Guest Post: 5 Tiny Mistakes That Confuse Site Visitors and Kill Conversion Rates (and How to Fix Them)

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to introduce this guest post from Jon MacDonald, founder and president of conversion rate optimization firm The Good. Jon and his team specialize in delivering more leads, customers, and revenue to e-commerce companies through tools like their free Stuck Score™ report and their Conversion Growth Program™. In today’s post, Jon points out five easy-to-miss mistakes that may be eating away at your conversion rate.

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Everyone knows to look out for the big things in landing page design, but it’s the little things that can make you stumble and drop the ball.

When it comes to graphics, you worry about pointing eyes in the right direction, using the correct fonts, and placing each element in exactly the right spot.

When it comes to writing, you try to craft compelling copy to draw the reader in and maintain attention all the way through to the call to action.

That’s all fine and necessary, but the litmus test comes when you consider the results.

At The Good, we focus on conversion rate optimization. Clients often call us when they’re stuck and don’t know what else to try. That’s the beauty of an outside perspective: there are times when an outsider can see things the insiders are looking right past.

Here are five real-life examples of simple little mistakes that can lose sales, and they run the gamut from the Fortune 500 to a local business hoping to get established.

These are representative of the tiny mistakes we’re all subject to miss. But once you’re looking out for them, you can avoid these same pitfalls from the beginning.

Mistake #1: Burying the Value Under Branding

Diane James sells plants. Lovely plants. So lovely, in fact, that a potted fern from the Diane James website costs $515.

What? You wouldn’t pay over 500 bucks for one fern?

Neither would I. There’s a caveat, though. The plants Diane James sells aren’t grown—they’re handcrafted. They’re not real, but they look as lifelike as and much more beautiful than the plants you need to water, trim, nurture, and eventually replace. So the investment does pay off in the end.

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You might have missed that if you looked at the company’s old website, however. Here’s what we discovered when we dug into users’ experience on the site.

Revealing research: Our user testing results revealed that visitors to the site required an average of 13.2 minutes to figure out Diane James’s products were made by hand!

Consequently, while the plants certainly seemed desirable, the overwhelming consensus was that they were way overpriced when (incorrectly) compared to living plants and floral arrangements available elsewhere.

And that consensus persisted even after users realized the truth. Once a cognitive “anchoring effect” is produced, it is stubbornly resistant to change—even after being presented with additional data.

Key question: How could Diane James let visitors to the site (especially first-time visitors) know the beautiful products they sell are not living plants—without embracing the potentially negative branding implications of “fake plants”?

The simple fix: If prospects realize they’re looking at high-quality, handcrafted reproductions, the price objection is largely overcome. We suggested the company choose words that would convey the information that the plants are “fake,” but in terminology better suited to the high-end branding of the company. Terms like “Forever Greens,” “faux,” “Handmade in the USA,” and “Handmade with love” help visitors realize the roses they get from Diane James are never going to wilt.

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The lesson: Landing page copy should always support your brand, but it can’t do that effectively if a lack of clarity obscures the offer’s value. Focus on describing the offer clearly while using brand-appropriate language.

Mistake #2: Hiding Your Best Stuff Behind Easy-to-Ignore Navigation Links

FayetteChill designs and manufactures outdoor-oriented apparel. The company offers many different kinds of products, which made it a challenge to maintain simplicity on their home page and still offer ample options in the menu bar.

Their initial solution was to offer an expanded category menu under the navigation label “Shop More.” But, as we’ll see, that didn’t quite do the trick.

Revealing research: When we ran a heatmap study to track clicks on the site, we found that almost no visitors clicked the “Shop More” link.

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That meant that few web visitors were discovering that the company offered much more than hats and shirts; the product categories under the “Shop More” link weren’t seeing much activity.

Key question: How could FayetteChill draw more engagement to the “Shop More” link without adding extra clutter to the navigation bar?

The simple fix: We interviewed consumers to better understand what language they’d respond to. And, happily, it tied into the existing brand. Findings showed that customers in the target audience liked the term “chill” and were naturally drawn to copy that included it. They didn’t necessarily see themselves as “shopping” when they were browsing the site, so they weren’t likely to respond to a call to shop more.

We then conducted tests to find a more engaging or intriguing navigational title. Stars in the graphic below show the best-performing variants of the three terms we tested against the original (control) language. All of the variants outperformed the control, but the strongest overall variant, and ultimately the winner, was “More Chill,” an intriguing on-brand navigational name.

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Click to enlarge.

