All your online marketing efforts are a waste of time if your web site doesn’t convert. It doesn’t matter how many visitors it gets or how “sticky” it is – if it doesn’t achieve its primary conversion goal it’s unlikely to deliver return on investment, writes Greg Wright , co-founder of Cavalry Media.
To increase website conversion rates you need to optimise your site in many different ways, and constantly respond to changes in the market and technological developments.
One of my most important roles at Cavalry Media is to continuously monitor trends and developments that have an impact on web site strategy. This allows us to ensure that our clients can remain ahead of the game and get the results they want from their efforts.
This year I’ve identified 10 fundamental areas that site owners need to focus on to ensure that their web sites are converting optimally.
Here’s what we will be emphasising in 2016:

Think mobile first
This may seem counterintuitive, but the facts make it a necessity. More people than ever are connecting to the Internet using mobile devices, and this number is only going to increase, given the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. This is particularly true in Africa, where cellphones are often the only form of connectivity.
Users expect the same, if not better, experience on their mobile phones as they would get by viewing your web site on a laptop. What’s known as a “responsive website” is now an imperative if you are to properly tap into your market.
I recommend devoting even more attention to mobile this year, given the prominent role it plays in the modern consumer’s purchasing journey.

Know your audience
You need to be specific about who your audience is and design everything around its needs. Which in turn means that you need to know your users.
Research your target audience in detail – from their needs, motivations and desires, to the devices they use, where they browse from and how they use your competitors’ sites.

Optimise your content presentation
Make it as easy as possible for users to follow the paths that you want them to on your web site. Use less text, with catchy phrases that clearly communicate the benefits for users. Keep the “Our Mission/Vision” content out of it for now.
Provide evocative images that portray strong emotions, as these can greatly improve conversion rates. Use good quality images and – once again – make sure they’re optimised for mobile.

Use strong USPs
Most users don’t usually read a lot of the text immediately on arrival at a web site, and when they do, they skim-read. So you need to make your points quickly, clearly and with maximum impact. Don’t be shy to flaunt what makes you a better choice than your competitors.

Usability is crucial
There’s a very good reason why user experience design (UX) has come to such prominence over the last five years or so, and why I would place it at the heart of any web site strategy.
The more user-friendly a website, the better it will convert.
There are many aspects to a successful user experience. At the very least you should have an intuitive user interface. For instance, don’t make your users question which elements are clickable on your page – a button should look like a button.
You need sound information architecture. Information on your web site needs to be grouped and connected logically, with clear paths for the user to follow, leading to your conversion point.
Design for when things go wrong. Help users to get back on track when they click a broken link or enter the wrong information and need to make corrections.
Make error messages helpful. If they have neglected to fill in a form field, let them know in simple human language, not server-speak.
While on the subject of forms – use them as seldom as possible. Only ask for the little information you need to establish a proper communication channel with the user. If you’re using a login form, consider offering social login as well (for instance, login via Facebook).

Consider dedicated landing pages
Dedicated landing pages are excellent for selling a specific product or service, or promoting a special offer. A landing page removes the clutter that surrounds a “normal” page on your web site, allowing it to focus the user on a single purpose – conversion, from your point of view.

Always be available
Show your contact details prominently, so that users can easily find ways to get in touch with you. Some users also prefer to speak to someone in the company before they make a final buying decision. Make sure that this option is always available to them.
Live chat is an excellent way of delivering responsive service. Help your users to make quick decisions by chatting to a customer care representative right there on your web site. This is particularly useful if you have a complicated product.
It also gives them the assurance that they will be able to quickly and easily contact you for after-sales support.

Use video
One way to be more human on the web is to use videos. A video of people speaking about your product or service is always a great way of showing your users what it is about, and how it can benefit them.

Show them reasons to trust you
Let you users know that their information is safe with you, by telling them that you are using SSL (if you do). Show that payments are securely encrypted if you receive e-payments.

Test, test, test
Test your web site on all browsers and on all devices. Run through actual use case scenarios that could occur in the real world and make sure that your website will perform under all of these conditions.