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The Holy Grail of Website Conversions

From birth, we seek information that’s beneficial to us, beginning with basic survival. There’s no end to this quest. It’s the holy grail of website conversions.

Each day, while we seek out more survival information, such as the source for food or comfort, we gather up enough information to be able to make choices that meet our needs. Watch a baby, a puppy or a tree.  Every living thing seeks information and uses it for decision making.  As we grow up, the information we seek comes to us from varying sources, such as school, families, TV, dreams, personal experiences and environment.

We learn one or more languages. This enables us to communicate, which increases our ability to gather even more information. A flower has its own language. So does the sky. It’s something we have in common.

Regardless of age, mental or physical condition, or where we are at any given moment, we seek information that is relevant to us in specific, individual ways.  We also seek information for the benefit of other people.

This desire to share information for the benefit of others is another conversions clue. A satisfied website customer can be motivated to share your company, service or products with others simply because you provided something beneficial to them – and their survival, even at the most primal level, depends on the overall success or failure of others.

For example, if you sell healthy living products online and educate your customers who are naturally seeking information that benefits themselves, when they refer your products, they are enhancing the quality of life for others and by extension, aiding in everyone’s survival.

Or, say your company sells automobile parts. They must pass safety standards. Customers want items that provide a benefit, fill a need or enhance a vehicle, which provides joy, safety and again, survival. Crazy, if you let your mind go there, I know.

Conversions Are an Agreement We Make

The way we use the term “conversions” is sometimes confusing or not universally understood. From the perspective of website design, the better the user experience is, the more likely it is they will call, subscribe, sign up, request, purchase or perform a desired task.  For search engine marketing, the customer journey may begin as a keyword query that delivers a desired search engine result, which produces a click, which results in a page-view and an entire adventure after that. Without language and words, there is no conversion for the marketer.

Word choices become critical for you, the SEO. There’s a depth of understanding you need for your work to make you stand out from others in the field, which I attempted to describe last week in my article, “The Aboutness of Keywords”.  As designers and marketers, we’re trying to help our users make decisions, and not just any decisions.  They could decide to leave before we want them to. How can we help prevent that? What do they need to know to complete the conversions agreement?

Along our information seeking journey, we formulate opinions about the information we’ve gathered. This is where we’re different from the sky, trees and flower information-seekers and wolves who share with their pack.  What we do with the information we gather creates opinions based on our personal experiences with that information. Sometimes those experiences involve other people, so their opinions, needs, relationship to us, and acceptance or rejection of the exchange of information impact us in some way, enabling us to formulate what we may feel is finally something called knowledge or wisdom.  We were working from the instinctive, primal, self-serving, sharing with others space and now we want information to create, make an impact, lead and feel.  With wisdom, we may care about something or be open to new experiences.

This is when our work as marketers and designers becomes a challenge. Our target market needs us to know who they are, what they want, how they want it, why they want it, why they came, where they are, when you will meet their needs and how to give them what they don’t even know they desire.

Every time we query a search engine, we seek information that is someone else’s knowledge.

Content writers may not be aware of their impact on readers or consider their possible influence. On the other hand, certain types of content exist to purposely generate a reaction or response.  Images of suffering during an event are one example where the visual is used to trigger an emotional response intended to inspire an action of some type.  That action is fed by conscious and sub-conscious factors, including what we each have done with the information we have been gathering since the day we were born.  Sometimes our own personal myths are shattered.

Whenever a search engine marketer researches keywords, they look for words and phrases that are agreed upon, commonly understood and relevant to their target users. We use keywords to identify products, content topics, establish relevancy with users and make connections.  Someone is looking for our content and we want our content to be first in line.

Tom Petty Died

Journalists and marketers want to be first.  They are paid to be first. There are many ways to come in first in any competition.

We can train hard – this is how athletes do it. We can cheat by stealing – this is a baseball strategy and can also be a crime. One method has our permission, such as teaching young children to steal a base during T-ball practice. Deception is a way to be first and in some circumstances journalists and marketers are encouraged to be first, even if it means not being truthful or accurate.

