The internet has given birth to a technological revolution that has swept the world in waves. First came the novelty of the world wide web -- an interconnected network of computers spanning the entire globe, enabling us to send instant messages and emails without having to wait days or weeks for our notes to arrive.
Next came the understanding that, with near-instantaneous access to the world's information, commerce and interpersonal-connectivity would be revolutionized. The markets responded. Valuations ballooned and bubbles popped. Search engines came and went. Websites and apps rose and were razed.
And today, at this very moment, the digital revolution that began not so silently, has upended the way we live, work and play. Social media and smartphones have dramatically altered the way we consume content, get our news and communicate with friends and loved ones.
It's changed our ability to find the answer to any question, purchase a product or service in minutes without ever leaving our homes, and collaborate on projects, amongst a million other things -- all from pocket-based mobile devices that are always on and always accessible.
However, while the internet has certainly paved the way for an improved standard-of-living with accessibility and conveniences at every turn, it's also laid down a complex and intricate web that can only be untangled by a select and small percentage of the population.
As the web hums and businesses around the world are desperately eager to attract more buyers, not only do they find themselves in a conundrum of drumming up traffic, but also in a desperately-eager state to make sales. Sure, anyone can prop up a website. But that doesn't mean that everyone will succeed in business in the long term.
Today, your virtual destination is just as important as a brick-and-mortar building was before the dawn of the internet. But not everyone has mastered the art of marketing their business online. And they haven't mastered clinching the proverbial sale once those precious few visitors have arrived. Traffic slips through their virtual clutches, like water leaking away, drip by drip, in a broken faucet.
Most websites let those all-important visitors slip right through their hands by not paying attention to some very important fundamental rules that govern sales and website conversions online. Clearly, getting people to your site is no easy task. For most people, it costs a considerable amount of money to drive those visitors there.
Unless you're capitalizing on your ads and traffic, you're wasting both valuable time and money. If you want to best leverage the traffic you are receiving, there's a number of ways that you can improve your website's conversion rates. They aren't all as straightforward as you might like them to be, but they can be instrumental -- the make-or-break between success and failure in any line of work.
The importance of gaining trust online.
Before I dive into the ways you can increase your site's conversion rates and improve sales, let's briefly look at online trust. Creating trust is likened to the new digital currency. Forget about Bitcoin for a moment. If you don't have the user's trust -- in the way of content, reviews, verifications and authority -- virtually no strategy will help increase your sales.
The simple truth is that consumers don't want to buy from someone they don't trust. This relates to products and services just as much as it does to information. If you don't pay homage to that one simple rule, no amount of work or advertising dollars spent is going to give you the traction you're after to boost your sales.
However, if you can gain the user's trust, not only will you increase your website's sales conversion rates, but you'll also create the foundation for a monumental business -- one that can operate effortlessly and almost on auto-pilot. That's why companies like Amazon, Zappos and Apple fought so hard to build the consumer's trust. They knew that once they had that trust, sales and conversion rates would skyrocket.
It's monumentally difficult to build the consumer's trust at the outset. It takes time -- something that most entrepreneurs and business professionals simply don't have enough of. In fact, business is more likened to a race against time, in an effort to earn enough money just to get by.
So, how do we build trust while also increasing a site's conversion rates? Here are 17 ways you can do just that.
1. Give away the farm.
There's absolutely no better way to increase your website's conversion rates than by giving away the farm. I know, it sounds crazy. However, what you're doing here is delivering real value. And if you're serious about building trust with the consumer, you truly do have to give it all away.
In some circles, they call this attraction marketing. You're attracting the user to you like a magnet rather than trying to solely lasso them in with advertisements. It's free and it's organic, and it will allow you to close just about any sale because it naturally results in an increase in visibility on search engines like Google.
The more you give away, the more people you'll attract to your site and its content, and subsequently to whatever products, services or information you're selling. Great content is naturally shared by droves of people. And those shares play a crticial role in your site's visibility on search engines. As the proverbial saying goes, build it and they will come. It just won't happen overnight, so don't expect it to.
