In my travels around the world the most frequently asked question is: "What's your favorite web analytics report? "
A close second is: "How can I improve my web pages with high bounce / low conversion rates?"
Or "I have done all I can and I don't know how else to improve my webpage, ideas?"
If you think about it for a moment it is not a very hard question.
I believe the insights for improvement exist at the intersection of customer intent and the webpage's purpose.
Let me explain.
The Customer Intent – Webpage Purpose Gap
There is a very simple reason many websites and web pages have a very high bounce rate, and in turn very low conversions…
There is no connection between why the customer came to the page and what the page exists for.
This could be someone typing in vegetarian shoes into Bing and landing on your web page for swim suits (as happened to me recently).
This could be me visiting www.couponcabin.com and clicking on a $10 off a $35 coupon link to Snapfish and landing on a page for "great new gifts" or, the other day, landing on a page that said "Get a free deck of cards". What! Where's the scent?
Never let your campaigns write chq's that your website can't cash.
Fix that, your outcomes (revenue, leads, donations…) will improve.
The second type of problem is a lot more common…
There is some overlap between what your customers want and what your web page exists to do. But the overlap is not very much, only the most dedicated (say your mom) will put up with the pain required to complete the task.
I land on your site to buy QuickBooks Simple Start but you have it very well hidden because you want me to buy the $400 QuickBooks Premier product.
This could be an email campaign you sent me and the landing page does not have a one click checkout link, though it does have a ton of irrelevant content.
This is every site with a painful flash intro, this is pretty much every site ever created by every big CPG company, this is Propel Water's website where the only reason for your existence is to be impressed by a slow site with a dancing water bunny that hops!
What rarely happens, and what we should all aspire for, is this…
Not only is there a large overlap between Customer Intent and Webpage Purpose, the company's own objectives are subservient to customer needs.
That's how you get to nirvana. That's how you get to low bounce rates. That's how you get to higher conversion. That's how you get to the kind of magic with your website visitors that will make your competitors green with jealousy!
Here's an example, it is extremely rare for me to do a Google search and get a result from Amazon (PPC or SEO) that is not magnificently relevant.
It is rare for me to shop at www.crutchfield.com and not feel that the entire company exists to make me happy. From recommendations that start with Budget Friendly first (rather than most expensive) to humongous product pictures to all kinds of shopping guarantees to bonus stickers and custom helpful manuals that are in the box when I get the product.
They understand my intent (worry free quick shopping to install process) and they have done their best to have web pages whose purpose is to meet that intent.
Moral Of The Story
If you want to have high performing web pages make sure that you :
1. Have a clear understanding of what the purpose of that page is and
2a. a clearer understanding of what drove customers to the page and
2b. what they want to accomplish to ensure that
3. #1 and #2 are in alignment.
Glory will be yours!
Tips For Improving Web Pages (Understanding Customer Intent)
We know what needs to get done, right? I think so.
With each tip below my hope is to share with you how I try to glean customer intent (2a and 2b above) so that I can improve the pages (accomplish #3 above).
Uno: Insights from Sources (URL's, Keywords, Campaigns)
One of the obvious sources for understanding customer intent is to use the sources that drove traffic to your website. In your analytics tool this is all available in one nice window where links are just waiting to be clicked!
You are looking for the Entrance Paths, Sources (referring websites / url's) and Keywords.
To the left of that screenshot, from Google Analytics, you'll also see a segmentation drill down that you can click to see Medium, Campaign, Ad Content etc, all great ways to understand intent for Visitors that arrived via campaigns.
This concatenated screenshot shows the analysis that I end up doing…
In this case the high bounce rate is now easier to understand.
9 out 10 keywords referring traffic to the website are not about the purpose of this page. This page is about web analytics career planning, and only keyword number 6 is remotely related to that. No wonder people bounce.
Now I have several actions I can take. I can either do better SEO so it ranks for the right words. I can add this line to the top of the page: "Hey if you are here to learn about Avinash or about the Occam's Razor then go here and there".
For my other websites I also click on the referring url's and go back and visit those sites and see what they are writing about this page when they link to it. They are saying "get discounts on iPods" and linking to my site. But my webpage is about the ZuneHD! Well I can contact that site and get that fixed or add a promotion on my Zune page for the iPod discounts. Both will help meet customer intent.
Ditto with your campaigns, see what campaigns drive people to the site and what promises you made on those campaigns (content, discounts, calls to action) and make sure the web page reflects those promises.
If you do the first part well then this is how your webpage entrance keywords report should look…
Every single referring keyword is a perfect match for the content on the site. It reflects my hard work with SEO and a perfect match with customer intent.
Dos: Insights from Mis-matched Calls to Action
I think this is the biggest miss when it comes to why webpages stink. The customer wants to do x on the page and you are pushing y.
Take a look at this example from www.frys.com (click on the image for a higher resolution, you know you want to!)…
What is the call to action on this page?
