Designing Websites to Increase Traffic and Conversion

If you work in website marketing and conversion rate optimization you’re probably aware that there’s no shortage of advice on how to do your job. You hear this advice from the boss/client or get it from a whole slew of blogs, newsletters, online magazines and webinars.

Sometimes, if you can tear yourself away from the screen, you might even encounter a book full of CRO advice printed on paper. And sometimes that book is worth reading.

Such is the case with “Convert!” by Ben Hunt, the best book on website conversion I’ve read in a long time. Why? Because it looks at all facets of your web presence from a conversion perspective, from how you organize your web pages to the content you place on them, from how you craft your search engine strategy and build your funnels, to the way you nail the call to action.

Hunt even includes field-tested advice on copywriting. For example, the headline on this software site used to shout “ZEFYR–ONLINE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE” but conversion improved by 15.4 percent when it was changed to read “Complete Online accounting Package for Small Businesses.”

The Awareness Ladder

At the heart of the book are several key concepts that drive Hunt’s conversion-centric approach to site building. One of the most important is the Awareness Ladder, which Hunt describes like this:

“The Awareness Ladder is a simple model that can help you pitch every page on your web site at its target audience with precision.”

This ladder is indeed a simple device, but I think it you might find it to be an effective way of getting a fresh perspective on what your site is selling and the people to whom you’re trying to sell it. Indeed, the Awareness Ladder has important implications for both your search engine strategy and your website design.

The ladder starts at “No Problem.” This reflects the fact some people have no idea of the existence of the problem to which your product or service provides a solution. These people aren’t likely to be searching for a solution, so your website content needs to educate them about the problem.

Other people are aware of the problem but don’t know that any solutions exist. This affects the search terms they use to learn about the problem and the kind of content that will capture their interest when they find it.

Among the people who are aware that solutions exist, some don’t know about your solution. This will affect the way you craft content and target search terms to get their attention and present your solution. If people do know about your solution then you need to inform them of its benefits and convince them to buy your solution over the others that are out there.

A Testing-Based Culture of Continual Improvement

This is sound marketing theory, but the real value of “Convert!” is the very practical way in which Hunt relates this and other concepts to the website design process. The chapter on funnel modeling with Google Analytics is excellent, combining step-by-step instructions with clear explanations of the marketing rational for going through this process.

What might surprise you about the book is the relatively small number of pages devoted to A/B testing. Indeed, treatment of the subject is largely confined to the final chapter where Hunt takes you through Google Website Optimizer and the basic principles of testing. This is not because Hunt doesn’t put stock in testing and content optimization. Indeed, he’s a fellow believer in the testing-based culture of continual improvement:

“…optimization delivers the best results when you do it as an iterative process. When you switch from the “first best guess” approach to a culture of optimization, whenever a change is made and tested, you get to see–and then chose to keep–only the things that are proven to work better. Every cycle builds on the previous successes, creating a culture of continual improvement.”


However, the main thrust of “Convert!” is conversion-centric site design, in other words, building a site informed and structured according to how conversion happens for what your site is selling. Get that right and your optimization efforts will have a head start on maximizing conversion rates. Additional gains from testing and targeting content will then be gravy.