Conversions are the foundations of a business website

Mar 28, 2012

Table of contents:

  1. Current state of affairs and an over emphasis on Search Engine Optimisation
  2. Why neglecting conversion optimisation is wrong
  3. How to approach designing a website that converts traffic
  4. Conclusion

The need for a solid business website for just about any company has never been greater. There is now an urgency for business owners to get a website designed, developed and online as quickly as possible. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with getting something out there as quickly as possible in order to run experiments and test assumptions, there is a vital component that seems to be so often missed. Just about every business website should, as standard, have information about products or services, contact information, details about the company and a company blog, yet the most integral aspect of the website is nearly always overlooked. That aspect is the route to conversion. Having a form buried on a contact page, or an email address in the footer is not nearly enough. The path for converting traffic to leads should be the number one priority when designing a business website.

Hat tip to Luke McGrath for the post title and the inspiration behind it. Luke will soon be releasing the ultimate guide to website accessibility so sign up for more information!

Current state of affairs and an over emphasis on Search Engine Optimisation

I think the reason so many non-technical business owners neglect the need for a strong path to conversion is because this aspect of website design and development is not as publicly talked about as many other aspects of the industry.

If you’ve ever talked to a non-technical client, they are often already familiar with importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and so they want to bend over backwards to try and rank highly for their coveted keyword or phrase as if this will be the silver bullet for a successful business website. This often means stuffing the page with keywords, having convoluted “key word” rich content or inter-linking every single mention of a key word to a particular page.

Whilst this might improve your ranking in the eyes of Search Engine robots in the short term, it makes for a horrible experience for the user, and in the long run, it is far more important to please your potential client, than a Search Engine.

So, as an Industry, we’ve found ourselves in a predicament where Search Engine Optimisation is seen as the holy grail of developing a successful website, yet ranking number 1 for any keyword phrase is completely pointless if you can’t convert that traffic to sales.

Why neglecting conversion optimisation is wrong

Now I’m not saying Search Engine Optimisation is inherently wrong, I believe SEO is incredibly important when done right. But to neglect conversion optimisation renders all SEO efforts to be worthless.

Internet users are lazy. It is so easy to flick from one website to another or start a new search from scratch. If you make your path to conversion too complicated, ambiguous or you ask too much from the user you will lose them. Optimising the basket to checkout process in an ecommerce website is incredibly important because a huge amount of users will just abandon their purchase if you don’t make the process easy, despite the fact the user has already signalled their intent to purchase by placing the item into their basket.

Using organic Search Engine Optimisation, Pay Per Click advertising or building referall links to increase traffic to your website is going to be completely pointless if you don’t get the conversion foundations of your website nailed to start with. You should work with your designer and developer to run tests and experiments on your conversion route to find the best way to convert traffic to customers. It is impossible to get this right the first time, so don’t expect to, and don’t listen to anyone who will tell you exactly what you need to do as you need to make decisions based on data and not assumptions. It is completely down to trial and error. But when you do start to ramp up traffic, you should be in the position where you know exactly how your website will convert that traffic to sales and you should have a process to keep learning, set up split testing and make adjustments based on new data.

How to approach designing a website that converts traffic

So now that you know what is wrong with the old process of designing and developing your business website, how do you go about design one that does convert traffic to sales?

The first thing you should do is drop any false notions you have about Search Engine Optimisation, “The fold” or any other dubious thing you’ve read on a fly-by-night blog!

The second thing is, before thinking about anything else, decide how you want traffic to convert to sales or leads at a macro level. For example, do you want people to contact you through a form? Or will they be purchasing your product through an ecommerce process. This might seem obvious, but believe me, it is often over-looked.

The third thing to do is, draw out how people will convert from a cold lead to a sale. This will involve a landing page, a call to action and then a process to either make a sale or make an enquiry. Once you have this process drawn out, try and distill it down as much as you possibly can. Combine steps, and try and make the process as simple as you possibly can. This is often harder than it sounds, so you might want to talk to an expert to get a professional opinion on how to do it.

Next begin drafting the content and copy you will be using on your landing page and through the sales process. Again your website is only as good as the copy, so you might want to get an expert to help you out. Having excellent written content should not be over-looked. You want your landing page to be as clear and as concise as you possibly can. Similarly, if you make your sales process too complicated to understand, you risk losing a sale mid-way. Having good written content is as important as having a good design so don’t cut corners thinking you can do this part yourself. And finally, don’t use flowery or sales type words or phrases to try and sell your product, it looks cheap and people won’t buy your product if they think they are being sold to.

The last step is to ensure that you are in a position to constantly tweak your sales process once your website has been launched. Install Google Analytics and work with your designer and developer to optimise your process once you have started getting traffic through your website. There will always be aspects of your process that can be changed or simplified to gain a higher percentage of sales. Don’t rest on your laurels once your site is live, the work has only just begun.


I can’t emphasise enough the importance of conversion optimisation. Your website should be far more than a marketing tool. If you don’t design your website to convert traffic then you are missing out on a wealth of value for your business. Don’t have a website as an online brochure for your company, and don’t be taken in by “experts” that will lead you down the wrong path.

Philip Brown


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