Do you remember your favorite childhood game? Was it Simon says or rock paper scissors?
For me, the most exciting was the one where I was supposed to find all the differences between two similar images. So, I would like to start this article with a game just like that. Take a quick look at the images below, depicting the same web page from my colleague Red's website:
Can you spot the differences?
To give you a hint: the About section, View Demo button and Subscribe popup on the right side make this page engage more visitors. And these are just a few of the reasons on why this happens.
In this article, I will show you 5 simple steps you can take to engage more visitors on your website. Along the way, I will try to point out the main factors you should consider on each step and also give you some examples.
Earn Your Visitors' Trust
The fact that a website has a good SEO does not make it trustworthy for people who visit it. Before deciding to subscribe or purchase something, people need to trust you first. But something that most websites ignore is that people's trust is based on perception.
The first impression is very important to make your visitors feel comfortable and gain their confidence, and this is achieved by making it easy for them to contact you or to find details about you.
- About page, where you can tell people who you are and what you do.
- Contact details (email, phone or online support, depending on what services your website provides).
- Existing customers, where you tell (and even brag a little with) who uses your products or services.
- Solid social media profiles, made of real people who interact with you, not simple numbers of followers and likes.
- Testimonials from people with whom your visitors can easily identify themselves, or whom they can check on quickly.
As the website in my example does not sell something in particular, the About and Contact pages contain just enough information to be trust elements for visitors who subscribe.
Get Your Visitors' Attention
This is like the first date with someone you just met on a matrimonial site. You want to get their attention, but still don't make them think that you're trying too much.
So, to get viewers' attention on a webpage, you would need to make them curious, but not in a way that is too intrusive. The key here is to keep a good overall balance between the text and the images you use, and give visitors some time to see what's actually on the page they are viewing before you display any popups.
- Color schemes that are appropriate for your website's scope.
- Calls to action relevant both for the source and for the target page.
- Popups displayed per targeted segments (for example, you could display an offer on your Pricing page and an invitation to your next webinar on your Support page).
- Interact with your visitors in real time using an online support system.
The website in my example has a good overall luminosity contrast ratio which makes it both pleasant and non-intrusive for viewers. It also uses a free lead conversion tool that is configured to display the Subscribe popup only inside the article pages, 2 seconds after the reader landed there.
With the way this popup is set now, the communication between the website owner and his visitors has a single loop (he asks them to perform an action, they perform that action and that's that). For a product website, the popup could be configured so that you can further reply to visitors who write, and interact with them in real time.
Give Away Useful Content
Being generous brings many benefits to a website. Blog articles, video tutorials or webinars on topics that are of interest for your visitors will make them feel that there is something in it for them. In time, sharing your knowledge on important matters in your industry helps you build your authority, increasing people's interest in what you have to say.
- Quality information that brings value to your visitors.
- Educational content, not only related to your products, but for problems that your visitors deal with.
- Up to date news, sharing also your own thoughts on the matters approached.
- Exploring multiple environments so that people interested in your ideas can have access to them across various platforms.
By giving away content that is of value, you get to develop powerful bonds with your visitors, who start sharing your work and react to your ideas. The secret to producing content that engages visitors is to have an audience clearly defined; just like a tailor needs to have your measure accurately from head to toe, to make the perfect clothes for you.
So, before you start to write something, make sure you have it clear in your mind who you are writing for (business or end users) and what kind of relation (formal or informal) you have with your readers.
My colleague's website has a clear target in web designers and uses an informal style in his writing. Not only that his readers return and subscribe to the website, but they engage in long discussions and share great knowledge with each other.
Offer A Positive User Experience
I confess it took me a while deciding how to write this section. Experts can publish hundreds of pages about positive user experience and still approach only a small part of what this concept defines. For this article, I will just focus on a few elements that can provide an overall website optimization, when done right.
To approach user experience for websites, you need to understand first the difference between linear and non-linear media. With linear media (prints or radio/TV channels), you are in control of what people experience when connecting to you (it is up to you to choose how the content you broadcast progresses).
Things are different however with non-linear media (websites included). Here, people control the progress of what they see, creating actually their own user experience. In a way, this transforms each web designer in a Scheherazade (the storyteller queen): when the stories on the webpages flow smoothly, people stay to see, listen and take action. But when the story breaks, visitors leave.
Positive experience factors:
- Optimized loading speed (if you have items that affect the loading speed of your pages, solve them or leave them)
- Layouts supported by a wide range of browsers
- Coherent navigation between webpages
- Clear description of what each page is about (your title and subtitles need to actually tell the long story short)
- Calls to action that deliver (you surely don't want to disappoint visitors offering sales discounts with a button promising "free tips and tricks")
A way to "peek" at how visitors see your pages and what they do once they land there is through user testing. You might be surprised with how people perceive the content that you publish (I know I was :)).
Recently, we took on some testing sessions with usertesting.com for our company website. Following those tests, we identified common patterns that were actually pointing a fault in our flow, and decided to change the website footer.
Let me ask you: what makes you stand out from the crowd?
Is it your eyes? Or perhaps your sense of humor, or is it the fact that you're always happy to lend a helping hand? Each of these make you unique and are the reason why people remember you.
For websites (and any business in general), features that make you unique build up your unique selling proposition, or simply USP. These features make people choose you from a bunch of other similar websites.
- Become aware of your USP and make it visible to your visitors.
- Think through all features that makes up your USP (when you start off with an USP, it's difficult to change it)
- Focus your efforts on making one extraordinary thing instead of making ten average things.
- Promote your own personality (people want to know the human doing all the work they have come to appreciate).
For the website in my example, I would say that Red's USP consists in web design tutorials that are actionable. In other words, he doesn't just provide the "fish" to his readers, he gives them a fishing rod and instructions on how to fish.
Red's articles include demos and pieces of code, and most of his design elements are already implemented (and working fine) on our company website.
Simply building a website is not enough to guarantee online success. People who visit it convert only when you've managed to engage them and offer a good experience.
I hope that these 5 steps and the factors that I've included in the article can help you better engage visitors. You can see their effect by measuring analytics metrics like the new visits/total visits ratio, the time spent on a page or the bounce rate.
Of course, there are many other things you can do to engage visitors. I'd love to learn new techniques that work in different domains, not just web design. Feel free to share your expertise.
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