Your company’s Web site provides a completely transparent view into your entire organization, including the products and services offered. Often, it is the first place for your brand to engage with customers and prospects and the foundation of your sales engine. While every good sales person knows the importance of quickly establishing and maintaining contact with a prospect, the challenge is even greater for online marketers who have only between four and seven seconds to connect with a visitor.
Further compounding the challenge of online engagement are two distinct, but competing factors—numerous distractions like IM, e-mail and pop up ads; and the continuous pressure on marketers to improve Web site effectiveness and demonstrate measurable and definable ROI.
By now, you’ve likely made a significant investment in Web site design and development, as well as search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) so your site can be easily found by customers, prospects, partners and other key stakeholders. Yet, the process of converting visitors hardly ends there. In fact, it’s arguably just the starting point. Converting Web traffic has become “The Holy Grail” for online marketers, but many are not making the necessary investment in the conversion performance process.
How can you optimize traffic, ensure the “stickiness” of your Web content and drive visitors to close the sale? These best practices will help ensure everything on your site works cohesively and seamlessly, transforming it into a high-performance conversion engine.
1. Deliver Relevant and Effective Content. Compelling content can help visitors make informed, and often faster, purchase decisions. Offering quality content that will interest your customers and prospects is the first stage of engagement. Next, be sure to offer a quality experience that is statistically proven to capture visitors’ attention and elicit a response. Finally, by personalizing this content, you will increase both relevancy and the likelihood of deeper engagement.
2. Eliminate the Guesswork. A recent Maxymiser survey revealed that even online marketing professionals were unable to correctly identify winning Web content by eye. More than 450 marketers were asked to determine the best performing content from four page combinations from a multivariate test—and only five percent of respondents answered correctly. Often preconceptions can negatively affect decisions about compelling content and optimal page layouts. Therefore, ultimately the visitors themselves should design your site based on the live choices they make on your pages.
3. Test Early and Often. There are two ways to test site content. The most common is the A/B method, which uses two separate sets of Web pages to systematically test only one differing variable (headline, color scheme, image, text, video or offer) to determine if A or B will perform better. Once the better performing variables are determined, continue the process to further refine and optimize your landing pages.
Multivariate testing is a more advanced method that is like performing multiple A/B tests on multiple pages simultaneously, allowing for the relationship between those variants to generate a powerful page combination and realize greater conversion uplifts. It allows you to test several variables at the same time and then identify the best variation. Some companies conduct dozens of multivariate tests each year; leveraging the feedback from these tests has proven to increase conversion by as much as 25-30%.
Both methods bring objectivity to marketing decisions. Well-designed multivariate tests also combine the user feedback to measure conversion increase. The most effective multivariate testing replaces subjectivity and guesswork with a continuous iterative approach capable of qualifying which changes to make, based on feedback from your online traffic. This level of intelligence provides a strategic decision-making process that transforms the way you evolve your site and empowers you to determine the best-performing content from all of your online content elements based on live visitor response.
4. Focus on High-Impact Changes. High-traffic areas and processes like landing pages, search results and most importantly checkouts should be a priority. Make sure your checkout process is easy-to-use. Also, optimize merchandising elements of your site that remain constant, as these are a source of sustainable sales increases.
5. Make Your Offer Compelling. Include a prominent and compelling call to action. While the call to action is often overlooked, we recently optimized this aspect of an online travel site – resulting in an 18% increase in seat bookings. In addition, if visitors don’t buy within a certain timeframe during their session, offer them special promotions to help close the sale.
6. Treat Each Visitor and Customer as an Individual. To build a relationship and potentially establish greater brand loyalty with customers and prospects, personalize promotional, functional and inventory content on Web pages for each visitor on the fly. Respect individual buying patterns and build a pipeline. For instance, if a visitor is not ready to buy a product or service, establish some ties for future engagement – invite them to sign-up for your newsletter, give them the ability to download a white paper, enter a contest, participate in a survey or simply ask questions via e-mail or online chat.
As you employ these strategies, there is one important guiding principle: be patient, but remain persistent. Stay the course by continuously innovating and refining your customers’ experience by implementing the five aforementioned steps. Internet marketing success rarely happens overnight. It is an iterative and ongoing process, but it can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.
Mark Simpson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and founder of Maxymiser, Inc.