I detest yard work. I force myself to do it, but more for the sake of my neighbors—who are undoubtedly in regular competition for the yard-of-the-month award—than for personal satisfaction. So when I arrived home recently to find a flyer attached to my mailbox touting landscaping services, I had a light bulb moment. It was marketing at its finest: this company effectively targeted a qualified consumer at the precise time I was in need of services they offer.

I called the number, excited to finally outsource a lifelong dreaded task. I left a voicemail and waited. The afternoon went by, then a day, then two days with no returned call. With time running out before guests arrived for the weekend, I grabbed my lawn equipment and fumed my way through three hours of mowing, raking and trimming. I wondered why the lawn care company bothered to leave the flyer in the first place.

Conversions: It’s a Dirty Job, But Someone Has to Do It

The non-responsive landscaping company successfully targeted me, the consumer, and generated a legitimate interest in their services. Unfortunately, they did not leverage my interest into a sale. This scenario is not limited to traditional advertising; I also see it played out routinely in the digital marketing realm. Business owners all too often spend the lion’s share of time, money and effort attracting qualified traffic to their website, with little planning aimed at turning that traffic into paying clients. For some mind blowing statistics about lead response, check out Jerod’s blog post .

If such a practice is your modus operandi, fear not, because help is on the way. The key to increasing conversions is understanding the modern website visitor, anticipating their questions and giving them convenient solutions. Step into the mind of your target audience and follow along a three-step path to conversion glory:

1. Tell Me About Yourself—In 5 Seconds Or Less.

The typical website visitor—and that includes most of us—is infamously impatient and attention-deficit. According to QuickSprout, websites have approximately five seconds to grab the attention of visitors. Today’s website users are much more likely to be “scanners” than readers. Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group conducted a visual eye-tracking study involving 232 website visitors to determine how they interacted with a variety of web pages.

The heatmap image illustrates the dominant “F-shaped” pattern that emerged from these studies. Participants began in the upper left portion of the content and read in a horizontal pattern, then moved slightly down the page and read in another horizontal pattern, forming the second bar of the “F.” Finally, users scanned vertically down the left side of the remainder of the page.

There are three key takeaways from this study. Begin by crafting a strong opening headline and include the most vital information in the first couple of paragraphs. Next, format the entire page with scanners in mind. Break up content with subheadlines, graphics, images and videos to allow your visitors to breathe in the wonders of a page that invites quick and efficient scanning. Last but not least, ensure that all content and page elements are highly relevant and useful to your target audience. Jazzed-up formatting will not compensate for poor quality, and users can quickly find the back arrow if they are displeased with any portion of your online offerings.

2. What Exactly Would You Like Me To Do?

Because they tend to be impatient, website visitors are particularly receptive to clear guidance. Without it, they are forced to wander aimlessly until becoming bored or frustrated and exiting the site. Each page should have a single, primary goal and the page design should support that goal. Avoid any clutter that confuses visitors or detracts them from the task at hand:

After a visitor reads or scans the page content, the site should leave no doubt as to what they should do next. If, for example, a local business website has a primary goal of phone calls to their office, the phone number should be prominently displayed in the standard upper right corner location. Many websites stop there, but the phone number itself often isn’t enough. Add a call to action in the main content, as well as an incentive for the visitor to make the call. This could be anything of value to a potential customer, such as a current special on a particular service or a discount to new customers.

At one time I ran a skincare website with the primary goal of opt-ins to an email marketing list. I thought the smartly worded signup form in the sidebar would function as a beacon in the night to information-thirsty visitors, but instead it just collected digital cobwebs. I decided to add a “Next Steps” section at the end of the page content that included the following line: “Fill out the form above to receive your FREE Report—‘3 Surprising Household Items That Clear Your Skin In 72 Hours Or Less.’” The result? A robust 276 percent increase in opt-ins, simply because I answered my visitors’ questions with an additional, strategically placed call to action.

3. What Else Can You Offer Me?

Either on the initial F-shaped scan or after they have deemed your site worthy of an extended stay, visitors will examine your primary navigation bar. This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate other options relevant to the user.

There are two common but easily correctable navigation menu mistakes our higher education marketing firm sees on a regular basis when performing technical audits for clients.

Navigation Mistake #1 is using industry jargon, slang or any other unclear heading as a navigation label. If users don’t understand a navigation item, they often won’t bother clicking on it. Always use terms that resonate with your target audience for navigation headings.

Navigation Mistake #2: Failing to highlight key services with the primary navigation. The typical navigation locations—top horizontal or left vertical—are prime website real estate. Make sure you are utilizing it to showcase categories and pages that drive ROI. Less important items can be consolidated under another heading or moved to a footer menu.


As you can see, online consumers are altogether fickle and fussy, informed and savvy. Most importantly for business owners, they are also predictable. Use the insights above to give your visitors exactly what they are looking for, and you’ll see your conversions—not unlike my front lawn—grow exponentially.