Every small business owner wishes their website brought in more leads. Even those that have high volumes of traffic flowing freely through their site’s pages are often disappointed when it comes to working out which clicks led to sales.
The key to increasing the conversion rate of your website – the ratio of visitors that actually buy things to those that don’t – lies in how well you meet expectations. When visitors land on your site, are they satisfied by what greets them? How can you ensure that you’re giving each one what they want?
What’s the purpose of the site?
If you want your site to bring in lots of customers, it’s essential to have a clearly defined purpose for it. If you can’t articulate the two or three core reasons for your site’s existence, it’s unlikely that visitors are going to see how it’s relevant to them.
“If you’ve got a website, you’ve first got to understand why you’ve got it, what you want it to achieve,” says Rhyce Lein, senior campaign manager at Web Marketing Experts. “As soon as you’ve done that, you can then go to go to the next step – being able to define it, and make it do what you want it to do.”
It’s better if a site’s purpose is simple – if it’s only trying to do two or three basic things, it will be more likely to achieve them. Most e-commerce sites only have one purpose: to make more sales online. Service-based businesses often have a slightly simpler purpose: to get inquiries, or to convince visitors of the business’s expertise. On these types of sites, the purpose could be to provide the visitor with useful information that convinces them of the business’s expertise – or it could just be to convince visitors to pick up the phone and ask for a quote.
This simplicity should also extend to the navigation of the site – the longer a visitor has to spend looking for what they need, the more likely they’ll be to leave.
“People are time poor these days. They need to be able to find what they want quickly, preferably within three clicks,” says Lein. “There are statistics that show if people don’t get what they want within three clicks, they’ll leave – they’ll bounce off the website.”
This also holds true for the site’s sales funnel – the logical progression of pages that leads from their landing point to the transaction page. If a visitor lands on the site’s homepage, they should ideally be no further than three clicks away from the product page and ‘buy now’ button.
The appearance of a website plays a large part in how successful it is at generating leads. If your site doesn’t feel right to visitors, most will be unlikely to stick around long enough to buy something or send through an email query.
For the most part, the visual appeal of a site depends on how well it’s designed. While having a substantial design budget, or inhouse web design experience, helps in creating a good-looking site, it’s not essential. If you have a modest budget, do some research on competitor’s sites, and look at what they do well and simply. Then, consider which elements might best serve the basic functions you’ve laid out for your site. Provided you research your options thoroughly and don’t get too ambitious, it’s not difficult or expensive to create a good-looking, functional site. For more information about designing a site on the cheap, read How to build your own website.
One mistake many business owners make with regards to appearance is to overdo the content. A landing page should aim to do one or two things at most – cramming it with as many sales messages as you can is just going to overwhelm the visitor.
“The really big thing that I found affecting conversions was simplicity – the standard page is just too complex,” suggests Elliott Bailey, business development manager at Zigg. “If people have clicked your ad on Facebook or Google, or if they’ve searched for your business, they’ve usually only got one question they want answered, so you have to make sure your landing page answers that one question.”
When someone comes to your website for the first time, they don’t usually want to know about your business. They want to know what your business can do for them. Typically, they’ll have a problem – a desire for particular brand of record player, for example, or a way to teach themselves Italian. The key to turning this type of visitor into a customer is to show how your business solves such problems.
“We’ve found a lot of websites put their mission statement on the homepage,” says Felicity Bracegirdle, director of Metrix Solutions. “They often talk about themselves – about why they’re so good at what they do. That may be true, but they need to flip it around and explain how they can help the visitor, not just talk about themselves. A generic mission statement is not necessarily what people are looking for.”
Each page should identify a problem your target customer is likely to have, and demonstrate how the business can solve it for them. If you’re stuck figuring out which problems your site should address, consider the questions new customers ask most frequently. A FAQ document is always useful for identifying which problems people expect your site to solve.
It also helps to understand the internal process that leads curious visitors to become customers. Business author and consultant Amanda Bracks explains this process using a three-stage model adapted from Philip Kotler, author of Marketing Management. She divides site visitors into four categories: those who have identified a problem and are thinking about fixing it, those that have identified a solution, those researching or preparing to act, and those that have converted.
“That would be walking on the grounds of the car yard to actually test drive, and move into a purchasing decision from there,” says Bracks. “If you do different marketing activities to attract these different stages, you’ll start feeding them into the pipeline at the relevant stage and build that relationship up.”
Google’s search engine marketing service, AdWords, can be a useful tool for driving conversions. This is particularly true for Australian businesses, as the vast majority of product searches conducted by Australian consumers are carried out on Google.
The first thing to be wary of with AdWords is the amount you set as a budget. After bidding on an ad placement in search results for a keyword that’s relevant to your business, Google will charge you every time clicks on the ad. If you’ve set a budget of $200, the ad will disappear once $200 worth of traffic has clicked through.
