Is your business missing out on this epic trend? According to the US Department of Commerce, eCommerce sales increased 14.9% in 2019. And, with the notable behavioral changes in how we shop in 2020, the projections for growth are even higher at 18%, according to a study by eMarketer.

The opportunities for online businesses certainly look bright. But prosperity is not automatically shared by all. In fact, on average over 60% of web visitors leave a website without visiting a second page. Upwards of 98% choose not to purchase on any given visit.

Do you know why your web visitors don’t become your customers? Wouldn’t it be great if they told you? Well, don’t count on it—they won’t. But the good news is that there are ways you can outperform those averages, delight your visitors, and increase your online sales.

There are six main principles that will determine how well a site engages and converts visitors to leads or customers. We call those the “Six Pillars of Conversion.” Let’s take a closer look at those six pillars and see just how they can be utilized to increase the marketing performance of your site.


The first and arguably most important pillar, relevancy, requires you to look at your website from a completely different perspective. When most businesses are redesigning their sites, they tend to adopt a seemingly logical approach that, ironically, often dooms their site to failure.

Let’s see if you’re guilty of this scenario. You call a meeting with the key people in your organization and ask for opinions on what should be on the new site. You may have heard the following answers: “I want to showcase our new products.” “I want visitors to sign up for our newsletter.” “I’d like to see some cool graphic effects.”

Now, even though this may have seemed like a productive meeting, it wasn’t. The problem is you all failed to address the most important reason why your website exists—it’s a resource or tool for your prospects and customers, not for you. The truth is, your visitors do not see your site the same way you do.

So, to ensure the highest levels of relevancy for your visitors, start by identifying the key characteristics of your visitors. What are their goals, pain points, level of knowledge of your products/services and that of competitive alternatives? How do they typically research and make decisions, and what is their emotional makeup during the process? Answers to these questions should be your guide into how to structure your site, the type and prioritization of content, and your messaging.

How do you go about getting these answers? Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. First, talk to the folks who have front-line communications with your prospects and customers—your sales, customer service, technical support, and marketing staff. Additionally, review your CRM system, chat logs, and any other resources that will uncover important characteristics of your prospects. If you can, interview current customers. Also, review your analytics and look for important visitor behavior and trends. If you don’t feel comfortable digging deep into the numbers and making sense of the results, there are many qualified digital marketing agencies that can assist.


The next pillar, aesthetics, is likely more obvious. Although evaluating the aesthetics of a site—the overall look and feel—can be quite subjective, visitors, collectively, can almost instantly determine the level of professionalism of a design. And that initial impression is a lasting one that can have a distinctly positive or negative impact on engagement and conversion. Visitors will tend to have lower levels of trust in sites that look dated, have poor quality images, and lack a clear sense of visual organization.

Aesthetics also play a role in establishing a proper emotional connection, another important element leading to engagement and conversion.

It’s important to understand that designs, by nature, require a certain level of visual effort for visitors to organize what they see, discover what’s available on the site, and find the information they’re seeking. Your goal should be to minimize this visual effort by favoring simplicity over a “design-for-decoration” approach. Bright colors, strong contrast, images, and especially motion on a page draw visual attention. Be sure you’re using these to help visitors achieve their objectives while also staying in alignment with your brand, instead of just to be different or cool.

Finally, remember that negative space—the blank space between elements—helps create a sense of organization and assists your visitors in identifying and scanning your page contents.


Do you remember the last time you were on a site that was so easy to use, it just felt natural? Probably not. And that’s not because there aren’t a lot of highly usable sites—there are. When something feels so natural and easy to use, we’re not even aware of the notion of usability. On the other hand, difficult sites in terms of illogical navigation, too many font treatments, lack of consistent visual treatment of page elements (buttons for example), and the absence of a logical information hierarchy will immediately broadcast a frustrating user experience that visitors will remember and want to avoid.

Look at the usability from your visitor’s perspective. Is it easy to find what they’re likely most interested in? Is it easy for them to discover what’s on your site? And don’t forget about the usability of your mobile site. Many organizations are now experiencing more than half of their traffic coming from a mobile device. And even though your mobile visitors may choose to wait to place their order until they’re in front of a desktop computer, the mobile site can still be an important touchpoint in their multi-device visit experience. Besides the smaller visual screen size on mobile, other important considerations to be aware of include the smaller keyboard size, the use of imprecise thumbs versus a precise mouse, unpredictable lighting, and higher likelihood of user interruption.

