10 Ways to Improve Website Conversion Rates

website conversion ratesRegardless of your ideal mix of demand generation programs, I’m willing to bet that most of them are designed to bring prospects to your website in the hopes of later converting them to a paying customer.  It doesn’t matter if your solution is hardware or software and it doesn’t matter if your sales model is zero touch or requires full-blown field sales reps.  The path to prospect conversion surely passes through your website at least 90% of the time.

If you agree, then also realize that even a perfect mix of demand generation programs can be totally destroyed if your website doesn’t do an effective job of facilitating conversion.  In this context I’m using the word “conversion” in a generic sense because for some companies that might mean the prospect downloads a free trial while for other companies it might mean filling out a contact request form.  But in all cases, I’m referring to the final desired action a prospect could take from the website along their path to becoming a paid customer.

The truth is that today’s prospects don’t want to talk to a sales person until they feel they are sufficiently educated and ready (see related article titled “Prospects Take Themselves Through 60% of the Sales Journey”).  So they are already going to be in research mode when they hit your website.  The magic question is what can you do to your website to ensure maximum conversion rates?  Well, there are entire books written on this subject and you should probably read one or more of them.  But in the meantime, in this article I will describe 10 of my favorite methods and ones that don’t require a hot-shot web marketing veteran to implement (see related article titled “Why Isn’t a Marketing Professional One of Your First 10 Employees?”).

Web Chat

Although prospects want to do their own research without the burden of a pesky salesperson brainwashing them, for some reason engaging in a web chat doesn’t seem the same as talking to someone on the phone.  I personally think it’s because the prospect feels more in control during a web chat.  They can choose how much info to reveal about themselves and are only a mouse click away from terminating the chat session.  I realize they have similar control during a phone conversation but psychologically there is some difference.  Take advantage of this by staffing a web chat function with a knowledgeable and personable representative.  Focus on educating and enlightening.  If the prospect is ready to be sold to, you’ll know and can take the appropriate next step.

While implementing web chat, you will need to decide where on your site it should be passive (the prospect clicks a button to initiate a chat) versus proactive (the chat window automatically appears after a certain time delay).  If you decide to implement some proactive chats, consider only doing it on high value pages that suggest the prospect is in the late stage of consideration, such as the pricing page, download page or shopping cart.

Nurturing

You’re probably already doing this with your other marketing campaigns but the concept also applies to your website.  Nurturing takes into consideration the fact that prospects follow a journey from initially discovering your offering to ultimately making a decision to purchase.  Your mission is to identify where they are in their journey based on the actions they are taking and then “nudging” (nurturing) them to the next phase.  If you’re already using a marketing automation platform, the sequence might look like this:  email is sent; email is opened; website is visited; high value page is viewed; particular piece of content is consumed; email invitation to a webinar is sent (see related article titled “Increasing Webinar Attendance”).

The same concept can be applied to your website using the calls to action on various pages.  If a prospect is on your home page, they are likely in the very early discovery phase.  Where do you want them to go next to get further educated?  Once they go there and get educated, where do you want to nudge them next?  Your calls to action on each page and the general layout and flow of your website design have the effect of nurturing just like the example I gave above using emails.  By the way, the concept of nurturing also applies during free trials that you might promote on your website (see related article titled “Optimize Free Trial Conversions via Nurturing”).

Single Call to Action per Page

Too many companies clutter their web pages with calls to action.  Click here, read this, follow us, complete this survey, download this, etc, etc.  Any of these can be valid calls to action but if too many are on the same page it just confuses the prospect.  Pick one and make it the focal point for the purpose of the page.  In other words, the messaging on the page leads the prospect to the single call to action requested of them.

Specific Calls to Action

Don’t get too clever or cute with your various one-per-page calls to action.  What specifically do you want the prospect to do?  Ask them to do that in short, clean language.  There are all sorts of best practices regarding the style, size and placement of the call to action.  What I’m talking about is different.  If your pricing page is intended to motivate the prospect to download a free trial, your button shouldn’t say something clever like “Check Us Out” or “Experience the Dream” but simply should say “Download Free Trial”.  You can explain the magic dream they will experience in the messaging on the page.

