You can’t really see your website any more.
That might sound like a bold and strange claim, but unless you have launched your business and/or your website in the last year, there’s a very good chance that it’s true. Smart businesses are constantly adapting, adding, tweaking and developing their websites, with the result that – after a while – it may not bear much more than a superficial resemblance to the website you first created.
It’s been observed that a bridge can be entirely rebuilt without anyone noticing, if it’s done one piece at a time at night. The same is true of websites – but with one difference. While a bridge’s performance will likely be improved by all those small new parts, a website may in fact begin to break down. Small changes that improve one aspect of a website may have an unexpected knock-on effect on another, such as improving the design and navigability at the cost of page load times. The result can be that conversion rates start to decline, and you might have no idea why. This is bottom-line stuff. As Entrepreneur Magazine has written: “Getting traffic to your website is great, but if that traffic doesn’t convert, it’s almost useless.”
Answers and solutions can be found through conducting a thorough conversion rate audit, a crucial step for all businesses to take when assessing whether their website is still operating as well as it can. It’s a chance to step back and see the wood again, not the trees, and is the best way towards improved conversion rate optimisation (CRO). If you just wondered what that jargony phrase really means, CRO is defined by Wikipedia as “the process of increasing the percentage of users or website visitors to take a desired action (such as buying a product or leaving contact details)”. Your accountants might define it even more simply: it’s how your business makes money.
The reason CRO is so important is that it is mostly about tapping into your existing website traffic, meaning you don’t have to spend a fortune to generate totally fresh website visitors. In addition, thanks to a whole range of free tools, you can actually improve your conversion rates without having to hire an expensive developer. In recent years, it has become much easier to understand who visits your site and how to get them to take action.
But the first step is to undertake that audit, and the good news is that while an agency can certainly be helpful, it’s also something you can get started yourself. Perhaps you can bring in a trusted friend or a partner to help you. It may also help to change your environment, both your own physical environment (how does your website feel when you assess it from a mobile on top of a mountain?) and the online environment (how does your website feel from a different browser).
We are going to break your audit into three sections: technical, design, and language.
The first step you need to take is to thoroughly assess the technical delivery of your website, since this can have such a massive impact on the user experience and the likelihood of them converting. Start by checking your on-page SEO and ensuring that the right keywords are in the right places (see also the third section).
Next, in a year where mobile became the entry point for 55% of online journeys, you need to examine your website’s delivery on laptops, tablets and PCs. This is especially important now that Google is actively penalizing websites that deliver poorly on mobile, though at least it provides free tools to help you check your mobile optimization.
Finally, and crucially, you need to assess your website’s speed. The Internet may have shortened all our attention spans, but mobile seems to have killed them. As Forbes magazine puts it, “mobile users are notoriously less patient than their desktop counterparts, so website speed is everything.” Forbes says that 53% of visitors will leave if your site takes longer than three seconds to load. Small changes can deliver big results.
Your next step is to audit the design of your website, which most importantly means an honest assessment of your user experience. Take a look at the colours, fonts and images on your website, alongside the page layouts. If you want people to not just stay on your website but actually take action, you need to make every step as effortless as possible. As Hubspot points out, “one reason that users don’t convert is because there’s friction in the process.”
Pay particular attention to the layout of critical pages, such as your home page, landing pages or check-out pages. Keep them clear, concise, and user-friendly. You may have sourced beautiful photography but if it isn’t driving people towards conversion, get rid of the pictures ruthlessly, no matter how much you like the way they look. The last thing you want to do is distract your customer as they hover on the edge of conversion.
When conducting your audit, pay particular attention to the language you use. Words are the final springboards to conversion. Get an outsider’s perspective to check whether all your pages include the information your visitors need to assess your business and your products or services.
Most importantly, learn the art of asking. If you want a potential customer to do something – buy, subscribe, donate, sign up – you need to ask. An engaging and persuasive Call To Action (CTA) can be rocket fuel for conversions. Make sure your CTA is always visible and accessible to visitors, no matter where they are on a page, so that the moment they are persuaded, they can convert.
In fact, the best words of all may not be your own. No matter how well you write about your own products or services, there will always be an inherent mistrust from new customers. Your vested interest is too strong to ignore. That’s why social proof – independent reviews or testimonials by former customers – has become one of the best ways of acquiring trust from potential new customers. WikiJob reports that testimonials increased their conversion rates by 34%.
Audit these three categories thoroughly and carefully, and take the necessary actions and you won’t just be able to see your website accurately again, you’ll be able to see it deliver the results you need.