3 keys to unleashing your website’s potential

by

iMedia Connection

By Dan Naden

Let’s face it: customers will leave your website. But what pages they leave from — and why — will tell you volumes. Here are some essential pointers.

I am a big golfer. I love playing a game that requires mental patience, flexibility, resolve and dedication.

Like anything, the game of golf requires consistent practice. The best-of-the-best embody a “test and learn” approach to his or her continuous improvement.

The master of golf in the last 10 years (and probably the next 10) has been Tiger Woods. Tiger took the golf world by storm, and his dominance has shown no signs of slowing. Why? He’s never satisfied with his current position, and he continues to “test and learn” his way to the top.

So let’s be realistic. You probably can’t test and learn your way to golf’s nirvana, but a few simple tips can improve your website’s performance.

1) Key entry points
Have you dissected how people are getting to your site? The most basic web metrics solutions (Google Analytics or WebTrends, for example) can inform you about entry pages emanating from direct traffic, SEO campaign pages and search keywords.

Perhaps certain pages are better optimized for search engines than others. If so, you should really implement a site-wide optimization project to get your pages in a better position to be properly spidered by the engines. As you dig into this analysis, you may also be shocked at the pages through which consumers are entering your site.

Once you’ve isolated the key landing pages/entry points for your site, put yourself in the mind of your consumer and try to answer these questions: 

  • What will make me continue “down the path” with this site?
  • Is the consumer closer to achieving his/her goal?
  • Am I overwhelming the consumer with too many choices?

By reviewing path analysis, you may uncover that consumers are clicking on buttons or links that you never designed as critically important to solving their goal (buying a computer, finding out more information about a house, generating a credit report).

Don’t be afraid to A/B test a number of different versions of key entry pages, like the homepage and landing pages. You may be surprised by the up-front costs of implementing an effective A/B process, but the results you glean from these tests will make that money back in the long run.

2) Key exit points
Let’s face it: customers will leave your website. But what pages they leave from will tell you volumes about what is working and not working with your site.

If consumers are leaving your search results before browsing through product details, perhaps your ads are too intrusive, the result links are not clear or a Flash movie/tour provides distraction rather than information or guidance.

If your homepage turns out to be a big exit page for your site, take an outsider perspective and consider what may be deterring the customer from moving forward. Here are a few things to consider:

  • If search is your main activity to push from your homepage, are you making this clear? Are other things too actively drawing consumer attention?
  • Does a consumer clearly understand through pictures, video or short, bulleted text the reason for your website’s existence? Don’t be surprised by the number of consumers that ask: Why am I at this website?
  • Are you clearly catering to your most profitable customers right from the start? If your site caters to a wide variety of demographics, the Baby Boomers may need different visual cues than the Generation-X set.

The ways your customers exit your site may also tell you just as much, or even more, than their entry path. Take this data seriously and you will do wonders in converting more browsers to buyers.

3) Key conversion points
Think about Tiger Woods practicing and perfecting his golf game with all of the clubs except the putter. Wouldn’t it be hard for him to finish tournaments?

All of the slick, effective work that you’ve done up until this point is obliterated if you can’t get the consumer beyond your key conversion points.
 
Key conversion points for most sites include: 

  • Lead submission
  • Checkout
  • Register

(Not to mention the many micro-conversion points that all lead up to that pivotal moment. Is your site ready for your moment in the sun?)

It may seem obvious, but freely test different layouts and call-to-actions on your lead pages. 

  • Are you using “action” buttons or links? Test to see which are most effective on your site.
  • Is your verbiage persuasive and benefits-focused? Don’t lull your customers into lethargy with passive language like “Request” or “Submit.” Talk to your customers about solving their problems, not about meeting your goals.
  • Are you removing any possible points of confusion for the consumer to continue with your offer? Will your information be sold to a third party? Do I know exactly what the next step is after I fill out this form? Uncertainty is not your friend when your customer is ready to buy, checkout or become a lead.

Tiger will keep hoisting trophies; he’ll continue to modify his putting, short game or long game to stay at the top. His belief and implementation of a “test and learn” methodology may solidify him as the best golfer ever.

Utilizing these three simple tips may very well escalate your site’s performance to the top of your industry. Stay true to the metrics, never give up and always believe you can test and learn a better way to design a page, implement a campaign or persuade an audience to act.

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