Remember that our most basic, core, primal directive as humans is to seek information and we may share what we find. When Twitter began to display content about the death of Tom Petty from respected news sources I had no reason to think it was not true and I shared the write up by Rolling Stone on my Facebook page. Tom Petty had not died.  He was close but the news stories were wrong. He was still on life support when I shared the story. I removed the article from my Facebook page because I didn’t want to be part of the deception and send any traffic to Rolling Stone. Not only did they fail to deliver accurate information, they lied to me as a reader who had trusted them.

Was this type of conversion worth it? Will I share other articles by Rolling Stone? Twitter had erupted with the news, creating a sense of urgency and even believability because of the volume of reports.  This is what algorithms are sorting and presenting to us. We’ve programmed them to share information that may bring panic if we want that.  With our new technology, we learned how to manipulate our users to do what we want them to do.

We start out seeking information and applying it to survive. From there we put together enough information, marry it with personal experiences and develop wisdom.  That knowledge is used to create.

As marketers, web site designers and developers, do we have a duty to be honest creators? Are we doing our jobs to make money for our employers or ourselves?  Will we perform our work with integrity? As information providers or designers of knowledge presentation, we manage to do our jobs without having any idea how what we make will be received when we are disconnected from our readers, customers and site visitors. This is why customer journey mapping, user personas and user testing are necessary.  Most developers and content creators aren’t paid to care, but usability and human=factors people do.  Writing and promoting fake news puts our credibility and trust at risk.

Passion and trust increase conversion rates.
Passion is a conversions motivator.

Passion and Empathy Open Doors

Everyone is biased. When we search for specific information we have already formed personal parameters on what we will accept and add to our knowledge base. We have limits. It’s always fascinated me how search engines, web sites and web applications strive to invade our personal privacy or a user interface is complicated and difficult to use.  How is it that we provide information and simultaneously erect barriers to that information?  Accessibility is restricted and for some users who rely on assistive software, not available. For machine learning, we program in the same disregard for information quality, universal access and human feelings.

Have you ever wondered why conferences, workshops and seminars are popular?  We attend them to feed our thirst for more information. What makes that information memorable is how it’s delivered by the speaker. Successful speakers may inspire us to act. They often do this by storytelling. When we listen to the story we inject ourselves into it. Maybe we had a similar experience. Inspirational speakers are passionate about their topic and we can sense it when we watch them on stage. Speakers that don’t display passion or who speak in a monotone voice don’t leave an impact on the audience. We’re less likely to recall what they said. Passion is a conversions motivator.

Call centers can be successful for information delivery too.  Most of us dislike sales calls and with good reason. One experience in particular taught me the value of hiring a sales representative with a passion for the company and its services.

I had a website client who insisted on keeping the design of the online form intact despite my objections that it was invasive. The company was confident they had information the site user needed and knew they were the ones to provide the service. To gain access to the meat of the website, the form required personal information and a phone number. The company tracked abandoned forms and tasks on the website and these activated the call center follow-up. I worked within earshot of the call center and listened as each user was called and converted to a sale, not only by what the person in the call center said, but how they delivered the information. Their passion was the trigger. That passion earned them trust. That trust gained them a new customer. That customer would eventually be studied and they could see referral rates which increased sales even more.

In that example the company was the information seeker looking for data that was beneficial to their survival. They applied what they learned, which increased conversions and enhanced their brand.

Your Target User Wants Your Information

You may not realize the importance of your keyword research, or the placement of keywords on a page or value the way your content is delivered. Analytics and data are devices used for your research and development so that what you write, design or code meets goals and serves a purpose, such as revenue generation. In my site audit work, as the usability person who supports digital marketing strategies or designs landing pages or sketches up a new user interface, I see that in nearly every case, we completely ignore meeting the core requirement, which is providing quality information to people who are seeking it.

By the time our target users connect with our content, they may have been on other web sites or used different software. We know they’re using different computer devices and browsers. We know from our keyword research how they search for our content.  The success of our conversion rates can be dependent on human behavior.  It’s the place to consider investing more with testing, research, and understanding the information seekers looking for your products and services.

We are terrible at communication when we don’t care about who we’re communicating with. Remember that our first human desire is to seek information that is beneficial to us. There’s no end to this basic quest. It’s the holy grail of website conversions.




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