The number one secret to getting more conversions on your website

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What pretty much anyone with a website wants to know is: “how do I get people involved with my site in such a way that they ultimately convert?” Conversion—not so much a spiritual experience as a financial one—is where a prospective client or customer or supporter or whatever makes the decision to become an actual client or customer or supporter or whatever.

For the great majority of people asking this question, improving conversions comes down to doing one awfully simple, awfully obvious, awfully overlooked thing. Yes—if you’re like 90% of the people I consult to, you should get your best boot out now, coz it’s time to kick yourself. The secret sauce with which you have forgotten to baptize your website is sitting in a big red bottle marked “Get Conversions”, in the middle of the center shelf your pantry, right at the front. You couldn’t miss it. You probably just didn’t notice it because you were too busy rummaging around at the back where all the spices are, trying to figure out what would make the perfect blend to entice people in.

That’s a little metaphor there. I’ll let you work it out.

Sorry, is the suspense too much for you? Right, here it is then. The cunning secret to instantly getting more conversions is…

…ask for them.

That’s right. Ask for them. I see the blank, deer-like expression on your face. Let me raise you an analogy:–

You know those annoying charity types who stand on street-corners or outside mall entrances and harangue you for signatures or money or whatever as you’re walking by? How many signatures or donations do you reckon they’d get just standing there, waiting for people to come up to them and ask what to give? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

But that’s the average website. And I do mean the average. The majority of websites rely on this approach—so chances are yours does too. It just sits there on the internet, letting people know you exist. Well, their knowing you exist isn’t enough to make them do anything, is it now?

Visual Appeal

Returning to our street-corner haranguer, let’s now imagine she’s smoking hot and snappily-dressed (I’m gonna say “she” because I just feel more comfortable with that, you know? If you want it to be a “he”, though, don’t let me stop you). If you’re impressed by looks—and let’s face it, everyone is a little bit, weaklings that we are—maybe you’d talk to her and offer a signature or a small donation.

So that approach might get a bit of success. If your website is really damned sexy, I’m sure you’ll get more people converting than if it looks like, you know, this. But it’s still not nearly enough.

Picking the Right Words

Now let’s say our charity girl is not only damned good-looking, but also a pretty smooth orator. Along with the sex appeal, she’s making a great pitch; strong and loud so everyone can hear. She goes through all the benefits of donating, speaks directly to people’s needs and desires—but then, instead of finishing by asking them to actually donate, she just trails off into silence. Oh sure, she’ll get people signing up. But not that many.

Same with a website that doesn’t directly ask people to convert. Sure, it implies they should—and it may even make it really obvious. The landing page might make you want to convert, and the navigation and commitment page might make it really easy. But implying something won’t get the conversions that saying it outright will.

Using a Call to Action

Unless you’ve been living in the dankness of a cave for most of your life, you know what charity people on street corners actually do. When you see one coming up ahead, you think, “Oh no, I hope she doesn’t talk to me. She’s going to ask me to do something. And I hate saying no! I mean, what if she bamboozles me with her feminine wiles?” And you cross the road or try to hide behind that portly guy with the hat, or use the old couple ahead of you as a decoy because you figure they’ll make a better mark.

You try to avoid her because you know that asking people for things is effective. As a race, we’re all just really bad at saying no. It ain’t natural to say no. We’re also really good at following instructions which are powerfully worded, and placed in contexts which demonstrate their value. It could be why we aren’t extinct yet.

The moral of the story is: if you want a user on your website to do something, tell him. Don’t pussyfoot around hoping he’ll get the hint. Don’t passive-aggressively suggest or intimate or imply what you’d like him to do. Just tell him.

This is also Good User Interaction

As a little post-script, let me add: unlike on the street, users on the web like to be told what to do. Why? Because otherwise they have to figure it out themselves. Users hate figuring stuff out by themselves. They just don’t have time for that rubbish. They’d rather go to your competitors’ website instead.

So far from being annoying and pushy and undesirable, a strong call to action is actually helpful. It clarifies what you expect a user to do on your site, and allows him to make a quicker decision as to whether he’s going to stick around. If he is going to stick around, it then guides him immediately into doing what you’d most like him to do. And if he ain’t planning to become your next customer, what the hey—you were never going to snare him by being ambiguous anyway.

D Bnonn Tennant
‘The Information Highwayman’

D Bnonn Tennant, ‘The Information Highwayman’, signs his name to this

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