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Remember the days when all you needed on your website was the most basic description of your business, your phone number, and your address? (And for those readers who don’t remember this, yes, that used to be how it was.) People weren’t building websites that capture leads and convert prospects yet.

Oh, how our expectations – as consumers and as business owners – have evolved.

Now, marketing and web development have combined forces to make websites a sophisticated extension of your business development team – capturing leads and converting them into prospects and customers 24/7. That’s the goal. Anything less is wasting your development budget. (Especially since it’s estimated that 78% of B2C consumers and 85% of B2C consumers conduct research online before they make purchasing decisions, meaning they’re seeing your website BEFORE they ever contact you.)

But having a website that looks nice and functions reasonably well isn’t enough to guarantee that it will increase sales, encourage sign-ups, or inform prospective customers about what you do or sell.

There’s an art and a science behind designing a website with a high conversion rate, from attracting traffic to encouraging consumers to surrender their email addresses.

Based on our client experience and industry best practices, the RTS Labs team has come up with 6 tips for building a website that captures leads and converts prospects.

Define your most wanted action

While you may have several actions you hope visitors will take or overall outcomes you want to happen, when it comes to your home page you really need to decide on the one action you’d like your site visitors to take. That singular action needs to be the focus of your home page.

  • Are you trying to get leads through email newsletter sign-ups?
  • Do you want people to sign up for a trial version of your software?
  • Is there one specific flagship product you want people to buy first?

Whatever that one thing is, it needs to be front and center. Do not assume that displaying your most awesome features will lead to website visitors filling out your email sign-up list or signing up for a free trial of your software. You’ve got to tell them what you want them to do with clear calls to action and big buttons that say “Add to cart” or “Sign up here”.

Get rid of the clutter

You know why people are scared of credit card terms of service? Because they are scared of things that seem too complex. Websites are no different. Your website needs to be as simple and clean as possible. When website visitors are presented with a slew of options that draw their eyes all over the page, they get confused. They miss your calls to action to sign up or purchase your product. Then, they leave your site, because they couldn’t figure out what to do or felt too overwhelmed and abandoned ship.

Too many words on the home page can have the same effect. You need to pare down the copy on your website to be as succinct and clear as possible. Even if you have tons of features, pick the best ones that you think will grab potential customers and display those alongside your product.

Know your audience

Websites are marketing tools. As with all marketing efforts, you’ve got to know who your customer is if you want to convert them. Who are you talking to? It can’t be everyone. You need to build a customer profile or buyer persona that lays out whom you are speaking to, what their pain points are, and what they value. This way, you can speak directly to their needs in terms they understand. Converting a website visitor is all about speaking their language.

Fine tune your value proposition

This goes along with knowing your audience. Website visitors who can’t figure out what you do, what your company is about – or what action you want them to take – will never convert. Your value proposition needs to tell website visitors what you do, what your site is about, what they can do on your site, and why it is useful to them. And it needs to address these things in a concise, easy-to-read manner.

Use psychology

There are tons of behavioral psychology studies that can be used to fine tune your website. For example, Fitts’s Law predicts that “the time required to rapidly move to a target area is a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target.” If you think of this law in terms of the actions you’d like a visitor to take (sign up, fill out a form, or add a product to the shopping cart, to name a few), then psychology will tell you that you can increase the desired action by simply making the target larger and placing it closer to the user’s expected mouse location in order to minimize mouse movement.

Another important law in behavioral psychology that can be used to optimize your website for conversions is the Law of Past Experiences. This law implies that under certain circumstances visual stimuli are categorized according to past experiences. This law should guide the design and placement of certain aspects of your website. Unique design is great, but a change in design that is too different from what people are conditioned to expect will throw off your users.

People have certain questions they want answers to when they visit a website. While it’s great to wordsmith it up and inject personality into the copy and design, users will be looking for familiar prompts or cues where they know and expect information to be, such as your “about” page to find out more about you and the “contact” page for your contact information. One page you definitely want to make sure conforms to expectations is your checkout page. You need to make sure it looks like a standard, trustworthy checkout page to encourage people to take action and to make it easier to use.

Test Often

Lastly, you should always be testing changes and tweaks to your website. Slight changes to the design, copy, and functionality of your website can have huge impacts on conversions. What elements could be keeping customers from converting? Which ones make conversions skyrocket? Are your forms too long? Is your copy not clear enough? Look for friction, test a change, and keep moving forward.

Businesses that are continually fine tuning their websites learn a lot about their target audience and get better at driving conversions. It’s all about finding the barriers and removing them.

If you keep these 6 tips for building a website that captures leads and converts prospects in mind when updating and managing your website, you’ll have added a valuable business development tool to your marketing arsenal.