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How to Improve your Website Conversion Rate

Written by David Kelly on April 1st, 2008.      0 comments

Read the preceding article about Website Success Metrics

Conversion Rate is the first website success metric that you should look to improve. Why? If your conversion rate is poor then you can burn an awful lot of money on website promotion and advertising without seeing any result.

Improving conversion rates can be an extremely tricky task. There are so many factors that can influence conversion. This is where you could really do with the help from your E-Business Consultant They will be able to analyse your website, determine its weaknesses and provide you with some great strategies for improving your conversion rate.

There are a huge number of things that influence the conversion rate of a website. Let’s take a look at a few of the basics.


Customer Need

You need to know, without a doubt, what your customer’s need, problem or goal is. Everything about your website and the things that you are selling on your website should be focused on those needs, problems or goals.
Your understanding here will often directly affect the…


Strength of your Product(s) or Service(s)

The strength of your product or service forms the foundation for your entire website.

How good is your product or service (especially compared to your competition), and do lots of people want it or need it? Think about this honestly. If the answer is no– then this can be one of the biggest negatives on your conversion rate.

Think long and hard how you can strengthen your product or service? How can you differentiate it from your competition? How can you make it deliver more of what your target customer wants or needs? Often, an in-depth analysis of your target customers’ problems, goals or needs will give you a good insight into what they want. Then you just need to give them more of it!

Consider running a survey. We know that it can take a lot of time and effort but surveys can give you a real ‘grass-roots’ look at what your customer truly wants. Never second-guess what you customers really want as it is so easy to get it wrong. Let us share a little story about this with you…

In the early days of Zeald we were struggling to really sell our website solution. As one of our ‘marketing strategies’, we decided to set up a stand at a local business expo (North Shore Business Expo).

For our stand, we decided to run a simple survey. To record the results from our survey, we built a massive bar graph on the back wall, with results added every time someone completed our survey.

We asked just one question- “Why do businesses go online?”

We then provided five possible answers, which respondents could select from:

  • increased business opportunity
  • increased customer loyalty
  • improved business efficiency
  • cost savings
  • increased competitive advantage.

We got each of the respondents to put a number beside each of the answers between1 to 5 to indicate whether the answer was an important reason for them to start doing business online (with 1 being ‘most important’ and 5 being ‘least important’. Every person who completed our survey went into a draw for a free website from Zeald.

Guess what we found? - The majority of people put a ‘1’ beside ‘Increased business opportunity’.

What did this teach us? - Our target customers were interested, more than anything else, in extra business. They wanted results! They wanted sales, enquiries or leads! They wanted a website that wins business!

What an incredibly powerful result! From this point onward we changed everything about our company. Everything about our product and our service became focused on delivering results for our customers. Our whole solution became 100 times better because of this one simple survey. It helped us to truly understand our customer needs, problems and goals.

We also developed software that makes it easier to conduct a survey- the Zeald Email Marketing tool, which plugs into your ZES solution. It allows you to email your entire customer database and run a survey. It then collates all the results for you and presents them as a report. You can’t get any easier than that!

Talk to your E-Business Consultant to find out about the Zeald Email Marketing tool. With an automated tool like this, it is worthwhile running surveys on regular basis just to keep in touch with changes in your customers’ thinking or preferences.

For great conversion you need…

Great product(s) or service(s) that fulfill your ‘target customer’s’ needs, problems or goals.


Trust and Credibility

Do you remember the six steps to visitor conversion? Here they are again:

  1. Do I trust you?
  2. Do I believe you?
  3. Do you understand my needs?
  4. What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
  5. What do you want from me?
  6. Is it worth it?

Before anyone will buy from you they need to trust you and believe that what you are saying is true. If you can’t guide your visitor through these first two steps then you have no hope of getting your visitor to enquire about or buy your product or service.

Think about when you buy from an organisation or off someone– you will go through the same process; you will not buy unless you trust them, and you believe that what they are telling you is true.

So how do you do this on a website?

Well – it’s not easy, but there’s a whole bunch of things that will help your website build trust and credibility with your visitor. Let’s go through some of the most important ones below:


  • Fast-loading website
    Your website needs to load fast. Studies have shown that if visitors have to wait for more than 8-10 seconds for a page to load then you run a serious risk of losing them.
    Your website should work and have the appearance of a smooth, powerful, and well-oiled machine. People should be thinking, “what a great website!”
    As a rule of thumb, every single one of your web pages should load in 8 seconds or less, on a 56k modem. See our e-book– “The Website Health Check” to learn about running tests to check the speed of your web pages.


  • User-friendly layout & clear navigation
    Your website needs to be user-friendly. Everything needs to be as simple and as obvious as possible. Your website should provide your visitors with all the common things that you expect to find on most websites. When laying out the information and common components on a website the goal is not to be unique and quirky– this will just confuse your visitors.
    “But, what about personality? Surely we don’t want our website to be bland and just like every other website?”
    Convey your personality using your branding, photographs and content (words and text). Don’t try to “play around” with the structure and layout of the website unless you are prepared to sacrifice your conversion.
  • Professional website design
    Your website should look professional. It should look good. It should be pleasing to the eye.
    If it looks cheap then this will destroy trust immediately. Always use a graphic designer experienced in the design of websites to design your website. Don’t try and do it yourself and don’t get your cousins son to do it.
    Think about the physical world. First impressions are so important. It is exactly the same on the web. You want to convey a professional and trustworthy image.
    The web is littered with business websites that look shocking. Often these businesses have a great physical business with very strong branding yet for some reason they decided to “skimp” with their website. These sites are obviously produced by the owner, the cousin’s son or a cheap and nasty website company. And then you hear their complaints– “Oh our website is a complete waste of time– it doesn’t produce any results.” Would you feel comfortable giving your credit card details or confidential information to a website that looks cheap and nasty? Certainly not, we’re sure!


