Conversion: Assessing 15 Sites In 90 Minutes

June 10, 2007
By Robbin Steif

While I am waiting for everyone to submit entries to the “Criticize GA Documentation” contest, I have to tell you about this great conversion clinic I did on Thursday.

You know how the SEO events have clinics, where people submit their sites, and a few experts evaluate problems/opportunities in real time? Well, I did the same thing for conversion – an “expert” analysis. I cautioned the audience that the best experts would be users, but that this might be one place to start.

It must have been a success, because after the event, four or five people came up to me and typed in their sites and asked me to do those evaluations, too. (Not surprisingly, that’s when I got to see the really low-hanging fruit.)

Here are some of the things that I saw across many sites:

Incompatibility with Firefox. Not a few website owners were surprised at the way their sites rendered in Firefox, and commented that some text didn’t show up, or that links were broken there.

No scent. Scent comes in lots of different flavors (ooh, there’s a good one), but one of the ways I want to see scent is inline links that enable me to pursue my goal (links right in the copy.) I saw pages and pages of text with no links.

Hidden Forms. I saw lots of B-to-B Contact Us forms that were hidden behind links. If that’s your goal, why don’t you have a form on every page, or at least, start your form on every page?

Hidden Phone numbers.. If a phone call is one of your most important calls to action, why don’t you have it at the top of every page? This is the same issue as the last one — why do people hide their call to action?

Navigation. I saw those standard B-to-B non-descriptive navigation terms: Home, Services, Products, About Us, Contact Us and Resources. (Why can’t anybody say what they sell in their navigation? Well, one lady did that.)

On-site search. I found very few on-site search boxes. The only one that I remember was from a lady who had a Yahoo! store.

It’s All About Us. Companies that talked about themselves instead of their customers.

You sell what? I saw this a lot, companies that didn’t make it clear what they sold. More than once, I had to ask a website owner, “Now, what is it you guys do or sell?”

I didn’t see a lot of “my nephew created it” websites, and no one required a sign-in before they allowed you to spend money. (Although one guy made his “sign in here if you are already registered” so prominent that it obscured the other options.)

I love to speak in public, and this clinic was more fun than perhaps any other presentation I’ve done. I couldn’t have done the seminar if it weren’t for the help that LunaMetricians Taylor Pratt and Shareen Jordan gave me (during the two minutes that I studied each site, they got up and talked about best practices in conversion or analytics.) Also helping in that space was Tim Sweet from Nauticom. (He absolutely lives up to his name.)

Endnotes: Many thanks to Scott Baldwin for debugging our blog and showing me why Safari was so intolerant of the unmatched tag. And to the two people who already made submissions to my “Criticize GA Documentation” contest. So come on, come on, let’s get some more entries.