Most companies realize that their website serves as much more than a digital brochure; it is a full-blown marketing platform and one of the most important ways of bringing leads into their funnels and making sales.
SEO and SEM are the tools you need to generate a high volume of quality leads and get them to your site, but what are you doing to get them to convert once they have arrived?
There is a science to optimizing your website for conversions that most designers ignore. And while some SEO strategists are experts on their specific genre of web coding, the science is actually much broader than that.
To convert your ideal customers, you need to apply marketing psychology to make that first impression, because those first 20 seconds are the difference between a visitor bouncing off to another site or digging into yours.
The Primacy Effect
You likely experience the primary effect on a daily basis. It describes the tendency we all have to pay more attention to and have better recall of, the first items in a series. So when your partner calls you with a list of things to pick up at the grocery store on the way home, chances are you'll get the first few things on the list. But remembering the others? That's much less certain.
How does that apply to web design? People will remember more of what they see at the top of your page rather than after scrolling down, they will remember your landing page more than subsequent pages, and their first impression of your web design is the most sticky. Your job is to take advantage of these key spots. Provide a strong unique selling proposition above the fold on your home page and have clear titles at the top of each page on your site. Above all, make sure your website design looks and feels professional for a lasting first impression.
The Asch Conformity Effect
In 1951, Solomon Asch's experiments revealed that people care so much about what others think, they were willing to go along with a group consensus, even when it was objectively wrong. The pressure to conform to the group outweighs even one's own logic, reasoning, and analysis.
Now we certainly don't want to lure anyone into believing the inaccurate information. But you can take advantage of people's desire to follow the crowd by showing that the crowds trust, and are following, you.
First and foremost, you want a professional online presence that conveys a sense of authority and experience. Add professional photos of your team to your website, showcase staff members' credentials on a bio page, and even upload videos of the leadership talking about your organization, its work, and/or the challenges in your field. List a physical address for your business and show pictures of the facilities.
Second, you want to establish yourself as the experts in the field who have put a lot of thought and resources into solving the pain points your customers face. To do this, you need to embrace content marketing. In other words, publish, publish, publish, and do so in a variety of formats on relevant topics. Most obvious is a blog, but also think about whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, and podcasts.
Finally, to truly maximize the group conformity effect, make sure to get more Google reviews and populate your website with testimonials and case studies for external validation that you are the best. Incorporating your social media feeds into your site will also help foster the feeling of a group consensus around your business.
The human tendency toward reciprocity is so inherent, it's even addressed in the Bible! Although an eye-for-an-eye is a negative reciprocity, it conveys a basic truth of human nature— people want to give back in kind what they've received. Thus, when someone has received something of value without being asked for an equal exchange, they feel naturally inclined to want to provide something in return. This tendency is so powerful, it even overrides how you feel about the person doing the offering.
Salespeople and marketers have long taken advantage of this effect to help them close deals. Even fundraisers do this when priming potential donors. Just think about all those return address stickers you've received in the mail.
There are many ways you can offer something of value on your site to make visitors want to buy what you're selling. It can be a free trial of your service, a sample chapter of a book or module of a course, a useful download, or anything else you can think of. These kinds of offers not only trigger the reciprocity effect, but they'll also go further in establishing your authority and helping you build a relationship of trust.
It may seem counterintuitive, but psychological experiments have repeatedly shown that we value what we currently have more than we do potential gains. In other words, we are willing to risk more to prevent incurring a loss than we are to gain something we don't already have. In marketing terms, this means that fear of loss sells, and it does so even better than promises of future benefits.
There are two ways to take advantage of this aspect of human behavior on your website. First, make sure your copy points out all the risks and red flags associated with choosing the wrong product or service, i.e. in not choosing you. But make sure to present the loss in terms of what they already have rather than a vague lost future opportunity. Are they risking an accident? Their data? Time in their day? You get the idea.
The second way to exploit this effect is to create a loss by providing something for free that can get taken away. The same experiments demonstrating loss aversion have also shown that people establish a sense of ownership almost immediately, so even if they've had something for a short time, they will still be very averse to losing it. Giving users a sample of your product or service and getting them thinking about it as something they already have will trigger a sense of loss once the sample lapses. A valuable free trial or consultation is ideal.
