How To Increase Sales By Tracking Web User Behavior

In my last post, we looked at some of the things you could do to boost the conversions on your website.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this "How To Increase Sales Conversions" series, the biggest part of turning prospects into customers is increasing trust and creating reassurance. We looked at some of the website turn-offs for visitors in that post, and how to address these. 

Once you’ve dealt to those issues, you then need to look at exactly what’s happening behind the scenes in the interaction between your site and your visitors.

So what’s the best way to get clear on the stumbling blocks that hinder conversion?

We’re going to show you some methodologies that help make this easy, and some tools you can use to find out where the issues lie. 

By knowing your site’s weaker points, you can both re-order and optimize these things for better click-through rates on your ads and content.

So - let’s take a look at what you now need to consider for optimal conversions.

The first thing you need to think about is:


How You Can Track User Behavior To Increase Your Conversions

We’re talking about working with more than just your garden variety web stats here! You want to know where people’s actual eyeballs are focusing, or the mouse hover rates on certain parts of your page.

What this means is you’ll be able to tell when you’re on the money with every part of your page. If you’re not - you fix what’s not working, and format it so that it does.

The way that you format your content can mean the difference between a browser and a buyer. By placing things in a way that works with web user behavior - not against it, you increase your opportunity for conversion exponentially.

So - to begin getting this info, you first want to know:


Where are people most likely to look?

Eye tracking is tracking the movement of users’ eyes to show exactly where they look when they scan a page.

And eye tracking studies have revealed where web visitors look on a web page, and how long for. It’s fascinating stuff to look at!

Studies have shown that visitors tend to look at things in the following order:

1) the upper-left-hand area of the page
2) your headline
3) the left-hand side of the page

Generally, reading patterns online tend to resemble the letter “F”. This means when someone’s reading a web page, their eyes will usually follow an “F” shaped lightning-fast journey around it.

Here’s a heat map of a website's "About Us" page from an eye tracking study as an example:

Eye Tracking Heat Map Of A Web Page
An eyetracking heatmaps shows a web user's browsing patterns

There you have it! The "F" pattern as it happens. 

You can see that the focus is on info that’s presented as bulleted lists. In this example, there's some attention to the "see also" area. However, there’s none to the promotions in the rightmost column.

Looking at the example of an e-commerce checkout, you’ll find that users paid little attention to the cross-selling offers, which is a common finding.

Eye tracking heat map of an ecommerce checkout page
Eyetracking patterns on a shopping cart page

We can see looking at the results of a search engine page that the further you go down the page, the less viewing there is.
Eye tracking heat map of search engine results page
An example of typical eyetracking patterns on a search engine results page

The bulk of interest also remains on the left hand side of the page here. It’s interesting to note that in this example, there is some attention to paid listing results.

To find out more about eye tracking, you can download a free 159 page report at http://www.useit.com/eyetracking/methodology/

This includes:

•   the best way to run eye tracking studies for accurate usability insights
•   common pitfalls that lead to false results
•   the different  research methods available
•   how to conduct your own research
•   advice on whether to do eye tracking at all, or whether simpler usability studies will give a higher ROI

If you decide you’re serious about this and want to do your own eye tracking study, you can also check out EyeTools.com.

However, real eye-tracking can be expensive. Here’s a less costly method - and you can even get some freebie trials!


Click Mapping

Which elements of your web page get your user's attention? How do you know what you should be focusing on - and where?

Many people just guesstimate these things!

However, click maps give you the opportunity to take a lot of the guess-work out of what catches your visitor’s attention, and what interests them long enough to take action. 

Click maps work by registering where users click on the page, giving an indication of where their eyes are drawn. Here are some sites with click mapping tools that you can check out to help you get clear on what’s working on your site, and what’s not:


1. CrazyEgg

Crazyegg's service lets you to see the parts of your page that your visitors click on.

You can create tests to figure out what people are doing on your site. You can also find out where people click based upon the things like: Top 15 Referrers, Search Terms, Operating System, and Browser. No free trial, but you can sign up for their basic package for $9 a month.


2. Clickdensity

This one uses real-time visitor data to:

1. Improve your information architecture
2. Optimize link and ad placement
3. Analyze and enhance your site stickiness
4. Test and refine your content and processes

You can get really specific here. For example, you might already know that one of your ad images is being clicked 2,000 times a week. However, Clickdensity might reveal that 90% of the clicks are in the bottom-right corner of the image. It might also show that users with smaller screen sizes click less often than users with larger screens.  

Armed with this information, you can then make a call as to whether the "click here" text in the bottom right of the image can’t be seen by  those users, and might need  be moved elsewhere.

There’s a free trial available for a month.


3. ClickTale

ClickTale is similar to Crazy Egg. However, you can also record Flash movies of your visitors’ browsing sessions. Plus you’re able to see how far people scroll down your pages. By working with the heat maps that are generated, you can discover any significant trends, such as visitor hesitation and average hover times.

These guys have also just done a new release which helps you discover how visitors interact with your site’s online forms.

For example, you can find out:
•    what a visitor types
•    how long it takes them
•    which fields they skip
•    where they get stuck
•    why they leave

They have a free monthly subscription, which they recommend for bloggers.


How You Can Benefit From The Results Of Your Website User Behavior

So what do you need to consider once you’ve got all this great stuff sorted? 

Well, this is where you have to put your strategy hat on and take a look at:

1.    what you need from your site
2.    what works best for you on your site

You need to weigh up whether you’re more likely to get a customer through direct or indirect means. This is where testing and measuring becomes so important. If you don’t monitor the things that work and don’t work, you can’t tell which changes you make have a worth while impact.

For example, often you’ll find that while it may take longer, your conversion rate can be higher when people have already subscribed to your newsletter or downloaded a free white paper. (Why? Because you’ve taken the time and effort to give something of value that’s created a level of trust and rapport. But you knew that already!)

Look at all the other elements on your page, and track all the results you can to discover what your prospects find of most interest. Don’t worry about how just yet – we’ll come to that!

For example, let’s say you discovered your conversion rate was highest when a prospect became a newsletter subscriber first. How could you take advantage of this info, and what you now know about web user behavior?

First up - this would mean that you’d want to have the sign-up box for this in a place that a prospect is most likely to see. And if we look at the eye tracking research, this would be on the left hand side of the screen.


Make sure what’s most important is placed above the fold

Something else to consider with this is that you would also want this valuable spot to be placed “above the fold”.
 
This is an old direct marketing term which relates to all the important news being located above the crease of a folded newspaper. In online terms, this now translates to information in the top half of your computer screen.

Once you start to scroll down, this is considered “below the fold”. Most users don’t like to scroll - and some refuse to. You need to structure and weight the information on your pages to this behavior pattern.

So, what this means is that all your most important stuff should be above the fold. This way, your visitor doesn’t need to scroll down for the info. 

Don’t assume you know what the “most important stuff” is either. While the “Buy Now” button might be important to you, it could be a turn off to a prospect if that’s the first thing they see!

Make sure you check out what’s working well, and what’s not.

You also want to work out which of your products make the most overall profit. If your research confirms that these are strong areas of interest for most users - this needs to be incorporated into the design of your page.

Put these in the most valuable real estate of your page - you got it - on the left hand-side above the fold. 

So we’ve covered some methodologies to really help you understand those website users of yours. We’ve also looked at some of the tools that can help gather such valuable insights.

And we’ve looked at how important the right formatting is for optimizing your conversions.

Look out for our next post in this “Increasing Your Conversions” series, when I’ll walk you through how you can optimize your copy as well.

August 28, 2009

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