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Converting Web Visitors Into Buyers

Converting Web Visitors Into Buyers

How many visitors come to your website matters less than who comes - and how you greet and persuade them.

Achieving search engine visibility is only the beginning of the marketing and sales process. To fully realize your goals, you need to understand how to organize your search listings to bring in the right type of visitors, and then construct your Web site to best meet their needs and turn them from passive visitors into active customers. This was the core topic at the Search Engine Strategies seminar, "Converting Visitors Into Buyers," held recently in San Jose, California.

Michael Sack, SVP and Chief Product Officer for Inceptor, Inc. explained how measuring conversions is crucial for any site. "Search engines can bring highly qualified, relevant traffic, but they can also bring irrelevant traffic. And today, we're paying more and more for it. It's expensive to participate in paid-inclusion and placement programs, and there are no guarantees that they will automatically bring any return on investment (ROI)."

The challenge, Sack says, is to deliver the right people to your site and drive them to the actions you want them to take. "For that, you have to have a methodology...a scientific method."

A conversion methodology for a Web site, as shared by the panelists, should revolve around several key components: site architecture familiarity, proper application of content, tracking, and testing.

Site Architecture Familiarity
"Every time people go to a page on your site, they have an expectation of what they're going to see and/or do," says Nick Usborne, usability consultant and author of the critically acclaimed book "Net Words - Creating High-Impact Online Copy. Be very careful of who your regular visitors are...users crave familiarity. Don't give them the unexpected."

Usborne stressed the need to view the site from the perspective of a first-time user, as what's familiar to the site owner or developer may not be familiar to the target audience. "You can't assume that people know who you are. Don't make them work to figure out who you are...give just enough to let first-time visitors know what you're about. Make it simple and quick."

Home Page Blues
One of the more common focus problems Usborne and Sack agreed on was sites that have too many links on their home page. "People want direction," says Nick. "Tell them what they should do now."

Sack went even further, stating, "Home pages are one of the worst ideas in the history of ideas. We're trying to take everything we do and cram it in a display that's only so big. Imagine walking into a supermarket and finding all of the products gathered on one giant shelf blocking your entrance to the store... It's just like that, and it's very confusing...too many choices don't help the browser get the best possible experience."

Does that mean home pages are bad in themselves? Not at all, according to Sack -- just the most misused. "It's important to think about the purpose of our home pages," he said, citing some good examples: "Dell and Babycenter have very targeted calls to action on their home pages. Babycenter has it right there that they want you to subscribe to their e-mail list. They don't want you to click on 50 different links."

People need to think of every page on the site as a 'home page' -- there need to be consistent elements on every deep page to make it feel as if the browser has reached a true destination online for what they are seeking.

The Character of Our Content
"Quality writing is highly underrated," says Usborne. "The way you can truly make yourself unique online, both with Web sites and follow-up e-mail campaigns, is with the character of your words. The words you choose have a key impact on conversions, the sales you make, and gaining repeat customers."

Usborne shared these content tips on how to stand out from the clutter and connect with your audience:

  • Give personalized information relevant to your visitors' needs.
  • Develop a distinct, unique voice that separates you from your competitors.
  • Connect with your audience on a human level. (Avoid corporate-speak.)

What you have to say doesn't just provide information, Usborne says -- it also builds trust. "Trust doesn't flow from being like everyone else." Good content provides a comforting, reassuring sense for the visitor, saying to them, "This guy really knows his stuff... he's an expert."

"A unique character of voice that shows you care. You know the guy, you trust the guy, and you like the guy."

Testing and Tracking
So how can you tell if you're tracking the right people on your site? "Pay attention to where that traffic is going," answers Sack. "Start to figure out the best paths through your site, or 'web aisles.' That way, you can develop a scientific method pinpointed to where a person is coming from."

"Are you taking them directly to the page that matches their keyword searches? Are you doing everything in your power to get people to go from just looking to actually shopping? Are you doing everything possible to get them to buy? And are you getting them to do it again? It's expensive to get customers, but it's more expensive to lose them. You should be doing everything you can to keep them."

Control where traffic arrives on your site and test different messages and promotions. Next, track away. What are the net results? Conversion rates? Which pages/products are performing at the highest ROI if they're a part of a paid-management program?

And be sure to track the right things: click-stream behavior of visitors, and conversions. "Hits and sessions really don't matter." says Sack. "You can have low traffic and high conversions from that traffic."

And the best part? You don't have to use intrusive personal information to do it.

Grant Crowell is the founder and CEO of Grantastic Designs, Inc. He has many years of professional experience in the fields of web design, copywriting and marketing.

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