The Anatomy of a Successful Highly-Converting Website
The ultimate goal of every business’s website is to convert visitors to leads and customers. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to know what changes to make to improve your conversion rates, as there are hundreds of variables that affect them. The only way to know is to start testing and finding out what works.
As Jeremy Abel, the chief strategist at rDialogue, once said:
“A website without conversion rate optimization is like a car with no wheels – it will take you nowhere.”
It’s difficult to know what impact a change will have on your conversions until you’ve conducted extensive split testing. The good news is that many conversion rate optimization experts have studied these factors and are, consequently, able to offer some valuable insights that will help you improve your own conversions. KISSMetrics, for instance, has documented a number of different case studies showing that a single change can increase your conversion rates from 25-591%.
The Research on Improving Conversion Rates
Run a Google search and you’ll see that there’s a substantial amount of research that’s already been conducted on conversion rate optimization. Of course, you’ll still need to conduct your own tests, as your visitors may respond differently than the subjects described in these case studies.
However, you’ll probably still significantly improve the success of your digital marketing campaigns by following most of the best practices laid out in these case studies. Here are a few of the findings you need to be aware of:
Seek Constructive Criticism from Customers
Your customers are always your best advisors when it comes to optimizing your website. Monitoring how your customers interact with your website is crucial; however, it’s not always clear why they behave a certain way when viewing your website. Sometimes the best way to determine how to structure your pages is to ask your customers for more information. Their answers may provide some surprising insights that will help you improve the effectiveness of your website.
In a case study shared by Conversion Rate Experts, Kevin Woodbury discusses some of the changes that his team made to improve conversions for Moz. One of the things that they did was ask Moz customers a series of questions regarding which factors they deemed most important. They also went through the Moz sales funnel to get a better understanding of the customer experience and then used this feedback and their own observations to better optimize their landing pages for conversions.
The most surprising discovery Woodbury and his team made was that customers didn’t care about the length of the landing pages, but rather how engaging they were. The team incorporated this feedback into their landing pages—and boosted their conversion rates by 51.83%.
Key takeaway: Set aside any preconceptions you have about the best ways to boost your conversion rates. Listen to your customers by interviewing them or incentivizing them to participate in surveys. Their opinion is the only one that matters.
Eliminate Unnecessary Elements
You probably have many different elements on your website. Some of them are such an integral part of your site that you don’t even think about them. However, these elements can significantly reduce your conversion rates if you aren’t careful. Some of them may be extremely distracting to your visitors and may need to be removed from certain parts of your site.
Your navigation bar is one of the first parts of your site to take a look at. In general, it plays an important role in helping customers access your site, but it can kill your landing page conversions by tempting visitors to click away to other parts of your website. Several studies suggest that you can significantly boost your conversions by removing navigation menus from your landing pages altogether.
One of these case studies was conducted by Yuppiechef—an ecommerce provider that sells kitchen tools in South Africa. They conducted their split tests using the Visual Website Optimizer to see how customers would respond after the navigation bar was removed. Ultimately, they found that conversion rates on their sign-up pages doubled, lending credence to the idea that removing this seemingly-necessary feature can improve website performance without negative side effects.
But Yuppiechef isn’t the only company that has conducted a study on the benefits of removing unnecessary navigation elements. John Bonini of IMPACT ran a similar test by removing the sidebar from his blog. What was the outcome? His website’s conversion rate increased by a whopping 71%.
Of course, don’t remove the navigation from your entire site. You want to be sure that viewers can find your landing pages easily, and your navigation bars increase the chances that they’ll find them. That said, you should seriously consider removing your navigation bars from your landing pages, as they may be pulling potential leads away before you have a chance to convert them.
Did you know that you can actually increase your sign-up rates by removing the sign-up form from your landing page? This may sound completely crazy, but it’s exactly what Vendio experienced.
Prior to their testing initiatives, Vendio had a sign-up form on a landing page that was performing well, but they were concerned that the numerous fields on the form might be turning off their prospective customers. So they decided to test a different approach.
Vendio removed the sign-up form from the landing page and added it to a separate page. Customers then had to click on a link to go to the other page to sign up. At first glance, this sounds like a terrible idea, as website users are generally lazy and don’t want to take any extra steps. However, Vendio found that their conversion rates actually increased 60%!
This case study completely turns one of the most common industry beliefs about landing pages and sign-up optimization on its head. However, it also makes a lot of sense when you think about it, as some customers may be turned away if they’re stuck with a long sign-up form in their face the moment they arrive on a landing page. Requiring an extra step may have also helped weed out the tire-kickers by ensuring that only those who were truly interested reached the form.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should automatically remove your sign-up forms from all your landing pages. Your own users may respond differently. What this case study proves is that sign-up forms may be unnecessary elements on your landing pages that lower your conversion rates. It’s definitely in your best interests to try split testing variations without them.