The lesson: If people aren’t using your most important navigation links, take a close look at how you word them. Generic language that works elsewhere may not engage your audience, so don’t be afraid to get a bit creative.

Mistake #3: Not Speaking the Local Language

Established in 1958 by Japanese mountaineer Yukio Yamai, Snow Peak creates high-end products that cater to outdoor enthusiasts around the world. When we began working with the company, the Snow Peak website was pulling in excellent traffic, but not accomplishing one of its primary goals: getting visitors to click through and find the nearest retail outlet.

Revealing research: We discovered the problem when we looked at the navigation bar. Snow Peak was using the term “stockists” to describe retail outlets. That’s a term known and used widely in Asia and Europe, but not in the U.S.

The key question: How could Snow Peak get more visitors to use their store location tool?

The simple fix: We tested a more familiar term in the navigation bar: “Store Locator.” And indeed, split testing showed that changing “Stockists” to “Store Locator” increased conversions for U.S. customers by 63%.

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The lesson: One word can make a tremendous difference in results. Your website must speak the prospect’s language, not your own—so if you’re serving an audience in a different location or demographic than your own, pay very close attention to your wording.

Mistake #4: Sending Customers Off Track with Distracting Links

The Xerox brand is universally known in the business services and digital imaging market. However, their size and success doesn’t mean their landing pages are always perfect.

They asked The Good for help with improving the conversion rate on their toner add-on page.

At first glance, Xerox was doing a lot of things right. The page was focused on one product, the language was clear and spoke directly to the target audience. What could possibly be wrong?

In this case, the problem was not that Xerox needed to say something differently. They needed not to say it at all!

Revealing research: Manufacturers are constantly concerned about supporting their dealers, since most sales are conducted at retail outlets, rather than direct from the company. It’s understandable, but not every page is the right place to address that concern.

In this case, placing links to dealers on the order page meant visitors were abandoning the checkout page to go elsewhere. They might complete the sale somewhere eventually, but then again they might not.

Key question: How could Xerox improve the purchase rate on this page?

The simple fix: We advised the company to remove those links. It seemed safe to assume that anyone getting that far in the shopping process was ready to buy and didn’t need additional direction.

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Click to enlarge.

That was borne out by the results. Simply removing those links garnered 33% more conversions on the page.

The lesson: Remove unnecessary diversions, especially at checkout. Once visitors have made a choice, refine your own sense of focus and don’t keep presenting them with additional options.

Mistake #5: Overloading Your Home Page with Content

Here’s an example from a local brick and mortar business. Jimmy Smith recently moved to Oregon and opened up a martial arts studio. He hired a local firm to build a website for him, but visitors were leaving quickly without clicking through, causing a high bounce rate.

So he asked one of his clients to take a look and see if he could help. That turned out to be a fortuitous choice, since the guy he asked is a copywriting consultant on our team at The Good.

Here’s the original version of the Smith Martial Arts home page:

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Revealing research: The site had a strong structure and tons of content. But it didn’t provide an easy way for visitors to navigate that content. Given that Smith was getting zero leads from his website, it appeared that visitors were getting confused by all the choices and leaving quickly.

Key question: How could Smith Martial Arts get website visitors to click through from the home page, find out more about the classes they offer, and come in for a personal visit?

The simple fix: First, we implemented a simple welcome page that would allow visitors to self-direct their way through the website. This page narrowed down the site’s overabundance of choices to three: martial arts for kids, martial arts for adults, and specialty classes.

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Second, we added a link to the contact page from every other page in the site—the only other option visitors should have when they’re on any given page.

Within two hours of making the switch, Smith received his first inquiry from the website, and the stream of requests is still flowing, bringing him several pre-qualified prospects each day.

The lesson: Keep it simple. Each page has one mission to accomplish. In this case, that mission is to allow the visitor to make easy decisions that lead to finding the sought-for information.

What Little Fixes Can You Make?

What I hope you’ll take away from these examples is that the little things can make a huge difference.

Sometimes, we get so carried away with styles, colors, and branded content that we forget our primary aim: conversions.

Assuming your offer is fair and desirable, if you’re getting traffic but not making sales, chances are there’s a customer experience issue tripping up your visitors somewhere on the landing page. (We call those places “stuck points” when we create our Stuck Score™ reports for clients.) Look at what you’re asking visitors to do and the language you’re using to ask them to do it.

You may find that something’s a little off—but if it is, there’s probably a little fix ready and waiting for you.

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  • There’s big stuff in the little things. Thank you, Jon.