  • Testimonials
    Testimonials are great for establishing trust and credibility. The more the merrier! Keep your testimonials in their original form– don’t fix grammatical errors. Provide contact details for the people giving the testimonial. Often it is a great idea to feature a testimonial in the right-hand side of your home page. Whatever you do– NEVER fake a testimonial– you will destroy your credibility!


  • Case studies
    Case studies are an in-depth study of the success a customer had as an “experience” with your business. They will often go through the complete client experience with your organization, from start to finish. Case studies are awesome trust and credibility builders and are even more powerful than a testimonial. And they are especially suited to complex products and solutions.


  • Awards & certifications
    Has your business won an award or achieved some sort of certification? These elements can be fantastic for building trust and credibility. Try to choose awards or certifications that will mean something to your target customer.


  • Partners
    Associating yourself with a well-respected partner or affiliate is a great way of building something called “borrowed credibility”. You are effectively ‘tapping into’ the credibility of your partner. People will think– “If they are partnered with them then they must be credible”.
    Be careful though– the same can happen in reverse. If your partner has a bad reputation in your industry or region then it could by nature of association, provide you with negative credibility.


  • References or client list
    Providing a list of ‘clients that a visitor is welcome to call’ is a powerful trust-builder. Providing an open invitation to call one of your customers for a personal reference is a big plus, as your serious prospects can speak with your customer at length about their experiences with your organisation. And you’re not there to colour their view.


  • Guarantee
    A guarantee is one of the strongest trust and credibility building elements that you can possibly have. If at all possible, make your guarantee big, bold and even a little brash! Many organisations have reported that the stronger they made their guarantee the fewer claims they received against it. And the increased sales or enquiries resulting from a stronger guarantee (or the increase in conversion rate) far outweighed the one or two extra claims that they received.
    A strong guarantee shows that you have a 100% belief in your product(s) or service(s). And remember, worst case scenario– you can always tone it down, or remove it at a later date, if you wish.


  • Terms & conditions
    Many websites don’t display a ‘Terms & Conditions’ (T&C’s) or a ‘Terms of Trade’. Just by displaying a set of T&C’s you will increase your website’s credibility.
    This is vital if you are building an ecommerce website. Any professional and serious ecommerce website will display their T&C’s. Make sure your T&C’s are written in plain English and are as simple as possible.


  • Privacy policy
    Same things apply to ‘Privacy Policies’ as to ‘Terms & Conditions’. With the huge increase in SPAM and many other invasions of the individual’s privacy, a clear, ‘no ifs or buts’ privacy policy is mandatory for any website.


  • Security policy
    Security policies outline the security measures that are in place to ensure the security of all personal information stored by you. Your security policy should outline, in plain English, the ‘industry standard’ levels of security that are employed throughout your website.


  • Evidence of a physical presence
    This one is a biggie. Websites can be very impersonal so the more you can demonstrate that there is a real business with real people behind the website the better. Use photos of your business and staff. Your visitor will feel a whole lot more comfortable knowing that your business doesn’t have the potential to just vanish into cyberspace.


  • Website copy
    The number one thing that a visitor will do when they come to your website is read. Good website copy will, in the early stages, focus on building trust and credibility with them. If your website copy does not do this then read through the ‘Load’ module of the E-business Bible and rework your text to ensure it builds a high degree of trust and credibility with your targets.
  • Professionalism
    The ‘all round professionalism’ of your website will have a huge impact on the degree of comfort that your online visitor feels when dealing with you online. Look at your website from a holistic point of view– does it have a professional look and feel to it? Would you feel safe using it?


Sales Copy

Let’s say you have established a strong base of trust and excellent credibility on your website. And you have great product(s) or service(s) that you’re targeting directly at your target customers’ needs. Is there anything else that can affect your conversion rates?

You bet!

Don’t forget the six steps to visitor conversion:

  1. Do I trust you?
  2. Do I believe you?
  3. Do you understand my needs?
  4. What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
  5. What do you want from me?
  6. Is it worth it?

We have only dealt with the first two steps. What about the final four steps?

Your sales copy will influence your conversion rate just about more than any other factor. The number one thing that every visitor does is read.

Good sales copy is absolutely vital.  It can really pay to have an objective and constructive review of your sales copy from an online professional.

Make sure you ‘study’ the articles on Loading your website. They provide a clear step-by-step guide to drafting great website sales copy. If you are not good at writing– definitely get some help from a professional. You’ll be amazed by what even a phone interview with a writer can do to help your sales copy shine.

In this article we have gone over the basic ‘influencing factors’ in a website’s conversion rate.

Conversion rates are a complex subject and depend on many different factors. Talk with your Zeald E-Business Consultant anytime for an in-depth analysis of your conversion rate.

Topics: Persuasion


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About Zeald

Zeald was formed in 2001 by three young guys from the small New Zealand town of Mangawhai Heads. Now, Zeald is the largest website design and digital marketing agency in New Zealand and has recently made moves into Australia. This is the Zeald story …

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