There was a time in the distant past when a website was considered the equivalent of a poster for your company hung up on a random wall. The hope then was that someone might randomly wander past it, take some interest, and eventually get around to calling you or stopping by your offices, or maybe even sending you “electronic mail” (we did say distant past!). Everyone knew they needed a website. They just didn’t really know why.
Of course, that was then, and this is now. Now, we expect our websites to serve as more than billboards on the information superhighway. Now, we expect websites to generate demonstrable and measurable ROI. In short, we want our websites to generate leads (or even sales!)
Of course, that brings us to our topic: what happens when your website DOESN’T generate leads? Or put simply, why do websites fail? Here are some of the most common reasons, pulled together from our years of experience.
There’s Nowhere For a Conversion to Occur
This might seem like it should go without saying, but unfortunately it’s overlooked way too often. Many websites simply don’t lead towards any kind of meaningful conversion point. No conversion point = no leads.
Of course, this is basic common sense. The REAL problem arises when website designers and their clients THINK that a conversion opportunity exists, when in fact it doesn’t, or is so well hidden that it might as well not exist. This kind of issue crops up all the time, and we’re sure you’ve seen it: contact forms buried three levels down into the “About Us” menu, tiny telephone numbers in dark gray against a slightly darker gray background in the footer, no hours of operation, entreaties to contact the company by email with no obvious email address.
These design problems seem so basic that they’re often simply overlooked in the design and development process, which is why we strongly suggest user-testing your website early and often. As soon as you get mockups from your designer, lay them out in front of a relative and ask them if they can figure out what they should do next. Get some friends or clients and ask them for feedback on your live prototype. Get as much input as possible. If people report that they just don’t know how to get in touch, it may be time to rethink the whole thing.
Your Audience Isn’t Looking For What You’re Selling
There’s an old illustrative anecdote economists tell to explain the concept of relative value. A man is lost in the desert with nothing but his clothes and a hundred dollars, and wanders for days before he comes to a market stand. The shop owner says “I can sell you a bottle of water, or this handful of flawless diamonds. Either one is going to cost you $100.” Of course, the man goes for the bottle of water.
The point of this little pearl of wisdom is that no matter how good your products may be, no matter how good your sales pitch, if the people coming to your website aren’t looking for what you’re selling, you aren’t going to generate any leads. As a marketer, that makes your job incredibly difficult. Not only do you need to build a website experience that sells your company effectively and efficiently, you have to make sure that it attracts the right types of visitors. Getting the right kind of visitor is only partially in the hands of the website owner. A lot of the factors that determine who comes to your site are external and often out of your direct control. Still, there are a number of ways you can help nudge things along in the right direction.
The two easiest factors to control for are content and advertising. By content, we’re referring here to ALL of the content on your site – not just your typical content marketing efforts. You have to make sure your content is tightly focused on attracting people that are actually likely to become your customers. That means picking the right keywords and phrases and sticking to them. By focusing your message around the content that is most likely to match what prospective buyers are looking for, you are more likely to show up in search engine results for phrases that have the potential to turn into a lead, and less likely to show up for search terms that lead to uninterested visitors.
The same holds true for advertising. If using keyword-based ads, like the AdWords platform, make sure that the keywords you are targeting are the keywords that your customers use when searching for your product. Make double-sure that not only are they the right keywords for your products, but that they’re also the right keywords for the right stage in the sales funnel. Targeting a lot of high-level/top-of-funnel phrases for a direct sales site will just frustrate you and your visitors. Same for low-level/ready-to-buy keywords for a site that’s primarily informational in nature.
If using an advertising platform that doesn’t rely on keywords or phrases, make sure the ad placement is targeting the right audience. Look for sites that are frequented by your current customers. This is one of those times when reaching out to existing leads and asking them where they like to spend time online is a great idea. And make sure that your creative matches the product and sales-funnel position that your site targets!
Your Calls-to-Action are Terrible, Assuming You Even Have Them
Imagine you’re looking for a wedding planner. You’re browsing two different websites, and trying to figure out which one you should go with. One has a contact us page with a generic form on it, the other one has custom-tailored forms on each landing page with catchy titles and callouts (“Love these pictures of floral arrangements? Ask us how to get them for YOUR wedding!”) Which one are you going to contact? Maybe both, but definitely the second one, because it draws your interest and tells you what the next step is.
This might seem very similar to the first point we made, but therein lies the difficulty of getting it right. It’s not enough to simply have a place for leads to happen. Prospects (website visitors) have to be nurtured, pulled, and pushed towards becoming leads. One of the most critical steps to getting that conversion to occur is the call to action, or CTA in marketing slang. This is the big callout at the conversion point that screams “HERE! CLICK HERE! FILL OUT THIS FORM! CALL THIS NUMBER! DO IT RIGHT AWAY!”
A good call to action does more than simply point your prospects to where they can go to become leads. It creates desire and urgency. The typical web visitor is rarely as motivated to convert as you would want them to be. A good call-to-action ramps up their motivation using a combination of psychology, scientific testing, and a good dose of LOUD. Getting them just right is a tricky and ever-evolving process. The best way to craft good calls-to-action is to try over and over again. Familiarize yourself with A/B and Multivariate testing techniques, and keep testing new calls-to-action. Come up with several and pit them against each other in a no-holds-barred contest to the death. Then think of some more and try them out. Another good approach is to look at what the leaders in your industry are doing – they’ve probably spent quite a bit of time and money getting their CTAs just right, and taking some notes from them is never a bad idea.
With a little thought and a little strategy, you can use these ideas to turn your website from a passive advertisement to a money-making lead generation machine that contributes strongly to the bottom line.