Max Conversions: The New Purpose of Your Site’s Navigation

33 amazing comments

Where do you want to go today?
Creative Commons License photo credit: liquene

How would you react if I told you the whole purpose of your blog or site’s navigation bar and sidebar is to maximize your conversions? Would you agree?

Well, I’m saying it!

Yes, navigation is for helping people get around to the different areas of your site but it is mainly for helping to funnel them towards your product or sign up form.

In this post I’ll be looking at why your navigation needs to focus on getting conversions and not just helping people browse around.

A quick look at website and blog navigation

Before I jump in an change it all up we should take a quick look at what is actually meant by the term “navigation”. Basically, I am referring to these things:

  • Your menu
    The menu is the part of the website, usually horizontal and across the top, that directs people to your main content. For bloggers this represents your PAGES as opposed to your POSTS.
  • Your sidebar
    The next part of your navigation is the sidebar and this includes things like your categories, recent posts and maybe popular posts. It also leads people off to your latest products, sign up area and so on.
  • Your footer
    Many blogs and websites now employ a super awesomely huge footer that contains a whole bunch of things including all of the above as well as social media, contact forms, etc.
  • In-post navigation
    This is all the hyper link you put in your post to previously written awesome posts like this one, as well as links to other sites and blogs.

Traditionally web designers and bloggers will design these areas with a view to helping people get around to different sections of the site. But, I would like to challenge that idea (a little bit) and suggest that maybe it should be also about converting those readers into subscribers, fans or customers. That is what this post is about.

So how should the menu and navigation work?

Signs Of The Storm
Creative Commons License photo credit: JD Hancock

Okay so how should it all be working? Here are some ideas.

1. Make it a funnel where possible
Do you remember what a funnel is? I talked about it a few times both here and on Problogger.

Basically the idea is that you create a series of posts, guest posts and so on that funnel people back towards a sales page, squeeze page or sign up form. This would work best with in-post links and sidebar links and is done by a lot of really successful bloggers.

2. Have a specific goal
Your navigation needs to have a specific goal. Are you trying to get people to sign up for your mailing list or are you just trying to get them to browse all your content for no particular reason.

Everything you do on your blog has to be part of an overarching strategy. Sure, this strategy might change from time to time based on your ideas and innovations but it needs to be aimed somewhere.

In my opinion, all blogs and business websites alike should be aiming to get as many loyal email subscribers as possible. Its amazing what you can do with a mailing list.

3. Utilize landing pages
A landing page or a squeeze page or a splash page is any area of your site where you gently encourage people to move towards a sign up or a sale. Here is a good example from Darren’s Digital Photography School where he is trying to sell an eBook.

Your navigation should include regular references to your landing pages. You can do this in the middle of the content or you can add specific places for it in between content or on the menu itself. For example, if you drop down menu you might want to add links to your different landing pages for the relevant sections.

4. Keep it natural
The references and links should all be part of the blog’s natural flow. You aren’t trying to hard-sell anyone here, you are trying to get them to take one further step because they already really like what it is that you are doing. Make sure it flows.

One way to do this is to utilize plugins like What Would Seth Godin Do to leave a stylized message to readers at the top of each different category.

Can you think of any others?

The idea of making your navigation more about conversions than navigation is really interesting to me. Can you think of any other ways to enhance the “convertibility” of a navigation bar or menu on a blog or website. Please leave a comment and let me know.

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33 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • lisa | renovating italy

    Hi BT,
    Well this is a change being first on the comments so here goes. It seems I am lacking in conversion skills on the website, I easily engage with my readers on fb and numbers have been growing and stats good (for a newbie Mum blogger who is learning the hard way as I go)but the website is around 10% of the number following the fb page.

    I don’t have a product yet but would like more subscribers, unsure where I am going wrong. I will be following the comments with interest….

    ciao lisa


  • lisa | renovating italy

    PS I have been told that I must NEVER EVER change the names of my pages eg I have “Blog” which I would like to change to “Home”

    also

    I was told that I can’t put a post under more than one categorie, is this true?
    ciao again


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Where did you heat this and what was the reason?


