28 Dec

Overcoming a Common Pitfall for Ecommerce Home Pages

By Karon Thackston © 2008, All Rights Reserved

It was a typical request: one I’ve gotten from many e-commerce site owners because the vast majority make the same mistake. An online business owner emailed me last week asking for help with his conversions. His search engine rankings were good, but his conversions were lacking. At his request, I spent some time on his site and compiled a list of my thoughts, a few suggestions and a quote for making it all happen. What I found on this home page was typical of many other e-commerce sites I’ve worked on.

There was a severe lack of benefits-oriented copy.

The website was very well designed and extremely professional looking. With rotating images in the upper-left corner, visitors would quickly get a wonderful idea of the beauty and functionality of the furniture this company manufactured and sells. What they wouldn’t get, however, was information about the benefits and the differentiating elements that set this online retailer apart from all the others.

A tag line, the announcement of a sale and text links were the only visible copy on the home page that fell above the fold. Way down at the very bottom of the page, in a font color that was just a few shades darker than the light tan background, was a single paragraph of copy. There – if the visitor ever got that far – he/she would find several benefits.

One of their biggest differentiating factors was that these pieces of furniture were available exclusively from the manufacturer. About 81% percent of consumers look for information on the Web before buying in a brick-and-mortar store, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Letting site visitors know they won’t find these incredible pieces in any other store would have a big impact on their purchasing decision.

Likewise, these cabinets are engineered with ample ventilation to protect the wood and your TV set. Plus, they provide wider and deeper shelves than most others, leaving plenty of room for your television.

Another vital point is that this online store offers free shipping and in-home setup. While that was stated on the home page, the mentions were located on infrequently viewed parts of the page.

Will Copy Ruin My Design?

One concern with e-commerce sites is that copy will ruin the graphical design of the page. After all, buying online means shoppers want to see what they are getting. That’s perfectly understandable. But, with a little creativity, it is quite simple to add copy. Remember: Not all the copy has to appear in the same place. There is no need for 200 words of text right in the middle of your home page.

You can simply put a sentence or two here and a sentence or two there. The goal is to provide the visitor with the information he/she needs to answer the most pressing question of all: “Why should I buy from your site instead of the other 21,000 I’ve found online?”

A headline up top, a strategically placed paragraph and a caption under a photo are sometimes all it takes to communicate to your customers why they should choose you. In addition, you’ll get a boost with the engines from placing keyword-optimized copy on the page.

The next time you decide to take an ax to the copy on the home page of your e-commerce site, remember that customers aren’t mind readers. If you can’t make it easy – right off the bat – for them to grace you with their business, your conversion rate will likely never reach the level you desire.

See Karon live at a half-day copywriting workshop in the Boston area April 2-3, 2009. Keyword research, social media and analytics also offered. Get details and register today at http://www.highrankings.com/seo-workshops.

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