By Phillipa Gamse
Imagine that you own a beautifully designed yacht. It looks great on the surface of the water, with superb lines, gleaming decks, a well-appointed galley . . . but you’re having real trouble getting out of the harbor and you can’t figure out why!
You investigate, and you find that beneath the surface your beautiful boat has a number of slow, silent, leaks. None of them are big enough to sink you on their own, so there’s no obvious immediate crisis – just a constant drain on your efficiency and your speed.
I’ve been reviewing Web traffic reports for over 15 years, and I believe that this analogy applies to almost all business websites. Very few sites have something so wrong with them that they’re clearly a disaster. Yet just about every site has some area where it’s quietly losing traffic, potential business or the opportunity to create relationships – or failing to attract visitors in the first place.
In this article, I’ll show you a few of the most common areas where you can look for – and fix – those silent leaks.
1. Leaks in your Brand & Positioning Clearly articulated and differentiating value propositions have a critical effect on Website conversion rates.
Your value proposition should be front and center on your home page. It should answer the classic question: “Why should we do business with you instead of your competition?”
How to check for this leak: Even if they don’t enter your site at the home page, most visitors who don’t know you will go there as the second page they look at to find out more about you and your business.
If visitors are taking a quick look at your home page and then immediately leaving, something is wrong. Your copy is failing to pique their curiosity or to answer their questions: “Can this company meet my needs?” and “Should I explore further?”
You have a leak!
2. Leaks in Visitor Engagement
One major area to watch for leaks in visitor engagement is in your “landing pages”. These are inside pages of your Website which are actually the first page that a visitor sees, usually because you have some well-indexed content that they’ve found in a search engine.
Here it’s absolutely critical to understand the visitor’s mindset. Each visitor is at your site looking for something specific, they may well have found you by accident, so they may have no idea who you are – and worse, no interest in you.
Your landing page must engage them immediately in accordance with their needs, and it must have enough context to draw them into other areas, and to want to find out more about you. It’s not enough to give great information on this page – they’ll soak that up, and then leave.
How to check for this leak: Hopefully your traffic reports are sophisticated enough to show you which keywords bring visitors to each specific page of your site. This shows you each visitor’s “mindset”.
If visitors are leaving a page very quickly, then it probably isn’t satisfying their informational needs, so you should review the content.
If visitors are reading the page (your traffic reports should show the time spent at each page) and then leaving, you’ve given them what they wanted but failed to draw them into the rest of your site. This can be fixed with more compelling navigation and calls to action.
Either way, you have a leak!
3. Leaks in Directions & Outcomes
I’m constantly amazed by the number of Web pages that give great information and content – and then just end abruptly – perhaps with some navigation tabs if you’re lucky!
Every page of your site needs strong calls to action that stand out visually and click directly to where the visitor can fulfill the outcome that you want (e.g. “buy now!”, “sign up for our newsletter / RSS feed”.) Pages can have more than one call to action, and there’s nothing wrong with repeating them on longer pages so that they’re always within eyeshot.
And by the way, “Back to top” is not a call to action!
How to check for this leak: If your traffic reports show this information, look at the paths that visitors take through your site – where do visitors go next from each page? If many of them are exiting the site and / or they fan out across many pages with no clear pattern or direction, you have a possible leak.
Philippa Gamse, CMC is a web and social media strategy consultant and professional speaker. She was selected as the sole expert for the cover story on “Ways to Make your Website Sizzle” for UPS’ “Compass” magazine, distributed to over 1million businesses. Philippa can be reached at email@example.com