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October 27, 2009

Website conversion tactics | SEO Drives Activity – Activity Drives Sales

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I use this in our SEO training and have many clients meetings on the topic. Many website developers profess to be experts, but few will agree to be measured on it.

Nobody likes being manipulated, mislead or coerced. Being persuaded to perform an action is however OK. It’s called buy-in. The user’s choice is at stake, and the user remains empowered. Users who have “bought in” also usually return and become repeat customers. This is conversion.

So can we persuade website users to perform the required choice of action and get more visitors to do this? Consider your last sales experience.

Colours by Paulo Brandoas via Flickr Creative Commons

Think about your last purchase:

On average the sales person probably presented some or all the following attributes to close the sale:

  • They presented well, were likeable, helpful and credible and appeared sincere, knowing their own field of expertise well and could answer the questions you asked
  • They provided proof of the product by either having used 1 themselves or having a close friend who did
  • The big sell didn’t happen upfront, it was through a process you found hard to back out of, a series of small yes’s. Do you have this issue? Have you experienced that? Would you like to try this? And so on.
  • Answered the small lingering doubts subtly, such as warranty, returns, hidden features, there was no way back, no excuses not to buy
  • They made it personal, how this product would meet your needs
  • They had a close. “We only have x in stock”, or “We have a special on this week” etc. Would you like me to get one from the back for you?

Who is your customer?
Ok, so a website works differently, but just to add complexity. We are different and behave differently in a purchasing process, sometimes exhibiting different behaviours for different products? Recognize some of these traits below?

  • Direct approach: They want to know outcomes, results and answers. Just the facts please. This group will also put off a purchase if there is more to gain from waiting. They are smart and want options that make sense on all fronts not just financially and to be able to control the option they choose.
  • Methodical buyer: They work through a process, understanding the product attributes, features and price. They work toward a deal and need information to decide on what that deal should be. It Can be very tiring for the salesman who can easily lose the deal due to a lack of patience.
  • The Feeler: They focus on the human side, wanting to understand the product impact on others and the environment. They may put themselves second. They also are easily influenced and want to see testimonials or endorsements from perceived people in the know. Low levels of product knowledge but lots of external positive influencing factors.
  • Spontaneous: They are impulsive and excitable, they go to buy groceries and come home with a flat screen TV. They need the answers quick, stock must be available and the ability for them to walk out the store with product in hand is important, or you may lose the deal. These people may drive around for a day seeking a specific product, and not give it a second thought the next day.
  • Do you know your customer? Do you accommodate each of these groups?

    Onto website conversion. How to minimise that bounce rate and get more than your fair share of conversions. I mean really get on top of this from the ground up, not just at a superficial level with some feel good A/ B testing.

Simplified Conversion factors to consider

1. Create a good first impression:

You have around 3-5 seconds:

  • What does the user see first to keep them there?
  • How fast does the page load?
  • Does the page load without errors?
  • Do you have a credible and professional logo, slogan and overall website look and feel?
  • Are you unique or do you look like all other websites? That’s the problem sometimes with best practice.
  • Do you have a contact us page, about us, terms and privacy policy that is easily accessible?

Does your website come across as a trusted, credible and quality website, ready to meet their needs? People will only convert if they feel comfortable. Discomfort in many cases = risk.

2. Where to next with navigation?

Now you have them on your page. What do you want them to do? Push the big red button with “BUY HERE” or “FREE TRIAL” on it? Alternatively, let them hunt around hoping they find the grey’d out link in the footer? Website navigation takes many twists and turns, make sure you understand your customers needs and take them through a process and make it easy to convert. Keep in mind small purchases with low risk require no process, while larger high value purchases may require several visits, research and even discussions prior to making the decision.

Do you take them through a process of small yes’s, logical next steps, which attempt to obligate them to buy? A process of persuasion subtly answering questions and concerns along the way to the end goal. Big yes’s upfront can = big no’s.

3. Provide relevant content to support different user requirements

Include detailed and engaging information, images, tools and videos on product features for those researching, provide testimonials for those needing to be persuaded, provide a streamlined process with an overview of features for those impulsive buyers.

What information does your average user need to convert? How have you positioned this information on the website? Are your differentiators, product features and needs clearly defined? Is the real problem or issue your product or service addresses clearly articulated?

Do you answer the little alarm bells ringing for the customer such as return policies, money back guarantees and privacy? These may not differentiate you but need to be there to put you on par with competitor sites.

Identify the tickets to play items with respect to conversion and the real differentiators or unique propositions you offer. Map these out and consider how best and when they are communicated to the user to support the conversion process.

Can you answer all their questions, supporting their decision to purchase no matter what the buyer type is? Is this is a series of little yes’es, taking them down the road of conversion?

4. Continually develop conversion processes to close

Link points 2 and 4 above together. Think about where users enter your site. Search engines will deliver them to different pages throughout the site based on search terms. Think about how you want people to navigate, given how they might interact to convert and ensure these conversion paths are easy and simple. Monitor Analytics to establish common user paths through the website and improve both primary and secondary conversion paths and actions, continually.

Does the website close well. When the user has enough information to buy, can they? Or do they need to hunt around looking for the place to do it?

5. Test everything

Test and monitor everything from headlines to action buttons. Be patient, analyse the data and make informed improvements. Document your process.

In summary then:

  1. Tell them what you want them to do
  2. Make it easy for them to do
  3. Tell them when they’ve done it

Planning your site’s conversion processes is more than just deciding on where to put a button on a wireframe. It is an integration of customer understanding, site content and process design. Get it right and the value of your website will increase substantially. Get it wrong or don’t bother, and you may be missing opportunities. The traffic is there, the investment is done. You may as well convert more of them.

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