20 Lessons Learned Optimizing Websites
After over two decades of building websites and spending the last 6 years focusing almost exclusively on optimizing conversion rates, I’ve learned a few things 😉
1) Track Everything – If you don’t know what people are doing on your website, you can’t tell if they are finding the information they came for. We suggest tracking 3 main things (for all segments of traffic):
- Micro Conversions
- Macro Conversions
Everyone knows their macro conversions (how many sales you make) because the show up in your bank account. But what about Micro conversions? How many newsletter signups are you getting. How many “Buy Now” button clicks? And what does your engagement rate look like? Do you know how many people are actually reading your content?
2) Segment, Segment, Segment [your data] – It’s important to segment your data by common segment for 2 reasons: You can compare segments for performance as a pseudo baseline, and you can tell when one segment starts to suffer.
Consider segmenting by Device, Gender, Source/Medium, Geography, and User Behavior.
3) Know what you want [your visitors to do] – If you don’t know what path your visitors should take through your website, or what content they should consume before contacting you, they don’t stand a chance.
4) Sell 1 thing with options on “How” to buy – So many ecommerce and direct response companies make the buyer choose between 10 similar products, and then they have to choose 3 different options to “customize” the product. Sure, people love choices… but instead of forcing someone to choose what product to buy, make the choice easy and provide options on how to buy. One-time payment, 3 Low installments, 12 month financing.
5) Make Choices Easy – What’s better: a Raven? or a Writing Desk? It’s difficult to compare two very different items. Giving someone too many choices or no way to measure and evaluate your product guarantees your visitors will make a choice… the choice to leave.
6) Confusion Kills – This is a warning that spans many relevant topics. It’s important to keep your information consistent. There needs to be a clear path forward at every step of the way. And if you are running split tests, you don’t want to confuse visitors by showing the same visitor multiple versions of the same test, or even worse – different prices! This kills trust and confidence.
7) Mobile First – It’s not a buzz word. The majority of traffic on the internet is coming from a tiny personal computer. Regardless how much of your traffic is currently mobile, it’s the future. There’s no denying it. When you get on your own website, you shouldn’t be pulling it up on your computer. To get your team to focus on mobile first, you just have to make your phone the #1 way you look at your site.
8) Landing Pages… for EVERYTHING – Landing pages are one of the most under utilized ways to optimize opt-ins, downloads, signups, and sales. Your product page IS a landing page. That’s where Google sends people. Have a landing page for every action you want your visitors to take (and treat it like a landing page). You can even create specific different landing pages for important segments. Conversions will increase and Google will reward you.
9) Color Matters – In college a friend of mine, a foreign exchange student from China, came up and randomly gave me a hug saying, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t understand, but it turns out, I was dressed all in white. He thought I came from a funeral. It’s no secret people have strong associative relationships with color. Color IS a non-figurative symbol. Red means stop. Green means go. Purple means royalty. In the US, Black is associated with death, but in Asia, it’s White. Know your audience and what each color represents.
10) Use Internal Ads… and go Vertical – Your website visitors are looking for ‘something,’ even if that something is just a way to kill time. Don’t let them wonder around your site aimlessly. Use your site to advertise to your visitors. Advertisements are a way of directing traffic. That doesn’t mean you can use them to direct traffic internally. Also, note that vertical ads are considered more visible than their square or horizontal counterparts.
11) Sliders Suck – Yes, sliders suck. No, you shouldn’t use them. I’ve never lost a test against a slider. If you feel the need to represent 5 different departments on your home page, use tiles. http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/
12) Share your Unique Value Proposition – There are lots of options out there, why should I care about yours? Maybe it’s customer service, maybe it’s user reviews, maybe it’s quality or price. Whatever the reason, you need to tell your visitors why they should care about your offering. Tell them, and tell them often.
13) CTA (Clarity over Clever or Boring) – There seems to be 2 camps of writing for a Call to Action. On one side, it’s boring and almost mechanical: “Submit” “Buy Now” “Sign Up”. On the other side, they seem to get too clever and wordy: “Yes! I want to fall in love with my job!” Not to mention the passive aggressive “pass.”
If you want a high converting CTA, write a short, clear, simple, benefits based statement. (Easier said than done.)
14) Typography Matters – A girly font for Harley Davidson just wouldn’t work… the same way a rustic font for Victoria’s Secret would feel weird. The font you choose says a lot about you. If you’re trying to be considered a trustworthy expert, ditch Comic Sans and use Baskerville.
15) Use Motion and Video – There are three main styles of learning: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Kinesthetic is the most powerful, although must of us become auditory or visual learners through school. Reading is hard. Using GIFs and Video allow you to tap into visual and auditory learning centers of the brain. Sugru has some of my favorite explainer GIFs – https://sugru.com/home-diy/how-to-add-key-storage-to-your-shelves
16) Match Your Brand – The world of marketing, and yes your website is a form of marketing, is an interesting one. Sure, the goal is to attract customers, but while the business is focusing on people who become customers, marketing is focusing on people who don’t become visitors. Always trying to figure out how to get more of them to become customers. In chasing customers, it’s easy to get away from the heart of the brand. It’s important to have a litmus test to check all your creative and hair brained ideas against to make sure you stay on brand.
17) Use Lead Magnets – You have visitors, but organic or paid, they aren’t a captive audience. Once they leave it’s hard to get them back. One method of starting people down the buying funnel is to have a lead magnet. An offer of something of value for [basically] free. For the price of sharing their email, your visitors get a really valuable piece of content and you get a way of contact them directly… but don’t stop there.
If someone indicates interest in your lead magnet, it’s an immediate opportunity to sell them on the next step > becoming a customer.
18) Use Tripwires – How often do you try a new restaurant vs how often do you go to one you already know? There’s a lot of perceived risk in trying something new. This is why we always tend to go with “the devil we know” even if we don’t consider it a great choice. A Tripwire is an offer designed to make it easy and take the risk out of trying something new. Generally a low dollar offer for something of great value, the goal is to get more people to become customers. Are you more likely to try a new restaurant with a Groupon for 50% off?
19) Utilize your Transactional Emails – Every time someone signs up for your newsletter or purchases a product, you send them a confirmation email. “Thanks for buying… here’s your receipt.” Guess what? These emails have a 300-400% higher open rate than your normal marketing emails. That’s a massive opportunity to be seen. Use the extra space on your transcational emails to advertise additional products, cross sell, up sell, or even promote affiliate offers. Your customers are opening them, don’t waste them.
20) Everything’s a Funnel – You should treat your entire website like one big funnel. There are many entry points. They should all lead to a secondary page that is a logical progression closer to making a purchase, and then again, and again, until a sale is made. The one immutable truth about a funnel is: you can’t skip ahead. This is where most companies miss the boat.
You look at your list of 50,000 newsletter subscribers and think that if 1% buy, you’ll be good. And if you don’t offer everyone the chance to buy, you’re going to lose sales…
You should have an easy offer (lead magnet) that’s free where you can get 10% of your subscribers to bite. Then, of those that took you up on your free offer, make another easy offer (tripwire) where you can get 50% of them to become customers, and offer an up sell (your original offer) to your new customers where roughly 30% of them will bite now. That’s 5x more customers and 250 more sales.
The trick is, in a funnel, nothing matters until you take the next step.
Conclusion: There’s a lot that goes into an ecommerce website, but truthfully, most of it is just dev, design, and management. Necessary efforts, but they don’t have a direct effect on the bottom line. This list is based on what I’ve seen to have a direct and measurable effect on bottom line numbers.