Website Conversion – Forget About the Obvious

by on June 16, 2011

Forget about the obvious?

Is your website doing what it’s supposed to be doing? Is it bringing in visitors that stick around, read and convert? If it isn’t, we ask you to consider the points in this article. They’re big points, even though they may seem like little, nit-picky, OCD things. They matter.

Oh, wait… before you continue reading, you have to pretend you’re dumb – because, guaranteed, you’ll one day get a comment about your site (if you’re providing surveys, or otherwise testing, that is) and think, “Well, that’s dumb. It’s obvious that XYZ means…”

So – pretend you’re dumb. Forget about the obvious. Stop believing that everyone thinks the same way you do, because they don’t. When you get to this point, look at your site with your new, fresh eyes.

Does your home page – through text, video, links, or other content – clearly define what it is you offer?

1- If you use images, do they clearly support the text, or are they just pretty pictures?  Example: That picture you have of the man sitting in an office, in front of a computer, staring at a cell phone, may not mean “mobility” to your visitors. To them, it could mean, “lazy employee always dinking around with his cell phone when he should be working.”

2- Do your navigational links clearly define where a click will take your visitors?  Example: Does the link “Clients” mean –

  • Click here if you want to become a client
  • Sign in here if you are a client
  • Click here for a list of our clients

3- Do you have a clear call to action? Examples:

Clear call to action

  • View our products
  • Call today
  • Act now
  • Sign up for more information
  • Contact us today to…

*Hint – having “Contact Us” in the navigation doesn’t count.

Would your interior pages work as one-page websites?

Many people simply assume that everyone enters a site from the home page. They imagine a clear-cut path of to conversion: Home, Services, Service One, Contact Us, and then Thank You. This is, after all, the most logical, “obvious” path to a completed sale. Because the path is seen as being so cut and dry, many make the mistake of starting the “conversation” on the home page. They simply treat the other pages as a continuation of that conversation.


Reality doesn’t work like that, however. It’s not nearly so clean; it’s somewhat messy, in fact. A site set up in the way just described ends up providing a disjointed conversation. The real path, or paths, to conversion are quite different (please see: The Real Path(s) of Conversion (INFOGRAPHIC)).

While the home page for most sites is the most common landing page, it isn’t the only point of entry. Therefore, each page has to have:

  • Its own call to action
  • Its own, clearly defined points
  • Its own conversation

If your interior pages would not stand on their own as individual websites, you need to do some reorganizing.

Do your 404 pages end the conversation?

Ah, the 404 page; that frustrating page that says, “You know that thing you were looking for? Yeah – it’s not here.” Many visitors won’t take the time or don’t have the time to go digging in your site to find what they were looking for. Most of the time, they’ll just return back to whatever search brought them there.

By creating a custom 404 page, you lessen the visitor’s frustration. Custom 404’s can start a conversation, or continue one. For example, “We’re sorry – the page you’re looking for isn’t available. However, our top pages are listed below, or you can use the handy search feature.”

Check what your 404 page says. Just type in your URL, add a forward slash and a couple of characters ( http://mycompany.com/xya ). This will take you to your 404. Look it over with the ideas of convenience, consideration and keeping visitors there. Take a peek at our 404 Page

Conclusion

Many things can go wrong with a site. Some of the most insignificant changes – changing the link colors, for example – can raise your conversion percentages. If you stop focusing on what you think is obvious, focusing instead on the not-so-obvious, it can help you prepare for your visitors.

Have you thought something was obvious, only to be told that it didn’t make sense? What other tips might you have to help our readers strengthen their sites?



{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Conroy June 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm

For online marketers, conversion is that all matters. For high conversion rate try to have maximum traffic from targeted audiences.

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Susan June 20, 2011 at 2:50 am

“Forget about the obvious” is a great tip indeed, and not only in conversion optimization, but in our real lives too. If most of us follow it everyone will benefit from it a lot.
All of your tips are valuable – and some can give a really good idea on what to do with a site to make it better. Thanks!

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Tad Chef June 16, 2011 at 8:43 am

OK, thanks for the in-depth clarification. I’m a bit sleepy myself so I just wondered because I mistake conversion and conversation when typing all the time.
The “Clients” link is a great example btw. Also “Portfolio” and “Services” only work when it’s already clear who you are and what you offer.

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Jason Ramsey June 16, 2011 at 8:22 am

Great article. I pulled up our site beside it while reading and went through it. We definitely have some work to do. The calls to action are really missing from our site. Thanks for posting.

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JRPittman June 16, 2011 at 8:38 am

Hi, Jason – and welcome to the Article Archive. We’re always happy when an article moves someone to comment for the first time. :D

I’m glad the article helped you pinpoint some issues. Don’t forget you can always post a question or make a suggestion for another article if the mood hits you. Good luck with your site! (Love the Gabor panel at the top, btw – very sleek and classy!)

