Conversions are the reason why websites exist. No matter whether site users are supposed to buy, register, join, read, watch, or contact you, web pages should be designed with only one goal in mind: to maximize conversions.
This post will help you understand exactly what conversions are, how to use them strategically, and – most important of all – how you can increase conversions by using simple scientific techniques that have proved to deliver optimal results.
What Are Conversions?
Conversion are strategically defined desirable actions that site users undertake on a website. They can, for example, be a purchase, lease, registration, membership, contacting the company, joining a cause, watching a video, staying more than XX sec per session, checking out more than XX pages per session, etc. Which ones are used in a specific case, depends on the strategic goals set for the website.
Even though the classic conversions, that is purchases and registrations, only apply to specialized sites, the dawn of content marketing has made it necessary to monitor and measure a much broader range of actions, such as user engagement or types of interaction with content.
In addition, entering the digital era, where every our step, all our devices, and clicks online are recorded by big players as Google and tied to each other, has empowered marketers beyond imagination by allowing them to track conversions from the digital into the physical world.
Efficient Conversion Strategy
To work on maximizing conversions, requires that you have set them correctly. This means that you have reviewed your strategy and chosen a number of key actions that lead directly – or indirectly – to achieving the strategic goals. Once chosen, such actions must be specified in detail in order to be tied to a milestone in your strategy. For example, a site visit is in itself a desirable action, however, to make it possible to monitor and measure it as a conversion, you must specify how it should go: whether it should be a returning customer making the visit, whether they have to spend certain time on your pages, click somewhere, or do something else.
As it’s the milestones in your strategy that define the conversions, you’d like to monitor, you cannot work efficiently with conversions without a strategy. Because of that, conversions will always be unique to your company. Therefore, I won’t try to make a list of conversions you can borrow. Instead, I’ll try to give you an idea – without being exhaustive – about what can be measured as a conversion.
- Number of purchases can be measured by monitoring visits at the checkout-exit page or clicks on the Confirm Purchase button.
- Items placed and removed from cart by inserting a piece of tracking code on product pages.
- Registrations can be measured by monitoring visits at the registration-exit page or clicks on the Register button.
- Downloads can be measured by monitoring visits at the download-exit page or clicks on the Download button.
- Repetitive site visits can be monitored by setting a custom goal in your analytics software (x-number of visits per user).
- Time used on site can be monitored by setting a custom goal for it.
- Pages per session can be monitored via custom goals.
- Customer behavior can be analyzed by defining, which pages should be visited before a site visit is counted as a conversion.
- Number of physical store visits following a website visit can be monitored when using Google AdWords and fulfilling the requirements.
- Number of site visits according to sex, age, location, device, etc. can be monitored via custom goals.
- Behavior on site according to sex, age, location, device, etc. can be monitored via custom goals.
Maximizing Conversions: The CTA Fix
Whenever someone is talking about increasing conversions, the CTAs get mentioned almost right away. There’s a good reason for that. CTAs (Calls To Action) are the key to maximizing conversions, in combination with the other elements, mentioned in this post.
A CTA consists of four basic elements: emphasis, message, color combinations, and CTA button/s. All of these elements play a key role in the process of making site visitors convert. Let’s look at them separately and dig into the best practice tips.
If you want to attract someone’s attention to a specific CTA on your page, you must emphasize it and make it stick out from the rest of the content. There are different ways to do that.
First and foremost, you should explore the power of empty space. When a bit more of empty space is applied around a CTA than around other page elements, it creates the illusion that the CTA is bigger than other elements. In our minds, size is translated as importance. Additionally, breaking the pattern of spaces on the page by applying a larger space, attracts site visitors’ attention due to our need to explore (and explain) anomalies. Thus, the larger empty space has achieved its goal: people are looking at the spot, you’d like them to look at.
Another way to make your CTA stand out is by using sharp popups over a darkened/blurred page or simply by using contrast as an emphasizing technique. The brightest spot catches easily the eye and makes us perceive the CTA as a first-priority content.
Similar effect is achieved when playing with textures. If a spot on the page appears to differ from the rest, the natural reaction is to check it out. The reason is once again to be found in psychology, where everything outside the normal triggers curiosity and a sense of urgency.
The last very effective emphasizing technique for maximizing conversions is called encapsulating. Simply explain, in means that you put your call to action inside a shape with a border line. Doing this helps the eye focus on the CTA, as well as distinguish it from the rest of the page.
In order to maximize conversions, you must give site visitors a very good reason to convert. Take a closer look at the text in the picture. Do you notice the keywords: stay on top, top insights, search experts, and delivered straight to your inbox? In the same time, you almost can’t see the two No, thanks-options.
Using keywords, clearly describing the benefits, one gets when, in this case, subscribing, is crucial to increasing conversions. People aren’t interested in simply receiving your newsletter. You must explain, what is in for them. Getting top insights from search experts is more beneficial than receiving a newsletter, right? And yet, it’s one and the same, only put in a way, making us want to convert.
Another way to boost conversions with up to 252 % is to switch the CTA message from prevailingly informative to more urgent. You can do that by giving people a reason to act now. Such reason can be a deadline, end of offer, missing out on something important, missing an opportunity, etc.
When a form is an important part of CTAs, as for example in the case of newsletter subscriptions or checkouts, there’s one and only rule: make the form as short as at all possible. Short forms perform much better in terms of conversions, because users like simplicity and don’t like wasting time on filling out forms.
In many cases, all you really need is an email address or physical address for delivery. True that knowing more about your target group can help you optimize your content. However, you can approach the issue in a smarter way.
Make your CTA form as short as possible. Then, when you have permission to contact registrants, serve them short surveys or single questions – or let them (always optionally!) create an online profile. A great way to learn more about your target group is to offer focused content that can tell you, what they care about. A simple example here would be a newsletter, where tips & tricks are offered for users of iPhone and Samsung in clearly separated sections that readers should click on to access. There you go: you know what brand your target group owns or is looking to buy.
Another way to maximize conversions via tweaks in the CTA form, is to keep language natural, which resonates better with site users’ way of thinking and making decisions. This leads to 25-40 % more conversions.
Using Directional Cues
You have surely done it yourself: you do look in the direction an arrow points to. This is not coincidental. It’s coded in our nature to follow directions. That’s why it’s a great tactic to use arrows to direct site users’ attention to your CTA.
While it’s a really bad idea to splash a large yellow blinking arrow that looks like a casino commercial on your page, a well-styled arrow with carefully chosen color and size will without a doubt do the trick. Using red color will help you attract attention to the CTA and will wake the sense of emergency that CTAs usually try to work with.
The CTA button is one of the most important factors affecting conversions. If you want to maximize conversions, there’re two things you must work on: the button’s text and the button’s color.
The text, which often is overlooked and reads something uninteresting as Subscribe or Sign up, is one of these things that can truly make a difference in terms of conversions. While there isn’t one universally applicable solution that works best, there’re 3 tricks helping you increase conversions:
- Stop creating short or one-word CTAs on buttons! Instead, work on a CTA that resonates with site users’ reasoning. A short sentence that actually makes an appeal is always to prefer.
- Stop focusing on the action in question (for example, Register)! Instead, try to give site users a reason to do it. What are they going to get out of registering or signing up? “Join our passionate community” sounds somehow more inviting than “Sign up”, right?
- Use power words or triggers, such as top, best, pro, expert, success, advantage, exclusive, etc.
When it comes to the color of the CTA button, the rule is as simple as it can be: keep it red. According to research, changing the color from green to red leads to 34 % increase in conversions (see references at the end of the post).
Maximizing Conversions: The Design Fix
Design is often a subject to either purely esthetic or branding discussions and this is the reason why there’re so many totally dysfunctional sites out there. If you want to maximize conversions – and thus achieve the goals, set for your site, you must take a strategic or, even better, a scientific approach to site design. Here’s what you should take into account:
The first rule you should remember is that design should be simple. Simple in terms of navigation, figuring out where to find what, how things function, and avoiding distractions. We, humans don’t like intricate designs, as they make us insecure. Likewise, we don’t like wasting time on trying to figure out, where the menus are or how they work. Thus, bounce rates explode on creatively designed sites, where user experience hasn’t been considered.
Distractions are also a sure way to counteract conversions. As mentioned above, your design should be created to guide site users towards converting. This means that elements, interrupting the user journey, should be avoided or minimized. Such elements are, for example, too many CTAs on a single page, large commercials or commercials placed in strategically important spots, intrusive videos (auto play), colored text or bright backgrounds, many outbound links, etc.
For decades now, whenever talking about design or functionality, the desktop versions of sites has by default been the primary target for optimizations. However, these times are over now. According to Smart Insights, mobile device use surpassed desktop use already in 2015 with the tendency continuing. And yet, smartphone users account for 3 times fewer conversions than tablet or desktop users. So, what’s wrong?
The issue is that mobile sites were created years, sometimes decades, ago, where conditions as slow connections or low-quality view on mobile devices made it necessary to create light-weight versions of desktop sites. Their function has never been to generate conversions but to create leads that later on end up on desktop sites and convert there. This strategy has also worked for a long time now. But now it’s over.
It’s not only the advance in mobile technology and our use of mobile devices that makes it necessary to offer fully functional mobile sites. Google has made the ultimate move by starting to experiment with mobile index first, meaning that ranks from now on will be based on the mobile version of sites.
Therefore, when trying to maximize conversions, you must take into account the necessity to optimize your mobile site. In fact, a well-designed mobile site can lead to 2x increase in conversions.
Visual hierarchy is one of the theories, you really should study, when working on creating functional designs. While it’s impossible to cover it comprehensively here, I’d like to focus on its basic elements and give you the possibility to research it further by following the reference link at the end of the post.
- Size is used to guide site users to the most important elements on a page (biggest) or to make them follow a pattern.
- Color is used both as a way to emphasize elements on a page and to trigger actions/emotions. Colors are indeed very powerful in terms of creating perceptions, such as product quality, price class, or environment-friendliness, for example.
- Contrast is used to highlight CTAs and other key elements on a page. Contrast can also be used as a way to influence decisions by making the desired choice much more noticeable.
- Texture, especially in a web environment, can attract attention and make site users follow patterns. This can be used both in connection to CTAs and other main elements on a page that must be easy to discover and work with. Texture can also affect emotions by making site users calm or alert.
- Proximity is used both as a way to emphasize importance by placing CTAs visually closer to site users and as a way to influence decisions by placing them at strategic spots, where the cursor is expected to be.
- Repetition in design helps guide site users by creating expectations. Thus, when your menus, subheadings or links look the same across all of your pages, site users know what to expect and how to act.
You might argue that placing a human face on your website doesn’t really have anything with design or conversions to do. However, it is a design element that you should consider using. There’s data, pointing to the correlation between displaying a human face and an increase in conversions. The reason is that people feel more secure, when they see that they are dealing with real people and not with a cold corporate machine.
To maximize conversions, place a human face on strategic spots, such as CTAs, the About page, the Contact page, and at the checkout.
Maximizing Conversions: The Informational Fix
User behavior gets affected by others’ behavior. This isn’t something new. What’s new is that, according to research, you can increase conversions with up to 148 % by implementing one or a mix of the following informational strategies:
- Discount information, whenever applicable, displayed in strategic spots on your pages and/or as a part of your SEO headline, has shown to increase conversions noticeably.
- Social signals, such as followers on social media, likes on your pages, and customer reviews, are known to help build user trust. In combination with celeb signals, such as a popular face, participating in your branding campaign, or other affiliations with celebrities, as recommendations for example, they can lead to a significant increase in conversions.
- Emphasizing the cost/benefit relationship from a customer’s point of view is a great way to increase conversions. When you focus on how little is required from the customer opposed to the great value that awaits them, you help them make a decision and convert.
- Free shipping isn’t always applicable. However, whenever applicable, it’s highly recommended to use it. In fact, 61 % of all customers online are likely to cancel their entire order if free shipment is not offered.
- About and Contact pages can also be crucial for conversion rates. Especially the growth in the number of untrustworthy websites in the last decade has made online shoppers more aware of the risks, connected to purchases online. Therefore, it’s not unusual that they check out your About and Contact pages, just as a way to verify your business identity and make sure they can trust you with their credit card. It’s a small thing that should be done well. Display all applicable contact information, together with your business registration details. Adding just a phone number to your home page increases conversions with 0.5 %.
No matter which techniques you choose to use to maximize conversions, you must remember the golden rule of marketing: whenever changing something, test its effect before releasing it in scale!
A/B split tests are ideal for monitoring performance of two or several variations of a page. To achieve maximum reliability of test results, change only one page element at a time. Remember that maximizing conversions isn’t a one-time job. It’s a process that requires continuous monitoring, testing, and adjusting.
References And Further Reading
- 5 Design Principles To Instantly Boost The Conversion Rate Of Your Site, VWO, https://vwo.com/blog/design-principles-increase-conversions/
- Understanding Visual Hierarchy In Web Design, Envato Tuts+, https://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/understanding-visual-hierarchy-in-web-design–webdesign-84
- 5 Psychological Principles Of High-Converting Websites, KissMetrics, https://blog.kissmetrics.com/psychological-principles-converting-website/
- How To Improve Conversion Rates, Optimizely, https://www.optimizely.com/resources/improve-conversion-rates/
- What The Highest Converting Websites Do Differently, KissMetrics, https://blog.kissmetrics.com/what-converting-websites-do/
- Using Design Principles To Increase Conversions, Unbounce, https://unbounce.com/conversion-rate-optimization/design-principles-increase-conversions/
- 13 Ways To Increase Your Conversion Rate Right Now, CXL, https://conversionxl.com/ways-to-increase-your-conversion-rate-right-now/