You cannot make your website successful, you can only make people who visit your website successful (at doing something they want to do).
Conversion rates are typically thought of as the percentage of site visitors who were convinced to take action. This idea is misleading and results in wasting your valuable time and money. Conversion rates actually track the percentage of people who were already motivated to take action, and were able to so successfully.
If your website can help people do what they already want to do, they will convert. If it does anything else, they will leave.
The problem with cleverness
It is tempting to try and design interactions that will persuade someone to do something. With a lot of time and effort invested, you may even convince yourself that it’s working. But when an average of 98% of all visitors leave without converting, it’s easy to get stuck thinking that what is required is more convincing content and more persuasive interactions. Essentially, a better mousetrap.
The problem is, you’re not trying to catch mice (or mouse clicks), you shouldn’t even be trying to catch people’s attention because once a person is on your site, you have their attention.
Anything on your site that doesn’t align with a person’s original intent for visiting the site only distracts from that intent, often causing them to forget why they bothered to visit and leave.
“If someone comes to your site through an entertainment portal, what right do you have to try to switch them into commerce mode? Same goes for research, you’d be crazy to shove an athlete video in front of them and lose the sale.”
—Chris Harges, Director of Global Marketing at Mountain Hardwear
You are not very convincing
It is easy to imagine that through some combination of sheer marketing genius and A/B testing, you can convince someone you don’t know to do something that you want them to do. In reality you can only do the opposite: help someone who you understand to get what they already want.
The only productive use of time for anyone involved in improving a website’s user experience, content, technology, and conversion rate, is to understand what people are already trying to do, and make those things as simple as possible to do.
“Understand what people are already trying to do, and make those things as simple as possible to do”
The key to your success is theirs
Rethinking who your website is for is the first step to improving conversion. Design the features, content, and interactions in a way that helps customers do what they came to the site to do.
The only way to make your website successful is to make the people who visit your website successful (at doing something they already want to do). Stop trying to convert your visitors, and start trying to understand what they’re visiting your site to accomplish. Help them accomplish their goal or task and your conversion rates will rise on their own.