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Glenn Ferrell June 16, 2011 at 7:16 am

Calls to Action always fascinate me. The real trick (I think) is to write a call-to-action that doesn’t immediately evoke memories of cheap, in-your-face advertising. (For me – “Act Now” has a decidedly more pushy flavor than “Contact Us Today” – but that may vary person to person) So that would mean treating the call-to-action as part of the brand and and taking care to get it brand-aligned — which unfortunately makes it harder to do right. Call-to-action wording may be a great candidate for a/b testing.

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JRPittman June 16, 2011 at 8:33 am

That’s a great point, Glenn; wording – the correct wording for your product/service/customer base – is a fascinating subject. I’ve noticed that “Act Now” or “Buy Now” seems to be more persuasive for product listings, while “Contact Us Today” seems more effective for service-based offerings.

I’m equally fascinated by the effect of headlines on various buyer personas. For example, a CEO won’t respond as well to a headline that makes middle management sit up and pay attention.

Since wording has to be so precise for a particular target market, definitely, calls-to-action may great a/b testing candidates… but then, so does everything else lol

Thanks for the comment, Glenn!

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Glenn Ferrell June 16, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thanks JR, that’s great information. I would like to see more studies and perhaps surveys/interviews on this. CTA wording is something I’m really struggling with.

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JRPittman June 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

I read a great article about a month ago about the different personas based on job position – like the CEO vs. Middle Management. Unfortunately, I tried to find it again and couldn’t. Otherwise, you’d get a comment like “Read this: [link]“… alas, when I forget to bookmark, it’s usually an article I want to refer to…. ooo, ooo, wait.. I DID bookmark it!

Are You Asking the Right Questions? Awesome article.

Another great resource is Bob Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook. It’s strictly focused on writing copy that sells – this isn’t your blogger’s handbook.

-And, of course, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t point a silent, yet blatantly self-promoting finger to our own content development category. :D

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Glenn Ferrell June 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

Ahh the “Are You Asking the Right Questions” article kind-of implies that you may be better off with multiple CTAs — possibly targeted for different DISC (personality) categories. Just got finished reading another article about this but I’m not caffeinated enough yet to access where I saw that…:)

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JRPittman June 16, 2011 at 10:07 am

If the article surfaces post-caffeine, buoyed on liquid, do share the link – I’d love to read it! This conversation has me pondering another “writing for your visitors” article – I could use the additional inspiration!

Gabriella June 16, 2011 at 9:43 am

Hey, Glenn – One of my favorite guru’s that I highly recommend following or reading is Tim Ash. I’m sure you’re familiar with his work. He has a few books out; my favorite is Landing Page Optimization. I actually have a signed copy (long story – maybe one day I’ll tell you about it over coffee lol).
Suffice it to say, writing content that converts is not as easy as some would have you think, as you obviously know. There are many factors involved, especially when you break it into age groups, platforms, geographical area, and now, even mobile writing. Testing becomes your best friend. With that comes patience, as well as understanding that human behavior (especially emotional connections), is still as important, if not more important, when buying online.

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Glenn Ferrell June 16, 2011 at 9:57 am

Tim looks like a great resource. Hadn’t heard of him – thanx. While rummaging around on this I also came up with a book “Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results” By Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg that was pretty well reviewed on Amazon.

So much to learn … so little time :P

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Tad Chef June 16, 2011 at 3:55 am

Hey, did you really mean “Its own conversation” or conversion?

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Gabriella June 16, 2011 at 4:09 am

Hey Tad, I’m sure she meant it’s own conversation. Basically, we’ve been bringing the human element into our pages. So if it has
Its own call to action
Its own, clearly defined points
Its own conversation
Then conversion will happen more readily. But, since princess is asleep right now I’m sure once she wakes up she can clarify if I lost the train somewhere at the last station ;)

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JRPittman June 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

lol Princess is awake and pumped full of coffee, so princess is now ready to clarify. :p

I did mean “conversation”, Tad. When you’re writing content, even sales content, you’re starting a conversation; you’re talking TO the visitor. You give a (hopefully) compelling argument, and want them to respond with, “Oh, well, yes, that makes sense,” and then act. Their action is a continuation of the conversation YOU started with the content on the page.

That’s one of the reasons we recommend having a “thank you” page after the action. We also recommend having an offer to follow you on social networks on that thank you page – so you can continue the conversation after the sale. Extra touches like these show customers that they’re important to the company; in turn, they become more willing to become a return customer.

Hope this helps explain why I called it a “conversation”, rather than “conversion”. :)

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