2. Build a sales funnel.
Anyone who's serious about increasing their site's conversion needs a sales funnel. Not everyone who initially visits your site is going to buy from you. It simply doesn't happen like that. And if you don't build a sales funnel, there's almost no way to stay in contact with that visitor. They're essentially lost forever.
When you build a funnel, you also commit to building a relationship with your visitors. For people who think that email marketing is dead -- you're wrong. It is one of the most profitable avenues to selling online, and it can be done nearly on auto-pilot by using drip-fed campaigns.
Remember, you'll need to offer something. Most people just don't give away their email addresses these days unless you give them something of value in return. Create an incredible free offer, report, ebook or anything else that you can give away for free, then work on building that relationship with them in subsequent emails.
3. Focus on improving the user's experience.
You can considerably increase your site's conversion rates if you work on improving the user's experience when they arrive to your site. These are the fundamental technicalities that involve the fusion of aesthetics and functionality. How easy is it to navigate your site? How much content is above-the-fold, and how much is below-the-fold?
How many advertisements and other distractions are confusing the visitors and making them veer off onto one tangent or another? Is there a clear structure that moves the visitors from your content to your offers? This takes some serious analysis, and the usage of website heatmaps can help considerably here.
Overall, be sure to leverage pleasing font styles and sizes, carefully sectioned-off content and a clear structure for the visitors to move about your site. If they find things frustrating or if the site takes too long to load, they'll leave and go elsewhere. Use tools like Pingdom and Page Speed to make a general assessment of your site's speed, and focus as much of your efforts as possible on the layout, design and browsability of your site.
4. Engage in A/B split-testing.
Digital marketing is an art, but it's also a skill that's developed. What better way to test your offers than to engage in A/B split-testing? How compelling is the title of one page versus another? How big should you make the "buy now" button? What colors should you use or product images should you place and where?
The best way to determine the success of your offers is to conduct A/B split-testing. Anyone can learn how to do this, and it will remarkably aid in improving your site's sales conversions by allowing you to determine what works best.
Whether we're talking about landing pages or email titles or advertisements placed anywhere, split-testing is a must. You need to create two separate pages with two separate URLs and be able to track them. Use Google Analytics or learn web development if you have to, because this is by far one of the surest routes to understanding your visitors' behavior.
5. Implicitly understand your buyers.
You can't expect to improve your sales or increase your conversions without first understanding your buyers. How well do you know your demographics? What age is your prospective buyer? Where do they live? What types of hobbies do they have? Are they married with children? Divorced? Single?
The better you understand your buyers, the more likely you'll be able to sell to them. This is the backbone of any business, and it comes back to the fundamentals of who you are, what you're selling -- and specifically who you're selling it to. Be sure to understand your buyer as well as you can. Conduct surveys if needed.
Once you know your buyer well enough, you can design all of your content and offers around that specific consumer demographic. The less you understand your buyer, the more likely you'll be to simply stab around in the dark or throw things at the wall, hoping something sticks.
6. Build compelling offers.
How compelling are the offers you've built? Are you leveraging discounts and promotions in the right way? Advertising firm BIA/Kelsey released a study determining that, "small businesses estimate 17.7 percent of their total business in the next 12 months will be generated by customer acquisition promotions such as discount deals, daily deals, coupons or similar offers.”
Consumers take promotions and offers seriously, but only if they're positioned the right way. In 2014, 2.84 billion coupons were redeemed out of a total 319 billion that were distributed, according to Inmar. This proves that we must understand how to position and present offers effectively.
Needless to say, your offers should also deliver a tremendous amount of value if you're serious about increasing sales and conversions. How much value are you delivering in those offers? The better and more compelling the offer, promotion or discount, the more likely consumers are going to be to bite.
7. Help others solve problems to build authority.
Authority can only be developed over time, and it happens by consistently helping others to solve problems. This is done in the form of content. It can be written or recorded content. It can be a step-by-step tutorial in the form of an article, or it can be an in-depth video.
However, problem-solving doesn't always have to happen at your site. You can build authority through online forums such as Reddit and other sites by constantly helping to give real advice to others -- not by trying to sell them, but by genuinely trying to help them. If, within that context, you have some content on your site that might further assist them, then link to it.
Authority can only be built in a genuine way and it will slowly grow, one day at a time. It won't come overnight. It happens as people begin to trust you for assisting them with solving their problems or filling some needs. Imagine how much easier it is to sell something to someone when you're an authority on a topic, versus when you're a newcomer. It's a whole different ball game.
8. Leverage the power of influencer marketing.
I'm a firm believer in influencer marketing. You can leverage the power of influencers within your niche on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, to help you sell just about anything. Today, influencers command vast audiences and have already built up authority and trust with others, so it's a natural step to leverage them to help you increase your own conversion rates by driving more traffic and utilizing their existing trust with consumers.
It takes a lot of work to build an audience of millions of fans or followers on any platform. For that reason, these people are paid a lot of money to give shout-outs and help to drive traffic. Be sure to locate the right influencers in your niche if you're serious about gaining traction with this strategy.
Influencers can help you build your brand like no other strategy can. But it's also going to cost you, so don't expect to save money by doing this. It's also difficult to estimate your ROI on a strategy like this. Still, over time, it's one of the best ways that you can reach a highly-engaged audience, especially if you're a newcomer.
9. Simplify the transaction process.
How easy is it to purchase from your site? How many people are abandoning the shopping cart or leaving in the middle of the purchase process? It's important to track your users' activities if you're serious about increasing your conversions so that you can better understand their behavior.
How far do the users get into the purchase process? Do they add products or services to the cart and abandon afterwards? Or, do they make it to the first or second step? And, speaking of the purchase process, how easy or simple is it to purchase or register an account on your site, not only on desktops, but also on mobile and tablet devices?
There are a ton of technicalities at play here, but the better you can track your users throughout the entire purchase process, the more likely you can hone into just where they're deciding to call it quits and give up. If you focus on capturing the email address at the very first step, then you can actually drop them into your sales funnel here as well, and hopefully score a future sale.
10. Use real world testimonials and reviews.
Reviews are an enormous part of the process. If you don't have testimonials and reviews on your site, then you're doing yourself a disservice. This is an excellent way to increase your conversions, especially by displaying these reviews during the purchase process.
However, it's really important to leverage genuine reviews. You can also rely on sites like Yelp, Angie's List and TripAdvisor, depending on what industry you're in, to help you with your reviews. You can then display these reviews on your site through APIs or by using clickable badges that will link to those reviews.
Remember, it's all about trust here. And the more you can bridge that trust-gap with users, the more likely you'll be to secure the sale -- especially when we're talking about high-dollar amounts for products and services. You'll be less likely to get sales from people that didn't come from word-of-mouth referrals if you don't have reviews and testimonials to show people.
11. Eliminate distractions from landing pages.
Ever notice that there's no navigation bar at the top of well-designed landing pages? Did you notice that all you can do is essentially scroll down and gain insights into the offer, with virtually every concern covered, but can't navigate away? The best landing pages in the world have very few distractions.
Your point is to filter them down to the buy-now buttons, and do it by crafting compelling sales copy. If you've never created a landing page before, now is the time to educate yourself. Research "best landing pages" or "best squeeze page designs" to discover a few examples of what an ideal offer page would look like.
This is also where button colors, sizes, placements and frequency of occurrences matters a great deal. And pay careful attention to your placement of reviews and in-depth testimonials, which should be found with pictures of the clients, along with all the benefits that the products, services or information offers, directly on your landing pages.
12. Provide a bulletproof return guarantee.
You need to remove all of the risks associated with a purchase if you want to increase your conversion rates. If your products, services or information speaks for itself -- and it should if you're serious about long-term success -- then give consumers a bulletproof return guarantee.
