In the past, user experience and marketing have been two separate fields of study. User experience (UX) is rooted in often-unclear concepts of software design, whereas marketing has always been about hard data.
Bad news for marketers: If you treat the user badly, you’re going to get punished.
Our limited attention span and frustration with anything hard to use is reflected in how marketers need to approach what they do in 2017. And it’s not just users that will abandon you if you don’t focus on UX; Google will, too.
In this article, I’m going to explain six key UX principles you need to consider in your marketing material, and how you can optimize your site to improve SEO and user engagement.
Cut out those terrifying forms
You can’t avoid forms. If a lead wants to get in touch, sign up for your app or buy a product, they’ve got to do it through a form. Sure, forms are a lot easier than having to call a salesperson, but they can still be a pain in the rear.
The easiest and highest-impact optimization you can make on your existing forms is to reduce the number of fields. Setting aside the fact that humans are lazy and would rather type one less thing into a box, it has been proven that shorter forms result in higher conversions:
Take this behemoth with 18 fields as an example:
By cutting the form down to just six fields — the only fields that mattered — the company managed to increase form submissions by 35 percent, according to the VWO blog. That’s 35 percent more business because of one UX optimization.
Here’s the improved version:
For most purposes, you won’t even need a form that big. Many marketers are fond of the classic every-question-under-the-sun form that helps qualify leads — questions about company size, your seniority and your job title.
Why not just collect the most basic information, name and email address? As some marketers have found, it’s a ridiculously easy way to increase conversions.
Your site needs to load in under 2 seconds
Google has made it clear for years now that site speed is a ranking factor. And, as we get used to sites loading quickly, we get less patient with waiting. Combine these two factors, and it’s safe to conclude that a slow site = a UX and SEO disaster.
In fact, for every extra one second that users have to wait for their pages to load, conversion rates drop 7 percent.
Scared? Good. Let’s look at how to fix this.
First of all, you need to check your page speed. You can do this with Pingdom’s free page speed test tool, which will also tell you whether your site is faster than others it’s checked.
Scrolling down, you’ll see a list of issues. If you don’t use a CDN (content delivery network) or any kind of caching, it’s likely that’s your major issue. Incapsula, for example, claims that sites using their CDN improve their site speed by 50 percent and reduce bandwidth consumption by 70 percent.
Similarly, the WordPress caching plugin W3 Total Cache promises that it will improve overall site performance 10x when you set it up with your site. You can even integrate both a caching plugin and a CDN for best results.
Use microcopy to guide to the user
Joshua Porter, co-founder of Rocket Insights, claims that “the fastest way to improve your interface is to improve your copy.” And, for e-commerce stores or really any place with forms, microcopy is a must.
What is microcopy? Let me give you a couple of examples:
The Guardian newspaper uses italicized microcopy to give users a justification for why they should provide their information. Backing up your requests with a reason why improves conversion rate.
Workguru uses microcopy to set expectations (which is important for UX) and reassure the user that nothing bad will happen if they input their email address.
Exactly how effective is microcopy? As it turns out, the little things make all the difference. Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering reports that adding a single line of microcopy to a client’s e-commerce site improved conversions by 45 percent and revenue by $300 million. It worked by clarifying what exactly will happen when the user hits “continue.” The new microcopy was:
“You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.”
Over $8M per word is a pretty reasonable rate for any writer.
Make your user’s journey clear and consistent
Anyone fanatic about optimizing landing pages will be familiar with the idea of message match. Put simply, it’s the practice of consistently matching the wording and design of your pages so you don’t confuse the user.
The biggest pitfall for marketers here is when setting up PPC ads. Since they live on Google, Facebook or some other external channel, PPC ads are easy to make a mess of. You could be A/B testing ad copy and designing new eye-catching images but inadvertently confusing your users at the same time.
The solution? Every ad needs its own landing page. The headline on the landing page should match the copy of the ad, and the call to action should be a natural progression from the ad. Pushing all users through to your main homepage will always be a mistake.
Here’s an example of message matching done right by Hotjar:
Simply by using the same wording and tone on each part of the process, Hotjar has created a cohesive, message-matched user experience.
Use content upgrades, not email walls
Being respectful of the user’s time and patience seems to be a theme so far in this article, so it’d be silly to overlook content upgrades.
Content upgrades are free bonuses you can offer to users to unlock additional content — a free checklist, white paper or report, for example. The difference between content upgrades and blocking off your content is that there’s no value in gated content unless the user puts in their email address. Maybe that isn’t something they want to do because they don’t know you well enough yet, or maybe they’d rather see some value first.
Here’s an example of a content upgrade on a ReliableSoft.net post about SEO optimization for WordPress users:
According to Backlinko founder Brian Dean, content upgrades can improve conversions by 785 percent when compared against traditional pop-ups.
Why? Well, it’s because content upgrades aren’t obnoxious, restrictive or irritating. When a user clicks through for a bonus, they’ve asked to see the pop-up. They’ve already given you permission and expressed interest, so they’re happier to follow through.
Write no-nonsense titles and descriptions
You’re sicker than ever of blog posts with misleading titles like “171 Free Ways to Boost Your PPC ROI by 6944% (#42 Surprised Me!).”
While this kind of garbage might get a lot of clicks (and the curiosity gapcan be a valid, UX-friendly tactic), if you fail to deliver on your promise or hype the content up too much, you’ll see your bounce rate rocketing.
And you know what Google does to sites with poor bounce rates? Drops them faster than you can say “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!” That’s because when you get ranked for a search term, Google is still watching how users interact with your site. If a lot of users click on and then exit straight away, it tells Google they made a bad choice by giving you exposure, and they sweep you under the rug until you fix the issue.