Most businesses considering SEO believe that the best way to achieve online growth is to drive more traffic to their website.
“If we were ranking higher on Google, more people would know what we do, and we would generate more sales.”
At first glance, this seems to make perfectly logical sense.
Google only cares about their users, not your business
Once your website appears anywhere on the first page of Google, the most significant ranking factor is ‘Search User Satisfaction‘.
Google now evaluates how long people spend on your website (relative to your competitors) before returning back to Google. If your website fails to engage search visitors, your Google ranking will plummet faster than Harvey Weinstein’s career!
The reality is that, for most businesses, ~98% of your visitors leave the website without making a purchase or enquiry. -55% are probably not even looking past the page on which they landed.
If 98% of your traffic fails to convert, why would driving more traffic to your site be your top priority? Surely, it makes more sense to do everything possible to improve the conversion rate of your website? Not only will your site rank higher, but you will also gain more benefit from the traffic you already have.
Businesses are fixated with rankings and traffic
Although it may not paint a completely accurate picture, look at the chart below showing the trend of UK searches for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ compared to ‘Conversion Rate Optimisation’.
It suggests an average of three times as many people looking to improve their Google ranking than improve conversions on their website.
This has to stop!
Why do websites perform so poorly?
I believe there are a few common reasons for this…
1) It’s all about them, not you
Most websites are focused on the needs of the business, not the needs of the visitor. Most businesses are too close to their own organisation to create their website content objectively. The web designer asks them what they want on the site and then attempts to give it to them.
There is usually very little (or nothing) done to engage existing or prospective customers in the design and content of the site; the very people for whom the website is being built.
2) The website was designed for a logical mind
When visitors first land on a website, they don’t want to read a dense block of text that makes logical arguments as to why you are the best lawyer/software company/consultancy/plumber in the universe.
Online visitors are also optimisers, behaving quickly and intuitively with their actions and decisions driven mostly by their subconscious mind, not their logical frontal cortex.
Whether your business sells analytical software or luxury villas in the Caribbean, your landing pages must trigger an emotional response in the minds and hearts of your visitors.
3) Your web designer is a ‘Jack of all Trades’
Your web designer is probably not an expert in human psychology, usability, copywriting, analytics, search engines, front-end design, photography, back-end coding all wrapped up into one super-human being.
If you have a large enough budget to hire one of the few digital agencies with a team of specialists covering all of these roles, there may be a small chance of building a website that converts well. Even then, your organisation’s internal culture often hampers the agency’s ability to produce the best site possible.
4) What works for them, won’t work for you
The person in the business charged with managing the website build, and faced with an overwhelming number of decisions, will often resort to copying elements of their competitors’ websites.
“If it works for them, it should work for us” is a poor heuristic destined to achieve the exact opposite of what your objective should be. Specifically, to build a site that helps your customers differentiate your business from your competitors.
5) The CEO liked it, so we went with it
Faced with endless questions over navigation, headings, copy and images; most decisions fall back to the hunches and guesswork of the most senior person in the team. The very person least likely to be able to view what your business does with a cold, objective eye.
So, what’s the solution?
What not to do
Website analytics, usability testing, focus groups, online surveys and heatmaps are all tools that show you how your visitors are behaving. They won’t tell you why they behave that way or how to persuade them to behave differently.
The first step in solving any problem, is to recognise you have a problem.
Look at the bounce rate, conversion rate and engagement stats of your website in Google Analytics. You will need to be able to understand how to configure Goals, Segments and Events in Google Analytics to do this accurately. If you don’t have this knowledge, either learn it or hire someone who does.
Hire a CRO agency
There are some wonderful CRO agencies here in the UK. They hire smart people who are good at statistics and in short supply; so, they don’t come cheap. You will probably be looking at an investment of at least £5,000 per month for a minimum of 12 months.
To even be eligible to work with a CRO agency your website will need enough traffic and conversion potential for their statistical analyses to make any sense.
Realistically, you will need at least 10,000 visitors per month viewing the page that you want to optimise. Otherwise, every experiment will take 6 months or more to complete. Your budget and patience probably won’t stretch that far.
Learn how to perform a Heuristic Competitor Analysis
This really isn’t as scary as it sounds. By using a simple framework, based on proven psychological principles, it’s possible to make significant improvements to your website without hiring a CRO agency. It will take less than a day to learn but requires a long-term commitment to testing and analysis.
I will soon be posting more information about how to perform a Heuristic Competitor Analysis on this blog – stay tuned!