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Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Are Your Sales Pages Leaving $10,000 on the Table?

By Whitney Wilding
October 7th, 2010

Back in June, my colleague, Brendan Regan, posted some usability findings on scrolling and attention. Brendan’s post noted that the study reinforced the 80/20 rule: the area above the fold gets 80% of the time spent looking at a page. The implications this rule has for the design and layout of pages on your website are significant.  It is a concept that is central to the conversion rate optimization analysis we conduct, and is perfectly illustrated by work we did recently with one of our clients.

With this concept in mind, we noted several limitations to a client’s sales/product page, and recommended to test a radical page redesign. The new page increased the conversion rate from the sales/product page to final confirmation page by 25%, directly generating an additional $9,315.45 per month in sales.

1home-flex.aspWhat were the specific limitations of the original page?  The original sales page featured effective content, but it was organized in the traditional long scroll format: content heavy, and flowing continuously from top to bottom. Making matters worse, there were no tabs or anchor links to help the visitor find appropriate content to answer questions. This required the visitor to do a lot of scrolling and scanning for information, and typically, only the most methodical visitors persist through such a laborious task, and even they might have missed some key information. Based on the 80/20 rule, and the distribution of content on the page, it’s likely that a large portion of visitors never even realized the information they were looking for was present on the page.

Our hypothesis for this test was that more visitors would read the content on the sales/product page and get value from it if the content was featured effectively above the fold. That the perceived sense of value would propel visitors forward in their buying process, and result in increased clicks to “Add to cart” and through final conversion. We made 2 primary format modifications to increase organization above the fold and help more visitors find answers to their questions:

1. reduced the length of the page dramatically

2. featured tabs above the fold, each labeled with a specific questions, and containing the content most relevant to that question

The new organization of information on the page brought key concepts above the fold, into the part of the page where visitors spend 80% of their time.  Although each tab’s content still scrolled below the fold, the new page still required less overall scrolling because prospects could easily recognize content most relevant to their question and navigate to it, without having to endlessly scroll through content of no interest to them.

Whether your site follows the long scroll format or not, you may still have pages that could benefit from a look through the lens of the 80/20 rule. But be careful! Going through every page of your website will be terribly inefficient. And prioritizing this task over others might not be wise either. Just because it was a high priority item for this client doesn’t necessarily mean it holds the same value for you.

Every business is unique, and thoughtful consideration should be given to how the factors at the heart of how your company makes money, may influence the optimal design and layout of your site. Blindly following a best practices list could lead to disappointment. The only way to know what will help you improve your performance is to follow a process where data drives analysis. Take off the blinders and liberate yourself from the trap of best practices! Your analytics data has the power to tell you where the most problematic areas of your site live, based on real-time data about your visitor’s behavior. If you are willing to be less scripted about your analysis than a checklist of pages and rules, you will be both open to seeing the problem areas as indicated in your data, and better able to shift your attention to the highest priority items as needed.

Not sure what steps you can take to get there? Not comfortable doing it on your own? If you’re making money through your web site, and have invested in driving traffic to your site, reach out and find out how we can help you reap the rewards of Conversion Rate Optimization.
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Comments (36)

  1. True words. I think that your warning in the end might be one of the things that keep people from testing. Confusion and lack of knowledge can lead you to the conclusion that you might do more harm than good and therefore doing nothing is probably better :)

  2. Good post about the page length and display. But can you suggest when the user comes to our site, what’s the section or part of the webpage the user focuses on.
    Can you suggest any tool for doing finding this.

  3. I understand what you’re saying about putting important content above the fold, but it’s hard to close/call to action above the fold. I like the idea of less content and tabs answering questions but I’m going to have to do some thinking on how to do that without the visitor feeling they don’t have enough information to purchase.

  4. I’m not surprised of the prevalent ADD attitudes most Americans have nowadays.

    I am surprised that the straight down scrolling was too much for people though.

    I try to go the straight down route…but keep the content short.

  5. Keeping content above the fold has become even more important for consumers making purchases with their smartphones. Long pages on a PC now become unbearably on an iPhone et al. DHTML & javascript compatibility is also becoming more important with browsers like Opera on the iPhone re-rendering the content before it’s pushed to the phone…

  6. What would be the ratio of how many smartphones actually visit these type of websites?

  7. I personally like the sales page to be short and efficient rather than having to scroll all the way down to find the purchase button. What I like when looking at a sales page is what are the contents of the products that are sold (if it is an ebook) and maybe a demo (if it’s a software), but then again you don’t get that a lot

  8. Do you have a URL so that we can see the updated page layouts or do you have any before and after screen shots?

    Let us know.

  9. Good stuff, you think the same pulls for ads on a web site? I’d guess that people just throw monetization or calls to action anywhere, thinking that if enough people visit the site they’ll make their money. However, too few think about converting those that are already visiting at a higher rate. That’s money left on the table like you said.

  10. Herein lies the frustrating dichotomy between what search engines want to see and what users need. Google’s idea of the perfect page is a windy tome of text – the more, the better – with lots of headings to outline what that text is saying. Most users just want a picture, or in your case, a tab, to help them find what they’re looking for by groping; I actually do this myself, and I think everyone does, to some extent – if only to save time.

    The only solution I have ever been able to find to this dilemma is similar to what you are suggesting here – put the user-intended content on top, and the piles of text down lower. Which is still an SEO tradeoff, but probably the best solution available.

