If you want your website to be more effective at driving traffic and leads, change these three things today.
Website design impacts much more than simply how your website looks. It affects search engine ranking, organic and paid traffic volumes, the user experience and, ultimately, the lead conversion rate. So, considering these things when designing or optimising your site is, to say the least, important.
Website design has many trends, conventions and best practices. Many of these are positive, streamlining development and performance. A few of them, however, do more harm than good.
There are three design trends in particular that feature on a huge number of websites today, especially those of B2B SMEs, that are having a negative effect on results. Sliders, social sharing buttons and solitary contact pages. Removing these will instantly make your website design more effective and increase conversions.
Read on to find out how removing these will improve performance and what you should do instead.
Lose the sliders
Website sliders seemed to reach near ubiquity, mainly on the merits of how sophisticated or flashy they make a homepage look. Revolution Slider, the leading slider plugin for WordPress, is installed on more than 1.5M sites alone.
The reality, however, is that sliders can damage both Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and website conversion rate.
SEO issues with sliders
A slider calls for multiple headlines. It's not uncommon to find these all wrapped in h1 tags. Best practice is to have only one h1 tag per page in order to send a clear message to Google about the page's content. Having three or more h1s on different slides dilutes the impact of them all, removing any clarity you had.
Sliders also commonly feature large images and, increasingly, multiple layers of animated content. Sliders like these are often poorly optimised and negatively impact page load speed - an important ranking factor.
While none should be using flash these days SearchEngine Land's investigation into the subject found some that do - Flash can’t be crawled by Google and will not be displayed on most mobile devices.
Conversion issue with sliders
Sliders are also bad for the user experience, leading to reduced visitor engagement and fewer conversions.
The fundamental problem with sliders is the motion they introduce. Humans are especially perceptive to motion, to the point where it takes over our vision. So, the moment your first slide starts to be replaced by the second, we stop reading. If we linger it's more likely to observe the motion than to read the messages that come in to view - that's just the way our brain works.
It doesn't help that, most of the time, we all underestimate the reading speed of a new visitor. We forget that we are familiar with the text when configuring the slider, meaning that they move too fast for most people to read properly.
The result is most visitors fail to pick up the messages on your slides, not even the first.
The other effect is that your positioning gets lost in the noise. The need to create multiple slides often leads businesses to break up their value proposition into multiple confusing soundbites and to mix these in with company news and product information - thinking that's what returning visitors look for in a company's homepage. What this actually does is ensure that a first time visitor is not given clear confirmation that they are in the right place and should stay to explore the site further.
The net effect of all these problems? Less traffic, almost no clicks on slider CTAs and fewer conversions.
The alternative to sliders
In most cases, a static hero image with a clear and concise statement of your value proposition will perform better at engaging visitors and getting them to stay past the blink test, giving you a far better shot at converting them into a lead.
Ditch the social sharing buttons
Every page has to have social sharing buttons, right? That's become the standard approach to website design it seems. The thinking being:
- If people want to share this, we should make it easy for them
- If we add sharing buttons, more people will share it
Wrong. Sharing buttons do the exact opposite.
First of all, let's remind ourselves why people share content. They don’t do it to help you. They don't do it to make your content go further and reach more people. They do it to help themselves, by making their social profile more valuable to, and hopefully growing, their audience.
It should come as no surprise then that studies have shown that when people do share content the vast majority do not use the social sharing buttons provided, preferring to manually craft their tweets and posts. These studies also revealed that clicks on sharing buttons have no correlation with the total number of shares.
Even on highly shared content, social sharing buttons go relatively unused, leave alone un-sharable content like website homepages and product pages.
When sharing buttons go unused like this, the problems really begin.
Negative social proof
When sharing buttons on pages show counters with very low numbers of, or zero, shares, these numbers create negative social proof, making the visitor less likely to share the content, by any method.
Clutter and distraction
Every social sharing button is a call to action. The more calls to action you have on a page, the less likely the visitor is to convert on the most important one. If lead generation is your objective, distracting visitors from this goal with social CTAs will damage your results.
Poor page performance
Depending on how they are implemented, many social sharing buttons, especially those provided by third-party services, are damaging to page load speed. This negatively affects search engine ranking, organic traffic and the user experience.
Unless you are a reputable publisher of highly shareable content, social sharing buttons are probably harming your traffic and leads.
The alternative to social sharing buttons
Nothing. Simply remove social sharing buttons from your pages, period. You pages will load faster, rank better and convert more.
Drop solitary contact pages
Remove the contact page? Can I be serious? Yes, I am.
Ask yourself this, who uses your contact page? Do you get lots of qualified leads asking about your services or just spammy messages from people trying to sell you stuff? Thought so.
Contact pages have been so ineffective at lead generation for so long that I think we've forgotten what their intended purpose is - a channel for online enquiries, not the web equivalent of a cold call.
The core concept of conversion rate optimisation is to get more visitors to take action. This is achieved by providing thoughtful, relevant conversion offers aligned to the stages of the visitors journey - the total opposite of having a solitary, generic contact page at the back-end of your site.
'Contact me' is as vague as it gets and puts all the work on the visitor to define the outcome of their own conversion, creating friction. Add to this the fact that they must leave the page they were on when they had the notion to convert in order to find the 'contact me' form and you have a recipe for failure.
The alternative to contact us pages
When we last redesigned our website we considered the value and purpose of every page, including the contact page. Prospects weren't using it, so it served no purpose in its current form.
Instead we put a contact form on every page, in the footer.
More people, and more prospects specifically, have used our footer contact form than ever used our contact page. Despite the much higher level of impressions on the footer form, the conversion rate is still higher, at 0.3%, than the contact page, which got 0.2%. Although the numbers are still small, the difference in both volume and quality has been significant.
Having an effective, lead generating website is an essential ingredient for business growth. Whether you are starting from scratch or optimising your existing website, removing these three offenders is great place to start improving your lead generation results.