You’ve worked hard to identify your audience, select the best products to offer, and attract traffic to your website.
Just one thing now determines whether your eCommerce business or B2B lead generation site will be a failure or a success: profitable conversions.
Despite popular opinion, selling is not just a “numbers game.” At The Good, we often get inquiries from clients who are drawing exceptional traffic to their sites, yet their conversion rate – thus the return on investment – is dismal.
In this article, we’re going to give you our list of the conversion optimization tactics that tend to hurt sales and drive conversions down instead of up. Business is tough enough. Why do things that throw rocks in your own path?
These observations are part of our checklist for conversion audits. We urge you to employ them to evaluate your own website.
These copywriting mistakes can bury your brand
- Generic calls to action (CTA’s) put a damper on desire. They’re better than no CTA at all, but cheap shots like “Buy now!” provide neither detail nor incentive.
Don’t confuse the CTA with the value statement or supporting copy that surrounds it. Powerful CTA’s are stand-alone statements that draw clicks and conversions. On Dropbox.com, for example, they don’t ask visitors to “Sign Up,” they encourage them to “Try free for 30 days”.
- Unanswered objections keep prospects from becoming customers. Smart sellers know the best way to deal with objections is to “bring them up and brag about them.” Your product or service is more expensive than most? That’s because yours includes features the others don’t have.
Make a list of the objections you hear most frequently, and make sure every one of them gets addressed on your website. Don’t limit objection-squashing to the FAQ page, though. Brag about your supposed shortcomings, and turn them into selling points.
- Relying on corporate jargon to transmit your message is like reading Shakespeare to a kindergarten class. Depending on your particular audience, some will be up on industry vocabulary, but many will struggle to understand.
One manufacturer couldn’t understand why their high quality straw line (a cable used in logging) wasn’t drawing the sales they expected. Visits to the field revealed their college-educated salesforce refused to use the vernacular of the end users. Loggers prefer to call straw line “haywire.” They took the sales team’s highfalutin vocabulary as a sign there was no real understanding of their supply needs.
Speak the language of the people you serve. Save the jargon for research papers and C-suite bragging sessions.
- Counting on passive voice to move visitors to action isn’t typically the best tactic. Passive voice – turning the object into the subject – tends to downplay the importance of the statement.
The classic example is the politician’s admission that “Mistakes were made,” rather than the more powerful statement, “I made a mistake.”
Which of these packs the most punch: “I’m lovin’ it” or “It was loved by me”?
- Generic headlines draw generic open rates. There are two wrong ways to go here. The first is to be lackluster and put little thought into drawing the potential reader’s attention. The second is to make wild claims your content can’t cover.
Headlines, titles, and subject lines should speak to a specific audience and make a promise to that audience describing why the content is worthy of the reader’s time. Don’t be boring, and don’t be deceptive. But do be impactful.
- Fail to use strong keywords and you may not be found. This is akin to the warning about corporate jargon. Find out which words and terms your prospects use when they search for your products, then use that language in the product descriptions. We’re not talking about trying to manipulate search engines; we’re talking about common sense marketing.
Make sure your content relates to your customers’ needs.
Sometimes Beauty is the Beast – don’t let design destroy marketing
It can be difficult to find a designer who understands and appreciates marketing. Most are artists at heart. They don’t want to be tainted by sales. That’s why you see so many commercials and websites that are beautiful and fun, but you have to work hard to figure out what product or service they’re promoting. Design-led marketing is rarely effective.
- Multiple CTA’s confuse visitors to your eCommerce site. Each page should have one purpose and one call to action. Determine exactly what you want visitors to do, think, or feel – then give them a path to follow. Not “paths,” but “path.”
The route from showing interest to making the purchase should be as clear as the markings on an interstate highway. Designers who want to include social media invitations on every page are major violators of this rule. Don’t do that.
- Image carousels present too many messages. You don’t want visitors to your website to sit and watch pretty pictures take turns appearing. You want them to immediately know where they are and what they should do.
Sliders and carousels not only tend to slow sites down, they can sidetrack a visitor and lose a potential customer. We can’t think of a single data-backed example of where this feature helps conversions. Can you?
- Pop-ups are intrusive and ineffective. But your pop-ups help you get more email signups, you say? That’s great, but how valuable are those leads?
We’d rather get 100 new subscribers who trust us and want more information about our products or services than 1,000 signups who entered an email address just to get rid of the annoying pop-up.
Take a close look at this one. There are niches and circumstances where pop-ups can improve conversions… but there are a whole lot more times when they drive the conversion rate down and cast an ugly light on your brand.
- Hiding high-revenue products below the fold makes customers work hard to buy from you. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” That may not be the best social advice, but it sure makes sense in marketing. Pave the highway for your visitors. Show them exactly what they’re looking for and make it easy for them to get it. Don’t play hard to get. Play easy to get.