“Probably the biggest trap that I fell into is that you can set quite a large budget, and if you don’t check it for a week or two, you’ve actually spent hundreds of dollars,” says Zigg’s Bailey. “If you haven’t been regularly checking what response rate you’re getting, you might actually be getting none.”
Once you’ve got close tabs on your budget, the trick to making the most of each click is to match ads to customer’s expectations. Generic ads that describe the overall nature of your business might generate traffic, but they will result in fewer visitors that are actually ready to buy, thereby wasting the amount each click costs your business.
If you want traffic from AdWords to actually result in sales, it’s important to use ads to talk about how your business can solve a problem for the searcher. Rather than advertise the business, advertise particular products, and then direct those ads to pages that encourage visitors to do something.
It’s also worthwhile thinking about what sorts of search ads would fit the different stages of the buying cycle outlined above. If your business does content marketing, it might be worthwhile advertising blog posts that target people searching for information on a particular product. If your site can answer their product questions, then they’ll be more likely to buy from you than from competitors.
It’s worth noting that AdWords offers a service called Negative Keywords that lets you prevent your ad for being shown if particular words are used in the searcher’s phrase. This is useful for narrowing down the types of people that see your ad, and can help to improve conversion rates. If you sell cakes online, but don’t stock kosher goods, you can use ‘kosher’ as a negative keyword. That way, you don’t have to pay for traffic from people looking for products you can’t help them with.
It’s inevitable that people will arrive at your site at different stages in the buying cycle. Depending on where they’re at in the decision-making process, it’s likely they’ll expect your website to give them very different things. This is why it’s important that the different types of pages on your site have varying calls to action (CTA) imploring visitors to act on their impulses. Product pages are suited to a ‘buy it now’ style of CTA, whether that’s a line of text telling them to buy, or a button to add the item to their shopping cart. Blog posts are more attuned to CTAs encouraging visitors to look at other relevant posts or the business’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.
One call to action that can fairly apply to all stages is to encourage visitors to contact the business with questions. By placing contact details prominently on a page, you’re encouraging those in the consideration stage to allay their uncertainties by clarifying the details of their purchase. It’s important to remember that a sale isn’t the only measure of success online – phone calls and email queries are conversions, too.
“Say you’ve got 10,000 visitors coming to your site, if it’s not easy for people to contact you, you won’t get the inquiries,” says Metrix Solutions’ Bracegirdle “With every time that someone has to click, it’s something hard for them to do. The longer that you make the person wait or take to get in contact with you, the more time you’re giving them to bounce off the site, basically.”
If a visitor reads the contents of the page, explains Bracegirdle, and decides that the product or service they’re reading about is for them, the next logical step, besides buying the product, is to get in contact with the business. It’s important that you don’t leave them hanging, and make it easy for them to contact you.
“If you’ve got their attention, you can capture their information straight away, by putting the contact form there, or putting the phone number there,” she says. “We find that people, because they’re in the moment, will do that. They might even submit a few contact forms on different pages on the site. Or if they’re reading it at 11pm at night, they can’t necessarily call you, so if you have a contact form there that they can just fill in, it’s not that big a deal for them to do that.”
While it would be ideal to place contact details on each and every page of the site, they should be featured on all ‘action’ pages – any page that’s selling a particular product or service, or talking about the virtues of what the business offers.
One of the most common barriers in the sales pipeline for e-commerce businesses is the check out process – the steps through which the transaction actually takes place. Encouraging visitors to get in contact can help sceptics past this stage, but if they don’t want to call, then a sub-standard shopping cart may turn them away.
There are two basic aspects to making the business end of a sales funnel effective. The first has to do with simplicity – the fewer stages there are in the check out process, the better.
“The important thing for commerce, for making the sale, is a simple checkout process,” says Bracegirdle. “Every click that the person has to make is an opportunity for them to not process the sale.”
If a visitor has to click through to a separate page for each step of the process – registering as a customer, entering their contact details, shipping preferences, payment information – then you’re effectively giving them more time to opt out of their transaction. A complex payment process reduces the number of impulse purchases, and deters impatient shoppers.
“Less is more – identify what you see as the key points of information that you need from the customer, and then have that in a form for them to fill out.” says Web Marketing Expets’ Lein. “Make it simple for them to navigate through. Have it all on one page that they can add their information, and then the next click will send them to the checkout area.”
The second aspect has to do with security. If customers aren’t convinced that the payment options provided are secure, some will abandon the transaction without a second thought. Part of this has to do with familiarity – if customers can see a payment option they use often and are comfortable with (PayPal, for instance), they’ll be less sceptical. It’s also wise to keep them informed about the measures you’re taking to keep their information secure. Make sure the payment page makes a display of the security measures provided by your chosen transaction processing service.
At the end of the day, simplicity is key: make it easy for the customer to find what they want, and act on what they find, and your conversions will improve.
Image credit: Thinkstock