Learn ways to increase conversion and move people through your sales funnel once they land on your website. Director of Content Strategy for JB Media Group Leah Quintal takes the ten-syllable-mouthful ‘website conversion optimization’ and breaks it down in less than 15 minutes in this Digital Drop-In webinar. Prefer scanning to watching videos? You can read my synopsis below, with some added commentary from my own experience as JB Media’s graphic designer.

What is Website Conversion Optimization?

Website conversions are when site visitors take a desired action. They do not just scan a blog post, or read your About page, but intentionally click a button to demonstrate their interest. Here are three common examples:

  • Making a purchase
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Signing up for a newsletter

Website conversion optimization is making it easy, natural, and appealing for people to take those actions. Have you ever given up on a form because it asked for too much information? Then it wasn’t easy enough. Have you ever finished an interesting article and then shared it because the buttons at the end reminded you to? That’s a natural next step. Have you ever skipped an ad? It probably wasn’t appealing to you.

Easy, natural, and appealing are important to remember because conversion is not coercion. When it’s done well, the user doesn’t have to think about it because the steps naturally lead them to something they want to do. Don’t use aggressive sales techniques, overwhelming popups, or anything where a user feels forced into giving their information to you. Conversions are about relationship building – you are courting your visitors. Be respectful in your wooing.

Remind Me Why I Care?

You’ve spent days tweaking your MailChimp campaign; you’ve obsessed over your Google AdWords phrasing; you’ve followed your content calendar religiously. You’ve dedicated time, energy, and money to get people to your website. Out of all those visitors, how many of them are contacting you, or buying a product? As Leah notes in the webinar, “You can drive traffic there all day long without doing any good for your business.”

It’s much easier to double your business by doubling your conversion rate than by doubling your traffic. – Jeffrey Eisenberg, BuyerLegends.com

It’s easy to get so excited about marketing, SEO, and social media that you start to forget those things are not the end game – they are tools to support your business goals. Traffic is great, but a website that doesn’t convert is about as useful as a cat on a leash.

Types of Website Conversions

The first step is to decide what type of website conversions make sense on your site. For an e-commerce site the last conversion is obviously making a purchase, but there are many other potential conversions along the way.

Mapping your conversion options against the sales funnel is a great way to make sure there are no gaps and that you’re tracking conversions at each stage. The areas of your website that don’t change from page to page—e.g. headers, footers, sidebars—should have conversion options for the first three stages of the funnel. For example, many websites will have an email signup (stages 1-2) and a prominent call-to-action (stages 3-4) in those areas.

For individual pages, you can make assumptions that certain pages are associated with different stages of the funnel, and make sure those pages are optimized for those users. For example, the homepage is often about brand awareness, blog posts cultivate lead generation, and the cart and checkout page is for users in the decision stage.

Pro tip: Landing pages (such as a page designed for an AdWords campaign) are fascinating because they are meant to squeeze the visitor through the entire funnel in one visit. While these tips apply to landing pages, the topic merits its own blog post.

Another way to categorize conversions is by how much effort, information, money, or engagement is required of the visitor:

Low: Read blog post; share on social media; enter sweepstakes

Medium: Chat; newsletter sign up; download a resource; register for a webinar; leave comment; complete a survey

High: Make a purchase; contact form; request a demo

It’s good practice to have a variety of conversion options so visitors can engage at their own comfort level.

How to Improve Conversions on Websites

Okay, time to zoom in from the abstract and get specific! I recommend toggling back and forth from this article to your website and actually work through this as you read. Doing so helps to cement the lessons when you see how they apply specifically to you.

Assess Your Top Landing Pages

Pro tip: Start with what is already working, and make it better.

Look at your site’s top landing pages in Google Analytics (you do have Analytics, right?). From your Analytics Dashboard, go to Behavior > Landing pages.

Your landing pages are where people first enter your site. Of course, for most sites the top entry point is the homepage, but you shouldn’t assume that. In the example above, the outlined landing page is a blog post.

Look at your top 3-10 landing pages with these questions in mind:

  • Do I have CTAs? Are they the right CTAs for someone landing on this page?
  • Where are my CTAs? Is there one above the fold?
  • Are my CTAs clear, compelling, and visually prominent?
  • Is there a diversity of CTAs?
  • Is this page attractive and appealing? Is it easy to read and navigate?
  • Should I add a delayed or exit-intent popup? (we like Sumo)

Aside from examining these pages from the perspective of a new visitor, you can also install heatmaps on these pages to get real data. We like Hotjar (free!), but Sumo also has a heatmap function. A heatmap records where people click and how far down they scroll. This can be revealing because oftentimes it shows that nobody cares about your fancy slider, so that prime real estate could be better utilized. The heatmap might show that your most popular element is fairly far down and only half of the visitors even see it. Fair warning – Hotjar also records visits, which can be more of a video black hole than kittens meeting hedgehogs (I’m doing you a favor by not hyperlinking that).

Design is Everything

I mean, as a graphic designer, I would wear that T-shirt, but Leah said it, not me. Smart woman, that Leah.

Pro tip: Make it as simple as possible for site visitors to accomplish important actions.

You don’t need to be a professional designer to make some impactful choices. And let’s remember that design isn’t limited to graphics—design includes colors, buttons, placement, font size, photo choices, etc. While every site situation is different, I’m going to try for some general blanket rules here:

Layout / Placement

  • Lead your page with an appealing photo of people that your visitor identifies with
  • Have your main CTA above the fold (where most screens will see it on the initial load)
  • Follow a ‘Z’ layout for your main above the fold elements
  • Use a headline that succinctly sums up the page (that seems like a given but…)
  • Have an intro paragraph above the fold. The font size can be larger than the body text
  • Through the rest of the page, break up large text blocks with photos, graphics, or pull quotes
  • Repeat the main CTA at the bottom, and in the main body if there’s a lot of content

Colors and Fonts

  • Warm colors, such as yellow, orange, and red, have been shown to be more ‘activating’ because they excite and stimulate us to action. Preferably these colors should be reserved for the CTA button to make it stand out and invite action
  • Headers, links, photos, and graphics can use other attractive colors. Otherwise, try to keep the page clear and clean so that the content is easy to focus on
  • Your fonts should be easy-to-read, large, and the body text should be a slightly off-black color

Forms and Buttons

  • Make the forms as short as possible. The fewer fields there are, the more likely a person is to fill it out
  • Make the ‘submit’ or action button exciting by using an activating color as discussed above, and use a verb other than submit. Highlight the reward rather than the cost (i.e., ‘Get discounts and first alerts’ versus ‘Submit your information’)
  • Buttons should be obviously clickable, so avoid a fancy graphic and stick to tried and true

How to Track Website Conversions

Whew, you’re optimized. Now what? As tempting as it is to wipe your hands and call it done, you need to track to know if your changes are working. One option is to run a fresh heatmap to see how visitors are interacting with your site. More importantly, you need to set it up as a conversion goal in Analytics.

In your Analytics dashboard, go Settings (gear icon) > Goals. Google has thoughtfully created templates for common goals. Go through the process for each of your conversions.

Now you have a website that optimizes for, or encourages, conversions such as purchases, newsletter signups, contact forms, etc. You’ve taken a look at your top landing pages, so you know which pages are priorities to optimize. Those pages have call to actions (highlighted conversion opportunities) in the top section of the page that use design best practices to attract notice. When a visitor clicks on the CTA, your Google Analytics records completion of a goal. Doesn’t it feel good to have a website that isn’t simply attractive, but is a strategic part of your sales funnel?