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Elements of a high converting website with Greg Merrilees

In the podcast:
02:21 – Creating a high converting website
02:51 – Principles to influence people to take action on a website
05:58 – Building Trust with Audiences
08:42 – DIY website vs. professionally designed website
10:54 – Set structure of a website that works well over others
14:12 – Essential elements that should be above the fold
16:09 – Duplicating call to action in above the fold and down the bottom
19:41 – Classic mistakes that people make
23:17 – Tips to improve conversion rate on a website



Greg Merrilees and I discuss the essential design elements that go into a high converting website. There is little point having a nice looking website if it doesn’t do it’s job of converting vistiors into leads. So, Greg and I discuss what essential features ALL websites should have in order for it to convert well.


Download Elements of a High Converting Website with Greg Merrilees in PDF


Ilana: Ilana Wechsler here with another episode of Talking Web Marketing. I have a wonderful guest with me on today’s show. His name is Greg Merrilees and he is in no doubt one of the best web designers around. See Greg’s a little bit different to a classic web designer in that he is a designer and a marketer which is a really good combination. If you want a website that will actually do its job of converting its visitors into leads or sales which is what we’re going to be discussing on today’s episode is web design elements that will do its job to convert people into leads and sales. So welcome to today’s show Greg Merrilees.

Greg: Thank you for having me on Ilana. It’s great to be here.

Ilana: It’s awesome to have you here. I am such a longtime appreciator of your work. I mean I look at your work and I think I don’t know how he’s done it but he’s just done it again. So I’m so excited you taken time out of your day to come and talk to me because I think you can provide a lot of value to our listeners about building and well not so much building because I know you’re a designer and there’s a very important distinction.

So designing websites that really convert very well because that is the Holy Grail for any kind of business is to get a website that does its job of making the phone ring or generating sales. So I can imagine there are so many elements that come into that beautiful harmony of that situation. So I wondered if you could kind of discuss some of the elements that make up a high converting web page.

Creating a high converting website

Greg: Yeah absolutely. So what we like to do for a start is think about your website as not a lead not a brochure but more of a machine that’s going to attract the right people and then you know build trust to then psychologically influence them to take action on your site so to do that, before we talk about the actual design elements or components I’d like to just sort of talk about the overarching principles that we follow that do influence people to take action and you know really it put in its use on your website to put your best content on there and you give away as much free quality content as possible.

So you know if you’re writing blog posts or videos or podcasts or anything like that you really want to house them on your website. Your website is the biggest asset you’re going to grow as opposed to put it on social media. You really want to use social media to bring people back to your website. So yeah the first principle is really reciprocity and sharing your knowledge and in the form of all those different medium type types as well as potentially have in lead magnets like a PDF for a free trial or depends on your business and you know the structure of the business.

But yeah you just want to give away your best stuff and then really you want to just ask people to give you an email address in return for something that’s worth a lot of money, sorry a lot of value I should say a free something or other. So that’s step one reciprocity and then you know you really want to build your authority.

So we like to design a website that shows your authority. So if your service business and just by sharing knowledge for one that’s going to help build your authority. But then also if you’ve spoken from stage you want to use photos of you speaking from stage or show a little bit of footage of that even if you’re a professional plumber for instance. You know show photos of yourself working on the job but looking professional you know showing your car nice and clean. Whatever the case is whatever your business is just show you photos of you in the most professional light of you on the tools essentially.

So that’s authority and there’s obviously a few other ways you can show your authority as well through logos, you know your accreditations, your qualifications, industry association logos etc. and even just by having a professional website design will help sort of show your authority from the point of view that doesn’t look like you’ve done it yourself. You know you’ve invested in your brand for instance and then yeah.

Ilana: So you were going to keep sign selling.

Greg: Yeah. Did you have any questions ask on that yet?

Ilana: Yeah I did like I think you raise a really interesting concept in that it’s building authority and reciprocity because I think anyone who comes to your website who has never been there before I think you know instinctively their guard is up there sort of sort of looking at you know who is this person and can they help me solve my problem. And I guess are they on authority to do so. You know I think that’s kind of what you really touch on in sort of building that authority and reciprocity and giving information away for free in exchange for an email address to break down those barriers because I mean that sort of psychology 101 really, isn’t it?

Building Trust with Audiences

Greg: It is yeah absolutely. And you know people when they first discover you they’re not ready to buy yet so you really need to have the website design in a way that builds trust and all these psychological drivers like authority and you know reciprocity etc..

They are the elements that will build trust and so there’s a few others as well and you know you really want to be likeable and that goes down to even when you’re on camera you know people face to face to camera video for instance right people will be looking at your body language the way you talk and all those sort of things so you want to come across as likable and not arrogant. And also when you interact with your you know your audience whether it’s through the comments section on your website or could be through social media. You want to be as helpful as possible and as likeable as possible as well so yeah and don’t be afraid to put your personality out there.

To me I found that putting videos of me on my website really helped with building that trust from the point of view that when people come through our sales funnel and they jump on a call with me some of them say you know they feel like they know me just because they’ve watched the videos of me. So just try and be you know put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to and and yeah just try and be likeable essentially.

Ilana: I think you also raise another really good point in sort of having the bravery to step out from behind the curtain of stock images on your website or get on a video. I mean a couple of years ago I got a I put a video on my website. I think it might be like 47 seconds or something you know is less than a minute. It’s super short and I cannot. I mean I’ve never actually quantified it but the difference in results was not in day. Purely because I guess I had the bravery to say this is me, this is what I do, this is what I love, and come and check me and I was actually astounded at the difference.

Greg: Yeah and look I definitely say the same thing. We were experimenting a little bit with videos while just trying to use a little bit of comedy in there at the moment which we’ve just put up in the last week so we’ll see how it goes. But yeah most of our pages will have a video at the top of the page. Definitely our sales pages but yeah it’s something that video is so powerful and I don’t think people are using that enough on their website you know especially with people’s limited time span these days, sorry attention span these days. They don’t really want to go and read an entire pages want to get a quick overview. So for one they’ll just skim through headlines but to watch videos as long as they’re not too long and they can help get the point across a lot quicker.

DIY website vs. professionally designed website

Ilana: So I don’t mean to put you on the spot a little bit. You sort of touched on a topic I kind of also want to discuss a little bit which is sort of the people who DIY you know there’s so many templates out there you can buy and those templates can definitely have their place in the world. Have you ever kind of done some analysis on sort of the difference in going from a DIY website to a professionally designed one. Like the difference in terms of results.

Greg: Yeah it’s pretty hard to give like an exact figure because every business is so different but I do know that clients that have come to us that have grown organically and you know just done it is on their website themselves using their template and by the way I am all for using a template if you’re testing that offer or even those page blurbs like click funnels or lead pages etc. But you know once you’ve tested an offer and your offer is converting, then if you go from a DIY type of website to a professionally designed website as long as it’s professionally designed with all these kind of psychological drivers built into the design on average you’re going to get about a 30% boost in conversions. So yeah but it really needs to be designed you know with the right strategy and it’s not just about a pretty design it’s more about the strategy and even copywriting is one of the most important things so the design needs to enhance the copy. The copy is more important than the design.

Ilana: Interesting but I guess if it’s got good copy with bad design then you know your results are not as good as they could be as well sort of.

Greg: That’s exactly right yeah. So we have a lot of clients that have run landing pages for years and then you know they just want a design update so we keep a copy identical and then just change the design. And yeah that’s if it is designed properly can just literally give them another 20 or 30% boost. So it’s pretty powerful.

Ilana: And that would make a difference to somebody’s bottom line. They don’t have to buy any traffic. They’ve just got to make that change and then they’ve already increased their revenue.

Greg: That’s right, yeah exactly. And it is just an average I don’t want everyone to expect that’s going to be the result because there’s so many variables outside of the design that are out of our control essentially and it might be that their offer just isn’t that appealing or their market is too small. So design is not the only reason. The only thing to test changing to get a better result.

Set structure of a website that works well over others

Ilana: Yeah nice. So I mean I would imagine that you know the work you do is so bespoke and so individual for the different business and their industry but would you say that there is some kind of I guess for lack of a better word like a formula or a set structure that you find works well over others.

Greg: Yeah. Look I mean overall if you think about like a website just in another specific landing page, the structure of a website really needs some design with a psychological drivers to build authority. But it also needs to be designed for your target market so you know it’s really the design is understand who your target market is. They need to understand you know their age, their gender, job all that sort of stuff because realistically we’re designing not really for the client but for the client’s client or customers so we need to have all of our imagery to resonate with them. The color palette to resonate with them you know all the elements even the social proof needs to resonate with them.

So for instance like if you’re providing services to small businesses don’t have logos like Google and all these bigger companies even if you designed or even if you have service to a larger company if the majority of your businesses and clients are smaller companies then use those smaller company logos because your prospects if they’re smaller companies that don’t want to see your company logos because they won’t think that you can help them so don’t try and just boost your ego. I have in larger companies keep the logos on their business that you’ve helped.

Ilana: Yeah I think that’s you know you make a really valid point again. It’s not about, I mean yes your client is a person who you design the website for. But that’s not they want a website that’s going to appeal to their customers, so that they can make decisions and sort of become a prospect or a customer.

Greg: That’s right, yeah exactly. And so you know we want to design for that and customer even down to the layout and the hierarchy. We want to make sure it’s not confusing, we want to make sure you know the content on there is relevant to like from the copywrite into your blog post everything needs to be rolled to attract that you know that perfect ideal prospect. But yeah even down to the structure of the actual pages what we’d like to do there is not cram too much information on the pages especially above the fold which is sort of the area that you see when you first land on a page.

We need to give it a visual hierarchy that puts focus on the thing that you want people to have their attention on first and it’s usually just a small little headline or bullet points and then a call to action and just a little tip there for lead magnets. The type of call to action that works best is having word in on the button that’s talking like it’s the person that’s pressing the button. So you know download my free report or whatever works better than download your free report and then just have the button on the page and then when they press the button there’ll be a pop up asking for their credentials like first name and email that will convert better than asking for those fields. You know those credentials on the actual page.

Ilana: Interesting, right. So really sort of talking in first person.

Greg: Yeah definitely, yeah absolutely.

Essential elements that should be above the fold

Ilana: So you make sure above the being you know but resisting temptation of sort of stuffing above the fold and above the fold being I guess you know the shop is a for your website that prime real estate. Would you know would you say there’s a couple of essential elements that should be above the fold?

Greg: Yeah. So really if we’re talking a homepage. Homepage is really a gateway to get to your most important pages that help people in their customer journey to really build trust along the way. But so a homepage would just lead with value first. So I would have just a headline bullets and a lead magnet for instance right or a video as well.

But yeah, don’t put anything else. We like to sort of design a section of what we call a fold as one action per fold. So the reason homepage these days is usually a longer scrolling page is because people will be viewing that page on various devices and they don’t always if they’re on a smaller device they don’t always want to just skim across the top nav and press on the various things on the top nav because the top nav turns into what we call a hamburger menu.

And that’s more of a pain for them to go. Press on the hamburger menu then go to the individual items so we kind of give people two options one top nav especially on desktop. That’s where they’ll go. But then the rest of the page is like a gateway to get those important top nav pages but through clicking on images and call to actions throughout the page. But the homepage is the only page we treat with multiple call to actions every other page on your site really should only have one call to action.

Ilana: Okay so the top nav sort of the elements of navigation that is present in the top nav is duplicated only on the homepage is that what you mean?

Greg: Yeah pretty much exactly, yeah. So we just want to make sure that we cater to people that either just use the top nav or a scrolling to figure out what you’re all about. Use it out just scroll, click, scroll and just stop at things that are interesting. So yeah we want to make sure that we capture what we need to to build trust essentially.

Duplicating call to action in above the fold and down the bottom

Ilana: Okay. And what are your thoughts on duplicating some kind of call to action. So having a call to action let’s say above the fold and then the same call to action let’s say down the bottom. Do you kind of do that? Do you recommend that?

Greg: Yeah. So once it kind of depends on the purpose of the landing page and that led to the landing page. But there’s a couple of things we would do definitely have the call to action above the fold. Sometimes you won’t. If you want people to be drawn into the story in the flow of the page we don’t want to interrupt it just yet with the call to action because you know depend on the offer if it’s cold traffic to a product they really need to understand that through the copy that there is a solution for their problem and you don’t give away the solution just yet because they’re not ready for it. They haven’t been sold on and they will be by the time I read all copy. So sometimes you don’t want to have a call to action above the fold.

However for pages that do require a call to action above the fold we would put one above the fold and then further down the page you know maybe another few folds down the page we’d put another call to action and then another one. It depends on the pages and you definitely have one at the bottom of the page but another option that we’re using a lot lately and this works really well for mobile device as well is having the call to action in a sticky top nav. So you know even the bigger companies like Amazon and Apple do that for their e-commerce products so no matter where you are.

Ilana: When you say sticky, it means it doesn’t move.

Greg: Correct. So when you scroll and the top nav is always in view. So yeah. So basically whether on a desktop or mobile you have the call to action in the sticky top nav so you don’t really need to put it all throughout the page because it’s always on the screen.

Ilana: Right, nice. I like it. So it’s funny like for some of our clients we will install some sort of software that tracks their own page behavior, the name has escaped me for some reason. And it’s interesting like we’ve noticed the difference in results when we’ve resisted the temptation to add more elements to try and improve conversions. We’ve done the opposite. We’ve removed the elements and you know I’m not a web designer by any stretch but I think people fall into that trap of trying to overstuff information on their website rather than removing elements to sort of make it singular focus. Do you find the same?

Greg: Yeah absolutely. But really the results can vary and it does depend on so many variables like if that is cold traffic you know have you got enough elements on that page that build trust you know all those psychological drivers. If it’s warm traffic you probably don’t need as many. You could potentially just get to get to the point especially if it’s a hot lead. You know they know your stuff they’ve been following you for a while. Those people you can just have a buy now button and if they’re hot, they’ll buy. You know what I mean so there are a lot of variables on when you should and shouldn’t use all of those other elements to help build trust.

Ilana: But I guess from the design perspective it’s very, I mean that’s your challenge really is catering a design that suits people at different points because it’s page they’re going to.

Greg: Yeah, yeah. That’s true. But so it depends like if a customer comes to us and says I want a landing page and we’ve got a questionnaire that’ll ask a lot of different questions and yes you know there will be various ways that they send traffic. But what we want to know is what’s the most common way that they’ll be sending traffic and if and if it’s cold traffic through paid ads then I would argue that we need to put all of the trust elements on there.

Classic mistakes that people make

Ilana: Right, interesting. I know you’re a big fan of doing like sort of online video screen shares of critiquing people’s current websites. In all the ones that you’ve done which I would imagine have been so many. What is some of the classic mistakes that you see people make?

Greg: Yeah. So you know I think a lot of people expect people to buy from their website straight away and you know people just aren’t ready to buy it. You know 97% according to some statistics, say that 97% of people aren’t ready to buy. So that’s why we like to design a website that builds trust first but another big mistake I see image sliders.

So they’re proven conversion killer so that’s where you know you go to a web page and there’s an image on the side, on the side it’s got text over it and then it scrolls goes to another one. You try to read that and it scrolls to another one and it’s just really distracting. And that’s why it’s a conversion killer.

So you want to increase conversions get rid of that for a start but I find especially on services websites people will often be asking for a sale on hello. As in you know right on the home page you know they have a link straight away to their services instead of having a lead magnet there. So yeah, just don’t you know unless you’ve unless you build trust with that person you’ve got a warm audience for cold audiences trying to offer a product straight away will never work.

So try and build trust first. But also I think a lot of people kind of skip having lead magnets even and I know a lot of businesses now they kind of should but I don’t know what the reason is for not having them but it’s just another way to get people into your final at the minimum barrier of interest so then have a basic funnel it could just be a magnet to a thank you page and it’s another mistake people don’t have a thank you page. I just have a little line and say thank you, you know.

Ilana: Yeah, thank you page is some of the best real estate you can have.

Greg: It is. isn’t it? ‘Coz they’re already in the habit of saying yes so you want to use that page to try and build more trust and get them to take the next step in your funnel and the way to build more trust on a thank you page. I believe is to have a video of your face to camera saying thank you or even have, what we do on ours is just have a video of me presenting on stage which I’m talking about website design and so if somebody watches that video that’s also very helpful for them but it is an authority building phase as well so yeah. So video is very powerful on thank you page. But then also have an a second offer on your thank you page. Have another offering you can use the scarcity or urgency principle by having that offer available only for a limited time and a design element have a countdown timer as well to just visually show that how much time they have remaining.

Ilana: I guess like how would you sort of enforce that countdown timer if they come back later like. Is it sort of cookie based?

Greg: Yeah it can be. Look I’m not a developer. My business is more design based. You know we have like 14 designers we have a few developers really just for the basic stuff but look they know the answer to that and there are ways to make that happen. So yes it can be cookie based but it also depends a lot of people use multi devices to browse websites these days so it’s not full proof. So you can’t always control it unless there are ways around it. Like if they logged into things like Google or Facebook or whatever you can do multi browser, yeah ways of linking it together but it’s technical and I don’t know the answer.

Tips to improve conversion rate on a website

Ilana: Fair enough, nor do I. So I guess you know a couple of tips for somebody who wants to improve their conversion rate on their website, what would you advise? I guess generic tips obviously it’s very individual for their business but can you provide any kind of tips?

Greg: I would say first start study, touch on hotjar before so that’s for qualitative data. So in other words stuff that you know by watching your users behavior and how you can record videos of people using your website. It does heat maps you can have polls and surveys and things like that. So if you study that qualitative data you can learn a hell of a lot. But I would say also your quantitative data. So your Google Analytic,s your sales you know any type of metrics that you know that you can measure and compare over time just to see the patterns and then you put the quantitative and qualitative data together really work out what’s working and what isn’t working.

And so from that point after you’ve worked that out you should be looking at potentially a redesign but based on the data that you’ve collected from that. That’d be step 1 and then yeah if you really want to boost conversions, one thing we haven’t really touched on yet is social proof in my opinion can’t have enough social proof on a website. So that’s things like testimonials and case studies. Anything that’s going to show that you’ve got a result for your customers and it’s not you saying how awesome you are, it’s them saying how awesome you are.

Ilana: And I guess you just probably got to go out and ask your customers instead of personally don’t you? To get those.

Greg: Yeah that’s right, yeah absolutely. And you know a lot of people that’s another mistake I see that people don’t ask their customers that they’re too embarrassed to ask for a testimonial for some reason and you know these days you know there’s a lot of software out there that can do it automatically for you as well you know to get reviews on your website and it all just get uploaded to your site automatically.

So you know, definitely do a google search for those type of tools. But you should always be asking for the testimonials and you know really it’s just asking them simple questions like: What was your situation like before you hired us? What were the objections? What was your biggest pain point or frustration before you purchased from us? What obstacles nearly prevented you from purchasing from us? What are the results you have been getting since purchasing from us? And then who else would you recommend us to? And just those questions alone are going to form a case study to show you know show other prospects how you help take a person from where they were to where they are now.

Ilana: Which is you know I think they’re good questions because it’s forcing people to think of it before situation as well as they’re after situations where quantifiable like here I was before and here I am now and this is the difference.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. So the more you can show that on your website the more it’s going to attract other prospects to trust you guys and take action.

Ilana: And I’ve seen on your website, you’ve got an amazing sort of array and display of your case studies with your design folio which is amazing. So that’s the ultimate social proof.

Greg: It is yeah and yeah I guess that’s what we do have to add more to is showing more of those before images we do have them. Yeah quite a few of them but not all and we have to add more to that. But yeah showing the before and the after like in any type of business can be really powerful. You know dentist for instance they’re not allowed to have testimonials or anything in the medical industry that just matters. But if you can show before and afters visually then you can be quite powerful like teeth that are not so pretty and then some good looking smiles that can be really powerful.

Ilana: So Greg I’m mindful of the time and I know you’re a busy, busy man so I don’t take up too much of your time. So thank you for coming on today’s show and sharing your absolute wisdom. Where can people find out a bit more information about you?

Greg: Yeah absolutely. So if you go to studio1design.com and that’s the numeral one and even studio1design.com/quiz. There’s actually a quiz that we have on there that people can quickly discover where their website is potentially leaking money. So do that quiz.

Ilana: And they even get a score won’t you?

Greg: You do get a score, yeah exactly. And then you know I can even review your website as well if you really want to. You can reach out to me you can just go through our contact page and I’ll get notified of that.

Ilana: Awesome. Greg thank you so much for coming on today’s show. Yeah if somebody else wants to see a sample of Greg’s design they can go to my website, greenarrowdigital.com because Greg designed my site. I love it.

Greg: Also. Well, thank you so much for having me Ilana.

Ilana: All right, talk to you soon.

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