There is an epidemic on the Internet, an epidemic that it is impacting our ability to recover from the most recent financial recession.
Not only is this serious plague suppressing the income-earning potential of search marketers, it makes clicking on ads frustrating and boring for all of us.
We are fighting an epidemic of low conversion rates.
The statistics speak for themselves.
The occurrence of of unplanned bounces is high, despite our advances in content management systems and analytics software. Diagnosis of STDs (Social Technology Distractions) has risen to alarming levels.
We may point the finger at others who seek promiscuous ad-clickers, but we can only look to ourselves if we want to change our future.
It Starts With The Children
The problem is one of education, and that education has to start at a young age. Most executives report that they think they know what to put on their websites and in their search ads.
They believe that they know intuitively what will generate leads and sales. Meanwhile, online conversion rates consistently float around 2%.
We cannot let ignorance proliferate.
While our executives may never understand, we can save the next generation from entering the workforce unequipped to minimize abandons. It is time that we sat our youngsters down and let them know that it is OK to talk about conversion optimization.
We don’t want them to become a statistic.
Having “The Talk”
I know that it’s uncomfortable to speak about this to children. We were never really taught by our parents how to have normal and healthy relationships with our website visitors. Many of us are still embarrassed to even acknowledge our interest in conversion.
What if we are asked a difficult question about statistical significance? What will our children read into provocative words like “visitor experience” and “conversion scenario?” How do we tell our children that it’s fine to hang out with fake people, when we know that they are going to be heavily influenced by them?
Here are some of the most important points you must make when you have “the talk” with your kids.
1. Save yourself for the right one
A deep and abiding conversion scenario requires two things: a source of quality traffic and an on-page experience that converts clicks to leads and sales.
An ad cannot be solely measured by click-throughs. It must be measured by conversions. If our children are writing ads for a poorly converting landing page, they cannot really know how their ads are doing.
Likewise, a landing page cannot be measured by pageviews. A great landing page with unqualified traffic will only end in heartbreak.
We must teach our children that a relationship like this means working as part of a team. Choose partners that share your conversion values.
2. If you must create an unoptimized page, use protection
The most dangerous pages are those that you can’t measure. If you must create an unoptimized page, be sure to slip on an analytics package, just in case someone asks about the results. You’ll be building a database of information that you can tap later, a database that will be there when you want to improve your results.
Don’t tolerate IT complaints that putting analytics on right in the middle of a heated website release may ruin the mood. Analytics will heighten the experience, helping you determine if there is a problem with the page, the ad or both.
3. Try not to look desperate
Self esteem issues are at the heart of most unoptimized campaigns. Businesses are trying very hard to convince visitors that they are worthy of their attention, their contact information and their money.
It’s embarrassing, frankly.
We want our children to be confident in their offerings; to build websites that don’t try please everyone. We all know that when you try to please everyone, you please no one.
There is no more important key to improving conversion than to stand for something and communicate it well. Your value proposition shouldn’t seek to placate all segments, but to energize the ones that give you the biggest advantage.
Don’t give in to visitor peer pressure. Be willing to upset bad prospects so that you may vigorously embrace your best visitors.
4. Just because the other kids do it…
Blind copying of competitor websites is probably helping your competitor more than it is helping you.
Bad ideas get spread across the Internet because we steal ideas from competing websites without measuring the results. Flash animation is a good example of this.
Rotating flash messages are a terrible way to communicate when visitors are giving us eight seconds. Flash has consistently reduced conversion rates on landing pages, yet many websites still use them.
Tell your own unique story, a story that starts with the ad, develops conflict on the landing page, and delivers a Hollywood ending in the shopping cart.
Children, if you need to borrow from others, at least make sure you’re protected from a bad idea by measuring the results.
5. It’s OK to go all the way
It’s one thing to ask a group of people which webpage design they like best. It’s another to put a few options up on your site and see which one generates the most leads or revenue. Real marketers “go all the way” and split test their decisions.
It takes more work, more time, and more budget. But we want our children to truly understand their visitors’ intentions. That way they can go out with prospects that are going to go all the way (to convert); that are not just interested in a one-click stand.
6. Surround yourself with fake people
Perhaps the biggest challenge our children face is conflicting messages from their friends. The popular kids want them to shun ugly visitors. The Freaks have no problem with low quality scores. The Goths want them to do everything in black.
Likewise, everyone on an online marketing team is going to have different ideas about who they are selling to.
The ad writers will write for impatient searchers who are only tangentially interested in the offer. The designers will create pages for contemplative visitors, whom they believe are coming for a reason. The marketing manager will insist on messaging that makes the company look good and keeps the boss placated.
The disconnects between ad, page and brand message will cause people to lose the “scent,” increasing abandonment rates.
We don’t want our children to be abandoned. Tell them that it’s OK to hang out with fake people called personas. Personas are a great way to organize what you know about your visitors. They build empathy for the visitor, helping everyone on the team pull in the same direction. This reduces “friction” in the relationship that leads to abandonment.
7. Don’t be afraid to say, “I just don’t know.”
The fact that you are here, reading this column tells me that you are seeker. You want to be a better parent to you children. Keep resources like this close, and when confronted with a difficult question like “Daddy, should I put up a squeeze page?” you can say, “I just don’t know. Let’s explore that together.”
If we want our children to grow up healthy and happy, we can’t be squeamish about addressing issues of conversion scenarios, analytics packages, value propositions, storytelling, split testing and personas. We must arm our children with these tools, or the Web will continue to bore and repel us.
Brian Massey openly discusses conversion issues with his 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.