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September 13, 2007

25 Tips to Increase Conversion Rates

Site owners spend so much time and money on search engine optimization that they often leave conversion optimization to chance. They’re happy with a 1% – 2% conversion rate, the typical rate for smaller sites. Converting visitors to buyers is part science, part art. No one formula fits all sites but here are 25 tips that will boost conversion rates on most commercial sites.

  1. Keep it simple. The simpler it is for visitors to complete a purchase the more purchases (and fewer shopping cart abandonments) you’ll see. Make it simple to find the product and go through the checkout process.
  2. Provide complete contact information including a telephone number. Buyers want to know you’re real and they want to know how to reach you in case of a problem.
  3. Provide encouragement throughout the checkout process. The best way to do this is to let buyers know what stage of checkout they’ve reached, and to provide them with highlighted signage to let them know what to do next.
  4. Use product pictures in shopping carts. This reminds visitors what’s in their carts. It also reinforces, in the visitor’s mind, the reason(s) for the purchase.
  5. Link back to the product page. After an item has been placed in the shopping cart, the visitor should be able to click on the item and be directed back to the product page in a new window for example. This makes buying comparisons easier and ensures the visitor has the right item for his/her needs without leaving the shopping cart.
  6. Don’t keep shipping costs a secret. Nothing kills a conversion faster than a $19.95 shipping and handling charge on a $10 item. Provide shipping cost information on the first page of the checkout.
  7. Is it backordered? The visitor finally reaches the end of the checkout only to discover that the item isn’t in stock. Do you think they’ll come back when the item comes in? They won’t.
  8. Provide complete product information including sizes, colors, styles and other product descriptors. This will cut down on product returns because buyers will know what they’re actually purchasing. Avoid hyping products for the same reason
  9. Keep terms of service (TOS) simple and unambiguous. What’s your guarantee? What’s your return policy? Eliminate the boilerplate and give them the facts.
  10. Provide a menu of payment gateways. Not all buyers want to pay by credit card. Some don’t even have a credit card. Buyers should be given the option to pay by debit card, personal check (snail mail), PayPal and other similar services, bank transfer and, if the want to stop by to pick it up, you’ll even take cash.
  11. Never blame the buyer. When a potential buyer clicks on the wrong link, or forgets to enter all data fields, put up a message explaining the problem and how to fix it. The customer is always right and it’s always your fault. Period.
  12. Offer gift cards. Some buyers just don’t know what to buy as a gift. A gift card solves the problem.   
  13. Use real testimonials. If you’re doing it right, you’ve gotten good feedback from some buyers. Ask permission to use their testimonials. Don’t use fake testimonials signed by Diane E., California. It’s an obvious fake testimonial.
  14. Provide a customer service line. Outsource it if it isn’t part of the budget but buyers want to know there’s help in setting it up, whatever “it” is.
  15. Avoid distracting links. If your home page is crammed with PPC ads and links to other sites, it’s distracting and you’ll see a lot more bounces (visitors who never get past the home page).
  16. Offer incentives. Free shipping encourages buyers. So do upgrades, i.e. “Spend at least $50 and receive 10% off your entire purchase.” Some buyers will do the math and figure out they’re getting something for half price.
  17. Welcome repeat visitors by name. Your customer data base is filled with solid gold information including names, purchase amounts, items purchased and so on. First, welcome a return buyer by name. Then, offer suggestions for purchase based on individual buying histories. (See Amazon.com for examples of using data base information to boost conversion ratios.)
  18. Provide a currency converter. Not all buyers will be using your country’s currency. Make it easy to convert from euros to drachmas to dollars.
  19. Offer a free newsletter. Your regular buyers will appreciate it when they’re notified ahead of time of upcoming specials, new product launches and other site related information.
  20. Add a forum. This is a great way for buyers to share information, make recommendations and complain. It’s also a great way for you to handle complaints quickly, with the resolution posted right there on the complaint thread.
  21. Provide informational content on your site. This establishes your credentials and credibility as an authority, whether you’re selling kayaks or bake ware.
  22. Learn from your competitors. Visit the sites of more-established competitors to see what they’re doing to convert. How is the homepage designed? Navigation? Checkout? You can’t copyright an idea so you might as well “borrow” from the best.
  23. Improve site stickiness. In other words, give buyers a reason to return. Some suggestions? The Sale of the Day, Tip of the Day, Your Horoscope, This Day in History, etc. This keeps your site green and visitors returning.
  24. Let buyers post product reviews. Nothing sells better than a positive review from another buyer. Of course, the converse is true, too. Nothing will kill a sale faster than a bad review. And if a product receives lots of bad reviews, drop it from your product line.
  25. Target your site’s skin to your demographic. If you’re selling collectible knives, your site should have a certain “look” and that look doesn’t include pastels and prissy type. Big, bold and manly – that’s the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re selling needlepoint patterns, a nice pastel background with little flowers works perfectly.

Search engine optimization is designed to attract search engine spiders. It’s also intended to ensure that your site is accurately and completely optimized. But, once traffic arrives on site, conversion optimization takes over.

Keep it simple. Keep it easy. Keep it honest. Not only will you see a boost in conversion ratio, you’ll also see a nice pop in return buyers. And they’re the best buyers any web site owner could ask for.

Author:  Frederick Townes is the owner of W3 EDGE, a Boston-based web design company. W3 EDGE focuses on creating a high converting rate for your business. While getting your website found through high rankings is important, having a website that converts is the key to your success online. W3 EDGE undertands that and focuses their energy on presenting your message in a way that the search engines, AND THE VISITORS will enjoy.

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