Improve Website Conversion Rates by Subtracting Unnecessary Elements

pruning shearsWhen you look at your website, do you feel that it’s basically okay, and you’ve worked hard to build up some content, and you’ve got good traffic…but you feel like enough people just aren’t doing that thing you want them to do (converting)?

Rather than trying to redesign your whole site or figuring out what else you need to add to compel the prospect to take action, perhaps it’s time to do a little housecleaning.

Or, as the weary son Val says in the immortal film The Birdcage: “Don’t add. Just subtract.”

As a matter of fact, we’re taking a critical look at the Rowboat Media website right now to figure out what’s really necessary and what needs to go. The list is growing.

Social media profile buttons vs social media sharing buttons

Not too long ago, the conventional wisdom was that you might as well not have a website unless you had snazzy social media buttons as part of the design. Why miss that golden opportunity to get a Twitter follower?

Recently though, Chris Brogan – whose name often starts out “Social Media Icon Chris Brogan” in introductions – redesigned his website and there are ZERO social media profile buttons to be found on his website. Not one. I know, because I spent time looking. How can you be a social media icon without…social media icons?

“Don’t add. Just subtract.”

– The Birdcage

Quite some time ago, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers (highly recommended) stated that he removed social media profile buttons from his website because they do nothing but lead the reader away from your site rather than keeping them on it – reading content, and performing the desired action – in Derek’s case, signing up for his email list. Chris Brogan also focuses on building his email list.

They’re both clear – what is the one thing you want a visitor to do once they come to your website? Clear the decks of everything that doesn’t lead to that.

Both Derek and Chris do, however, keep social media sharing buttons on their website, giving readers the opportunity to share their content with others – they just don’t want you leaving the site prematurely to go jump on their Facebook page. They both have Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles, with thousands of followers – people who want to add them to those networks do find a way.

Ruthless pruning of sidebar widgets

Ah, the loverly WordPress widget – how do we love them? We can add them with plugins, we can drag and drop them, we can make them show up on some pages and not on others…and before you know it, your sidebar goes all the way to China.

Take a hard look at everything in your sidebar and ask yourself if it helps you accomplish the primary goal of your website. If it doesn’t, issue it a tiny pink slip and show it the door.

Items that should always be visible:

  • Contact form if that’s your main goal
  • Email opt-in form if that’s your main or high-secondary goal
  • A way to get deeper into your content, like Resource Pages

Items that are negotiable, depending on your business and target audience:

  • A photo of you with a tease to your bio (lawyers, you need this)
  • Social proof (media publications, professional associations) – but keep this clean and well-curated. You don’t have to list every single thing – just those that are highest-impact.
  • Recent blog posts, which I like to title “Recent Articles” for professionals – most of us aren’t really “bloggers” – we’re just using the platform.

Items that should go away, pronto:

  • Tag clouds – they were never a good idea even when they were “cool.”
  • Most of the other widgets that come standard with a WordPress install, including the “Log In” link.
  • A mile-long blogroll of links sending people to other sites and away from your own. If you want to share links with your colleagues, guest post on each others’ blogs.
  • A list of “resources” leading people away from your website.
  • Google Ads unless that’s your source of income. If you’re a professional of any kind, get rid of all the ads – don’t make people wonder if you can’t make enough money doing what you do.
  • Standard Archives widgets that just list a long list of month titles going back 3 years – they are no use whatsoever.
  • The calendar widget.
  • RSS news feeds from other sites that draw the reader’s attention away.

As stated earlier, we’re taking a hard look at our own site to figure out what can be pruned and what needs to stay.

Happy pruning!


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