Let’s face it: while most businesses have a website, more often than not, that site isn’t optimized to generate leads. Research shows that 78% of people conduct product research online, and nearly all of those people will decide whether or not to stay on your site within the first few seconds of arriving. That means you have a very short window to capture their attention, deliver your message, and encourage them to complete a conversion activity.
Equally important is an understanding that all traffic is not created equal. How visitors are finding your website and where they are landing is an important part of this lead generation conversation. For example, most of the people landing on your homepage through direct traffic probably know you or have at least heard about you. The other group of visitors arriving at your site are people who found your company organically, and they are more than likely landing on a specific landing page created just for them -- either via a specific campaign such as an email send, through a shared link, or via a targeted search term. Understandably, this type of visitor should be treated differently. For the purposes of this post, let's focus on visitors who reach your homepage.
The purpose of your website pages should be to draw visitors "out of the shadows" so they identify themselves and you can convert them from a lurker into a lead. Before we tell you how to turn lurkers into leads, let’s take a look at how well your current homepage is prepared for lead generation.
Take a look at this sample website that we'll break down further throughout this post -- it has all the necessary components of a lead-generating homepage.
Run your current homepage through this quick 8-question assessment:
- Does it have a clear, compelling statement that addresses your target audience's pains as a headline on the homepage?
- Does it have an empathetic photo so people can connect with your company?
- Do you articulate your differentiation right there on the homepage?
- Is there validation to back up your story on your homepage?
- Do you provide a variety of educational content, like reports, videos, webinars, and research? Does your site deliver a personal experience?
- Can your site be shared via social networks quickly and easily?
- Does it work just as well on tablets and smartphones?
If you answered “no” to even one of these questions, you might want to make some changes to your homepage. Here are 8 upgrades you should consider to optimize your homepage for better lead generation.
1) Make Sure Your Messaging Is Clear
New data from Microsoft Research shows that the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical to a user’s decision about whether to stick around or hit the back button. But if your website survives this first 10-second judgment test, visitors will look around a bit and engage with your content -- getting them one step closer to converting. Take a look at the messaging on our sample website's homepage, for example:
This copy is big, bold, succinctly explains what the business does without the use of business babble, and answers the prospects' pain points -- this company helps you design an emergency response plan. Got it. When your messaging is clear enough to help orient a new homepage visitor in those 10 seconds, you have the opportunity to present your other homepage content that helps them convert into a lead. In fact, if your homepage messaging is enticing enough to convince a user to stay on your page for half a minute, there's a better chance they'll stay even longer -- 2 minutes or more. Therefore, the key to extending the length of each user’s visit is first capturing their attention with strong messaging.
2) Use Empathetic Photos
People do business with people, not companies. Research shows that conversion rates for homepages with pictures of people are nearly double the conversion rates of homepages with other images. The reason for this is simple: images of people are more relatable. For example, the picture you see here from our sample website is Manny, the manufacturing plant manager -- a real, live human being that works for the company.
One goal of your homepage is to get visitors to experience a strong sense of emotional connection with and trust in your company that convinces them to convert into leads. Providing pictures of people that your target audience identifies with goes a long way toward accomplishing that goal.
3) Be Remarkably Different
Seth Godin taught us:
"Something remarkable is worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting. Boring stuff is invisible. Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service."
You have 10 seconds to tell your story in a remarkable way; ten seconds to grab your visitors’ attention and show them how your business does things differently. If your website isn’t delivering this differentiation in a strong and immediately visible way on your homepage, you are going to lose your visitors and suffer from a low visitor-to-lead conversion rate. Take a look at this copy, for example:
This section of the homepage explains that not only does the company provide emergency response planning software, but they also have a team of experts in the subject of emergency response strategy that work with customers to design and implement every aspect of their strategy. Then they offer sample plans that demonstrate their ability to do so. Outline exactly how you differ from your competitors -- visitors landing on your homepage presumably already know a bit about you, right? There's a good chance they're doing some competitive research. Make your differentiation clear, and you're more likely to have a visitor convert into a lead to learn more about your solutions.
4) Validate Feelings of Trust
Researchers are naturally skeptic; they won't trust you automatically because they know you are trying to sell to them. But while they may not trust you yet, they are much more likely to trust your current customers. In fact, research from Bazaarvoice shows that more than 8 in 10 of Generation Y's purchases are influenced by user-generated content from people they don't know, and there are multiple industries in which many of them won't even venture to make a purchase without some third party credibility.
So if you want to improve conversions on your homepage, provide the kind of validation your visitors need to know you're a legitimate, trustworthy company. Here is a testimonial from our sample homepage that clearly shows another person who had an excellent experience with this company.
Notice how there's also a link at the bottom of the testimonial to read more -- one short testimonial won't do the trick. Give your site visitors the opportunity to validate inklings of trust with multiple testimonials, case studies, and the like. Research studies show that by adding written and video testimonials, you significantly improve your lead generation efforts.
5) Highlight Educational Content
We already know people are using the internet to perform research. These people are looking for information -- education that will let them make a well-informed purchase decision -- so don't bury it deep in your website. Our sample website helps educate prospects by calling attention to their educational content using a yellow call-to-action button that highlights crisis management program best practices.
Our clients have benefitted from a 5-fold increase in leads after we added what we call a trio of offers -- one low risk, one no risk, and one direct business offer. You can read more about these types of offers in this blog post about the Trio of Offers. Providing a variety of educational content in a variety of formats is also critical. For example, video content has proven to be an effective conversion enhancement mechanism; studies from Kissmetrics indicate that viewers are 64%-85% more likely to buy after watching a video.
6) Personalize Your Content
Website strategy is moving quickly away from the static content model to the personalization approach. Look at Amazon, Pandora, Netflix, and other popular sites. They are getting to know their visitors and their customers to provide a very personal website experience. But you don't need to have access to the kind of customer data those big players have to deliver a personalized homepage experience. Take a look at this example of personalization from our sample website:
In the example shown here, they allow the client to provide personal information regarding their current response plan readiness in exchange for an assessment of their program.
With this type of information about your website visitors, offers and lead nurturing content can be better personalized. You can also offer content targeted to specific roles, vertical markets, or product applications. Adding profiles that customize the visitor experience and provide personalized content delivery based on the stages of the buying cycle will have a significant impact on your visitor-to-lead conversion process as visitors begin to feel that you know them, understand their needs, and as such are the best-equipped company to help them.
7) Make Your Homepage Social-Sharing Friendly
Last summer, ShareThis released the results of a study that took into account 7 billion sharing signals generated by 300 million users across one million domains. They discovered that social sharing generates more than 10 percent of all internet traffic and 31 percent of referral traffic -- almost half the volume of search. This means if your site isn’t social sharing-friendly, you are missing out on a lot of additional traffic and a lot of potential leads.
Add the sharing modules to all aspects of your interactive marketing program, including home pages, landing pages, email campaigns, and blog posts. This includes not just the modules that allow visitors to share your content, but to also become your fans and followers on your social media accounts.
8) Mobile Optimize
Recent data shows that there are more people using smartphones to access your website than personal computers. In the next two years, Mobithinking reports that 1 billion people globally will access the internet on a mobile device. And in the US, 25% of people have already abandoned their laptops to rely exclusively on mobile devices. This means if your site isn’t working perfectly on a mobile device, there might be a huge group of people who aren’t seeing, hearing and learning about your business when they land on your homepage because it's too difficult to pass the blink test and redeem lead generating offers. To learn the basics you need to know to mobile-optimize your website, check out this blog post -- and implement those 3 steps!
Image Credit: striatic
Originally published Apr 2, 2012 4:30:00 PM, updated July 28 2017