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Beware of Conversion Cannibalism

How we allow CTAs to cannibalise on each other.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

Does your front page suffer from conversion cannibalism?

Most organisations put too much content on their front pages. Unknowingly, they hurt their conversions and, by extension — their business objectives.

In this article, I will demonstrate why less is more in front-page design.

Let’s go:

The Website Front-Page Debate

“We must put my stuff on the front page because it’s crucial.”

I often get involved in heated debates on what to include on the front page. If I weigh into the debate that they should remove certain elements, the chances are that someone will get offended. Like, “how dare you remove my work from our front page?”

Since this is a tricky situation, I want to give you some easy-to-follow examples to help you straighten your front-page strategy.

The key to an efficient front page design is to stop thinking about what to put on the front page regarding what’s “important” and what’s “not important”. Take a look at Google’s front page:

The Google Front Page
Google’s front page is clean. How about yours?

Now, Google has lots of essential products. Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Trends, Google Adsense, Google Scholar, and many more. The only service that makes it onto the front page is Gmail (top right corner), but it isn’t exactly prominent on the front page.

All these Google products are reasonably significant, right? Even still, these Google products don’t make the cut for Google’s front page — the Google search page.

And Google ought to know something about how the web works.

The Paradox of Choice

Imagine a web page with 1,000 visitors per day. The page has only one button for the users to click. The conversion rate for the site is 2% on average. That’s 20 clicks on your button.

So, what if you add another button? In most use cases, the conversion rate for the page doesn’t go up — it falls. Instead of getting 20 clicks on one button, you might get ten clicks on two buttons.

Competing call-to-actions will cannibalise each other.

This is the paradox of choice. In 1995, Professor Shena Iyengar from Columbia University launched a market stall with different jam flavours. When she offered twenty-four options, more people came to the booth. When she only offered six choices, more people converted into paying customers.

Our decision-making process is complex, but researchers have offered many possible explanations, such as decision fatigue, analysis paralysis, and buyer’s remorse.

Strive to show visitors only what they came for. Kill your darlings.

Only when the user goes deeper into your site can you show them more of your content.

Horizontal vs Vertical CTAs

An easy way to think of website CTAs (call-to-actions) is to think of buttons and forms. Buttons and forms are precious since they determine your conversions.

There is a form of “alignment cannibalism” taking place when it comes to buttons and forms. And these alignment issues should be considered when designing your front page.

  • Buttons and forms with different CTAs compete on a web page. One single CTA often converts more than several CTAs in total.
  • Buttons and forms compete with each other when they’re stacked horizontally on a web page. It would be best to strive only to present one single button or form per horizontal block.
  • Buttons and forms with different CTAs compete with each other if stacked vertically. But not as much as if you stacked them horizontally.
  • If buttons and forms are stacked vertically and contain the same CTA, the total conversion rate for that web page is likely to go up!

On the web today, we see a trend where there is white space to both the left and right of buttons and forms. And we see a trend where more of the same CTAs are stacked from top to bottom.

You’re Probably Not an Exception

Yes, there are successful businesses that also have cluttered websites:

Amazon.com might be the prime example, but my favourite got to be lingscars.com and her rather “more-is-more” approach to web design:

Lings Car Website Design
A prime example of cluttered website design that works—for Ling.

But your business is probably not Ling’s. And it probably isn’t Amazon’s.

You also have to ask yourself if cluttered is the right direction for your brand. A statistical guess would be: No.

Unless you’re running a non-posh e-commerce- or news site with lots of content and a high turnover on content items, I would be careful with such an over-the-top strategy.

Priority: The Small Ask

The choice of what to put on the front page isn’t related to what’s necessary or not necessary. Instead, your front page should be regarded only as a point of entry into your brand’s universe.

The psychology behind focusing on smaller asks is straightforward, as explained by the Engagement Pyramid:

The Engagement Pyramid

The 1% rule of online engagement was mainly an urban legend on the internet. Still, a peer-reviewed paper from 2014 entitled The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational Study confirmed the 1% rule of thumb.

Engaged publics typically distribute themselves according to a distribution that has been scientifically proven well before the advent of the internet and social media, and supporting sociologists have made observations for centuries.

The engagement pyramid divides publics into three distinct groups:

  • Creators
  • Contributors
  • Lurkers

When studying internet forums specifically, it’s not uncommon to find that 90% of users have never posted (lurkers), 9% are adding only to existing topics and threads (contributors), and 1% are actively starting new subjects and threads (creators).

The engagement pyramid is sometimes called the 1% rule or the 1-9-90 rule.

Read also: The Engagement Pyramid

By making a small ask (your email address in exchange for something valuable to you) instead of a big ask (invest in hiring me as an advisor), I can capture and nurture trusting relationships over time, slowly moving prospects from 9% to 1%.

(Small asks are often referred to as lead magnets.)

The Iceberg Publishing Strategy

Looking back at the Google example, one could say they use multiple front pages. If we look at Google Drive’s “front page”, we can see the same strategy; there is just one message and one call-to-action above the fold. It works because it’s crystal clear:

More and more conversion experts argue that most pages within a website’s structure should be landing pages. Landing pages are accessible for search engines to drive relevant traffic since they’re stripped of unnecessary content.

Instead of cramming everything into one single front page, your business could utilise multiple high-converting “front pages” instead, a strategy I call iceberg publishing — where there are many hidden direct landing pages beneath the site’s surface.

Definition of a Landing Page

Landing page (LP) = a web page stripped of standardised menus and sidebars with a single call-to-action often repeated as the users scroll further down the page.

Read also: Iceberg Publishing — The Cool Way to Grow Traffic and Conversions

Bonus Resource: Deep Content

Deep Content

Here’s an example of an online content structure that’s five levels deep:

In the example, five layers of evergreen content are stacked:

  • Level 1: Articles
  • Level 2: Content Upgrade
  • Level 3: Resource/Lead Magnet
  • Level 4: Ebook
  • Level 5: Online Course

Deep content is centred around providing increasingly higher quality to content divers since they’re more valuable than surface browsers.

As for the importance of structure and depth, the logic is the same as for iceberg publishing and content themes.

Read also: The Deep Content PR Strategy

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://www.doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Nice post Jerry! I would also add the use of data analytics and continous testing, to verify what should and should not be on any web site’s front page. Perhaps something for a follow up post!

  2. Great post. Got me thinking of Susan Weinchenkt and the small commitment/small ask principle. Her example is like – “If you ask someone your interested in very early on ‘would you marry me’..you’d probably get dumped right away. But if you ask ‘would you like to go on a date with me’, the chance is that stuff will happen.”

    Another thing we talk alot about with our customers is that when we try to get traffic to web sites (organic, paid or whatever way we can get our heads around) often the first page won’t be the visitors first page, it’ll be a blog post or something else.

    Anyways, love your posts!

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