Would you like your site to generate more income, but don’t know how to make that happen? Are you unsure about what direction your site design should take? Do you hear a lot about “usability” and “engagement”, but lack a concrete guide for what to actually do about these things?
If so, this post is for you.
Read on to find out the only two factors that truly matter for your website’s performance and profitability.
Content and Conversion
I’m not about to beat around the bush, here: the two factors are content and conversion.
Much like the north star can be used to navigate a ship across the sea, you can use content and conversion as your guiding lights. Every single decision you make about your website will be easier to make, once you understand these two principles. And every decision you make, based on these principles, will make your website more successful and more profitable.
So, what exactly are the principles behind content and conversion?
Every page on your site should aim to be highly readable, easily consumable, provide what the visitor is looking for and it should drive the visitor towards your conversion goal in one way or another.
Let’s go into a bit more detail and then look at a few good and bad examples.
What “Good Content” Really Means
Much has already been said about the importance of creating good content. In fact, it’s something that is usually over-stated and under-explained in the blogging-about-blogging niche.
Good content is usually a very fluffy concept and most people associate it with A) many words on your page (perhaps with a few images as well) and B) better information than you can find elsewhere.
In some cases, this is true. However, in others, it is not. The most important thing to keep in mind about content is that it should match your visitors’ needs. Sometimes, the best possible content you can put on a page is an extremely long, in-depth article. Sometimes, it’s a silly, 30-second video. It all depends on your market and your visitor’s intention.
Design and Usability
Assuming that your content is “good” and matches your target market, the next most important thing is to make it as accessible as possible.
Here are the top three most important factors for highly accessible website content:
- Make your content easily readable.
- Make your navigation clear and easy to understand.
- Make sure your pages load as quickly as possible.
In general, we are not very patient when we browse the web. There are millions of places where we might be able to find what we’re looking for, so we don’t put up with sites that make things difficult for us.
Assume that your average visitor will sooner look for an alternative source than strain their eyes, trying to read your website’s text content. Use a reasonably large font size and a nice font that is easy on the eyes and not flashy or extravagant. Take a quick look at this guide for more specific recommendations on how to use fonts on your website.
Assume that your average visitor will sooner leave your website than try to find your navigation menu, if it’s in an unusual place. Have your main navigation horizontally in the header section of your page, where everyone expects it to be (with the possible exception of ecommerce stores, where the main navigation is often in the left sidebar).
Assume that your average visitor will sooner abandon your website than wait around for several seconds for your content to load. Follow this guide to speed up you site, if it’s not already very quick to load.
Good website design gets out of the way, so that the visitor can completely focus on the content. Bad design is in your face, screaming: LOOK AT ME, I AM A FLASHY/MODERN/OBNOXIOUS DESIGN!!!
The first and worst mistake concerning conversions is not having a clear conversion goal. No matter what type of website you run and no matter what your business model is, your site must have one main conversion goal. Without a conversion goal, you are simply flying blind.
In most cases, your site will have one main, “global” conversion goal and a set of secondary conversion goals for specific pages.
For example, the main conversion goal on an ecommerce website will be getting the customer to make a purchase (of many, high-priced items, preferably). Each individual product description page has the secondary conversion goal of getting the visitor to add that specific product to their shopping cart.
In a different example, your site’s main conversion goal may be to get people to sign up to your service, while individual pages on your site have a specific secondary goal of getting a visitor to take the next step in your funnel and look at your main sales-page. Other pages again may have a secondary conversion goal of getting people to share a piece of content socially, to spread your brand and reach new audiences.
Calls to Action
Of course, just having conversion goals in the back of your mind or written down on a notepad won’t help much. You also need to actively drive people towards those goals. You need to invite visitors to take that next step.
The easiest way to do this is to add clear calls to action to your pages. Here are the top three ways you can call to a specific action, on your site:
- Use color and contrast to make a conversion element stand out.
- Limit the amount of possible options that visitors can take on your page.
- Write out very clearly what you want your visitors to do and why they should do it.
That last point is the most important one. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but no matter how obvious an action is, simply calling your visitors to perform it will almost always increase your conversion rates.
For example, there’s only one way in which visitors can interact with an opt-in form. But adding some text like “sign up to join my mailing list!” will almost certainly lead to a slight increase in conversions. To get even better results, combine your call to action with a benefit statement: “sign up below to join my mailing list and learn my best-kept knitting secrets!”
Here’s an illustration, using a video thumbnail as an example:
That last example is a bit crowded, which isn’t ideal. However, that’s only because I wanted to keep these images at a reasonably small size. On a full-sized video thumbnail, you’ll find more than enough space to add a good call to action, without visually messing up the image.
Watch the video below for some examples of sites that get the “content and conversions” principle right… and one that really doesn’t:
Of course, neither I nor anyone else can truly predict what call to action will get the highest conversion rates for your market and your audience, or what color opt-in box will work best on your site. We can all only make educated guesses.
And we can test.
It cannot be overstated how important split testing is, for any online business. The ability to split test is the most significant advantage that online businesses have, over brick-and-mortar businesses. Make sure you make use of it!
For testing, you can use the free Google Website Optimizer (now Google Website Experiments, inside Analytics) or the more user friendly and feature-rich Visual Website Optimizer (my personal favorite).
Intelligent testing of your website, using the “content and conversion” principle as your guideline will inevitably make your website better and more profitable. Create awesome content, matching your visitors’ interests and needs, make this content very easily accessible and highly readable, have a clear conversion goal and run tests, aiming to increase the number of visitors who reach that conversion goal.
Do this and you’ll quickly be ahead of 90% or more of your competitors.
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