And 5 fundamental principles of better website engagement to turn things around
When you’ve invested so much time, money, and effort into your website, it’s galling that users aren’t responding the way you thought they would.
You tell yourself it’s only a matter of time. That you need exposure and better marketing. Yet other, more fundamental, factors are at play too and if you have the stomach for it, your best friend, Google Analytics, is ready to share some hard truths about why people are leaving your website.
- No-one’s staying on your site for more than 6.8 seconds
- People are finding you with search terms that have nothing to do with what you sell
- People are adding things to your cart, and then abandoning it when it comes to getting their credit card out
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed, do it today. It’s free. It’s also easy to install but has a slight learning curve if you want to use it effectively. Invest this time, or hire someone (like me) to do it for you because the information you get is pure gold.
Right, let’s get started. Here are 5 reasons people are leaving your website without hiring you or giving you a chance:
1) You haven’t thought your business through
It’s normal for people to have a business idea and run with it, thinking they’ll pad it out as it takes off.
My clients do it, and I too did it when I started my business way back. I thought I’d easily get customers because the internet was new and I was well in front of the curve.
I failed miserably. I knew little about marketing or customer psychology or even what I was selling. It turns out people don’t want a website, they want a business.
My business took off when I understood the deepest meaning of that sentence. I loved web design and writing and graphic designing and blah blah blah… but my clients didn’t care what I loved.
They wanted me to fix their problems. The same way you want the plumber to stop an overflowing bath crashing through your ceiling. You don’t care about the plumber’s life journey or their kids or the challenges they’ve overcome to get to where they are. JUST GET IT DONE, is what you’re screaming inside your head as the ceiling bulges.
Be a solution
Avoid setting up your website as a brochure or in the style of your favourite influencer. Their business is not your business, and truly you have no idea if they’re just blindly copying someone else’s style.
If people are leaving your website, it’s because your website isn’t showing people you’re a solution to their problems.
Talking about your qualifications and experience isn’t enough. To stop people from leaving your website, you have to give them something to stay for.
- 50% it’s a copywriting issue.
- 50% it’s a “Ima-Set-Up-My-Website-And-Wing-It” issue.
Setting up a website is cheap, but turning it into a business needs a plan.
Answer these questions:
- What are people buying from you?
- Why do they want it?
- How are you supplying it?
- Where are they hearing you?
- When does the money come in?
Get deep with your answers as this is a basis of a well-formed business plan. You need to guide your strategy with the right business mindset.
Your website is a reflection of your priorities and to encourage people to stay on your website, show them that their problems are your priority.
2) Your website design is pretty ugly
You can probably get away with an ugly website if your content is amazing and you’ve been established for 20 years and have a strong reader base.
In general though, you’ve got 15 seconds to make a good impression before the reader clicks away.
That’s assuming you’ve made it past the 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) it takes for a person to decide if they like the look of your website enough to stay and skim headlines.
Website design is much easier now than it was back in the 90’s when I got started. Back then, I coded everything in raw HTML/CSS. Now, there are themes that pretty much give you your website gift-wrapped.
Don’t be fooled. There’s a lot more to an attractive website than 3 matching colours and white space.
Qualities of good-looking website design
Websites are like houses – good ones make the reader feel like they’re home, bad ones makes them want to move.
Notice I’m talking about the reader feeling at home, not you. A common (and natural) mistake new business owners make is commissioning or undertaking a website design for their own aesthetics rather than customer usability.
Clear navigation: Focus your primary menu on key parts of your site. File other parts as sub-menus or on secondary navigation menus. Every page does not need to be a menu item.
Fast loading pages: Site speed is a ranking factor for Google. Customers find it important too. The graph below shows how page abandonment increases the longer a page takes to load. Aim for a 3 second load time – optimise your site code and images, and use a good web host who understands the importance of server speed. I recommend (and use) Siteground.
Pay special attention to image loading times and use image-caching. Siteground provides this in their hosting.
Clean clutter-free layout: Build a clear sense of purpose on each page. Use font sizes, graphic design, and white space to lead the reader’s eye to where you want their attention to go.
Respect the reader: Use eye-friendly font face and size – white text on a dark background, like black or red, strains the eyes and is offputting when there’s too much text, or if the text is too small. Check your website is mobile-friendly to avoid people leaving your website simply because they can’t access it.
Respect the white space: Too much is isolating and makes the page feel and look arty or clunky like it has massive pauses in it. Too little is claustrophobic and hard to read.
Hide work-in-progress: Missing sections and placeholders give an amateur feel to your site and damages credibility. Simply turn off the visibility of work in progress and you change the reader’s perception completely.
