This blog originally appeared on Whittington Consulting’s Online Results blog.
You only have a few seconds to make a first impression, and the majority of your website visitors will hit the back button long before they scroll down to get a better idea of your website’s value proposition.
If you are losing the majority of your visitors due to bad website design, the costs can be enormous.
Not only will a high bounce rate penalize you in search rankings, but it can also have direct financial costs since it lowers the chance of converting paid traffic and it makes all of your other organic marketing campaigns less effective.
No matter how skilled you are at driving traffic to your website, these three mistakes can turn your website into nothing more than a money pit.
1. Confusing or Vague Value Proposition
According to leading design experts, your website has less than 10 seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your website.
Your homepage is the single most visited page on your website, but many companies have homepages that are confusing and fail to get across the necessary information in the 10 second window before users leave.
The sheer volume of information on the internet has created a society that is profoundly impatient – and demands immediate satisfaction without having to read through bullet point after bullet point.
You need to give an “elevator pitch” for your company or product on the first screen that your visitors see, and it has to be acutely relevant.
There have been numerous studies on what makes a high converting landing page – but most great landing pages share a few characteristics:
- There is a clear value proposition that puts the company’s purpose and product/service upfront.
- There is an overt “ask” for the user to take action – an immediate “second click” that the user can make to sign up for a trial, learn more, or download something – thus keeping them on the site and allowing you to serve more content.
The only way to find out what works for your company is through testing – specifically A/B testing that pits two versions of your website landing pages against each other to see which works better. You may want to test:
- Which version has the lowest bounce rate
- Which version has the highest call to action click rate
- Which version gets more clicks on the links you want clicked
- How far visitors scroll down the page
Regular A/B testing will help you gradually refine your marketing message and your homepage.
2. Slow Load Times and Errors
The best designed website in the world isn’t going to attract customers if the website doesn’t load when someone visits.
One “modern” trend – having a large video or large images that fill a computer screen – can be deceptively bad for conversion rates if they take too long to load. Those large images (if not optimized properly) and videos rely on a fast broadband connection to display the content quickly.
If a website doesn’t load for your user in a couple seconds, they are probably going to click away from your website.
Do everything you can to optimize your site, and to minimize loading errors. Host your site with a fast provider on a server with plenty of processing power and bandwidth, and make sure your hosting company can meet the demands during peak traffic times.
Plan for mobile visitors, and make sure that your content is responsive and doesn’t rely on plug-ins (like Flash or Java) that might not run on mobile browsers.
3. Low Value Traffic
Finally, one of the biggest reasons for a high bounce rate and low conversion rate is that the people that visit don’t have any need for your product or service.
Some level of poorly-qualified traffic is inevitable. But if you are receiving a large amount of low quality traffic, it might be worth re-examining your traffic generation strategy.
- Don’t work with SEO companies that buy links from irrelevant websites.
- Optimize your website for “long tail” keywords and phrases.
- Bid on keywords that are more narrow in scope.
- Use social networks that are used frequently by your target customer, or use Twitter hashtags that your prospects monitor (instead of your peers).
- Re-examine the keywords that you are using – and try to use keywords that are specifically oriented to the “buy stage” of your business.
Take a close look at your website, especially your homepage. What could you be doing differently to make it more relevant for target prospects?
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