      1. lisa | renovating italy

        Was told this by our web guru who is setting up a new site for my husband. He said it messed up the seo…I emailed you his info he sent us.
        ciao lisa


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Got your email. He seemed a little ticked off?


          1. lisa | renovating italy

            He always seems a little ticked off, I find him hard to work with as he is so technical my hubby has a similar sense of humor so just gives it straight back.

            Do you have any suggestions for “Newbie” friendly people I could work with we will be off to Italy very soon and I would love to develop the site further just a bit intimidated now to make any changes…did it make sense to you?
            ciao lisa


  • Peter Downs

    Nice

    I would also follow the Steve Jobs rule of the ‘power of three’ when it comes to top of the page navigation. More than three tabs creates confusion and indecision. Keep it simple, obvious and geared toward conversion. A simple About page can still convert with in-post opt in forms and clear outlines of benefits for visitors.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Interesting. The Apple site isn’t like this though…?


  • Marcus

    I find conversion rate optimization fascinating, because there is a blend of psychology and practical business practices.

    When it comes to menus, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decide what the order of menu items should be. I’ve changed the usual website I link to in this comment, from my personal website to my web design portfolio. Just so I can use my site as an example. My conversion goal was to get users to fill out the contact form and set up an initial consultation.

    While I was arranging the order of menu items on my site from left to right, I was imagining the “sales funnel” I wanted to lead potential prospects through.

    1) Portfolio. The first thing a client wants to see is what you can do, so I made this the first item, after the “Home” page.

    2) Services. By this point, the client wants details. “What exactly can you do for me?” is what he’s thinking. I re-wrote the sub-pages in this section so many times, making them more non-technical in each draft.

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing for your professional colleagues, not your actual audience, who will probably not have the same level of understanding of what you do.

    3) About. Now the client is interested in me. Kind of an ego blow, to know that the client only cares about you AFTER they can see what you can do from your portfolio and know about your services.

    I give a brief overview of my philosophy. Then I describe myself, using as many credibility indicators as possible, e.g. has university training in web design, built a website for a well-known nonprofit, etc. I also added a picture of myself, to put a face on the business.

    4) Contact. This is my #1 call to action. I want the client to be impressed by my portfolio, like the non-technical way I write about my services, and feel like they can work with me after reading my “About” page.

    This might be going overboard, but I tried to optimize my contact form for conversion as well. The first draft of the contact form had 3 generic fields: name, e-mail, and message.

    The problem was I was getting way too many vague inquiries from people who really didn’t know what they wanted yet in a website.

    So I re-wrote the contact form. I made a multiple-choice section where I described the different types of websites my team can build. They’re radio buttons, and the client can choose just one option. I initially had price ranges attached to those descriptions as well. But that drove away too many people, so I removed the prices.

    Instead of a general “message” heading for that field, I instead put “describe your project.”

    After making those changes, the inquiries I got were much more targeted and qualified.

    Another thing I should mention was that I used a prompt to brainstorm my sales copy on my “Services” pages and “About” page. I wrote questions that potential clients would ask, their worries and concerns. Then I answered them with my sales copy.

    Once I’d finalized my sales copy, I was going to remove the questions. But I sent the website to other web designers I know, to get their feedback. They all said they liked reading those sub-headings, of questions written in the client’s voice. So, in the end, I kept them.

    For conversions, I find it helps a lot to think about that in the beginning, before you start to build your website or blog. Choose one priority call to action, like getting someone to fill out the contact form, subscribe to my newsletter, etc.

    Then map out all the steps your users will take on your website to get to that call to action.

    As for my sales funnel, it’s the way I ordered the pages of my website, leading to the contact form.

    You have to be prepared for the possibility that the first page your users land on will not be the homepage. For this reason, I have buttons on my “Services” pages and “About” page that are labeled “Get Started.” They all lead to the contact form.

