4 Reasons Why Your Website May Not Get You the Sales You Want

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“Customers don’t trust you.”

— Mikkel Svane, CEO and Founder of ZenDesk, at Relate Live 2017

We’re experiencing an unparalleled crisis of trust.

Fake news, corporate scandals and broken promises dominate public discourse.

As a result, people ask more questions before they commit to a purchase. They’re more critical of their experience, more likely to “bounce” and buy from your competition — and more likely to complain (publicly) if something’s wrong.

So when someone visits you online, you have to prove yourself worthy of their trust. And you’ve only got a tiny moment to make a good impression.

In our work as ethical conversion copywriters, we’ve come across 4 common mistakes that can put people off when they first come to your website.

In this article, we’ll explain what they are, why they matter, and how to fix them:

  1. People aren’t sure what to do on your sales page
  2. They feel confused about you and your product
  3. You’re talking to the wrong kind of customer
  4. It’s too hard to buy from you

These are not just rookie errors either. We’ve seen them on startup websites as well as corporate sales pages, and in many different industries.

So feel free to bookmark this blog post and return to it whenever you need it.

When you’re able to establish trust with a web visitor quickly, they’re more likely to stay on the page, take in your entire message, and click through to buy from you (instead of leaving after two seconds to check out your biggest competitor).

Read on and fix those customer frustrations — for a website that’s “on fire” with hot leads.

1. Calls to action: customers aren’t sure what to do

Confusing street sign in Mainz, Germany, showing way too many arrows

This street sign gives the A-ha song, “Stay On These Roads”, a whole new meaning… (picture taken in Mainz, Germany.)

Does your homepage clearly tell people what you want them to do? Or is it more akin to this street sign? We see this error take two distinct shapes: too many calls to action — or none at all.

Don’t give in to the temptation to add more than two calls to action.

It’s better to set up a separate page for less important actions that attract a smaller number of your users.

According to Conversion Expert Claire Suellentrop (click to see her brilliant book), this “reduces analysis paralysis, so the visitor can easily choose the correct next step.”

What to do about it:

Identify the one or two things that are most likely to get you business. Explicitly tell website visitors what to do, and make your words clear rather than cute. So if you sell clothes, for example, that could be “Try our new size finder”, or “See all new arrivals”.

2. Organisation of messages: customers feel confused

Quote by Andrew Grove: How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.

People come to your website looking for answers to their questions. Your homepage or landing page is you having a conversation with them. Remembering this is a huge help in uncovering your value proposition and makes writer’s block much easier to fight.

Many sales pages focus too much on what the business does, the ethics of its supply chain, and technical details. While these are all important points to get across, don’t fall into the trap of creating info overload on a page meant to sell.

Sales pages are about explaining the value you’ll add to people’s lives, and crafting that message is worth every moment you spend on it. Let your audience savour the future that will be theirs if they buy from you. Move everything else to About pages and dedicated subsections of your site.

What to do about it:

CopyHackers founder Joanna Wiebe found that to inspire trust, your copy needs to tell visitors six things — in this order:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Do others like me care?
  4. Can you really do what you say?
  5. Why should I believe you? (Will you make my life better? Am I safe with you?)
  6. If I believe you, then what?

Simply answer each question in turn, as if you were talking to a prospective customer. Give each message its own heading or subheading. You’ll automatically tick the all-important boxes like social proof, highlighting the benefits of your product’s features, and focussing on your prospects’ goals

3. Matching awareness: are you talking to the wrong kind of customer?

Image with light tubes spelling out the sentence "this is the sign you've been looking for'

Pay special attention to the top of your page: people take only 50 milliseconds to decide if your website is a good fit for them ( Lindgaard et al. 2006 ). Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Do you sell vegan leather shoes, but most of your web visitors just want chic trainers? Do the people that you’re telling where you buy your organic, fair-trade cocoa butter even know that they want cocoa butter?

Many of our clients know everything about their products and how they’re sourced or made. That’s great, because it’s easy to be honest and transparent with that much info at hand. But often they’re so close to their own business that they struggle to talk to potential customers who are “newbies” in their field.

They send everyone to the same homepage or landing page, no matter how (un)familiar the visitor is with the basic concept of their offering. And that means lost business: you’ll sell more locally-produced honey if you can convince the general public that preserving local bee habitats matters, or even that local honey tastes better.

Without a landing page offering that crucial bit of education, you’ll be stuck catering only to existing fans of the idea.

What to do about it:

Think about the different kinds of people you want to reach with your product or service, and how familiar they are with the concept and your brand. Create landing pages that tell a convincing story to each type of customer.

For example, if your brand is a household name, just showing your logo may be all that’s needed to match people’s awareness. If you’re less well-known, put your value proposition high up on the page and use language that resonates with your prospects.

4. Ease of use: it might be too hard to buy from you

Quote by Elon Musk: Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.

Your website shouldn’t need any instructions.

Ever been stuck at a spinning wheel in checkout? Ever rushed to complete a lengthy sign-up form on your phone, with one eye on the clock because your lunch break was about to end?

Did you ‘hang in there’ or ‘throw in the towel’ and go elsewhere? Reducing effort is the most important thing you can do to increase loyalty and improve customer service (Dixon et al. 2010).

What to do about it:

Assess your website based on a task the customer wants to complete, such as buying a product or signing up to a service.

  • Does your website flow logically?
  • How easy is it to find the functionality — and how intuitive is it to use?
  • Does your form make it quick for people to get a quote? Remember that each field you add to a form makes people less likely to complete and send it.

What comes naturally to you may be hard for the people you want to reach, so user research is essential.

Analytics, surveys, focus group workshops, one-to-one observations and interviews will tell you what people really think. You’ll learn what they love about your site, what they struggle with, and what’s missing. You’ll also gain valuable insight into the content they want and the kind of language they use.

“COME and buy from us!” — Sincerely, your website

When they hit your site, customers subconsciously respond to four things.

Reading the first letters of this list from top to bottom, we get the easy-to-remember acronym, COME:

Calls to action

Organisation of messages

Matching their awareness of you and your offering

Ease of use

By applying these 4 principles, you’ll get people to stay on your website for longer and buying more.

If you’re not sure whether your website makes the most of these principles, a professional audit of your website will give you the clarity you need to make improvements. Check out our Website Conversion Copy Audit, which matches this blog post perfectly.