There are three layers of tabs on top, a dysfunctional left navigation (still with lots of choices), a link on top that says Disable Menus (I clicked, nothing happens, hmm…), two sets of searches, DVD deals, Blueray something, category links, ….. lots more.
I know this is a category page, but what's the call to action Fry's wants me to follow? How does that reflect what I might want to do as a customer?
How about some clarity?
Another example. What is the call to action here…
The job of this page seems to be to get me to attend MONEYFest. That's the most important thing for this company because that's the only call to action that stands out.
But should it?
Here's one final example to hammer this concept home.
I just searched for Color Laserjet Printer in Google and clicked on three ppc ads.
The Dell ad takes me to a page that asks me to choose if I want Home & Home Office Printers or Small Business Printers. What? I just want a printer. I also don't want to be conned into a expensive price, yet I feel one of those two links will do that. Why should I have to put up with this simply because Dell's business is organized into two divisions? Dell's revenue, analytics tools and number of analytics people is not an issue – all quite large. So why not land campaigns on pages where I get what I want, a printer / netbook / music player with no prices. As a customer I am satisfied, then when I click Show Me Price make me choose Small Biz or Home. Why not?
[ Oh and for the record click on Small Biz, offers were $10 cheaper than Home and Home Office. How mean!]
The HP ad takes me to a page where half of the page is taken up with the menu, dancing promo, best deals of the week link (which sells computers) and at the bottom of the page, almost below the fold is every printer they sell in all categories. I just want a color laserjet printer.
The Xerox ad takes me here:
No crappy menus. No crappy promotions. No home or small business choices. Just a printer. Just a color laserjet printer.
Perfect match between customer intent, content and call to action.
And it compares it to the direct competitor and tells me that with HP I would not only pay more ($749 to $1,299) but the HP printer would cost me $320 more to operate!
I see you think this is all too ecommerce centric. Ok look at www.flickr.com.
When I land on the site I see three links above and beyond all else. Your Photostream. Upload Photos & Video. Your Contacts. That is what I want to do 90% of the time on that page/site. For the other 10% of the times the other calls to action are there, unobtrusive and yet always there.
Look at your web pages. Identify what are the one or two jobs they are supposed to do. Eliminate every thing else. Focus your calls to action.
Tres: Insights from Website Visitors
Why guess how to improve your webpage? Why not just ask them? You know, them. The customers? : )
For site level surveys free onexit survey tools like 4Q from iPerceptions are a good choice.
But for for feedback from pages I prefer specialist page level surveys like the one from Kamplye.
The survey invite sits nicely at one corner of the page and provides localized feedback from visitors about that particular page. What they liked, what they did not, what could be done better.
[The screen-shot above is from my buddy Brian Clifton's excellent analytics blog: Measuring Success.]
Page level surveys won't get too many responses, and are more likely to contain negative responses. But both of those things are quite ok, and you do want all the negative responses. I know that because you have a strong ego!
You can also easily build one on your own (embrace your IT person and get her/him a case of red bull). The benefit is that you can deeply customize it.
Here's the page level survey from the Turbotax Support website… on the left of every page is a floating Yes or No box, and depending on which one you click on you get a short custom survey…
So nice! Try it on this page: What If TurboTax Is Updated after I File?
Both the answers (Yes or No) and the open text VOC ("Let us know how we can improve") will be perfect places to glean clues as to how you can improve your page to deliver against customer intent.
While both these things are easy to do, you should expect to assign atleast part of an Analysis Ninja's time to go through the data and find insights. I know that seems obvious, but I do want to reiterate that.
Cuatro: Insights from Site Overlay
Another excellent way to get into the heads of your customer is to step out of your MS Excel world of rows, columns and pivots. Again! :)
I have always been, and remain, a fan of the Site Overlay report. What better way to infer what customers might have wanted than to look at a visual distribution of visitor clicks on a live page?
I have created this blog with the express purpose of getting people to follow me on twitter (not!!) and by looking at the click density I can see that only 1.5% of the people are doing that. How terrible!
Site Overlay does not always work in Google Analytics so if you are using GA on your site you'll have to look for alternatives.
My love for ClickTracks has been quite clear since day one of this blog, one of the reasons is the site overlay report in CT, it is wonderful, it just works. More wonderfully in CT the right "frame" shows all the key metrics for the page that provide key context, and the bottom "frame" shows Traffic From and Traffic To which is very helpful.
Another tool that is quite good (though it does not have the two contexts mentioned for CT) is CrazyEgg. You can get the heatmap view which is quite good in helping you understand the difference between web page purpose and customer intent as identified by the website visitor clicks (if they did not hit Add To Cart then what are they clicking? why?)
The thing I absolutely adore about CrazyEgg though is the confetti view…
To the best of my knowledge it is unique amongst web Analytics tool, and it is super insightful.
