to Help You Perform Testing and Conversion Optimization
Here are some tools that can greatly help you with testing and analyzing visitors’ behaviors on your site:
- A/B Testing Tools – Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer are among the popular tools for A/B testing.
- Heat Map tools – Heat map tools such as CrazyEgg and Clicktale show you where visitors click on your web page. This data is useful for identifying areas on your webpage that receive the most attention.
- Visitor Survey/Feedback tools – Visitors’ feedback can provide valuable insights to identify what your visitors are struggling with on your site and whether they are able to find what they are looking for. Some of the popular tools include Qualaroo, 4Q, and Kampyle.
- Usability testing – Usability testing allows you to observe actual people using your site and determine if there are problems or obstacles that prevent users from getting the desired information and taking the desired actions. If you have the budget, you can hire people (5-7 is a good sample size) to do the test at your facility under your supervision. If you don’t have the budget, you can try usertesting.com. Their service allows you to hire people remotely to do the specified test and deliver to you a video recording of their observations and critiques as they go through the test. They will also provide a written summary to details the problems they encountered.
If you are interested to hone your conversion optimization skill, I recommend the following books. Most of these books were written by marketing experts that I admire. I have learned a great deal from them and I know that you will too!
Got any good website conversion optimization tips to share?
If you have experience and successes with website optimization and have some good tips to share, please comment below.