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September 12, 2008

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5 Easy Ways to Improve Website Conversions

by Anthony Verre

1. Start from Design and Architecture UP:

It starts from the bottom-up; it starts with design and architecture. Most of the time when we, as SEOs, get websites, they’ve been out in the public sphere for months to a couple of years. The chance to impact the site architecture is very minimal at this point, so we end up making due with what’s there and make smallish suggestions.

If we are lucky enough to get our hands on a site that’s pre-launch and early enough in the development phase, you’ve got to have usability knowledge in your pocket to evaluate it quickly and efficiently. And, taking a tip from Steve Krug, you want this new site to keep your user’s “Reservoir of Goodwill” as full as possible.

Key Items to Look For:

2. Make sure you, as an SEO, as a user, understand what the website is trying to accomplish.

3. Are the GOALS easily identifiable?

You don’t want the goals to shrouded or surrounded by superfluous “extras”. No one wants to get to the website and have to become Sherlock Holmes to give you money. The website goals should have giant, blinking neon arrows.

If it takes the user more than 1-2 clicks to perform a goal from a search engine, then it’s time to consider reworking your landing pages. Nothing will frustrate and deplete the “goodwill” for a user more than being led astray. Remember, users require instant gratification, so the faster a user can get to what they want, the better.

Example Scenario:

If a user searches for you, finds the title “XYZ Plane Tickets to California” and a description that seals the deal for them, and they click on the link that takes them to your page, the first thing they see should be content telling them how to purchase a plane ticket to California from you.

4. Is your site navigation and architecture easily understood?

Nothing helps conversions better than an easily understood and workable navigation. If users can’t get to where they’re going, they’re never going to come back.

At this point, we have to have an honest chat: people are not robots. People make mistakes, people get lost on through their own volition, and people LIKE to explore. So, no navigation is going to be fool-proof, and no navigation is going to prevent folks from getting lost. But, a good navigation and site design will help people get out of their own way as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Make sure each page has the following elements:

  • A Site ID:
    this is usually the company’s logo or branding identification. The Site ID should be, about 99% of the time, be clickable back to the home. Always give users the option to start from scratch and find their own way .
  • Page Name:
    let your users know they’ve landed on the right page by indicating the page name. Best way to do this, and to earn some great relevance is through your site’s page title tag and employing breadcrumb navigation
  • Sections and Subsections:
    let your users know what else is in the section. Put a unobtrusive sub-nav or side-nav on the page. Nothing could be worse than signaling to the user with a overbearing navigation, that “we want you to go somewhere else on this site too!” For good SEO results, avoid AJAX and Flash menus. Stick with good ol’ HTML links, and yes, images will work, but make sure you have keyword-targeted ALT and TITLE tags in them.
  • Local Navigation:
    if you can find a visually-pleasing way to include this on each page, I would. It’s a POI for the site: “If you aren’t interested in what you’ve found here, then how about Door #2?”
  • Search Box:
    Not every site needs one. If have less than 20 pages of content, I wouldn’t put of these on your site. But, if you run an e-comm site or a article-laden site, this is an absolute must. However, your sites audience needs to be taken into consideration. If you have a less-savvy group of users, it would be best to build out a database and create in-house search functionality.

With the Google Search API, users have to select to search your site or the ENTIRE web. The last thing you want is for user to jump off the site, when they were just about to enter the Purchase Funnel.

5. Contact/Subscribe Forms

A great quote that comes to mind is from Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs”: “Take only what you need to survive”. That’s how you have to look at these forms; what do you really HAVE TO have and what’s a NICE TO HAVE. If you’ve noticed that your goal conversions are down, and you’ve applied the other steps above, then sadly, as much as it is going to pain you, you have start pointing the finger at your forms.

With the advent of “Identity Theft” and the media coverage exploiting it, and a rising SPAM NATION getting a hold of it and unrelentingly spamming you to death, users are less and less likely to give out information they feel will threaten them. Even things as simple as a phone number, which coincidently, I’ve found to be an absolute deal-breaker on all our clients’ forms.

The main rule for forms is to keep it K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. An old Army adage that goes a long way. Of course, different companies have different needs, and so you may have to sacrifice best practices for essentials, but try to keep them to a minimum. And, besides, long forms that need all the optional information necessary to submit, just makes your consumers and users resent you. Here are some quick guidelines:

  • Make only fields that are ABSOLUTELY required for your business, be required for the user
  • Don’t ask for too much additional/optional information; i.e. phone numbers, address, how they found you. They found you once, they’ll find you again. And, you should be running analytics, so you’ll know how they found.
  • Show your users/consumers the value they’ll receive when they sign-up and submit. If it’s a mystery, not too many are willing to believe on blind faith.
  • Put in a “We won’t sell or distribute clause” by the submit button. It’s a lot more encouraging to me, as a user, if I at least read you care about my privacy.

Sphinn

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2 Comments
  1. Sep 23 2008

    Thanks for the great advice!

  2. Jan 29 2009

    Good informative post indeed. Before optimizing a page for improving conversion page, what I always decide and set apart first is the unique selling point (USP) of your product and services. You can have a look here. What do you say?

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