Convert More Leads With a Cleaner Website

A big part of marketing is putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Business owners should likewise take a step back occasionally and look at their website from the customer’s perspective. Let’s take a look at the home pages of two websites so you will see exactly what I’m talking about.

As you look at these sites, act like you are the customer and you have no ties to either one. You go looking to buy Widget X online and you find this website listed first:

Exhibit A

cluttered website

How user friendly is this site?  In other words, how easy is it for a customer to look at this website and know exactly what they are supposed to do in a few seconds time?

Now, you return to the search results and you find this website:

Exhibit B

UGMONK

What you see above is a clean, orderly interface. You know exactly what they sell, and they make it easy to buy. The design is excellent, and the checkout process is simple.  I actually went through the process of buying a shirt on this site, and I was done after a few easy steps.

Why you should care

Sometimes website owners get so used to their website that it becomes hard to see past the usability flaws. Before they know it, the site starts looking like Exhibit A when it should look as good as Exhibit B. Hopefully you don’t have a site like the first one up above, but I’m willing to bet yours could still use some improvement. Here are a few areas where your site might be suffering and what you can do about it.

Too much text distracts from the call to action

Don’t get caught in the trap of cramming too much text onto your homepage. Unfortunately, if you try to give readers all the information at once, you risk boring or confusing them. That leads to high bounce rates and less conversions. Bounce rate refers to how many site visitors leave your site from the same page they came from, without exploring any other pages. Obviously, you want to keep your bounce rate as low as possible.

How to do it right

All you need on the homepage is what leads a customer to buy now. If you want them to buy a t-shirt, put up a big picture of a t-shirt. Put the price right underneath it. Then either make it clickable, or put a big bold button to the right of it that says something like “buy now”. If you don’t sell t-shirts, apply this advice to your product. Simplicity will work anywhere.

Make your content to the point

When you have to include text on the homepage, it must be clear and to the point. Consider the what, why, when, where, and how, and answer it as concisely as possible. Test out your site content by getting somebody else to read it. If they get it the first time, and it’s perfectly clear (avoid industry jargon), you’ve got something to go with. Also, don’t forget the navigational text should be simple, too. Avoid having a top menu, left sidebar menu, right sidebar menu, mini menu, bottom menu, etc. Just put it up top or on the left side and be done with it.

Color and size matter

Pick the area on the page where you want to direct the most eyeballs and make it stand out. If it is a “Sign Up” or “Buy Now” button, color it in stark contrast to the background so it’s easy to see. Make your main call to action button larger than your intuition tells you, and put it in a prominent and clean area of the homepage. You have unlimited options, but the concept of bold and obvious remains.

You might need a redesign

Most of you would agree that the red and blue thing at the top of this post needs a website redesign. The hard part is acknowledging that your site needs one too. Moving buttons around, changing colors, and cutting out text is enough for a lot of websites, but some are too far gone. If you’re there, start from scratch with a designer you trust. Just make sure that your designer knows how to design a site that converts into sales.

Conversion is an essential part of search engine marketing because it deals with what happens after the customer has clicked on your search engine listing. Make sure you are balancing your resources between search results and conversion, because nobody will purchase your amazing product if they can’t find it on your site.

*Exhibit B is the totally rad Ugmonk.com. Buy one of their shirts.

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13 Comments

  1. Eamon Arnett says

    SO TRUE… how many times when do an analysis on a clients site do you say “Well if you changed the whole layout and site design…”. You just can’t work magic around a site that isn’t appealing, and potential clients don’t want to stay on. You need to build trust immediately… or that traffic is gone. I’m digging that more and more SEO’s are becoming very familiar with marketing and branding techniques as a whole. Because when you look at it that way, your client succeeds even greater.

  2. James says

    While you are probably right in these two examples it’s never a great idea to buy into best practices without testing (see here for an example). I’ve seen some of the ugliest pages in the world convert better than the cleaner more direct versions. At the end of the day you have to test this stuff. If a user searching for a limo is most often searching for a number to call to make a reservation the page may be successful as is whereas if you are picky about your t-shirts and want to know what material they are made from the cleaner version may convert less well.

  3. Robert Brady says

    Consumers today are inundated with choices (Which cell phone carrier should I choose? Which plan on that carrier? Which phone from that carrier?) and as the number of choices increase, so does the anxiety customers feel. They’re worried about whether or not they’ve found the best product or whether they’re getting the best price. Even after purchase they may feel “buyers remorse”. Simplify your site, reduce the anxiety and provide assurance throughout the conversion process.

  4. says

    James, you’re right about the need for testing. A/B and/or multivariate testing provides important insight you can’t get any other way. But intuition shouldn’t be cast aside in all cases simply because there isn’t a number behind it. If someone is searching for a phone number to call a limo company, a clean site with a big bold phone number will probably convert better than exhibit A. Though I would advocate testing whenever possible, sometimes best practices are surprisingly effective.

  5. Garrett Peterson says

    I went through this problem and its what led me to the complete redesign of my site (still in progress). What I had was a lot of text but none of it was concise. I’ve changed to it to be clear blocks of text with images in a concise format. In the testing I’ve done, people find it easier to get the information and to convert them to a sale. 3 weeks and I’ll be live.

  6. James says

    You are definitely right and in the extreme example above its probably a no brainer. My experience has been however that one is usually using a good design that isn’t great and could be better laid out but when tested against a cleaner more intuitive design results can be surprising. Thanks for the post.

  7. Barry Harrison says

    Good points but the example you choose for Exhibit B has a couple obvious problems.

    1. The black and dark blue t-shirts don’t show up on the black background.
    2. Where’s the call to action? I don’t think that clicking on the t-shirt is an adequate call to action. You need to tell people what you’d like them to do.

    http://twitter.com/barryharrison

  8. says

    Barry, I see your point about the call to action, but I would suggest that a lack of options is sometimes a sufficient enough call to action (depending on the site of course). Like a squeeze page, Ugmonk gives you two options: the shirt or the price. When you click through, there’s a nice blue call to action button. It could be that the designers thought the blue button didn’t belong below each shirt image on the homepage. I would agree with them, but that’s just my preference.
    Regarding your first point, the actual website affords a much better experience. The 1st anniversary shirt is the hardest to see, but even it’s not too bad.

  9. Kyle Hogan says

    Is the second example one of your clients?
    Nice looking site, but with almost no text on the page you give for the clean site how can that compete with a well optimized site? That page looks great for a PPC landing page though.

  10. Barry Harrison says

    Hi Nathan, thanks for your reply. I visited the Ugmonk site and agree that the actual website is much better than the screenshot.

    You’ve convinced me that buttons aren’t necessary but I’m still having a hard time seeing black t-shirts on a black background ;-)

  11. says

    Kyle,
    Ugmonk is not one of our clients. The idea with using them as an example was to highlight on a simple level a no-nonsense page that would convert better than a messy page, not necessarily one that would perform better in a side by side SEO competition. That, of course, would be the topic for another blog post :)

  12. Anne Kingston says

    I agree a clean website will convert way more due to the fact that customers will not lost  or confused.  Cause soon as that happens people will leave.  you never wanna land on a page and give yourself a headache trying to figure out where eveyrthing is at.  I definitely clean websites i find myself spending lots of time on them and most probably picking a few things.

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