    A great book to read is “Don’t Make Me Think!” by Steve Krug. It’s about usability, but making your website more user-friendly is highly relevant to optimizing for conversions.

    Hope I don’t come off as too self-promotional. I’m still learning a lot about this stuff myself. I’d like to stress that all these discoveries were the result of feedback from fellow designers and customers. To paraphrase a quote from boxing, “No business plan survives first contact with the customer.”

    If I hadn’t solicited opinions, my site would have been loaded with tech jargon and colorful design. But most of my customers were small businesses who just wanted someone to explain this Internet stuff to them in plain English, and who valued reliability over creativity. As a result, I reigned in the colors and focused on looking professional and elegant.

    Great to read what you had to say on this subject, Blog Tyrant!


    1. Rowan

      Hey Marcus, love the level of detail in your comment. Did you actually test your changes (using Google Website Optimizer or something similar), or just make them and see?

      I would hesitate that #2 Have a Specific Goal should be #1! Getting users to click through the funnel is just a goal, after all. It’s amazing how many people don’t have specific goals for their site.


      1. Marcus

        Hey Rowan,

        Glad you found my comment helpful! I was really old-school in my testing, sending out my website to friends and getting their opinions.

        In an earlier iteration, my website had a teal, blue-green color. But users told me it reminded them of NyQuil cough medicine, and made them feel sick. Now that’s something an analytics program won’t tell you. Ha ha! I changed the color to a darker blue.

        For future websites, I plan on using Google Website Optimizer and doing proper split-testing.

        By the way, nice blog! I liked your description of “The Buying Decision.”


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Marcus, I reckon you need a good solid logo for your brand.


          1. Marcus

            Yes, definitely. For my next site, I’ve been sifting through some of my favorite Internet marketing forums for leads on good, reasonably priced logo designers.

            Ironically, the hardest part of the process right now isn’t finding a designer–loads of fine talent out there–but finding a good domain name that’s available.

            A cool name will lend itself better to a logo. Some names are easier to translate visually than others. For example, Xobni vs. Digg. The latter name instantly conjures up images of shovels and uncovering something. But the former: what’s a “Xobni” supposed to look like?

            If you or your readers know any good sites for finding logo designers, I’d welcome your suggestions.


    2. the Blog Tyrant

      Marcus that is probably the best comment in history.


      1. Marcus

        Wow, thanks Blog Tyrant. Coming from you, that means a lot.

        I always worry my comments are too long-winded. Ha ha! Believe it or not, every time I start off thinking I’ll just write a short comment.

        But as I write, I start thinking of other ideas, books, and websites that would really help your readers, and end up trying to cram them all in.


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Mate I really enjoy them. It means a lot because at least I know someone reads the rubbish I write!


    3. lisa | renovating italy

      Marcus thanks so much for taking the time to reply in such detail. I have just been looking at my contact page and now see so many ways to encourage my readers to contact us eg to feature their Italian renovations or with renovation stories or questions…

      thanks again
      ciao lisa


      1. Marcus

        Hey Lisa,

        You’re welcome! Happy you found my comment useful.

        It was an interesting exercise to optimize my website’s contact form. With your Italy website, offering your readers those choices could even give them ideas they hadn’t thought of.

        Some examples:
        –“Oh, I didn’t know Lisa offered consulting services for relocating to Italy.”

        –“Cool! Lisa says she can refer me to real estate agents and landlords.”

        –“Where did Lisa get that fabulous furniture? Ah! She says I can e-mail her to get the names of the shops she buys from.”

        At the very least, it will give readers more incentive to write you a message. At best, that could even lead to moneymaking opportunities, too 🙂


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Very good discussion.


  • Cristina Ansbjerg

    Conversion rate optimization is an amazing area. I love it.
    Btw, your header is not clickable any more?

    I’ve also noticed that you have removed your Facebook widget. Don’t you think that helps with social proof?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Just testing some new things my dear. Let you know how it goes.


  • Steve Scott

    BT,

    Great post. I wold add that this conversion is something you should test, test, test.

