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Three keys for a website that converts

by Randall Craig on August 7, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Blogging, Communication, Content, Web

Tagged as: , ,

What makes a web site great? What might come to mind is great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality. These may have made the top of the list in 2003 (or even 2013) , but are, at best, merely sufficient today.

Many professional marketers now understand where the web fits into the mix: it is the hub that every marketing initiative (ads, media relations, direct mail, Social Media, etc) drives to. When the user arrives at the site, they experience great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality. Then nothing happens.

Today’s websites need three critical ingredients to justify their existence and warrant their investment:

1) A clearly defined goal: If indeed the web is a step in the user’s “journey”, what must the website accomplish in order to move the user to the desired next step? Is it to transact? To call a phone number? Subscribe to a newsletter? Without a goal the website has no purpose: at best it is a meal of empty calories.

2) Audition: With the overall goal in mind every page must audition for a place on the site. Why is the page needed?  What is it supposed to accomplish?  Pages that don’t have a purpose aligned with the goal are superfluous, and get in the way of achieving it.

The concept of  “audition” is equally relevant on each page: every graphical element, every paragraph, and every bit of functionality must also pull its weight.

3) Call to Action: When a user gets to a specific page, there are two key questions that must be answered:
a) What might the user want to do next? If they can’t do it easily, they will abandon their journey: they’ll go elsewhere.
b) What do you want them to do next? If you don’t make it easy for them to do this, then your marketing goals will never be realized.

Every page – not just the transaction pages – must have a Call to Action (CTA) that satisfies both requirements. Here are some examples of CTA content:

  • Phone number/contact details at the top/bottom of each page
  • Related links on a sidebar
  • Lead generation form
  • Video with an embedded message
  • Action message embedded within editorial content
  • Click-to-chat functionality

This Week’s Action Plan: Examine your three most visited web pages: they probably have great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality. But if they had to audition for their spot on the site, how would they do? And how strong is the CTA?  If you’re not satisfied, then do something about it.

Marketing Insight:  Interested in making your marketing collateral, presentations, and social media more successful?  These three ingredients (Goal, Audition, and CTA) are just as relevant here as on the web.

Marketing Insight #2: Goal/Audition/CTA also applies to blog posts. Here’s how it works with this one:

  • Goal: the long-term goal of this blog is to credentialize me and my firm (108 ideaspace) as critical thinkers and thought leaders in our space. A secondary goal is to keep in front of our readers, so that when they have a need, they think of us and call.
  • Audition: Re-read this entire post, and you will find very few zero-value sentences or words. (If each paragraph didn’t provide value, the reader would likely move on.)
  • Call to Action: Look at the sidebar, the text at the bottom of the blog, the This Week’s Action Plan section above, and even the name of the Tipsheet (“Make it Happen”): they are all focused on action. That being said, here is another call to action: Are you looking for a speaker for your next event, or are looking to re-do your website with great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality – and with goals, auditions, and CTAs?  If so, please call me at (416) 256-7773 x101, or via email at


Are you really satisfied with the response rate of your newsletter registration form on your website?  Do you think that, just maybe, your list could be bigger?

Instead of thinking of the sign-up form as a sign-up form, think of it as a transaction.  The user – a prospective client – is paying for your newsletter with their data.  They weigh the value that they may receive from you against the value of their first name, last name, and email address.  If the transaction seems “pricey” – there is not enough value – then you have not earned the right to have them on your list.  They don’t register.

To grow your list, and improve your registration rate, you need to build trust.  Here are seven ways to do this:

  1. Provide the entire archive of past issues. This is more powerful than one old “sample” issue; it shows continuity, and lets potential subscribers try before they commit.
    • Example:  Before signing up for the Make It Happen Tipsheet, a potential subscriber can read 450+ past articles.
  2. Clearly state what they get when they sign up: frequency of communication, content, and benefits of subscribing are the basics. Potential subscribers need to understand what is in it for them: why should they care about your newsletter?  When you deliver on your promise – when they begin receiving your content – their trust in you will also increase.
    • Example:  Here’s the promise I make on the sign-up page:  “Our Tipsheets are chock full of ideas. They are all aimed at translating knowledge into action… in a quick, action-oriented 60-second nugget each week.”  While this Tipsheet might clock in at 110 seconds, consider the overall structure: a specific issue (increasing sign-ups), seven specific ideas, and This Week’s Action Plan.  Then in today’s Tipsheet, even more value through the Marketing Insight and Marketing Caveat area that follows.
  3. Provide an added incentive: Consider a more nuanced approach than a simple “sign-up and we’ll send you a free e-book”.  Part one might be free and available without sign-up. It would be designed to wow the user with value, build your brand by example, and encourage sign-up. Part two would only be available to new subscribers.
  4. Make it very easy to unsubscribe, and easy to share with friends, both via e-mail and social media.  (Look for Social sharing links, and the unsubscribe links at the bottom of the email.)
  5. Check back with them. After three months, ask them what they think of the subscription, and if they have any comments or suggestions. Not only does this begin the engagement process, but it allows you to pivot the content to better meet their needs.
  6. Move the form above the fold. The easier it is to see the sign-up form, the more likely it will be used. Having the form clearly visible as the key call-to-action on the page seems like common sense, but is so often forgotten.
  7. Match the form with relevant content: Beyond the home page, where else might a sign-up form be relevant? Look at landing pages first, and then anywhere else a call-to-action may make sense. Then use an added incentive that is relevant to the content of the page.
    • Example:  This internal page is about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services; if a user’s key interest is SEO, then using an SEO infographic will more strongly resonate as an incentive to subscribe.

This week’s action plan: What do your web subscription forms look like? This week, build more trust by implementing at least one of these ideas.

Marketing Insights: (1) More than anything else, the quality of what is actually in your newsletter will determine your success. It drives your brand, and increases the newsletter’s pass-along factor. Skip the gimmicks, and focus on being relevant: write what people will read, and the number of your sign-ups will take care of themselves. (2) These same ideas for increasing newsletter subscriptions can also be applied to sales pages and  customer support pages.

Marketing Caveat: Just because someone has signed up, doesn’t mean you have the right to send them whatever you want. Ensure that your sign-up forms are compliant with relevant legislation (CASL as an example), or your mistake may cost you – and your brand – dearly.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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