There are four kinds of online business – those that focus on herding more and more traffic towards their website, those that focus on converting the traffic they already have before focusing on netting more, those that do both and those that do neither.

You can argue that you need all of that traffic in the first place, otherwise you’d have nothing to convert. But without an optimised website all those users are going to have bounced before they even considered navigating past your home page.

We’ve come across many clients who offer really fantastic products and services, but just can’t work out why their website traffic isn’t converting. The answer is always simple – they aren’t optimising their page to its full potential and are making some potentially fatal – yet easily rectifiable – mistakes in the process.

Coming on too strong with web design.

Coming on too strong doesn’t work on first dates, and it certainly doesn’t work on first website visits. Flash players, pop ups and Warhol-style colour palettes are a guaranteed way of making visitors run for the hills; flash websites love crashing and can rarely be viewed on a mobile phone, pop ups – even if it’s a call to action and opt-in form – can reek of spam and over-bright website colours confuse the eye and swallow up text.

Yes, consumers respond much more positively to attractive websites, but trying too hard to create something ‘revolutionary’ will only end up making you look like you don’t have a clue. Unless you’re selling computer games or strobe lights forgo theatrics for a softly softly approach of pale colour palettes that let your text take centre stage, and use images and graphics that enhance instead of overpower.

A bit of inspiration from Sprouter

Too much text and not enough imagery.

Your website has around 4 seconds to grab a visitor. That’s less time than it takes to feed the cat, pick out a DVD or answer a text.

But we all know that. We also know that the best way of retaining consumer interest for this length of time is down to great content, and lots of it. Right? Well, no actually: More content doesn’t necessarily mean a higher conversion rate, especially when you consider the psychology.

As a species we’re prone to analysis paralysis, a mind-set that takes hold when we’re faced with so much information that we don’t know what to do with it. The cure? Edit your copy down so that it contains only the most informative, engaging and beneficial elements of your products and services, broken up by relevant graphics such as your logo and images of your company and products. Visitors to your site are there to find out why they should choose your product over the competition’s, so tell them! Don’t create a page that requires endless scrolling because you’ve stuffed it full of a hundred keywords.

Equally however, letting images and graphics dominate a tiny body of text that gives nothing away is equally as off-putting.

A bit  of inspiration from 31Three

Broken links and busted buttons.

This one should be a complete no-brainer. Who is going to try and navigate around a site that’s full of broken buttons and 404 pages? It often leads to one train of thought: “this site evidently belongs to a company who don’t care about their own appearance, so why would they care about me?”

Checking all of your links and buttons should be part of regular website maintenance to ensure that the buying journey runs as smoothly as possible, and that includes social media buttons. You’d be surprised how many websites use Facebook or Twitter buttons that take visitors to a form that lets them share the website, not actually ‘like’ or follow the company on each social network. Think about it, when, during your time on social media have you ever shared a website’s home page?

Sometimes however, 404 pages are inevitable, so it’s worth investing in one that’s going to diffuse the situation and give consumers a helping hand. A word of advice – humour and animals are very hard to resist!

A bit of inspiration from our very own site…

Being selfish.

How often do you buy something from a door to door salesperson who won’t let you get back inside to watch Eastenders? And how often do you buy something from the friendly sales assistant in town who engages you in conversation and apologises for out of stock items, lets you know when they’ll arrive back in store and lets you know how much a product costs up front? I know which I prefer; the trust factor that comes from the sales assistant. The emotional involvement that you don’t get with a selfish and relentless sales pitch.

So how can you build that trust factor? Simple:

  • Include prices. Your visitors have landed on your page because they want to make a purchase, so let them know how much money they’ll need to part with.
  • Ask consumers questions. Making visitors feel involved in your business not only makes them feel appreciated and secure but makes their buying experience easier. A simple “How can we help?” goes a long way in making potential leads feel at ease.
  • Make contact details easy to find. A confused and frustrated customer often means no customer at all. If site visitors can’t contact you when they need to, they’ll simply go elsewhere.
  • Don’t overuse keywords. Keyword rich copy smacks of desperation and reads sloppily, and nowadays it isn’t just Google who knows that.
  • Avoid stock photos. While there are some stock photos that steer clear of clichés and look relatively original, most of them have been used on thousands of different sites and only serve to make you look like just another generic company. High-quality, relatively cheap point and shoot cameras mean that taking great looking photos in-house is now easier than ever and need not incur additional photography costs.
  • Include real testimonials. We often rely on the recommendations of others when deciding where to purchase our chosen product or service, so what better way to sway a prospect’s decision than with testimonials that give them piece of mind and push them further down the sales funnel?

A bit of inspiration from Natwest

Selling your services short.

Would you buy the plain old box of sushi that merely states, “Sushi snack pack”, or the one that also declares “New and improved recipe” or “Now includes Inari”? Consumers need a feature, benefit and USP that makes your service stand out from that of the competition and that establishes you as an industry authority, or they’ll simply go elsewhere.

Every business has a USP, or unique selling point. Are you a family run business? Are all of your products made in Britain? Do you offer free delivery? There’s your potential USP. Even the most seemingly insignificant feature could make a great unique selling point if you approach it from the right angle.

A bit of inspiration from Mast Brothers Chocolate

A site that hasn’t been optimised for mobile or tablet.

Let’s face it, mobile browsing isn’t going away, with 84% of smartphone owners currently having used their devices to browse the internet.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to bring your website up to date by optimising it to respond to the different screens it’ll be browsed on. From iPhones to Blackberrys and iPads, a responsive website will shift and change its appearance to render as perfectly and respond as quickly as possible on each device, making the browsing experience as stress-free as possible for your prospects.

Furthermore, responsive web design is highly recommended by Google, which means that it could have a very positive impact on your SEO efforts.

A bit of inspiration from Forefathers

Lacklustre calls to action.

Your call to action should do just that, call a website visitor to take an action. Whether that is to make a purchase, download an ebook or opt into your mailing list, it needs to be clear where your CTA will lead.

A simple and unconvincing ‘Download’ or ‘Register’ won’t suffice anymore. Visitors are looking for some reassurance that they’re on a journey to the right page and, subconsciously, respond better to directions that tell them what to do.

Get your free ebook here’ is a much clearer and more direct call to action that reaffirms that a lead is in the right place, and when placed above the fold is even more likely to receive a click. Prospects don’t like having to search for something they’ve been willingly offered.

A bit of inspiration from Dropbox.

Greedy, poorly designed opt-in forms.

As with your calls to action, badly designed opt-in forms cause consumers to tune out. Your copy must confirm what your site visitors are opting into – whether that’s to sign up for an account, free consultation or piece of content – and not scare them off by requesting too much information.

One of the main questions a consumer asks themselves when they visit a site isn’t, “Shouldn’t this button be bigger?” or “Why is this taking so many clicks?” but something more along the lines of “Why do they need all of this information from me?”

The information requested in your opt-in forms should be as low-friction as possible. A name and email address is often more than enough, especially when you’re offering content. However, over time it may be worth testing “Company name” and “Website” fields to learn a little more about your prospects.

A bit of inspiration from Evernote

At the end of the day, your conversion rate depends on how deeply you’re willing to take your buyer personas into consideration when designing your website. Simple mistakes like the ones featured in this post might not have too dramatic an effect on your appearance in the SERPs, but will have a huge impact on the consumers visiting your site.

Remember, approach your website as if you’re a visitor yourself and design it for the user as well as the search engines, continually testing each element to determine whether it can be optimised yet further.

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Posted By charlotte

Charlotte is responsible for pushing the envelope of great content to support the Tone digital push. Follow her on Twitter @charlotte_tone or Google+