Attracting prospective clients and customers to your site is only half the struggle—the other half is actually making the sale or conversion.

One way to increase your conversion ratio is to make sure your Web site is easy to navigate and information is easy to find. In other words, ensure its "usability." Often, search engine optimization and marketing principles benefit a site's usability with people as well as search engines.

Here are some tips on how to improve usability and improve your conversion rates.

Analyze the usability factor

Your Web site can drastically change over time with the addition of new products, services and content. That's why it's crucial to regularly put yourself in your visitor's shoes and evaluate what they experience.

Carefully study your homepage. Can visitors quickly find what they are looking for? Is the site navigation simple and logical, or are visitors confused by too many options, too much junk or flashy ads?

Even though you know your product inside and out, assume your customers don't. Show them why it is the best, how it can be used and how it will benefit them. Offer free demos (if possible), or provide customer testimonials or third-party reviews from professional sources.

Try to get an outside perspective. Ask a few trusted customers, other business associates, or family members to look at your site with fresh eyes.

Deliver what you promise

Some sites forget to follow up on their promises. Or, just as frustrating, the product that's attracting customers' attention is buried behind other information. Putting essentials in the back of a store might work for the grocer down the street, but it doesn't fly online. Online customers have a choice: If they don't see what they want right away, they leave and click over to a competitor.

You can show visitors other products and services after you deliver on your offer, whether you're touting free shipping, a white paper, a case study or specific product benefits. Your customers will have a more positive experience, and they may bookmark your site so they can come back again and again.

Design landing pages with care

Make good on any headline or offer, whether you're directing traffic from pay-per-click ads and banner ads or links to specific pages. For example, if you advertise, "Download A Free Demo," then be sure to give them the free demo. No tricks or gimmicks. No lengthy explanations of your other services or products, no matter how great they are. There's time for that later, after you make your customers happy by giving them what they requested.

Landing page design should be clean; it should have easy-to-find buttons and a clear call to action. Test which images work best. In general, photos of people are attractive and engaging, but you'll also need to determine what kind of product photo tells the best story or explains the most about your benefits.

Small changes, like tweaking the location of your submit button, can add up to big differences, influencing conversion rates by as much as 40 percent.

Keep the navigation options to a minimum. The point of a landing page is to quickly guide your prospect to the item, issue or offer that caught his or her attention in the first place. Too many navigational choices are distracting. Plus, if you're trying to guide folks to a form, you don't want them to veer off track.

Forms are a good way to capture information about your prospects on your landing pages, which should provide information or some other benefit in return for a completed form. Keep those forms as short as possible—users can suffer form fatigue and abandon your offer if they get bored or you ask for info that they feel is too personal.

To make prospects comfortable about telling you who they are, display your privacy policy and let prospects know what you plan to do with their information. Ask permission on the form before you follow up with a phone call or email. And keep testing these actions as well, finding the precise balance of information gathered to information shared.

Rely on your analytics technology

Your analytics technology should be able to tell you where visitors enter your site and what content interests them. Some visitors might enter on a page touting a research study, for instance. Keep them engaged by making it easy for them to explore related topics, suggesting they read a new products page or subscribe to a newsletter. Use your analytics technology to find out what components engage them most.

In the end, the most compelling reason customers buy is because they believe in you or your product. Make it easy for them to see your benefits. Analyze your site regularly, making sure it's easy to navigate and delivers what you promise. Then watch your visitors turn to loyal, paying customers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Wehr is president of Oneupweb. For more information, visit oneupweb.com.