If you decide not to remove your entire sign-up form, you may want to consider at least removing some unnecessary fields. According to research from QuickSprout, simply eliminating the telephone field from your sign-up form can boost your conversion rates by 5%.
Visual elements play a key role in engaging customers, but they can also distract people from your calls-to-action and increase your bounce rate. As a result, you need to ensure that your images are selected carefully and that you don’t use so many that your landing pages become cluttered, ruining your conversions.
Bradley Spencer of iCouponBlog conducted a study and found that removing a single image boosted conversion rates by 400%. What was most surprising was that the image was a security badge. This was another interesting finding, as most companies find that security badges improve conversions by offering social proof.
Key takeaway: Creating a leaner landing page can be a great way to improve your conversion rates. Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear which elements on your pages are supporting your conversion goals and which ones are hindering your efforts. It’s up to you to test all of them diligently. Don’t allow yourself to be biased by preconceptions, because as a couple of these case studies show, elements that you think may be helping you could actually be killing your conversions.
Ensure Clear Navigation Paths
As stated above, providing navigation menus on your landing pages could be hurting your conversion rates. On the other hand, improving navigation throughout the rest of your website is crucial when it comes to converting customers. You need a clear navigation path to make sure that they can find their way to your landing pages.
There are two important rules that you need to live by when creating a navigation structure for your site:
- Make it as easy as possible for customers to find your landing pages or other conversion-optimized destinations.
- Minimize the work for them as much as possible.
One way to do this is to limit the number of tiers used in your navigation bars. Jesse Aaron of Steamfeed used the website of Victor Pest as a good example of the best way to do this. The website uses the top tier in their navigation bar to educate customers about the different classes of niche products that they offer. The lower tiers help customers locate the specific products that they want. This setup helps customers find the products they’re looking for much more efficiently.
Aaron’s opinion makes sense, but does it actually hold up in the real world? According to a recent study from PrintGlobe, better emphasizing the first level of navigation can boost conversion rates. PrintGlobe created a carousel navigation option with a gridview, which allows customers to easily select the category of products they’re most interested in and see results in the body of the page. This system made it much easier for customers to find the products they were looking for, which subsequently raised conversion rates by 18.5%.
Key takeaway: Make sure that customers can easily navigate your website, whether that means reducing the number of tiers you use or taking some other action. This is especially important for large ecommerce companies that are selling many different products, as visitors can easily be overwhelmed if you provide too many layers in your navigation panels.
Sense of Urgency
The phrase “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is extremely relevant to companies that are trying to optimize their websites for higher conversions. In this context it signifies that your website must convey a sense of urgency in order to get more customers to convert.
The unfortunate reality is that you can lose sales by being too passive. This may be difficult for marketers to accept if they’re actively marketing on social media, as the best practice there is to provide value and avoid being too salesy. Recognize, though, that your landing pages are one of the few places where aggressively selling customers is imperative.
Earlier this year, Neil Patel wrote a post on Marketing Land about the benefits of using urgency to increase conversions. Here is some of the research used to support his argument:
- Creating a sense of scarcity is a good way to start. People will be more likely to buy an item if you give them the impression that there are only a few left, as they’ll naturally fear that there won’t be any available if they don’t act immediately. A Toyota dealership in Norway conducted a split test and found that telling customers that the offer would only be available for a limited time caused their conversions to increase by 27%.
- The color red triggers a feeling of urgency, which is why so many sites use red buttons. One study from Hubspot found that using red call-to-action buttons increased their conversion rate by 21%.
- You can use timers on your page to convince customers that they’ll miss out if they don’t act quickly. However, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t offer too much time or you may eliminate the sense of urgency that prompts them to make a purchase or opt in to your lead form. One study from Hillsdale College found that using a timer actually caused the conversion rate for their registration page to drop by 26.9%. Researchers suggest that this occurred because they gave participants too much time, which encouraged them to visit other websites instead of opting-in.
There are a number of tactics you can use to create a sense of urgency, but you’ll want to watch out for being perceived as deceptive. Maintaining your visitors’ trust should be one of your top concerns.
Key takeaway: You need to give your visitors a reason to take action if you want to convert them. Convincing them that they’ll miss out on a key opportunity can be a very effective way to lift your conversion rate.
Use Visuals that Build Trust and Engagement
Choosing the right visuals for your website is one of the most important things you can do to boost conversion rates. Steer away from overused stock photo sites and focus on finding images that establish trust and engage your visitors.
- Add security badges. As mentioned above, adding security badges isn’t always guaranteed to increase conversions, but one further study by VeriSign found that using the Symantec badge increased their conversion rate by 30%. This isn’t surprising, as 17% of customers who fail to complete a purchase do so because of security concerns.