Videos

Why force your prospects to read page after page of text when you can tell your story in one or more videos?  Using the concept of nurturing, the video you post on your home page will be very short (for sure less than 3 minutes and 60-90 seconds is probably best) and should assume the prospect is very early in their discovery phase.  As a result, focus on value proposition and general positioning rather than pricing and implementation details.  On your product page(s) your videos can be longer and more specific.  For example, you can describe specific features and show snippets of your product demonstration (important features only).  Specific customer examples and testimonials can also be very effective.

Testimonials and Case Studies

Prospects will trust your existing customers more than your sales employees, so why not let your customers help with the selling?  You can do this with testimonials and case studies that are published on your website.  These can be individual web pages, downloadable documents or even videos.  In fact, you can implement all three and even repurpose these stories in numerous other ways (blog post, press release, conference speaking engagement, analyst outreach, contributed article, etc).  Just make sure to keep the case studies short and on message.

What if you can’t convince a customer to participate with you to write such a testimonial or case study?  What if you even offer to do all the work but they won’t allow their name to be published publicly?  Don’t worry.  Instead, start by writing a “veiled” testimonial or case study.  In other words, instead of writing “Shockwave Innovations recently implemented our ABC Deluxe and ….”, write “One of the top 5 angel investing and startup advisory practices in the world recently implemented our ABC Deluxe and …”.

Progressive Profiling

You can find best practices on this and should educate yourself more to make sure you’re not accidentally chasing away prospects.  The concept is simple.  If a prospect is still in the early consideration phase, they are much less likely to give you a bunch of information about themselves.  So don’t ask for everything.  Instead, only ask for the bare minimum to facilitate your nurturing strategy.  For example, if you decide to require registration before downloading a case study, only require an email address.  You could also have an optional field for the prospect’s name but don’t push further by asking for phone number, job title or address.  You’ll earn the right to ask for that sort of info when the prospect comes back to your website to register for your webinar.  That’s why it’s called “progressive” profiling.  By the way, loading up your contact forms with a bunch of optional entry fields just in case the prospect is willing to provide the info isn’t true progressive profiling in its pure form.

Speak to Personas

Who are you targeting with your solution?  Get specific about job title, demographics, a day-in-the-life activities, etc.  The concept is called buyer persona development and you should do some research on it to properly institute into your website messaging.  Once you are really clear on who you’re targeting, you want to speak very specifically to them when you write the content for your web pages.  Don’t get too broad with your messaging in order to possibly cover multiple personas because you’re mission is to hit your target buyer persona in between the eyes with messaging that is so specific and compelling to their need that they have no choice but acting on your call to action.

If you have more than one buyer persona (most companies do), have specific messaging for each one rather than try to blend your messaging to cover both.  Do this by writing different paragraphs, or even different pages, for each.  Also keep this in mind when producing testimonials, case studies and videos.

Pricing Presentation

This will take some experimentation and perhaps some A/B testing.  But since the pricing page of your website is one of the highest value pages a prospect can visit, you want to make sure this page is highly optimized for the desired call to action.  Seeing your pricing immediately forces a prospect to make a decision, not necessarily a decision to purchase but at least a decision to proceed forward or not.  Before reaching your pricing page the prospect consumed your various messaging and was left interested enough to see how much it will cost them.  Once they see the price they have no choice but to assess whether the cost of the solution seems in line with the benefits they expect to receive.  So the way you display the price(s) and what is included is critical.  Test, measure, refine, repeat.

Cluttered Pages

The concept here is the same as having a single call to action per page.  Each page has a purpose and a primary buyer persona that is assumed.  As a result, the content of the page should be limited to accomplish the purpose and drive the stated buyer persona to a call-to-action.  It is OK if you have a standard sidebar with optional content but if you go too far by making all sorts of information available just in case a different buyer persona visits the page, you are cluttering and diluting your effectiveness.   You’re striving for the magic 3 C’s: clean, clear, crisp.

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Summary

For the foreseeable future, your website will remain one of the most critical marketing and demand generation tools for your company.  It sits along the critical path to prospect conversion more than 90% of the time for most companies.  The ideas and suggestions in this article aren’t a one-time exercise but rather something that requires repeated testing, measurement and refinement – not just for initial optimization but also to align with the evolution of your company, your product(s) and the market(s) your serve over time.

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