Have you ever sat at a restaurant table, opened the menu, and then saw that there was something approaching fifty options? If you’re like me, it probably took you ten minutes or longer just to make a choice: “Well, I haven’t had steak in a while… but the chicken looks delicious! Wait, but what about the smoked salmon…? Oh… I don’t know what to order!”
Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this feeling “the paradox of choice” – people want a greater number of choices even though having that amount seems to cause more stress. It is hard to remain focused when one has a multitude of choices. An article in “Psychology Today” gives a business example of how having too many choices often leads to indecision:
…when shoppers are given the option of choosing among smaller and larger assortments of jam, they show more interest in the larger assortment. But when it comes time to pick just one, they’re 10 times more likely to make a purchase if they choose among six rather than among 24 flavors of jam.
If you are at the aforementioned restaurant table, you will end up ordering something because, well, you are stuck there (and you do not want to starve). But if you are in an environment like a supermarket, you are completely free to purchase something or walk away. And the same holds true in the context of websites and Internet marketing.
If you or your company is engaged in any form of online marketing, then your likely goal is to increase the number of people who are coming to your website and/or social-media site. But what, exactly, do you want them to do once they get there? Many firms never really ask themselves this question, and this is why their efforts are probably less than stellar. Too many companies use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or social-media marketing (SMM) effectively but then send all of the prospects to the main page of their websites.
That’s the Internet equivalent of throwing a clump of cooked spaghetti at the wall and seeing if anything will stick.
When someone arrives at the home page of a site, they may think one or more of the following at the same time:
- “That ad looks interesting – I’ll click on it!”
- “Oh, this company has a blog! I wonder what they think about the latest news on the industry.”
- “I’m trying to find this product, should I go to their Products page, their online catalogue? I’m not sure…”
And, as the “Paradox of Choice” reveals, such a person would be faced with so many options that he may not choose to do what you most want him to do, or he might leave the site altogether – especially if he only has a few seconds to make a decision while surfing before, say, going back to work.
What is the most-important thing that you want each visitor arriving at your site through PPC or SMM to do? If you have aligned your marketing strategy with your business strategy, then you should already know the answer. It might be to click on an advertisement to generate revenue, to fill out a form so your sales department can contact him, to “like” your Facebook page, to go to a certain product’s order form, or something else.
Once you know your desired goal, the next step is to create what is called a “landing page” and then direct all traffic from the given source to that page. Still, it is important to create a good one (see Wikipedia’s donation landing-page at the top of this post for an example). Here are some general tips:
- Your desired task (say, filling out a form) should be the only thing that the visitor can do at the landing page. Do not give him the ability to click elsewhere to go to another place on the website. Do not offer both a form and a link to a product catalogue. In the “paradox of choice” theory, people make more choices when they have fewer options – and if website visitors have only one choice, then more of them will do the one thing that you want. This is why landing pages have higher conversion-rates.
- Keep it short, sweet and simple. Have a big headline, a few lines of text, and an attractive photo or video around and beside the “call to action.” In an increasingly-hectic and digital world, people have less and less time. You have only a few seconds to communicate your message and convince the visitor to take the desired action.
- Track your results. Use Google Analytics or another tracking tool to monitor conversion rates. An easy way to do so in Analytics is to create a “thank-you page” that is only accessible by someone performing the desired task on the landing page – nowhere else on the site should link to that page, and it should be blocked from being indexed by search engines. This way, you can compare the traffic to the thank-you page to the total traffic going to the landing page (every unique visitor to the thank-you page is a conversion).
- Test your results. In addition, you should test the landing page – perhaps a different color, different text, or something else will increase conversions? Either run different versions of the landing page each for a set period of time or set your website to deliver one of the versions randomly to each visitor. Once you analyze the data, you can see which one is delivering the best results.
Unless your target is a captive audience – like, someone who is about to order food – then it is crucial to limit the options that you present to your inbound traffic. That way, you will obtain more leads and sales. But just remember one other thing: If you’re asked to choose between the option of chicken or fish on an airplane – always choose the chicken!