- Show clear images of your products. People want to know what your product actually looks like before they buy. As a result, you should always provide a picture of your product on your landing pages. Split testing from Brick House Security found that using images on their pages increased conversion rates by 100%. Make sure to use clean, high-quality, and appealing shots to make a good impression.
- Show images of upbeat people. Visitors tend to feel more engaged with a website if they see pictures of people who are in a good mood. One study from High Rise found that adding a picture of a happy woman increased conversions by 102%. In addition, a study at a South African bank trying to promote new loans found that showing a picture of a smiling woman improved response rates as much as if they had lowered interest rates by 4%.
Of course, there are many different types of images that you can use on landing pages. It’s up to you to select the right ones to support your brand and conversion goals.
Keep in mind, though, that images aren’t the only visual elements you can use. Video can also be a powerful way to increase your conversions. Unbounce, as an example, found that using video on one of their landing pages caused their opt-ins to double.
Key takeaway: Visuals are one of the best ways to form a connection with your visitors. Make sure that you select them carefully to develop trust and make a good impression.
Make Your Calls-to-Action Highly Visible
Your calls-to-action are arguably the most important elements on your landing pages. That said, you need to make sure that they’re clearly visible to entice visitors to take the desired action.
One of the easiest ways to draw more attention to your call-to-action buttons is to tweak the colors. Ignite Visibility changed the color of their call-to-action button to provide better contrast with the rest of their site. They also used less catchy colors for their secondary calls-to-action. These changes contributed to a 64% increase in conversion rates in just one week.
The position of your call-to-action buttons is another critical factor, and it’s one of the things that people often get wrong. Many people ascribe to the belief that the call-to-action should always be placed above the fold. However, the button can actually do more good when placed wherever it best facilitates decision-making.
One study from Contentverve found that conversion rates were 304% higher when they moved their call-to-action and sign-up form below the fold, presumably because it was placed closer to where the readers would be looking when they were most ready to make a decision.
Key takeaway: Drawing more attention to your call-to-action buttons can significantly boost your conversion rates, especially if your visitors notice it when they’re in the right frame of mind to make a decision.
Providing online reviews can be a great way to earn people’s trust. According to research from BrightLocal, 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Considering the level of trust that testimonials can build, it shouldn’t be surprising that a number of studies show online reviews can be great for boosting conversions. Andrew Girdwood, the Media Innovations Director for DigitasLBi, conducted some studies on the benefits of online testimonials and found that they played a valuable role in increasing online sales. One of the sites he analyzed was Figleaves, which was able to boost its conversion rate by 35% by merely adding a few testimonials to the company website.
Further, a more exhaustive study from Internet Retailer found that ecommerce companies can raise their conversion rates by 14-17% by adding reviews to their online stores.
Key takeaway: People are more likely to convert if you can show that other people have benefited from what you’re offering. Providing social proof is a good way to convert them.
Researching case studies on conversion rate optimization can significantly help you improve the ROI on your campaigns—but keep in mind that research is only useful if you can understand how the findings relate to your own business model. Here are some factors that you need to consider before optimizing your campaign:
- Conversion goal. Are you using your landing pages to generate leads or sell products directly to your customers? The best practices for encouraging visitors to opt in to one of your lead-gen forms may not be ideal for selling products to cold traffic.
- Price point. Brands pitching low-cost items may not need to spend as much time warming up their leads. For example, they may find that short-form sales copy converts better, while companies selling more expensive products will need to write more detailed copy.
- Customer demographic. Age, gender, race, nationality and other demographic factors all play a role in conversion rate optimization. Be aware of how demographics influence the way that visitors interact with your website.
- Traffic sources. Design your website around the traffic sources that you’ll be drawing on. A landing page that attracts visitors through native ads on Facebook may need to be designed differently than a page that attracts new users from Adwords.
The research that’s already been done can offer a good starting point when it comes to optimizing your website for higher conversion rates, but you’ll still need to take the time to understand your visitors as much as possible in order to determine how and where to apply this research.
Key takeaway: The case studies listed above are valuable places to start, but you should ultimately be making decisions off of your own data. Never stop split-testing, because there’s always more that can be done to increase your conversions—and you won’t find those answers in anybody else’s case study.
Never Stop Testing and Improving
Conversion rate optimization is a very exhaustive science because there are so many different possible changes that can be made. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to draw sweeping conclusions since different audiences will respond in various ways to the same changes. While these case studies illustrate some of the tweaks that you can make to lift your conversions, it’s up to you to find the winning combination for your particular visitors.
Do you have any other suggestions on what makes up the anatomy of a highly-converting website? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below: