The Importance of Onsite Optimization
I'm still surprised when I see companies spend so much of their marketing budget on traffic acquisition strategies (email, PPC, Display Ads, social campaigns) and very little on onsite optimization.
I once had the opportunity to look at the web analytics of a major U.S. fashion retailer and discovered they were spending millions of dollars a month on PPC, yet their overall site conversion rate was only 0.78% (the average e-commerce conversion rate is 2-3%). This same company was not spending a dime on any on-site optimization strategies like A/B testing. Had they allocated a portion of their marketing spend to on-site optimization, they could have improved their yearly revenue by several million dollars.
Onsite Optimization & The User Experience
Onsite optimization focuses mainly on the user experience. Is the user able to find what they are looking for or is the functionality of the site causing unnecessary friction?
If you can find ways to improve the user experience, you'll find that your visitor task completion rate increases, and that means more money and more leads. But what are the elements that make up what the industry refers to as UX (User Experience)? In my opinion, there are five main ingredients:
Let's look briefly at each of these elements.
Most of us will judge a website after a cursory 5-second scan. During that time, our brains quickly assess whether the site is trustworthy. A clean professional design is the first step in reducing a visitor's anxiety. As you look at your own website's Homepage, ask yourself the following questions.
- Does your Homepage look trustworthy? Is the design clean, open and easy to scan?
- Does it communicate purpose and function without words?
- Do page elements that are clickable look different than elements that are not clickable?
- Does the Homepage communicate your brand?
- Does the Homepage design help direct user's attention to the right places, or is attention dispersed among the various page elements?
- Do the use of colors, fonts, images and shapes help guide visitors in finding what they are looking for?
In a basic sense, web usability refers to how "user friendly" a website is. This includes things like whether the site is responsive (works equally well for desktop and mobile) and whether the navigation is streamlined and helps visitors get to areas that are most important to them.
As you are looking through your website to assess overall usability, ask yourself the following questions.
- Have you provided everything the user needs to know?
- Are pages loading fast (Hint: Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool)?
- Is there any functionality on the site that can be simplified?
- Is your content readable (font, size, contrast)?
- Does your site function across all devices classes (desktop, tablet, phone)?
Copywriting is perhaps the most neglected strategy of every website I assess. It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of words to improve user motivation and decrease purchase anxiety. As you read through the copy on your top web pages, ask yourself the following:
- Is the copy free of technical/industry jargon?
- Does your copy focus enough on user benefits?
- Is your copy clear, direct, simple and functional?
- Does it inform and educate the user or does it assume they already understand?
- Is your copy easy to scan (e.g., bullet points) or difficult to wade through (chunks of paragraphs)?
- Are you clearly organizing page copy using headlines and sub-headlines?
There are many subconscious factors that ultimately cause a user to take a specific action on a website. Knowing some basic principles of psychology can help tip the odds in your favor. Here are some basic principles you can use to help better persuade your site visitors.
- Reciprocity - If you give someone something of value for free, they are more likely to reciprocate and become a customer. Look for opportunities to give away things like whitepapers, selection guides, trial offers, etc.
- Commitment - If you can get a site visitor to make a small initial commitment up front, they are more likely to follow through with a larger commitment later. Brainstorm ways to encourage visitors to make a small commitment (e.g., signing up
for a newsletter, sharing content on social media, or getting them to enter a contest.)
- Social Proof - As Amazon has proved over the years, 3rd-party product testimonials can be a powerful way to convince consumers to make a purchase. In a study conducted by BrightLocal, it was found that 85% of consumers read up to 10 reviews before they could trust a certain business. Start collecting and posting reviews of your product/service today. It can be a powerful motivating force in the decision-making process.
- Authority - Authority works at a subconscious level. When we feel a bit uncertain about something, a person of authority can usually tip our thoughts and perceptions quite easily. You can create a sense of authority within your website by using academic titles, listing certifications and using testimonials from legitimate authorities.
- Scarcity - Scarcity is a powerful principle that is tied in to our reptilian brain stem, which evolved to serve the needs of survival. When resources are scarce, people can act quite impulsively, leading to irrational behavioral responses. Here are some ways you can use this principle on your own website.
- Limited number – Item is in short supply and won’t be available once it runs out
- Limited time tactics – daily deals
- Holiday specials
- Clearance Sales
- One-of-a-kind specials
- Anniversary specials
Analysis and data gathering are critical, not only in creating a new website design, but also in constantly improving your existing site. Here are some ways to analyze and collect data to better understand your current user experience landscape.
- Use a page-level survey and ask the question "What prevented you from taking action today?
- Use an exit survey and ask the three greatest survey questions ever devised.
- What is the purpose of your visit?
- Were you able to complete the goal of your visit?
- If not, why?
- Perform a round of usability testing using a third-party tool like TryMyUI. Try five desktop tests and five mobile phone tests to start.
- When looking at your web analytics data, ignore absolute numbers and concentrate on longer-term trends instead.
In summary, your marketing strategy should include elements of both traffic acquisition and onsite optimization strategies. Spending large amounts of money to drive people to an under-optimized website is not a smart marketing strategy. Start evaluating your user experience today and put a plan in place to make UX improvement a daily part of your marketing efforts.
Contact us today if you'd like help in evaluating your website's user experience or setting a baseline for improvement. Our Conversion Sciences department will utilize a variety of qualitative and quantitative data sources and work with your marketing team to put a plan of action in place. We look forward to working with you!