The Two Factors that Determine the Success of Your Site

May 3, 2012 , 26 Comments

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:

  1. Make your content easily readable.
  2. Make your navigation clear and easy to understand.
  3. 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!!!

Conversion Goals

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

Also read the alt text. Hah, see? You did! :)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:

  1. Use color and contrast to make a conversion element stand out.
  2. Limit the amount of possible options that visitors can take on your page.
  3. 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:

Video Thumbnail Examples

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:
[thrive_borderless type=’custom_code’]


Guided Testing

VWOOf 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.

Did you enjoy this post? Tweet it, share it on facebook and let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

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About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • This is one of the most important statements here,

    “The ability to split test is the most significant advantage that online businesses have, over brick-and-mortar businesses.”

    And I would add that it can be done easily and more importantly with little cost or disruption to the ongoing business.

    • Right on Artur,

      Could you imagine what a brick mortar business could do if they could only test out different designs and what not.

      As you said, it is one of the most important points.

      Being able to test at a low cost as you said, is a huge advantage it’s crazy how many people don’t use it more to get the best results.

      Great comment Artur

  • I remember in my teens being fortunate enough to be taught by a highly respected documentary film-maker how to frame a photo. I had no idea who this guy was and at the time, I was using an old Kodak Box Brownie!

    Within ten minutes the ‘penny’ had dropped, I got it. That lesson has stayed with me for the rest of my life.

    What Shane has done above is exactly similar to my photographic ‘Ah Ha!’ moment.

    Just brilliant – Thanks….


    • Awesome! Thank you very much for this comment, Michael.

      It’s funny that this is on an article about conversions, but while the website is built around a conversion goal, the reason I write is to make this kind of thing happen. :)

  • Hey Shane,

    Sounds simple when you lay it out like that ;-)

    It’s just somehow very easy to lose sight of the overall picture (conversion goal, readability…) whilst getting bogged down in a constant rush to create new content.

    Thanks for reminding us of the actual reason why most of us are doing this – for conversion = making money!

    I would like to add that a big part in the success of a site is how well one engages and interacts with one’s audience being it by asking thought provoking questions in your comment section, forum or FB page. You do this extremely well.

    And of course video must also be playing a huge part in user engagement. I’m slowly working my way up to producing my own as I know how powerful a medium it is – especially in creating conversions.

    PS: I found your video thumbnails & case studies very helpful – Nice touch!

    • Hi Sandra,

      Shane and I have been discussing a post that we hope to release on this blog shortly; it closely relates to what you just mentioned about video and how you’re slowly building up to doing it.

  • This is really good information thanks Shane. I have altered my call to action already to give it a benefit and will be implementing some more visual calls to action according to your advice.

    How do you know the best split testing software to use?



    • Hi Carl,

      Thanks for your comment!

      The way to know the best split testing software to use is to test! :)

      I’ve tried quite a few and Visual Website Optimizer is the one I ended up sticking with. It’s incredibly easy to use, which is one of the main advantages. You never have to think about the technical stuff, you just focus on the testing.

      There’s also a good comparison of different solutions here, created by the Conversion Rate Experts: Which Multivariate

  • Hi Shane/Paul,
    Thanks for the great post. I think I have a moderately good website (AdSense)that fulfills both the criteria but unfortunately, I have had no progress at all. I am doing a bit of link-building to it, but I haven’t had much luck with conversions. I am planning a blog that might help hopefully. I would certainly attend the webinar-there may be something in it for me. Thanks again.

  • Hello Shane,

    From a good readability point of view, most websites don’t follow the rules of typography. I think good typography is something which is always present in print media but while publishing in internet many a times the fonts or the spaces between fonts are not proper and even the choice of fonts etc. Even if you have a great content but at the end of the day if it is not legible or readable then you’re losing a potential audience.

  • This is great content! It seems so obvious, but this kind of stuff is overlooked all the time.

  • Hey Shane,

    like every time, another Golden Nugget. You make it so clear, that the simpliest things are the ones, that increases the website performing.

  • Another great post :-) can you give us some tips about measuring Facebook ads results or conversion rates?

  • Hello Shane,

    You just keep on delivering! Quick question om another topic. In a post where you talked about the Viral Quiz Builder you used an example of a Zombie quiz and badge. Is there an actual quiz for that? I would like to see it.


    • Hello Rick,

      That example quiz was on the actual Viral Quiz Builder sales page, as a demo.
      That content is currently not accessible, but I’ll bring it back when the VQB update is done. :)

  • Hi Shane – I love your handwritten notes!

    Can you point me in the direction of the software/hardware you use to create them and get them on your webpage.

    many thanks


    • Hi Leo,

      I use photoshop with handwritten fonts, many of which you can find on DaFont.

      You could also use a free tool such a Pixlr, to create these same kind of graphics.

  • I really need to work on my split testing. I think what keeps me from doing well in that area is focus.

    My focus is exceptionally poor right now because the Penguin was more like a shark in my case. I’m the penguin and G was the shark. :)

    I’ve got to get my focus back. Oh I’m focused, focused on trying to get traffic. I’m not focused on a method of doing that. The loss of funds makes it hard to carry out a plan. :)

    Yeah, I’m defiantly running around like a headless chicken right now.

    Okay, I’ve got a bunch of things to fix. Do them one at a time. Testing seems extra hard when you loose 4/5’s of your traffic over night.

    Okay, I’m off to fix the biggest one and then concentrate on testing.

    Two weeks ago, I thought I had this figured out. :)

  • Hi Shane,

    It may sound a bit odd, but two main factors are 1, Laser Targeted Traffic and 2, Quality Sales copy.

    This is the alpha and omega on what each marketer should focus on ! This is what determines the success or failure of website project.

  • Hello Shane,

    Your subscription form below each post seems interesting. Do you use any free or paid plugin for the same?

    • It’s custom coded, at the moment.
      I’ll be releasing a plugin that will let you add forms like that, with a special twist to them. ETA: end of May. :)

  • Very pragmatic indeed, thanks Shane
    The best way to make “the penny drop” is by example, and you did it masterfully.
    It is easy to say: have a clear objective on each page, but to see how it is implemented by the masters is uncommon in this field. Thx again

  • Many people don’t realise with good content comes income and results in the long term. What bloggers ultimately desire is readers returning to continue reading content rather than readers coming then going straight after

  • Hi Shane

    I’ve really got to ask – how do you get that “extra text” (such as the “click to play”) to show on the front of your videos like that?

    • Hi Sanjeev,

      That’s just a custom video thumbnail, created in Photoshop. I take a screenshot from the video, add the arrow and text in photoshop and then upload that as a thumbnail.

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