Also note that many visitors may need help narrowing their selection of your products or services to meet their needs. You can help them by utilizing product configurators, filters, or online wizards (a series of questions to ask your visitors) to help them narrow down their choices.


For your content to be effective, it first must be easily readable. Although most visitors will likely not read all your copy, they will, via scanning, key in on sections that are relevant to their needs. Making your content easily scannable helps visitors find what they’re looking for and increases the chances they will become your customer. Tips to creating easily scannable content are:

  • Be succinct; use short sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Use descriptive panel and section headings to alert visitors about the nature of the content. Those headings should be a larger font size, and you should maintain that font consistency throughout the site.
  • Refrain from using full screen-width text, as eye tracking studies show that it’s taxing to scan and scan rates fall off very quickly after just a couple of lines.
  • Use a font treatment (font face [open sans, e.g.], style [italics, e.g.], weight [bold, e.g.] color, case [upper, lower, sentence], and size) that is easy on the eyes.
  • Limit the number of font treatments, as excessive types of different fonts can be fatiguing on the human eye and increase visual clutter.
  • Pay attention to leading (the distance between two lines of text) and kerning (the spacing between letters). You can leverage these attributes to improve readability.
  • In many cases, your visitors will not be as knowledgeable as you. Your content should be written to match your audience’s typical level of knowledge. You may want to refrain from acronyms and technical terms unless you’re comfortable that many of your visitors will understand.

Finally, remember that your visitors will be in a “what’s in it for me” mode. You can really keep visitors engaged and moving through the flow by ensuring your content focuses on benefits for them. It’s easy to fall into the “we-we syndrome” trap where your copy is all about you. Here’s an easy test to see if you’re guilty of the we-we syndrome: Count how many times “we” or a variant of that word is in your copy versus “you” or its variants. A lopsided ratio of “we’s” to “you’s” in your copy is a recipe for losing your visitors.


Have you ever been on a web page where you felt like you’re being forced to complete an action that you’re just not quite ready to start? Many landing pages are guilty of this. They strip out the navigation, present you with only a form or a big call-to-action button, and believe that by giving you no other choice you’ll complete the action. Occasionally these tactics work, but most times, unless the visitor is in the very final stages of their research, they will simply just hit the back button and visit a competitor’s site. There’s a more effective way to guide your visitors to become your customers, and it’s by using persuasion instead of forcefulness.

By now you’ve probably heard that we make our decisions based on emotion and then justify that decision with logic. The irrational biases in our brains have primary control over most decision-making. When appropriate, take advantage of those irrational biases to motivate your visitor to move to the next level by using one or more of numerous persuasion tactics, such as:

1. Employing FOMO (fear of missing out)

2. Creating a sense of urgency—limited-time offers, low-stock warnings

3. Sunk cost fallacy—once we start a process, we usually want to complete that process to prove to ourselves we didn’t initially make a mistake. Therefore, make it easy for your visitors to start the process and ask them easy questions up front.


Unless you have the brand equity of a well-known and trusted brand, your visitors will arrive at your site with a healthy dose of skepticism and anxiety. You can reduce these negative emotions and increase your organization’s perceived level of trust and credibility by utilizing these five forms of trust:

Visual trust—based on a professional look and feel and speed of your site

Industry trust—based on displaying your industry affiliations, awards and accomplishments, and logos of brands carried if applicable

Social trust—based on showing reviews and testimonials, “as seen in” or other thought-leadership insignias/logos, BBB

Transactional trust—based on the presence of transactional trust symbols (Norton, McAfee TRUSTe, for example) privacy policy, guarantees, and use of a secure site (https)

Longevity trust—displaying how many happy customers served, products shipped, years in business, etc.


The days of thinking of your website as just a cool, cutting-edge-design destination to showcase your organization are long past. Web visitors have become much more savvy and demanding. They have limited time, limited patience, and close to unlimited choices. Top-notch aesthetics are a critical component of a successful site and may initially engage your visitors, but really motivating them to become your customers also requires attention to the other Pillars of Conversion: relevance, usability, messaging, persuasion, and trust. P

As CEO of Wolfhound Interactive (, Brian Lewis has over 20 years of strategic digital marketing experience. An accomplished speaker, Lewis has led panels around the world on trending digital marketing topics. And, his work has been referenced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and various marketing industry publications.

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