    Since that is the only way to really and truly effectively know how your actions are effecting your conversions.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Absolutely! Testing is so boring but so necessary.


  • Sean

    I love that Seth Godin plugin, I’ve had more success with it than Popup Domination. Thanks BT


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Really? Wow. That’s good to know.


  • Jeremy

    I found it impossible to unsubscribe from your Blog Tyrant blog. PLEASE unsubscribe me.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Jeremy. Sorry about that. What problem did you have? There is an unsubscribe link in every email.


  • Brian Fryer

    This is exactly how I designed the navigation for http://whooshtraffic.com.

    Visitors either want to know…

    * about the company
    * what services are provided
    * how much they cost
    * how to contact sales or support
    * how to login to their account

    In fact, the entire website is designed to drive visitors to one of three pages depending on their needs:

    1) http://whooshtraffic.com/plans-pricing-link-building-service/ sign up for the rank tracker
    3) http://whooshtraffic.com/wordpress-developer/
    “Pick a specific goal. Design for that.”


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Looks fantastic Brian. Great work!


      1. Brian Fryer

        Thanks, BT! It was a *very* fun project to work on 🙂


  • Brian Fryer

    Hmm… something weird happened with my comment. I think it was because of the arrows I used. It’s supposed to say:

    This is exactly how I designed the navigation for http://whooshtraffic.com.

    Visitors either want to know…

    * about the company
    * what services are provided
    * how much they cost
    * how to contact sales or support
    * how to login to their account

    In fact, the entire website is designed to drive visitors to one of three pages depending on their needs:

    1) http://whooshtraffic.com/plans-pricing-link-building-service/ to sign up for the link building service
    2) http://whooshtraffic.com/plans-pricing/rank-tracker/ to sign up for the rank tracker
    3) http://whooshtraffic.com/wordpress-developer/ to request a quote for WordPress development.

    I’ve even included extra navigation in the sidebar of the contact page (http://whooshtraffic.com/contact/) to direct visitors to an FAQ. This has a three fold benefit:

    1) Customer support is decreased, which allows…
    2) More time to be spent on customer… acquisition/development & software development, and…
    3) Gets visitors to the plans & pricing page faster.

    Your advice is right on the money: “Pick a specific goal. Design for that.”


  • SleepyMoose.com

    Greetings Blog Tyrant!

    I’m new to this site, but have read through a few pages already and have to say I am very impressed. I was going to leave a comment on a previous post (about comments, funnily enough) but commenting was turned off.

    So if you don’t mind, I would like to ask you some questions here. Some may be a little off topic as I am concentrating this into one comment.

    1. Do you think it is possible to overkill with tags (10-20?) and categories (3-5 for some posts)? Or is it better to keep things short and sweet? I often find it difficult to pin-point my posts to just 1 category and usually want to get as many “relevant” tags in there as I can so as to hopefully get picked up by a person searching Google.

    2. Do you think those popup email sign-up forms are more beneficial or hazardous to a sites reputation? Personally, I find them annoying and cumbersome, but I don’t have the experience of longevity in the Blogosphere to know how it affects the majority of readers.

    3. and on point! I have made several changes to the layout of my sidebar with the user in mind, concerning myself with thoughts such as visual appeal and practicality in mind.

    I’ll finish there in hope you can answer or at least lend some guidance to a “child of Blog” 😉

    Looking forward to hearing your response.

    mús

    “Begin from within, and you won’t go without” – moose logic


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Mus.

      Yeah, I switch off comment after 30 days to control spam but also seems to make the articles feel more scarce and actually increases comments on new articles.

      Answers:

      1. Yep, try to keep it to one category and make your tags relevant to the keywords you are targeting for SEO. Check out my resources page and click Market Samurai for the best software for that. Have a look at Huffington Post though – they do like 40 tags per article.

      2. Pop ups can be annoying but I have had zero complaints about this one and it has brought in about 1000 subscribers this year. Can’t complain! Again, resources page and Pop Up Domination.

      Hope that helps.

      BT


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