- Coupon fields can lead to cart abandonment and lower conversions. If there’s one thing we believe in at The Good, it’s testing. And our tests show coupon fields at checkout typically cause more problems than they solve.
Asking for a coupon code is like throwing up a sign that says “You can get this for less if you figure out how.”
Special offers and discounts are fine, but there are better ways to offer them. Our user feedback points to this error regularly.
- Site searches that fail to find relevant content hurt conversions. Site searches done right are an excellent tool. Ineffective site searches are thorns in your side.
To find out how well you’re doing, pretend you’re a prospect trying to use the search box on your eCommerce site to find a selection of products. Does it work? What message do you get when the search comes up nil?
Don’t just throw a search box on the site; tweak it to help visitors find what they seek and find it quickly. Otherwise, you defeat the purpose of having a search function in the first place.
- Site searches without filters are like buckets with holes in them. They let shoppers pass on through and go elsewhere. This is a function of #12, finding relevant content, but the concept is important enough to bear repeating.
Do everything you can to help prospects find the information they seek. Your search function is part of your customer service team. Every search is a question. Make sure it gets effectively answered.
- Leave out trust symbols, testimonials, and security icons to make your visitors nervous. Once prospects land on your website, and your content/design convinces them they’re in the right place, the next thing they want to know is “Am I in a safe place? Can I trust this company?” Make sure you let them know they are. Give them reason to be confident.
Mentioning clients you’ve helped or displaying testimonials from satisfied customers are ways to assure visitors they can trust you to deliver the help they need.
- Ignore mobile visitors and you turn your back on more than half of your prospects. Mobile devices aren’t converting more traffic than desktop yet – at least for eCommerce – but they’re sending more traffic. Prospective customers who try to visit your mobile site, but find it difficult to navigate may not return for another look.
Here again, make sure your design is efficient and effective, not just attractive.
- Include too many fields on conversion forms and you’ll lose signups. Collect only enough information to quickly move the prospect on to the next step on the conversion journey.
It’s better to gather a little information on multiple touches than to try to get everything you’d like to know at one time. Anything beyond email address and (possibly) the name builds friction… and friction stops the prospects forward motion.
Nationwide does design right (see above). The prospect directs you to the simple, painless form that begins the process of getting a quote.
- Using stock photos for social proof is a really bad idea. After all, the point of using proof is to prove something. All stock photos prove is that you are either lazy, cheap, or dishonest. None of those choices help your brand.
Really, there are few places where you want to rely on stock shots. You want to differentiate yourself, not look like everyone else.
- Force buyers to create an account to checkout, and you’ll be short on buyers. We said it before, we’ll say it again: friction stops the prospects forward motion. The last place you want friction is at checkout.
If it’s absolutely imperative that your buyers create accounts, have them do that at an appropriate time. Checkout is not an appropriate time. But post-purchase, with incentives like helping them keep track of their orders through an account on your site, is appropriate.
- You’re missing out on opportunity to connect at a deeper level when you fail to personalize our messaging. Some eCommerce sites can personalize the message in real time and in incredibly intuitive ways. Others must settle for grouping visitors by specific attributes and serving up content accordingly.
Everyone can do something, though, and the more personalization you can create, the more effective you are.
Poor strategy breeds poor sales… and eventual failure
- Don’t test your changes, and you’ll suffer the consequences. Make a change. Test for results. Make another change. Run another test. That’s the way of progress.
You must change something to get different results, but if you don’t test those changes before adopting them, you are driving blind. Don’t do that. Always test, then adjust accordingly. Move ahead in increments. Easy does it.
- Ignore feedback from your customers, and you miss invaluable lessons. Customer service should not be customer facing only. Customer service is your primary listening post.
Cultivate communication between those who speak daily with customers and your management team. Don’t ignore the gold mine in your own backyard.
- Saving money is fine, but skimping on hosting capability and site speed is not the place. Brick and mortar stores must have ample space to accommodate customers. Your eCommerce store or B2B lead generation site is no different. Online space, though, isn’t as easy to perceive. It’s not measured in square footage; it’s measured in bandwidth.
Every second your site requires to load on a visitor’s browser detracts exponentially from the conversion rate. Hosting quality and site speed are limiting factors in your ability to grow.
- Refuse to offer free shipping, and you’ll lose orders. You don’t have to ship every order free, but providing a path to free or discounted shipping gives you a decided advantage. Studies consistently show it’s better to raise your prices and lower the shipping charge than to lower prices and raise the shipping.
- Take your eye off the ball, and you’ll lose the game. Traffic, advertising, marketing messages… all are important. The bottom line for any business, though, is return on investment. The path you set out for prospects must lead to profitable conversions, and every page, every word on your site must support that goal.
Time to get started
Use this list to quickly evaluate your website. Do you see signs of conversion killing copy, design, or strategy?
These common mistakes can kill your conversions and torpedo your business growth. Start taking these lessons to heart and you’ll see the improvements. Got anything to add? Tell us in the comments below!