6 Additions and Optimizations to Increase Conversions

Earlier this year I ran a post poking fun at some of the ugliest websites out there. Covering everything from bizarre online stores to incompetent internet marketers, the list drew in plenty of visitors, conversation, and comments for us and undoubtedly drove a fair bit of traffic to some very outdated and unfortunate websites.

After it hit the front page of Digg and made its way round the internet, we couldn’t help but think that we’d perhaps done the website owners a favor by mercilessly mocking them. Over half of our ugly website roundup was commercially-driven, with most of the websites offering some form of product or service.

We’d like to think that those prospective customers weren’t in vain, and that the business websites involved at least made a buck or two from our slightly cruel commentary. In case they didn’t, we’ve pieced together something that can only help them improve: a detailed guide on how to increase your website’s conversion rates and sales figures, all without blinding your visitors with banner advertisements and annoying blinking ‘buy now’ buttons.

So take a peek at our six strategies for improving your website’s conversion rates and sales figures without giving your visitors a migraine or a frustration attack. We hate über-commercial websites as much as you do – the blinking sales text and ten-page sales letters – and we’ve gone out of our way to ensure that we don’t send the message that they’re alright. These six tactics can help you improve sales without selling your soul to bad design and pushy marketing, and all can be implemented right now.

Capture Reader, Visitor, and Customer Contact Details

Gawker Media is one of the web’s most popular blog networks. It’s made fun of immensely popular celebrities, leaked information about the upcoming iPhone 4G, and even started an email argument with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The one thing that Gawker Media has never done is capture data about their visitors, which we suspect is as much a product of their slash-and-burn publishing model as it is anything else.

And unsurprisingly, the lack of long-term email capturing shows. When Gawker released their book in October 2007 – The Gawker Guide to Conquering All Media – it sold a paltry 242 copies in just over a month. We have no doubt the book is good, especially considering the company’s immense popularity online, but the lack of sales shows a distinct lack of long-term connection amongst the network’s most dedicated readers.

There’s a message in this, one that’s often lost amongst website owners who are desperate to profit on short-term traffic and leave long-term income on the table. Treat your visitors well upon their first visit to your website and you’ll gain their appreciation and attention for much longer. By taking down your banner ads and invasive Adsense blocks you’ll lose a few dollars in the short term, but you’ll likely make it up through long-term sales and services you can offer to dedicated visitors.

Capture Reader, Visitor, and Customer Contact Details

Sales-ify Your Website Copy and Provide More Information

When most people hear ‘sales copy’ they think of the ten-page-long sales letters that pop up with every misplaced Adsense click, or maybe even the lengthy documents that occasionally appear in the mailbox. For the average observer, ‘sales copy’ is a term that means major annoyance and very little real information.

What they don’t think of is the content on Amazon, the lengthy user reviews on Zappos, or the detailed feature lists on Apple’s online store. Sales copy doesn’t need to draw on psychological triggers or human impulses, all it needs to do is give your website’s visitors more reasons to click on the ‘buy now’ button, send you an email, or subscribe to your mailing list.

Spend a day going over your website as if you were a customer. View products and read through services pages; search for information and approach your website as if you were looking for a solution. Spend a day looking for information that’s vital for a purchase and take notes on what makes it difficult. Then go through and revise, repair, and piece together all of the weak points. A small commitment to providing beneficial information can have huge effects on your sales.

Sales-ify Your Website Copy and Provide More Information

Use Huffington-Post-Style A/B Instant Testing

The Huffington Post was launched in May 2005 and has since grown to become one of the internet’s biggest and most popular content publishers. Time Magazine called it one of the web’s best blogs, and The Observer named it the world’s ‘most powerful blog.’ The website has picked up hundreds of awards and blogging honors, a figure which is only bested by its truly massive and loyal readership.

Part of the reason for the HuffPost’s success is its aggressive testing of headlines, a technological feature we can’t help but think the New York Post would have loved to be available for offline newspapers. The Huffington Post hasn’t publicly released data on their tested headlines, though the ultra-popular blog has acknowledged that major headlines are tested for approximately five minutes before being set in stone.

You don’t need to be a blogger to test headlines, nor do you need a high-traffic website. Spend some time experimenting with different headlines, sales phrases, and feature lists and work out which is most effective for you. Running A/B tests with as little as one-hundred visitors is often enough to draw conclusive data, especially if your website operates in a field where single customers are quite lucrative.

Use Huffington-Post-Style A/B Instant Testing

Take an Anti-Marketing Approach to Sales

It feels slightly hypocritical and stupid to say this, especially as a designer, but ugly websites are often much more effective than their highly optimized and beautifully designed counterparts. Tech industry commentator Robert Scoble highlighted PlentyOfFish founder Markus Frind as an example of anti-marketing design at work, explaining how the popular dating website’s basic design leads to greater advertising earnings and a greater level of per-user profitability than other dating websites.

If your website competes with others, particularly others that are much larger, more in-depth, or designed by teams with larger marketing budgets, it may be best to take a distinctly unprofessional approach. Spend time on clean and usable design, but ignore the temptation to turn your website into a shrine to rounded corners and shiny buttons. Focus on design additions that increase earnings or create a powerful brand and you’ll end up with something much more effective than your corporate competition.

Take an Anti-Marketing Approach to Sales

Give Your Most Profitable Sections a Visual Distinction

Google’s obsession with usability has angered designers, so much so that their lead designer left his position last year after the Mountain View-based company’s decision to test forty-one shades of blue left him gasping for breath. It’s an environment that apparently ‘smothers designers’, but it’s also one that’s highly effective from a marketing perspective and incredibly profitable for its shareholders.

Google have built an online empire around giving profit a visual distinction. Every portion of their search interface is built around guiding users towards advertisements, quite often towards online ads that are surprisingly appropriate and worthwhile for them. Take a look at any commercial search results page and you’ll be pushed up against ever-so-slightly colored Adsense advertisements and sponsored results.

These simple visual distinctions rarely alienate or annoy your users, yet they can have truly gigantic effects on your website’s income and value as a marketing resource. Treat your page’s color scheme and layout similarly to your headlines; split test it at every possible opportunity and use data to guide your design decisions, not a loose theory or simple intuition.

Give Your Most Profitable Sections a Visual Distinction

Include a Call-to-Action Element on Every Page

Amazon are masters of the non-pushy call-to-action. Their pages are built around data, driven by the intentions and actions of millions of users, and tested to the point where every possible page is an opportunity to up-sell, cross-sell, or post-sell to their customers. As a strategy, it’s remarkably effective, generating tens-of-thousands of extra sales for the company annually while helping its users find exactly what they’re looking for.

But call-to-action page elements don’t always need to be sales-driven. There are some on this blog, along with millions of other blogs and thousands of news aggregators. Look below the post and you’ll be met with social media sharing icons, an invitation to leave a comment, and a series of ways to receive our content remotely. It isn’t a sales-driven addition, but one designed to build community and encourage conversation.

Include a Call-to-Action Element on Every Page

No matter what topic your website covers, which product it promotes, or how it connects with its audience, it needs some form of call-to-action in order to remain effective and competitive. Often it’s as little as a clear headline or a lightly colored email submission box, while other times it can be a complex opt-in system or a ‘buy it now!’ button. Spend some time researching what your audience is looking for and create page elements that give it to them without becoming invasive or ugly page elements.

Images by Shutterstock

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 at 17:13 and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Mathew Carpenter is an 18-year-old business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on AddToDesign, a website which provides value added design buzz, along with Design-Newz, the premier source for aggregated design news. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter.

About the author Published by Matthew

8 Responses »

  1. Nice article, very helpful. Thanks for sharing, Ted.

  2. This article is written really well and interesting. I don’t understand the cheese-fest of stock photos though. To me, it really cheapens the article and reminds me of bad sales collateral.

  3. Today due to Social Media revolution positioning is not at all costlier compared to earlier…Previously it was tough to exist…But, competition has grown…Utilizing proper, methodical approach we can reach toward goal…

  4. I love this article, it’s a great change from all the round-up articles you see everywhere. I’ll definately use some of these tips. Bookmarked.

  5. Fantastic article! You’ve got yourself another regular reader 🙂