As you can see for a given time period it shows me the click density (clusters of dots), a la heat map. That is cool but not very useful (remember all data in aggregate is crap!).
What is delightful is that it shows the clusters of clicks by top 15 referrers (segmentation baby!).
So, for example, I can see that very few people from amazon and analytics.blogspot.com care to search on my blog or click on links to my podcasts and videos (why?).
Visitors that come from Google and the Direct traffic click a lot on internal site search. Why? What are they looking for? Segment!.
And Visitors from amazon, grokdotcom and my book's site click a lot on the About link.
I can get even greater detail by hovering my computer mouse over one of the dots, which shows more details about that particular visitor (see bottom of the above image, someone who came on keyword "avinash kaushik" took 30 seconds to click through, and hopefully, buy my book, yea!!).
As you do this for your own website you are starting to not just understand the overall clicks (heatmap) but you are actually starting to understand segments / clusters of visitors and what they want and how it is differentiated. What is the job you want your webpage to do, what customers actually do.
They have cheaper plans as well, but most expensive plan for CrazyEgg is $99 per month. That is such a cheap price to pay for the kinds of insights you'll get. If you are running a website with more than 10,000 visitors I don't know why you would not pay this. It might actually be a crime!
Cinco: Insights from Experimentation & Testing
Did you think I would forget this one? Not likely! My slogan is: Experiment or die!
Seriously though, I can't think of a better way to improve your web pages then to ask your customers what tasks they want to complete and then come up with ideas for how to make your pages better and testing them.
This was the original landing page…
Pretty darn cool right?
It evokes passion, it is sexy cool, and it does not hurt at all that the calls to action are very clear, you can't miss the Download & Play Now and Sign Up For A Free Account links.
The conversions were good but Christian writes that Marketing (!!) wanted to try something new. To quote him:
The goal of the second landing page was to brighten the page up a little, move more content up above the fold, and remove any non-conversion-related links from the main content area.
Here's "version B" of the page:
Not too shabby, right?
I thought we achieved this pretty well; however, the landing page performed very slightly worse than the original.
Before reading the result my first impression was that the second page, smaller and more direct with the video as more prominent, would do better.
Not really said the people who matter: Potential Customers.
At this point most people give up.
Not the people at True Games!
They went back and tried a version that not everyone was totally psyched about…
Slightly risky to go with just one call to action (Join Now For Free). No text (About and Features information both gone).
Once again Christian:
I'll be honest; I wasn't a fan of this design at all. The white background felt too stark to me and it removed the content which highlighted the key features of the game.
The great thing about using an A/B testing tool to optimize your designs is that you get a definitive answer as to which works better. The only thing you have to invest is the time spent developing the variations.
It took less than a day of A/B testing against the original design to show that this new version dramatically outperformed it. It's a good job I didn't listen to myself.
That in a nutshell is the power of testing. Trying different ideas to simplify the purpose of the page, trying things you don't think will work, all to make sure the page's purpose is aligned with what the customers want.
Do a lot of this.
Oh and if you are impressed with what they did go sign up for a free trial of Warrior Epic!
Seis: Insights from First Impressions
This is more of a bonus tip, something I have started to leverage recently.
There are a huge number of wonderful sites that have made traditional user centric design principles more accessible. One such site is Fivesecondtest.
The idea is simple.
You have a page. You are not sure how well it works. Or you are sure the page is God's gift to humanity, yet no one else seems to believe you (especially not your website Visitors :).
Take a image of your page. Go to fivesecondtest.com and upload it. Send the resulting link to people (tweet it or send it to your friends or send it to a focus group / panel you have or send it to your co-workers or post it on a forum where your future customers might exist).
Here is the process they'll go through:
At the end of the process you get a sweet report that lists the first impressions of people who looked at your pages.
Fivesecondtest will not be your be all and end all for improving your web pages, but for me it has been a great source of very rapid feedback that then provokes discussions with the Usability, Design, UI, IA, Analytics teams.
The output will be ideas for tests, dumb things we should stop doing, key calls to action that no one notices that we should make more prominent etc etc.
Six simple ideas that you can execute on tomorrow, most for free and just one that costs any money.
There is one cost that few people are willing to bear, the cost of actually doing this analytical / listening work.
I hate to end on this note but many of us believe that just by implementing Omniture or WebTrends or a tool we'll have God herself whisper the insights to us. We tend to be frustrated when tables and rows don't scream out things we should fix.
It is very difficult for many of us to close the gap between webpage purpose and customer intent because we are unwilling or unable to put in the blood, sweat and tears required.
I hope you'll choose otherwise. Ideas are cheap. Action is not.
Your turn now. Care to share your ideas on how you improve your bouncy / low conversion pages? How do you close the purpose vs intent gap? What was the last thing you did that had a dramatic impact?
Couple other related posts you might find interesting: