Here’s a big problem with web design: If you want to make your website better at turning visitors into customers (or subscribers), you need to understand why most of your visitors are leaving!
However, visitors who leave your site come and go without a trace! How do you know what they wanted? How do you know what would have persuaded them to take action?
If you owned a real-life bricks-and-mortar store, this would be easy: You’d hear their objections. You’d be able to ask questions. You’d hear what they muttered as they headed for the door.
Capturing the voice of the customer is more difficult with the web, but it can be done. Here are 15 tools to get you started!
Track where your visitors came from, and which links they clicked on, using Google Analytics.
Web analytics software is essential for understanding your visitors. It tells you detailed statistics about the visitors to your website—where they came from, and which links they clicked on once they arrived.
Despite being free, Google Analytics is surprisingly sophisticated, and it is sufficient for most websites.
- If you want to become better at web analytics, we recommend you read Occam’s Razor, Avinash Kaushik’s blog, and his book, Web Analytics—An Hour A Day.
- If you want to do anything really fancy with web analytics, we recommend Neil Mason.
Easy-to-interpret “heatmaps” from Crazy Egg show exactly where visitors clicked—even if it wasn’t on a link.
Google Analytics will tell you what links your visitors click on, but Crazy Egg shows you which parts of your pages your visitors click on. There’s a subtle difference: Crazy Egg shows you clicks even if they weren’t on a link. This information is displayed as a “heatmap,” like this:
This approach offers several advantages:
- Crazy Egg will even show things that are not clickable. You’ll discover that visitors are clicking on parts of the page that aren’t links but perhaps should be. For example, if you discover visitors are clicking on a product photo, you may choose to allow the picture to be magnified, or you may decide readers want to read more information about it. Similarly, they may wrongly believe that a particular graphic is navigation.
- This approach will also reveal, at a glance, which parts of the page are getting the most attention. This can be particularly useful when you’re showing the data to people who aren’t experienced in web analytics.
- If several of the links on your page lead to the same URL—for example, if there are three links to a particular product page—Crazy Egg will show you which of the links your visitors clicked on. This is possible with analytics, but requires some set-up.
- Ever wondered how far visitors scroll down your pages? Crazy Egg can show you with an easy-to-interpret heatmap. On really long pages, it can also be useful to see which parts of the page get the most attention (based on the average viewing time). This can be great for identifying which parts of your page are most important to your visitors.
Our recommendation: Install Crazy Egg on your most important pages (in terms of revenue and traffic) and on any pages you feel may have usability issues.
Use “in-page web analytics” from ClickTale to show videos of visitors’ screens. ClickTale is the perfect complement to Google Analytics.
ClickTale refers to itself as being “in-page web analytics” (as opposed to other analytics software, which is largely concerned with movement between pages). ClickTale is similar to Crazy Egg but in addition measures keystrokes and movement of the mouse. It has several useful functions:
- Want to watch movies of your visitors’ screens as they use your website? ClickTale allows you to do that too. You can view each visitor’s browsing session as a Flash video. (There is a limit to how many videos can be stored.) It may sound impossible, and ever-so-slightly creepy, but it’s true. It’s as if you were looking over their shoulders. You can even see their cursor and their keystrokes.You can choose which video to watch, based on attributes such as visitors’ country of origin, how much time they spend on the site, or the number of pages they visited. You may choose to watch videos of visitors who appear to be struggling—for example, those who visit the same page several times.
- Study how people are interacting with your forms. ClickTale has five reports that allow you to see how visitors are interacting with your forms. For example, the Drop Report shows you the percentage of visitors that dropped out at each field while filling in a form; knowing this information will allow you to fix the form fields that are losing you customers.
- Get a feel for how people use websites. ClickTale is not a substitute for carrying out usability tests, discussed farther down this page. However, watching a few videos will give you a better idea of how people interact with websites. You can watch the videos at high speed too (up to ten times normal speed).
The following video gives a great overview of what ClickTale does:
Some companies are unable to use the standard version of ClickTale. This includes financial companies, which are regulated as to how their data must be stored. A service called TeaLeaf used to be the most popular alternative, but now ClickTale also offers an enterprise version.
Use Google Talk Chatback to let your visitors tell you what’s missing from the page!
Live chat can allow you to hear from visitors who wouldn’t call you. They might prefer live chat because
- They don’t have access to a phone.
- They are in a public place (or at work) and don’t want to be heard.
- Live chat doesn’t cost money.
- They don’t want to be stuck at the end of a phone waiting for someone to answer.
The most important reason they may not call you is
- A phone call can be more of a commitment than a live chat.
What you can learn from live chat
- Which pages are giving people problems.
- Which products people are asking questions about.
- What their main questions, concerns, and objections are.
- Which of your answers, reassurances, and counter-objections persuade visitors to take further action.
If your customer service staff is providing your live chat, you may choose to read through the transcripts of the chats regularly to find insights you can apply to your website.
An added bonus!: Using live chat may actually increase your conversion rate, because you (or one of your customer service staff) can personally help the customers to take action.
Ask your visitors all your marketing questions using SurveyMonkey!
Your customers know the answers to a surprising number of your marketing questions. Why not ask them?
SurveyMonkey provides an easy way of sending out surveys, then collecting and interpreting the results.
Here are a few good questions to ask your customers.
Start with this (answers should be on a scale from 0 to 10):
- How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?
This is often referred to as the “Net Promoter” question. It can be deceptively useful. See this page for the theory behind it, and details of how to analyze the data from it.
A similar question is
- In the past six months, have you criticized or spoken highly of [YourCompanyName] to a friend, colleague, or family member? If so, please give details.
This is a great way to jog the customer’s memory and to elicit specific criticism or specific praise. In the latter case, you might get a testimonial.
- If you could have us create something just for you, what would it be?
Your customers can be a great source of ideas for new products, and this question is a great way of collecting those ideas. More straightforward—but less thought-provoking—wording would be this:
- What other products or services should we offer?
If you don’t know how you differ from your competitors, there’s a good chance your customers can tell you! This simple question can be really useful:
- How would you describe us to a friend?
This reveals why your customers like you. Similarly, you could ask something along the lines of
- Which other options did you consider before choosing our product or service?
- Why did you decide to use us?
It’s particularly important to ask the above two questions before you undertake any re-branding exercise, so you understand what your existing positioning is.
- Do you use us for all your [ProductType] or do you also use alternative companies?
- If so, why?
You may choose to ask some questions to a small fraction of your customers. This particularly applies to the following question, which could encourage your customers to shop around:
- Why do you use [YourCompanyName or YourProductName] rather than the alternatives?
If you want your customers to use you more often, you could do worse than to ask them this:
- What would persuade you to use us more often?
Can you see how this can save you a lot of trial and error?
If your customers are likely to know other potential customers, these questions can be useful:
- How could we persuade your friends or colleagues to use us?
- If you were in charge of our company, how would you persuade people like yourself to use us?
Your customers may also have strong views about where you should be advertising, so you might want to ask this:
- If you were in charge of our company, how would you spread the word about us?
Asking questions to your non-customers
One of the hardest tasks in web marketing is to capture the views of visitors who have no interest in what you’re currently offering. In this situation, you may choose to drive some of that traffic to a survey page, and then offer an incentive—maybe a free report—for completing the survey. By asking open-ended questions to these visitors, you can learn what they were searching for, and what you’d need to do to provide it.
Other things you need to know about your customers
You need to know which of your products your customers like most, and why.
Note: The products that are most-liked aren’t necessarily the ones that you sell most of. Just because a restaurant might sell a lot of lasagna doesn’t mean their lasagna is well-liked. In fact, it might be deterring customers from ever coming back.
By knowing which of your products is most-liked, you can
- Design the most effective sales funnel, so your most-liked products aren’t hidden away.
- Improve your existing products, to make purchasers more likely to buy from you again.
Note that your survey can constantly be changing, which will allow you to keep getting deeper insights into your visitors and customers. One survey may reveal insights that you decide to pursue with questions in subsequent surveys.
Use 4Q to ask your visitors why they visited you, and whether their visit was successful.
Web analytics guru Avinash Kaushik suggests that you survey your visitors as they leave your website. Here are the incredibly useful questions he proposes you ask:
Question 1: Based on today’s visit, how would you rate your site experience overall?
Question 2: Which of the following best describes the primary purpose of your visit?
Question 3: Were you able to complete the purpose of your visit today?
If they answer yes to Question 3, ask this:
Question 4: What do you value most about the [Company] website?
If they answer no to Question 3, ask this:
Question 5: Would you please tell us why you were not able to complete the purpose of your visit today?
A company called iPerceptions teamed up with Avinash to offer a ready-made way of implementing this survey on your website. Visit 4qsurvey.com to start using it today.
Qualaroo (formerly known as KISSinsights) is a fantastic survey tool from the people who created Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. It lets you easily add smart-looking surveys to the bottom corner of your website. Here are some of its features:
- Choose what type of response you want; you can have radio buttons, multiple-answer checkboxes, or open text fields.
- Choose the people who will participate in the survey. For example, you can arrange to “Show the survey only to returning visitors who have been viewing the page for more than 50 seconds.”
- Ask several questions in one go.
- Receive email notifications of responses.
- Once the code has been added to your website, you can create and launch surveys entirely from within the Qualaroo control panel, so you won’t require any further support from your web developers.
However, its best features are that it’s intelligently designed, and it’s easy to use. It just works.
There’s a free version, so give Qualaroo a try.
Get a big dose of reality by watching your users in action. Find out more in Steve Krug’s book.
A usability test simply involves observing someone using your website and noting any issues that arise. It’s not rocket science—in fact, it sounds a bit mundane—but it’s perhaps the most useful technique on this list.
You can carry out usability tests in several ways, but most involve giving participants a task to carry out, asking them to speak their thoughts aloud, and then recording the results, somehow, for later analysis.
To get started, visit Steve Krug’s website, and download this excellent script. Steve Krug is the author of a great book called Don’t Make Me Think—A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. We highly recommend it. Steve’s script was designed for lab usability tests, so you can ignore the references to microphones and screen recordings.
We recommend you find the nearest public place with Wi-Fi (Starbucks is a good choice!), and start getting people to look at your website. Simply take notes with pen and paper, and you’ll soon have a huge list of ideas for improving your webpages. You’ll be amazed at the number of insights you can get from carrying out just three tests.
So, bookmark this page, grab your laptop, and do some usability tests now!
Tip: You tend to learn more from non-web-savvy visitors than you do from techie ones. Techies tend to be better at coping with pages that contain errors, whereas other users are more easily derailed.
Tips when talking to your visitors
- During the interview, encourage criticism.
- Present yourself as being independent. The interviewee needs to know that you won’t take the criticism personally.
- You can elicit more criticism if you introduce the interview by saying, “We feel that our website needs to be improved. Would you agree?” or “We’ve just started working with a new web-design company. What do you think of this?”
Who should carry out the usability tests?
Many of our clients choose to do the interviewing themselves (we normally recommend that the copywriter get involved somehow). If you want to outsource that too, you can. We recommend doing the first few yourself. Trust us; you’ll learn a lot.
If you’d like to outsource your usability testing, here are some recommendations:
Using pop-up surveys with Ethnio allows you to recruit participants for your usability tests.
Once you have fixed the more obvious problems with your website, it’s time to carry out some usability tests on qualified prospects—that is, people who actually visit your website.
You could do this by asking existing customers to carry out usability tests, and that’s often a good idea. However, your customers have already used your website, and, by definition, they managed to overcome its shortcomings. Asking your customers whether they like you can be the same as asking your spouse if he or she loves you. Of course—by definition!
Ideally you want to interview your visitors who aren’t customers yet. That’s where Ethnio comes to the rescue.
Ethnio provides an easy way of adding a pop-up survey to your website. The survey asks your visitors if they’d like to participate in a usability test. You can customize the survey, so you can ask them details about themselves, such as why they visited your site and whether this is their first visit. You’ll probably have to offer them a small cash incentive for participating in your tests. People’s willingness to participate depends on which type of market you’re in; visitors to some types of website, such as financial services, tend to be particularly reluctant to start a conversation. In other markets, visitors love to get involved.
Once visitors have completed the survey, their details appear in a table in Ethnio’s interface. Based on their answers, you can decide whether you’d like to carry out a usability test with them. That’s all that Ethnio does; once you have the visitors’ details, you can interview them however you like—by phone (with screen-sharing software such as GoToMeeting or join.me), or in person.
Bear in mind that the people who want to be interviewed don’t necessarily represent your average visitor—in particular, they may be more time-rich and cash-poor than your average visitor. However, they are still much more qualified than most people.
- Ethnio provides a great sample script to use when interviewing visitors.
- We use GoToMeeting or join.me for screen sharing.
- FreeConference.com is good for making phone calls, as it allows you to download an MP3 of the call afterwards. You can therefore keep a record of your visitors’ comments and get them transcribed.
- You’ll probably need to offer an incentive to get people involved. We like to reward people with gift cards from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, because they are quick to send, and because visitors instantly recognize them as being valuable—they’re not some sneaky voucher that’s full of weasel clauses and restrictions.
Use your ears and mouth (and go outside). If you can’t sell it face to face, how can you expect to sell it online?
Strictly speaking, using your ears and mouth isn’t a tool—it’s something you do. No one has packaged up this activity into a neat little subscription service, which is perhaps why so few people do it. To elevate its status, we have given this activity its own logo and have included it in this list, where it belongs.
If you’re like us, you spend too many hours indoors in front of your computer. To really understand your website’s visitors, however, you need to seek out opportunities to meet them. That means going outside.
Does your website sell diet plans? Then go to your local gym and talk to people. Get to know them, listen to their opinions, show them your website, and ask them all the things you can’t ask your website’s visitors.
Alternatively, spend a few hours interviewing your company’s customer support staff—or anyone who regularly sells to your customers. These people spend all day speaking with your website’s visitors and understand them better than anyone.
You’d be surprised how much effort we go to in order to speak with real customers. Someday we’ll write about it. Not now though, because we need to tell you about more good stuff.
Your customers are your best salespeople—so use Tell-A-Friend King to listen to how they sell!
Do you have a “Tell-a-Friend” program?
More importantly, do you have a “Tell-a-Friend” program that allows customers to send personalized emails to their friends?
To some extent, your customers’ reasons for buying will reflect the reasons you provided in your advertising, so keep an eye out for discrepancies. These emails will reveal
- Things that are important to your customers, but that don’t get emphasized in your webpages.
- Things that you think are major selling points, but that your customers don’t mention.
Also, pay particular attention to the exact wording they use. For example, the words “bargain,” “cheap,” and “great deal” mean very different things in customers’ minds, so it’s worth using the exact same language they use.
There are many free tools for “Tell-a-Friend,” and some of our clients prefer to build their own. The one we recommend isn’t free. It’s called Tell-A-Friend King. It has a free trial, followed by a nearly free charge of just $6.48/month.
Use Kampyle to allow your visitors to easily give feedback on your webpages.
Kampyle allows your visitors to give feedback on your site, via a little button that sits at the edge of each webpage. (Ours is that green “Feedback” button that follows you down the right-hand side of this page.) The button leads to a pop-up survey, which allows visitors to give their feedback.
The website’s owner can then sign into Kampyle’s website to see an interface for managing all the feedback that has been received. (It feels a bit like an email client, with an inbox and folders.) If visitors leave their email address, the website’s owner can easily inform them when the owner has responded to the feedback.
We first mentioned Kampyle in 2008. Since then, one of our clients has achieved a double-digit improvement in its conversion rate as a result of an insight obtained through Kampyle.
Would you like to know what your visitors want? They’re typing it into your website’s search tool!
Here’s Google’s guide to setting up Google Site Search:
Not only does this help your visitors find the page they’re looking for, but it also provides you with a wealth of information about how to improve your website.
Are visitors searching for content that doesn’t exist? If so, consider adding it to your website.
Are they searching for content that does exist? If so, do the following:
- Check whether the search would have revealed the most relevant page.
- Consider whether the content they were looking for should be added to—or made more prominent on—the page from which they launched their search.
Here are some great resources for internal search:
- A guide to internal site search analytics.
- How to integrate Google Search with Google Analytics.
- If you’re using WordPress, here’s a great article about how to enhance its search function.
Use search engines to track what people are saying about you.
Several search engines track buzz in real time, and you can discover what people are saying about your website on blogs, forums, and social media networks. These search engines are a useful addition to Google Alerts, which you should also be using. These days, we tend to use Twitter Search the most.
As you are reading through the results, make a list of what people are saying. What do they like about your website? What don’t they like about it?
Then consider how you can fix any problems. And use split-testing software (discussed next) to test the new version against your current design.
When we re-designed our own website, we used this technique to make a list of people who had commented on our old website. We then personally asked them for feedback when testing our new design.
Other similar tools worth trying include Omgili and SEOmoz’s Social Media Monitoring Prototype, which are incredibly useful. Radian6 provides powerful tools for real-time analysis and monitoring of social media, and is designed primarily for PR and ad agencies.
Use Google Analytics Content Experiments (formerly known as Google Website Optimizer) to test different versions of your webpages to see which is the best.
Now that you understand your visitors better, you’ll have lots of ideas about what to change on your website.
But hold your horses! Don’t just make those changes and hope for the best. You need to test your ideas!
Instead of guessing what content your visitors like best, test everything using Google Analytics Content Experiments (GACE), a free tool for carrying out split tests (in particular, A/B split tests and multivariate tests).
Specifically, Google Analytics Content Experiments allows you to
- Create many different variations of a webpage.
- Measure which is best at getting your visitors to
- Spend money.
- Sign up to your newsletter.
- Or whatever it is you want them to do.
You can then promote the winning page to become your official new version.
Although Google Analytics Content Experiments gives you an amazing ability to test what variation works best, you’ll quickly discover that by far the hardest part of this process is knowing what to test—which is why we wrote this page. You might also be interested in another report we wrote—Split-testing 101—which contains a lot more information about split-testing.
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So, how can we help you?
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