Content has a significant bearing on conversions and if you don’t optimise your website you risk missing out on customers.
Your site’s conversion rate is a very important statistic. A conversion rate is the number of site visitors divided by the number that actually take a desired action. The action (or conversion event) could be making a purchase, making an enquiry or completing a form – whatever it is that takes visitors further down the funnel from being a prospect to a customer.
Conversion rate is therefore a measure of site effectiveness. It’s also the biggest challenge you face after attracting traffic because if your site isn’t converting you are missing opportunities.
We sometimes make assumptions about our websites and how well they work. We assume visitors will intuitively understand what to do and find the information they are looking for. The truth is to maximise conversions we need to do everything in our power to make it easy for site visitors to achieve their goals. Web content has a large role to play here. Web visitors spend very little time making decisions about the pages they visit so if your content is not up to scratch you are limiting your potential.
Is there an ideal conversion rate?
We won’t go into what a ‘good’ conversion rate is because the answer depends on context – your industry, what you are selling or promoting and what you consider to be a conversion event. Averages for e-commerce sites tend to hover around the 1-2% mark (the best sites such as Amazon touch 10%). But conversion statistics are often skewed because they tend to be measures of sites that have already undergone some sort conversion optimisation.
Jakob Nielsen suggested that a good conversion rate is ‘higher than the one you had before’ and this is a great place to start because even minor improvements in conversion will contribute directly to your bottom line by increasing sales or increasing leads and lead quality.
9 ways to use content to improve conversion rates
If your site is not converting, it may be that some aspects of your content, user interface or layout are discouraging or actually prohibiting visitors from taking action. The following tips focus on content – the thing that most site owners can quickly and easily manage. Use the links below to skip ahead or read on.
- Remove distractions and conflicting messages
- Use evidence and proof
- Tailor your content to your audience
- Provide the information people expect
- Use a call to action
- Make content action oriented
- Write original and thoughtful product descriptions
- Use landing pages
- Pay attention to usability
Remove distractions and conflicting messages
Good websites present clear and relevant information and a pathway to action. Anything not contributing to these goals may be a distraction. The following are some simple examples of distractions and conflicting messages that could inhibit website conversions:
- Multiple offers competing for attention – Keep your message simple and don’t bombard people with too many ideas. This is especially true on landing pages where a user arrives for a specific purpose. For example, if you are using PPC advertising, keep the landing page tightly on cue with what is said in the advertisement.
- No clear offer so that the user becomes confused – Just as bad as multiple offers is a website that doesn’t clearly and concisely articulate what they offer. If the user has to dig or search to uncover what is available they may just click away.
- Different offer to what was advertised – Advertising one thing only to offer another will anger visitors or simply cause confusion. Eg A reticulation repairman’s website that has a home page dominated by related products for sale may confuse or alienate those seeking a repair service.
- Multiple calls to action that say different things – If you are aiming for a particular conversion event then focus your call to action on this event and keep copy tightly aligned to the core message.
- No call to action to guide the user to a conversion event – It’s amazing how many websites lack a call to action to prompt the visitor towards a conversion event. Web users are familiar and even expect these CTAs so you are missing an opportunity if you do not provide one.
Use evidence and proof
There are a number of ways you can use evidence to add credibility to your claims and this can have a measurable impact on conversion. Some examples include customer testimonials, showing logos of clients you have worked with (if you are focused on B2B), media your products have appeared in or results of tests or research.
Tailor your content to your audience
How do you make content relevant to your audience and compel them to act? You need to understand your audience – their goals, values and pain points – and use this information to tailor content that addresses these factors. If you are not doing this you risk creating irrelevant content that doesn’t provide the answers your web visitors are seeking.
Creating buyer persona profiles can help immensely with this process by helping you to define your core customers and the key messages that will grab their attention. Persona profiles will provide a starting point for keyword research, paid advertising, headlines, page content, blog posts, articles and calls to action. Creating persona profiles can be a challenging process but your web content and marketing in general will be the better for it, because you will be providing valuable and relevant information to your audience.
Provide the information people expect
A number of websites lack basic information such as an about us page or product descriptions, or do these things so poorly they give visitors a reason not to take action. Consider the following simple items of content and imagine visiting a site without them. It’s important you do these things to build trust with your website visitors – and that contributes to conversions:
- Have an About Us page that explains who you are, what you do and your background
- Have a Contact Us page with complete contact details
- If you offer services, clearly articulate what the services are and the benefits
- If you sell products, include product images and product descriptions.
