Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Conversion: The Feng Shui of Home Pages

Feng Shui is an old Chinese pseudo-science, which deals with the layout of cities, buildings, and other things. How things are arranged is supposed to have an impact on many other things.

I don't know if the whole thing is literally true, but I do know that my wife and I rearranged our bedroom furniture a couple months ago, and for whatever reason, we are actually sleeping better these days. Gina (that's my wife) referred to this as "feng shui" a couple nights ago. It occured to me that I know very little about the whole thing, so I went and looked it up on the mighty Wikipedia.

At any rate, the arrangement of a web site's home page has a clear and measurable impact on a lot of things that happen on the web site. My own experience is a pretty good illustration. The home page of SEO Research Labs was redesigned last year, along with rest of the site. We sold more keyword reports in the first day with the new layout than we had on any previous single day.

Within a few days, it was clear that our conversion rate had more than quadrupled. The redesign was based on information I gathered from speaking with customers, guided by information provided in the Grok Dot Com newsletter and Roger C. Parker's excellent book, "Streetwise Relationship Marketing on the Internet."

The major shift in thinking that led to the redesign was to begin identifying clear segments within our target audience and website visitors, and presenting clear call-outs to each group, with information tailored to their specific information needs. I'm sure that you can clearly spot these four target groups within a few seconds of viewing our home page.

Beyond that, a lot of new content was added to the web site, and the home page redesign was intended to drive visitors on a path to conversion, by making it easy for them to find the information they needed, and from there to make a purchase.

Have we completely succeeded? Absolutely not, since I still get an occasional email from someone asking me how to buy! But the work continues, and I expect that the next site revision (due to go live next week) will further enhance our conversion rate and improve our visitor's experience.

What does this have to do with feng shui? Maybe nothing, I'm still trying to figure out what it means, but I can recommend a few things. First, subscribe to the Grok Dot Com newsletter. Second, seriously consider reading Roger Parker's book.

Finally, take a hard look at your web site's performance, particularly the home page and other high-traffic entry pages. Who is coming in? Are there clear audience segments? How would you know? Are a high percentage "bouncing" right off of your site? Where do they go from that page?

You can get some of these answers by using web analytics tools like Clicktracks, which allows you to look at different traffic sources and entry pages separately, and analyze the paths visitors take. You can also find out a lot just by adding some call-outs to the likely target audience segments on your entry and landing pages, and seeing which links get clicked.

This is a very deep topic, and leads to a very long story, of course... my previous post contains links to download the recording (audio and video) from one of my SEO classes. You don't have to buy anything, but I do hope you will download it, look and listen, and come back to me with feedback.

We'll talk more soon.