The Decoy Effect
Humans tend to overestimate the extent to which they engage in rational decision-making and underestimate how the presentation of information affects their decisions. The decoy effect is a perfect example of this. It refers to a common marketing practice where a given price or package is offered solely for the purpose of making another one seem more valuable to the buyer, and it works exceptionally well.
Let's say you are pricing your product or services. You plan to offer two packages — a lower- priced, basic one and a premium one with more bells and whistles. But studies show that adding in a third package affects the choice buyers make. Offering a medium-priced package, close to the price of the premium one, but with a little less value, will make people much more likely to buy the premium package. Alternatively, you can price the premium package much higher but with only a little added value, making people think the medium-priced package is the real deal.
What happened there? The additional package option framed the buyer's choices and made one option— your target sale—seem much more valuable than they might have otherwise viewed it.
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
You may not recognize the name, but you've most likely experienced the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon many times. It refers to the illusory experience of suddenly seeing something you've just learned about everywhere you turn. This can also lead to the feeling that the thing in question is really important or on trend.
Take advantage of this illusion and its associations on your website by reinforcing your key visuals and messages throughout your pages. Repeat your logo on every page and make sure your entire digital (and print) branding has a similar look and feel. Use similar colors and design on your social media pages, and keep the voice consistent across all channels. Then take advantage of the data your site collects by sending visitors targeted messages and/or ads based on their prior site behavior.
People have limited memories. We can't remember every word we hear or read, but we can remember the basic ideas and meanings so as to make use of them. That's the verbatim effect. On the web, this translates into redundancy being one of your most powerful tools.
Redundancy on a website means you don't start each page from scratch but rather have consistent page layouts, headers, footers, and sidebars throughout the site. Most web designers, and even clients, reject redundancy for fear it may not be impressive or even boring. Big mistake.
Redundancy is not only psychologically effective, it actually provides a better user experience. Viewers don't want to have to deal with the whole new layout on every page—it makes them do all the work of figuring out where to find the information they're looking for and understanding what your brand is all about.
Design matters most on the home page website layout. After that, the rest of your site is all about content and getting to it, and the call to action, as efficiently as possible. So when a user visits one or two of your page, their mind should instantly know how to reach your content by way of consistent headers, footers, and sidebar.
Also take advantage of variable redundancy, or similar messaging in varying forms. Use text, images, and video to tell the same story in different ways.
Combo: Serial Effect + Verbatim Effect
When combined, some of these effects lead to further lessons for website design. For instance, the Serial Effect is an extension of the Primacy Effect. It asserts that people tend to remember not only the first things in a series but also the last. Combine that with the Verbatim Effect, and it becomes clear that the top and bottom of your page are the most important aspects of the entire site. And all the rest of the content?
People will remember the "gist" of it and nothing else. So invest the time it takes to craft captivating headers, source spectacular hero images, and close with compelling calls to action because that's how your viewers are remembering you. And for your main messages, deliver them in multiple different ways so that what sticks is hopefully the main points you wanted to convey.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: the social proof is the single most important element of modern marketing – and it's the key to having a Know-Like-Trust website that converts. Customer trust is by the far the greater factor influencing conversions, and it is emerging as the most important for SEO. To have any chance of online success, you must start here.
Luckily, sharing social proof is relatively easy these days. First and foremost, collect testimonials and sprinkle them liberally throughout your website and social media pages. Having a page for testimonials is great, but why not add a client quote to the end of every product or service page? Placing client logos on your site is a quick, visual shortcut to conveying social proof. And have you earned any association badges or certifications? Show them off! Finally, having a strong social media presence and consistent activity stream shows that you have followers who trust you enough to want to hear more from you and that's priceless.
By the way, notice how we've used the Serial Effect in this post? We put the most important factor at the bottom of our list!
Great design always begins from empathizing with the user's experience. Armed with the knowledge of these key psychological principles, you can adjust your website design and copy to better suit exactly how your user is taking in your site. And that puts you in the best position to turn those precious clicks into conversions.
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