Use a call to action
Have a clear call to action that directs people towards a conversion event – an enquiry, sign up, purchase and so on. You should have a call to action on your home page, each landing page and each product or service page. Don’t simply write about your products or services and leave the choice of action up to the visitor because their response may be to click away. Instead, direct them towards the desired conversion event with a clear and compelling message. We talk more about calls to action below.
Make content action oriented
Some simple changes to tone of voice – particularly in headings and calls to action – can influence visitors to act. For example, which of the following calls to action are likely to be more successful – the originals or the revised versions in bold? With so many messages competing for attention on the web it often helps to be direct:
- A home free of pests vs. Rid Your Home of Pests Now!
- Sign up here vs. Get Your Free Account
- Add to Cart vs. Buy this item now!
- Watch Our Video vs. Take the 60-second tour
Write original and thoughtful product descriptions
Product descriptions will make or break your online sales. Often, buyers are looking for a reason to make a purchase – or not – and your product description is critical in pushing buyers over the line. Consider the following ideas for effective product descriptions:
- Use information in buyer personas to match buyer goals and diffuse objections or pain points
- Tell a story about the product or its background for a point of difference – here’s a great example of storytelling in product descriptions
- Give information about the production or design process for credibility and interest
- Sell benefits, not just features . Here is some more information on selling with benefits
- Write a compelling headline. Here is some more information on writing great headlines
- Make your descriptions scannable with headings, bullet points, bold text and so on – not simply a block of text
- Use action oriented messages (see above for examples)
- Be honest about your product
- Be comprehensive about product features – don’t leave anything out as this may give a visitor a reason not to proceed
- Avoid motherhood statements such as ‘high quality’ – make sure you tell them why it is so
- Use evidence such qualitative information and social proof such as testimonials to add credibility
- Provide answers to FAQs – this will prove to visitors you are responsive and care about customers
- Use original descriptions and avoid copying text from your supplier/manufacturer – Google may actually consider this duplicate content and penalise your web ranking.
Use landing pages
Do you run PPC ads (eg Adwords) that link directly to your home page? If yes then you may be severely limiting conversion potential.
If you have a very simple website that includes your offer and a call to action on your home page, you may not need dedicated landing pages. But, as with most companies, if you have multiple products or services (and you advertise for specific items) and your ads link to Home, you will force visitors to work to find the answers to their questions. This can only be bad for conversions.
A landing page should be tailored to a specific message with a call to action dedicated to the cause. The challenge is to optimise the visitor’s experience and make sure you don’t make it hard for them to make a convertible event. Use information from buyer personas (eg your customer’s goals and challenges) to ensure your copy is relevant.
Pay attention to usability
It’s well established that online readers behave in specific ways that are very different to readers of print. If you don’t cater to these habits you are taking an unnecessary risk and your conversion rate may suffer as a consequence.
We’re all used to reading print. When we pick up a book or newspaper, we embark on a path we know is utterly controlled by the author and, in a way, put our trust in the author to take us the right way through the story. Web browsers, on the other hand, are creating their own story as they go. They choose the plot turns – the path of navigation – and they have the ability to change their mind at any point. Their narrative is unpredictable and liable to change if they see what they are looking for.
Capturing their attention is the first challenge, by using the right content signals to prove to them that your web page is worthy of attention (eg via eg page descriptions in google, PPC ads, landing page structure and consistency, headings, sub headings, bullets, bolded keywords, social proof). Once you have their attention, the next challenge is to maintain their interest and answer their questions (eg through ensuring content is relevant, readable, compelling, backed by evidence, has case studies, calls to action and clear navigation). More on this will be contained in a future post.
Other user habits can be exploited for advantage in the way you lay out your content. Eye tracking studies show that users read websites in an F-shaped pattern. The obvious implication is that website content should be tailored to this habit:
- On you home page, have a clear statement about your business in the user’s line of site so that you immediately establish what you do and how you can benefit them
- Share important information – benefits, solutions and so on – early and clearly so you maximise the chances of site visitors reading this
- Place calls to action so that they are within the F-shaped range – so even after a quick scan the user knows how to proceed to a conversion event
- Use clear and relevant headings that progress intuitively down the page and that will be comprehended easily by scanning readers – they might not need to read all of the page content to maintain an understanding of what you are saying.