  11. This has been something preying on my mind recently. Whilst a brilliant layout with some great images is eyecatching, the notion of 80:20 is always worrying. I want an attractive site, but without getting bogged down filling the top with images that mean people don’t get down to the content. That’s a good point about making the page shorted. Personally, in my own blog (not business related) I’m fairly sure I’m guilty of egotistically thinking everyone wants to read my words and having a high number of post displays. Clearly something that’s slowing the page load and most likely putting people off reading.. Thanks.

  12. As long as your images and content are focused and related I think you can still have an attractive website with a good amount of text to balance out for seo purposes.

  13. Thanks for sharing the test results. My website has the long scroll format. I am now thinking of changing the design and see if my conversion increases or not.

  14. Excellent post on sales pages. Personally prefer a page that is short and easy to find. It help the visitor notice the button immediately.

  15. @Maria – while it certainly is true that you want to do things to help visitors find the calls to action on a page, keep in mind that may mean different things to different people: one call to action may attract one type of person more than another, and be found in a different location on the page. There is even a type out there who scrolls below the fold looking for more details! Therein lies the danger in building your site around your own preferences. Check out…
    - http://www.grokdotcom.com/2007/09/20/why-we-compete-reward-and-buy/
    - http://www.grokdotcom.com/topics/copywritingforbeginners.htm
    - http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/10/30/presidential-candidates-temperament-website-copy/
    … to learn more about the 4 types we use, their preferences, and the implications for your pages.

  16. @Farmville – as advocates of data-driven, accountable optimization tactics, we would encourage you to test any changes you make using a tool such as Google Website Optimizer (it’s free), so you can be sure they really do lead to a better conversion rate!

    PS – let us know how it goes!

  17. @Audio Bible and others inquiring about examples. Check out this product page for an example of tabs used in this way.

  18. This was a great article and really takes you back to your website to see what others are seeing. Ideally if you are like me and trying to drive more sales, you will optimize these pages so that users or shoppers have options. I have learned you need to make it as easy as possible for people.

  19. In my experience, big characters and a good title, do half the work. Your site must be simple, otherwise potential customers will say it is overcrowded and go. Your site must load more quickly, otherwise people will lose patience and click on another site

  20. We recently switched all our sites to Amazon servers and the speed difference was amazing. The bounce rate of the index page has lowered by about 2-3%. Fingers crossed on a higher conversion rate.

  21. Great content. Thanks for sharing. You can’t forget the effect that video has on a capture page. From many split tests your video should be in the 20% area of the top of your webpage and should take up 60% of that space.

  22. Thanks you for your post, I myself agree that content is king, can you give us examples of websites that apply the way that you described earlier? many thanks.

  23. Hey Whitney

    That is interesting, I have never formulated that so clearly myself, but somehow knew it to be to be true. people need 6 seconds to judge a website, so the first impression – what is above the fold is going to help them decide.
    I am building a website, that is going to be an international online store that will incorporate those two findings that you have mentioned here.

    Kind Regards and many thanks
    Justyna

  24. After reading the article, we did a redesign as well and came away with a noticeable increase in conversions. Thanks for verifying!

  25. So, you’re saying that a traditional long sales page is ineffective? Are you sure about that, Whitney? Because I’ve reduced the length of my salesletter dramatically, but failed to bring more sales.

  26. Your suggestion to avoid the “best practices trap” is so true.

    I did a test that improved my income drastically on one site. What I did was the exact opposite of best practices.

    Trying the same tactics on two other sites resulted in the income tanking on those sites.

    It is a simple rule of persuasion… help everybody get what they want and you will get what you want.

    Three different sites, three different wants.

    Thanks.

  27. Content is the most important !

  28. Many colleagues are still trying to make their sites to get into the screen (without scrolling), but I believe that the height of the site is an interesting factor to be explored.
    On the other hand I see some sites, especially those who want to put a lot of witnesses, to make sites very high.
    For this is not good publicity.
    I think your post explained it well.
    Thanks.

  29. How can say that content is most important?

  30. This has been something preying on my mind recently. Whilst a brilliant layout with some great images is eyecatching. In my experience, big characters and a good title, do half the work. Great content. Thanks for sharing.

  31. It’s always a good idea to test a few styles since there isn’t one perfect layout for all products/services. More than likely, though, you’ll find that this will be your best bet.

  32. This reminds me of the classic web design book by Steve Krug, “Don’t Make Me Think.” It’s a good general rule of thumb on internet marketing that people will typically exert the least possible effort to get the information they want, and it’s our job to capitalize on that.

    I love this article because it’s actually backed by research, not someone’s latest theory. Great work!

  33. @Brandon Baker – we are fans of Steve’s book too! ;-)

  34. wow it is a great post. Only good design and good content can bring clients to your website.

  35. Do you suggest making sure the 80/20 rule applies for non sales pages. In your experience is non sales information required so immediately?

  36. @Design Chester – Yes! Your sales pages may be the last step of the buying process, but that process begins and develops on all the other pages of your website (and even your marketing efforts such as PPC and other campaigns)…. in late stage buying scenarios, and early and middle stage buying scenarios before that. Your job is to answer the questions your prospects have at each point along their buying process, develop their purchasing momentum, and move them forward toward the sale (or subscription, information request, or other action your website seeks from visitors as the end goal… even if that goal is just more interaction with the information on the site). Thus, the 80/20 rule still applies to all pages on your website, as your goal is to get your visitors the information they need effectively at any point on your site.

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