3) You’re playing games with Google and your audience
One of the ways Google gathers information about your site is from the words you use. It gets a sense of you and presents this information to people searching for those words.
If you’re not consistent with your content, you end up giving Google some mixed messages and Google ends up sending you the wrong traffic.
Example: imagine you’re a private chef and you create your website and start blogging about food and etiquette. You’re a passionate animal lover too so when you’re bored of food topics, you write about animal rescue and the evils of the fur trade too.
You’re passionate about this and Google picks up it because you’re writing more animal articles than chef articles. It starts sending you people looking to get involved with animal rescue.
These animal lovers come to your site and finding you’re not a rescue organisation after all, off they go leaving your website as soon as they arrive. You’re a private chef but they didn’t come looking for that. They’re disappointed they didn’t get what they wanted and you’re disappointed you didn’t get a sale.
Be proactive with content marketing.
Write articles optimised for keywords that tell Google exactly what your website is about. Yes, you can write about animals, but relate it back to your niche and have a deliberate strategy over what you write.
Instead of attracting animal activists, you can position your brand to attract animal lovers who are also interested in hiring or learning from a private chef.
That’s the wonderful thing about being in control of your own online business. Your product or service may not be unique, but you can incorporate your passions and interests to create a brand that totally stands out.
And you’re not playing with Google anymore and people won’t be leaving your website as soon as they arrive – you’re giving google a better representation of the people your business serves.
4) You’re giving people exactly what they don’t want
Sometimes your strategy is sound but tactical or technical issues get in the way. Avoidable problems that make people leave your website are easy to fix.
You’ll find people leaving your website when they hit unexpected and frustrating roadblocks. The more steps you’ve made them take before they get to the roadblock, the unhappier they’ll be.
Most visitors are not buyers: Most people who visit your website will not be ready to buy. They’re looking for information or needing a way to build a relationship with you before they commit.
You’re coming on too strong if your website copy reads like a sales pitch and the only CTA is for a sales call. It’s too pushy. Take the time to dance – give them access to your newsletter or invite them to follow your social media.
Test your chatbots regularly: If you run automated sales sequences, it’s easy to get complacent about your tried and tested systems. As a buyer, I’ve had to abandon my shopping cart when the chatbot malfunctioned and there was no other way to contact the seller.
Show your contact details: Share your email address even if you have a contact form. Lots of people don’t use forms and prefer email because it lets them have a copy of what they send.
The best websites suffer technical issues and you can’t pre-empt every situation. But it’s hard to attract the right visitors to your site, let alone keep their attention when they’re there. So to prevent people leaving your website unecessarily, do test everything you can, especially pre-launch and after major site changes.
A website audit is one of the best proactive ways to get yourself back on track. It’ll show you what’s working, what isn’t, and what you need to do to realign your tactics with your vision.
Stop customers leaving your website.
5) Your site is full of gimmicks and adverts
Adverts and affiliate sales are legitimate revenue routes and done correctly, they blend seamlessly into the user experience.
Done wrong, they give your site an air of desperation and cheapen your service.
There are websites that get away with the worst type of advert pollution. They have a massive reader-base because they offer something very desirable. In the case of the Daily Mail Online, the attraction is an active comments section for their salacious click-bait news articles. (Don’t go there without an ad-blocker.)
But YOU are not the Daily Mail and gimmicks are superfluous to your integrity. People are leaving your website because they see this. The internet has been full of gimmicks for a while and users have developed click-bait immune systems. They kind of expect you to be overpromising and they’re tuned not to believe everything you say.
Don’t believe me? Think of your own thought process when you go to a brand new website that’s promising to turn you into “the best version of you” and tell me you’re not ready to turn tail and leave!
That’s another thing. Cliches are phrases that died a long time ago but life coaches and Instagram won’t let them rest in peace. People like short pithy quotes and Instagram has rebirthed more cliches than any other platform in history…
Yes, it’ll get you followers but chasing a high follower count is not an indication of success.
You can attract people to your website with gimmicks and click-bait. But you can’t make them stay or come back.
- Keep pop-ups for when people are leaving your site
- Size adverts so they don’t fill more space than your actual content
Connect with their mindset and you’ll attract people who want to stay
You created your business because you wanted to be your own boss and have the independence to do your thing without the unpredictability or the noose of a boss hanging over you.
But you also created your business because you’re damned good at what you do.
AND you want to help people. AND you want to change their lives, but not in a cliche Instagram kind of way. You want to change their lives because THEY deserve to have their problems solved.
Take another look at your website. Make it more about the client and help them see you’re the solution.
Fix your navigation.
Make your words tell them you understand and you care.
Let Google know you’re in business.
It won’t be long before people flock over and decide leaving your website is not an option. You’re giving them exactly what they want and need.