Increase conversions on your website by understanding your visitors

Can your website convert visitors into buyers or subscribers?

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Most websites suffer from the problem of low conversion rates. Order pages that don't get the order, download pages that no one downloads from, and newsletter sign-up pages that don't get subscribers are scattered all over the web.

There are many factors that affect a web page's conversion rate. Some of these are obvious, common sense problems that can be eliminated after a careful examination of the website or web page itself. Others require understanding your visitors and their behavior, and may need more detailed analysis. Each factor that you take care of can increase conversions on your site dramatically.

Let's increase conversions on your site. Step by step.

Step one: Understand your visitors

This will require you to take a look at your web server logs and site traffic statistics.

How do your visitors find your site? Do they find your site on a search engine's result page, or do they follow links from other sites? What keywords do they use to reach your site? What other sites are they coming from? Go to these sites and look at the page that links to you, and the exact link text. The search engine keywords and the linking information you gather will give you valuable insight into the minds of your visitors. It will tell you what they are looking for and how they think your site can serve their needs.

Next, find what pages they look for and how they find them. What paths do they follow on your website? Do they follow the links you want them to? Do they use the search function on your website a lot, if you have one? This information is a gold mine. It will tell you:

  • Where they think they will find what they are looking for on your website.
  • How successfully and how easily they find it.
  • What attracts them and gets their attention and what doesn't.

You should already be getting a lot of ideas by now. You know what they want. If you can help them find it, you can definitely increase conversions from visitors to customers.

But don't jump ahead. There are still more things to be done before you can make use of this information. Just take notes and move on to step two.

Step two: Understand what you want and set your goals

Unless you clearly define what you want from your visitors, how will you know how to convert them?

Most people only have fuzzy goals, like:

  • Make more money
  • Get people to buy my products
  • Increase my newsletter subscription rate
  • And of course... increase conversions! ;-)

These goals are too vague and general in nature. They are not at all useful in this form. You need to break them down further and create sharp and specific goals out of them. Let's proceed.

From the traffic and visitor analysis you did in step one, you already know that your visitors come to your site with different things in mind and look for different things. It would be unrealistic to have the same general goals for all of them. You cannot expect them all to behave in the same way.

So let's have another go at the goals, with the visitors in mind this time.

  • If visitors come to my site after doing a search on keyword A, I want to sell them product X.
  • If they come to my site after following a link from, I want them to subscribe to my newsletter.
  • If they come to my site more than once, I want them to contact me with the details of a project they have for me and ask for a quote.

Looking much better, right? Set specific goals for each type of visitor, depending on how they find your site (see step one).

Take the time to complete this step. It's important. Take extensive notes.

Now that you know the starting point (your visitors) and the end point (your goals), let's begin the journey.

Step three: Bridge the gap

I am talking about the gap between the needs of your visitors and your own goals. Your visitors arrive at your site with something else in mind, and you want them to do something else. People usually come to your site looking for information or solution to their problems. But you want something else from them.

In most cases, converting your visitors is like asking them to climb a ladder. You need to take them one step at a time:

  1. Show them you have what they are looking for, and how to get it. This must be done within the first 5 seconds of their visit. Create a strong "information scent."
  2. Before you try to sell them anything, you must pre-sell to them (more on pre-selling). Create an "open to buy" mind set. The information scent is getting stronger and stronger, and they are ready to follow.
  3. After you have done an effective pre selling, you are ready to sell to your visitors. Present your product/service/newsletter in its full glory and show how it can help them. They are following the scent.
  4. Get the sale, contact information, subscription or whatever you want. Hear the cash register go ka-ching!
  5. Thank them and ask them to come back again. You do want them to buy again, don't you? :-)

How you perform each step above depends on the situation. But there are a few important things to remember:

  • The information scent should always lead them to the next step, not directly to the sales step, for example. Don't rush them, or you risk losing them.
  • Creating and maintaining the information scent is in itself a difficult task. For best results, keep testing and measuring your results. "Test, measure, change, test, measure, change" should be your mantra. Anything that helps increase conversions stays, and the rest gets dumped.
  • The information scent should not mislead them. For example, if people are looking for birthday cards, don't lead them to birthday cakes.
  • Depending on the situation, you may combine some steps, but please do not skip anything.

More on bridging the gap to increase conversions

Here are a few specific things that you can try out to bridge the gap between the needs of your visitors and your own goals. Each of them can increase conversions and/or subscription rates.

  • Make sure a market for your product/offering exists.
  • Make sure you have a great product/offering and that your description is clear and outlines the benefits.
  • Understand the needs of your visitors (step one) and give them what they need before you expect them to do what you need.
  • The guarantees, returns, shipping, privacy, customer support and security policies on your site are important for gaining confidence and trust from your visitors.
  • Testimonials, if used effectively, are equally important.
  • Build your website around your visitors and the actions they want to take, not how you organize your products. This is tied in closely with the information scent concept. You will be amazed at how this can increase conversions on your site.
  • Information scent is about making it obvious which button or link to click to reach the goal in the visitors' minds. Don't distract visitors with banners, annoy them with pushy sales copy, or put hurdles in their path by asking them to fill unnecessary forms or making them click again and again, going from page to page.
  • Make it easy to order/subscribe and/or to find the price.

Wrapping up

Please do realize this was only the tip of the iceberg. While the steps outlined above should get you started and give you a clear direction, they only scratch the surface of the issue. There are several more things to be done, depending on the nature of your site. Each mini-step in step three involves many tasks in itself, for example.

In step three, I mentioned pre-selling and creating an open-to-buy mind set to increase conversions on your site. How do you do that? Learn what pre-selling is first.

In addition, there are usability problems to take care of. Each usability problem that you remove can increase conversions significantly. This topic is too broad and extensive to be covered here. I may cover it in a future article.

There are also mistakes to avoid. Mistakes that can cause visitors to leave, resulting in low conversion rates. We shall look at some of these mistakes and how to avoid them in my upcoming articles.

In the meantime, to help you increase conversion rates, I have included a terrific e-book in the resources section. Do read it to and learn how to increase conversions and make your site sell, in general.


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