This is where you can drive home the point of trying out the product or service, and how you're completely confident that once they actually use it, they'll be completely satisfied with their experience. If you've gone above and beyond to build offers that deliver huge amounts of value, then you shouldn't hesitate to provide a great guarantee.
By removing the risk associated with the purchase, and by conveying just how confident you are in your products, services or information, you're delivering a strong message to the consumer to remove any hesitations to purchase from someone they might not be too familiar with.
13. Leverage online trust portals.
There are a number of online trust portals that you can use to help you with building that all-important digital currency of trust. From the Better Business Bureau to Trust Pilot and many others, leverage platforms online to help convey confidence in your business and offers.
If a consumer can check your Facebook or Google reviews, or reviews on any other site that will seem impartial to them, they'll be far more likely to purchase from you. If you lack these, then you're also going to lack the trust of the consumer, which is important if you're relatively unknown to the world.
You can also join consumer groups through sites like LinkedIn and others to help locate trust portals dedicated to your industry or niche. New ones are always being formed and created, and the more visibility you have on these sites, and the more you can direct customers to post reviews about you, the more likely you'll be able to increase your conversion rates over time.
14. Create powerful incentives to purchase now.
Find a way you can offer some powerful incentives if they purchase immediately. For example, you can provide a countdown clock for an amazing offer that will expire within a certain number of hours or minutes. It just might help you land that sale. With this offer, you could deliver something extra to them, but only if they buy it right now.
You could offer a number of incentives to people in an effort to secure the sale now rather than later. Depending on how compelling those incentives are, people will either purchase or go elsewhere. Think about ways that you can deliver real value through added services or ancillary offerings to help secure the sale.
You can also use these types of incentives in your A/B split-testing. You can test one offer with the incentives and the other without them to better gauge their conversion rates. You'd then need to drive some traffic to these offers through possible ads on social media, Google or elsewhere to see which one works best.
15. Make it easy for consumers to contact you.
Place your contact information in easy-to-see places throughout your site. You should also consider adding an online chat to allow consumers to easily contact you. Maybe they have a question about something that simply isn't covered on the site, or maybe they're looking for reassurances before the purchase.
You should also consider leveraging a toll-free number and online contact forms so that users can quickly and easily contact you. Ensure that you, or a representative, are there to answer that phone call or contact form request. Don't wait too long before getting back to the user so that you can close the sale.
From a consumer's perspective, there are tons of hesitations when it comes to online sales. Don't allow those hesitations to disrupt the purchase process, and be there when they have a question or concern.
16. Increase the number of calls-to-action on the page.
Offer pages should have at least three calls-to-action on the page. This includes any emails you might send out as part of your sales funnel as well. You have to remind people to click links and draw them into the purchase process, or it'll simply get lost in the fray.
By using eye-tracking and heat maps, you can also determine just how far down the page the users are getting. While some of that technology does slow down the site itself, this is invaluable information to be able to help assess whether or not your calls-to-action are even resonating with consumers.
You can use Google Analytics properties to track what links are being clicked. You don't need to be a web developer to do this. Simply use the URL builder provided by Google Analytics to build out your URLs and track some of the clicks on the calls-to-action.
17. Don't use complex language or talk down to consumers.
Consumers don't like to be talked down to. They also don't like it when you use complex jargon and language to explain things to them. In fact, most consumers are rather savvy, and they've already done a significant amount of due diligence on the products or services in your industry or niche that you might be offering.
You should speak to consumers more like a friend would speak to another friend. Build a connection with them on a personal level and offer up some transparency. Don't try to portray yourself as much bigger or more important than you are. Consumers don't connect with that.
By speaking to them on a friend level, you can increase your conversion rates by finding common ground. Don't be afraid to share things that you've held back in the past. You'll be surprised at just how much users will respond to imperfect qualities of a person. Remember, we're all human.