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Changing the Conversion Conversation

by Barry Harrison

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Published on this site: March 26th, 2009 - See more articles from this month

By thinking strategically you can apply the correct tactics to improve your site's conversion rate, generating more leads and sales. The principle of the conversion balance is the key to optimizing your website.

What is the conversion balance?

On the one side you have Success Factors which build trust and confidence and lead to conversions. On the other side you have Failure Factors, undermining trust and confidence, and leading to abandonment.

If, in the mind of the visitor, the success factors of outweigh the failure factors, she will convert. If they don't, she won't. This "weighing" happens on a conscious and/or subconscious level every moment she's on the site. The more obvious the imbalance, the easier the decision.

The goal of web optimization: increase conversion rates It seems simple enough: increase the success factors and decrease the failure factors. Whatever the nature of your site, whatever you consider a conversion, the factors are pretty much the same.

Failure factors:

Anything that causes frustration, a negative thought, or a concern in the mind of the visitor tips the balance against conversion. These failure factors include:

  • Poor copy (doesn't focus on benefits to visitors)
  • Confusing navigation
  • Lack of hierarchy
  • Information in the wrong sequence
  • Unnecessary steps
  • Difficult to scan
  • Too many choices
  • Inconsistent
  • Unusual terminology
  • Broken links
  • Outdated content
  • Unprofessional design
  • Inaccessible contact information
  • Forms that are too complex

Failure factors generate anxiety. They create barriers. They undermine the motivation of your visitors and interfere with your ability to build a relationship. By slowing them down and forcing them to think too much, you're tipping the conversion balance that leads prospects to click away from your site.

Next we'll look at Success Factors.

Success factors:

Anything that makes your site self-explanatory, easy-to-use, and meets visitors' needs based on their different motivations is a success factor. These include:

  • Strong value proposition (why should I buy from you instead of your competitor?)
  • Understanding visitors needs based on their motivation
  • Benefits-oriented copy
  • Easy navigation
  • Obvious hierarchy
  • Succinct copy
  • Clear instructions
  • Short, simple forms
  • Scannable pages
  • Incentives and credibility indicators
  • Web conventions (i.e. make links look like links)
  • Meaningful page titles and sub-headers
  • Professional design

Success factors generate confidence and provide positive reinforcement. When visitors feel like they're in the right place you've earned their trust and the opportunity to build a relationship. That's the only way you can encourage them to read on, click to the next step, fill out a form or pick up the phone.

There's one more success factor that doesn't fit neatly into a bullet-point. Consider the mindset of your visitors and where they are in their buying or decision-making process.

It is important to provide content for different kinds of people; those who just want the facts please, those who respond to an emotional pitch, people who are visually oriented, etc.

Equally important, you want to provide information for browsers or people just doing preliminary research, as well as detailed info for visitors who may be returning to your site and are ready to convert.

Conversion is a process. Remember, while a conversion technically happens in a single step, it is not an isolated one. Conversion is the result of a series of small decisions and tiny steps. By minimizing the failure factors and maximizing the success factors you can tip the balance.

Let me know if you have other ideas about failure and success factors that affect conversion rates.

Barry Harrison: Is the author of "REDiTIPS" eMarketing Newsletter and a partner in Resolve Digital, a web design and optimization company http://www.resolvedigital.com with offices in San Francisco and Christchurch New Zealand.

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