Here are five tips you can utilize to boost your conversion rate, including featuring better photos on your website, improving call-to-action buttons, and building trust among consumers.
Is your site as optimized for conversions as it should be? Even if you are constantly testing and optimizing, you probably still have room for improvement. But whether you are just getting started with optimization or have been at it for years, here are five easy changes that you can make to your website to boost conversions.
Get Real With Your Photos
There is no doubt that human imagery is a fantastic marketing tool. There are countless studies and examples to prove it. However, there's a right way and a wrong way to use these images. Using generic stock photos - especially of people - is the wrong way.
Stock photos are not brand-specific. Chances are, customers have even seen the exact same photo on another website. The message that you are just one of the crowd is not one that will inspire confidence or lead to high conversion rates. These photos also tend to be widely unrealistic. The standard photo of the enthusiastic online shopper, for instance, will not be confused for a real customer by even the most naive of site readers.
Rather than using the same, tired pictures as everyone else, use well-placed images of genuine customers, clients, products (in context), or company faces. Every photo on your site needs to serve a purpose beyond just "filling space" or looking good. Use photos that will show the benefits of your product or service, build credibility, aid navigation or interaction (for example, by "pointing" toward a call to action), or tell a story that helps the visitor understand the end value of your product or service. And whatever you do, steer clear of free or cheap stock imagery.
Tell 'em What to Do
The call to action is the most important part of your page. Yet a shocking number of sites play hide-and-seek with their call-to-action buttons, making them "blend in" with the color scheme of the page or burying them so far down on the page that the likelihood of a visitor scrolling that far is nil.
You already know that the color, shape, size, placement, and wording of your calls to action are all critical. If you missed it, check out my earlier post all about buttons. But did you also know that offering visitors choices (but not too many) is equally important? Notice how Amazon gives visitors the option to "Add to Cart" or "Add to Wishlist": two actionable choices instead of simply buy now or don't buy now. I've seen this done successfully with whitepaper and case study downloads as well. For example, the main call to action might say "Download the free buyers' guide to saving money," and the secondary option is something like "No thanks, I like spending more than I have to." Obviously, nobody is going to choose the second option, but surprisingly just giving them the choice increases the likelihood that they'll choose the first.
Boring converts. Your landing page layout should be easy to navigate and easy to see exactly what you are promoting and why. Anything else is excess. That means rotating banners, distracting photos, and poorly placed videos or animations can all decrease conversions because they draw attention away from the call to action.
While many people think of "design" as a reflection of personal taste or opinion, what I'm telling you about simple sites converting better has nothing to do with opinion. This is research-driven. In fact, Google co-published a study in 2012 demonstrating that sites with low visual complexity combined with a predictable, expected design (the term they use is "prototypicality") give the most favorable first impression. Inversely, websites with high visual complexity lead to more negative first impressions.
I'm particularly intrigued by this study because it really gets to the heart of what most user experience (UX) designers already know: Designs that contradict what users typically expect from a website will trigger a suboptimal first impression. Is being "creative" with your navigation, page structure, or overall design really worth the cost of impairing visitors' expectations?
People need to trust you to be willing to do business with you. Customers find reviews and testimonials trustworthy because they can relate to the other people who have tried the product or service and are happy about it. These reviews and testimonials should be clearly marked and attributed to specific customers while also being featured prominently on the page. If they are at the bottom of a page that a customer must scroll to see, they will have much less of an effect.
A new customer will have wide-ranging apprehensions about working with you, so you need to look at your entire conversion funnel and be sure to add credibility-building reassurances throughout the path. Product or service reviews are important earlier in the buying cycle; guarantees and third-party endorsements may come into play more in later stages.
Help Customers Find What They Want
Visitors have a goal in mind and your site's job is to help them accomplish that goal without getting lost or frustrated. Not everyone will enter through your homepage - so your navigation needs to persistent and clear so that even an entry page deep within your site has the navigational cues to orient the visitor and help them on their way. A navigation menu that changes depending on where a user is on the site is the best way to confuse your visitors and negatively impact their impression of your site.
With people from cross-functional teams providing input on your company website's design and content, it's easy to lose sight of the simple things that can be done to make your site more effective. Set a goal to tackle one or more of these ideas and watch in amazement as your conversion rate soars.
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Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.
Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of ConversionConference.com, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."
Connect with Tim on Google+.
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