Conversion Success: Simplicity, Target and Alignment

I enjoy watching those television shows where the masked magician reveals the secrets of how stage magic is done. It’s funny because whenever he reveals a new trick, I mentally kick myself for not having figured it out earlier. It seemed so simple.

In this, my final column for Practical eCommerce, I want to “reveal” three of the key concepts that I have used effectively to develop high conversion websites over the past eight years.

Please fight the idea that these concepts are too simple to be effective. On the contrary, I think in many cases we overlook the simple, assuming that a big problem requires a big solution. In fact, the first concept is simplicity itself.


Albert Einstein is attributed as saying “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.” I’ve found that an effective concept in any number of web marketing areas.

I’ve especially found it to be true as far as graphic design is concerned (anyone that disagrees is probably selling graphic design). Simplify design in order to focus on what is truly important. Don’t distract site visitors with so much information and imagery that they can no longer discern what is the priority. Look at any of the articles in this magazine or on the website and you’ll see headlines, sub-heads, and body text. This simple graphic design methodology allows us to visually process material more quickly. The same applies online.

Assuming that graphic design is “how you say it,” I also consider simplicity to be important in terms of what you say. Get to the point! Be specific! State the benefits that your product to the purchaser in clear simple terms. Don’t assume the purchaser knows why he or she should buy it. And, don’t get wrapped up in overly complex explanations, especially not at first. Even for technical products, begin with a simple overview, with more complicated information available as an option.


Chiseled above the entrance to the ancient Oracle at Delphi was the instruction ‘Know Thyself.” If the Oracle were a web marketer, the inscription probably would have been “know thy customer.” I have found that there is tremendous power in segmenting your customers into specific groups, and then marketing to them specifically.

I’m a big fan of having site visitors “self-identify” by clicking a link that tells you who they are (a good example might be having two links labeled “Products for Home Use” and “Products for Office Use”). Then each of those pages can be very specifically targeted in terms of products offered, description, benefits and so forth. Even if the same product appears in both categories, the description should be different, to make it more relevant to the target audience.


I think that “alignment” might be the most powerful concept that I have discovered, and in some ways is an extension of “target.” Alignment involves keeping as much similarity as possible between the steps in the marketing process.

The headline in an ad should be used as the title of a landing page, and also featured prominently on subsequent pages. And I’m not talking about consistency of meaning; I’m suggesting that you should literally repeat the same phrase. The same is true for imagery too. The image in the ad should be repeated on the landing page.

I’ve thought about why this is such an effective approach, and my conclusion is that as human beings we really don’t like to be surprised. Even a surprise party has the element of “I wish you’d told me.” Especially when it comes to making purchases online, we need to have a high level of trust and confidence, and surprises (even potentially good ones) have the effect of reducing confidence.

For example, say a visitor clicks on a link for a product that mentioned a 10% discount, but the visitor is then taken to a web page describing a 20% discount. The visitor could then have a flurry of negative thoughts “did I click on the wrong link,” and “is this really the product I wanted.” He could even click the back button to clarify that he’s in the right place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that buyers would prefer a 10% discount instead of 20%, but merely pointing out how much easier the purchase process is when each element is “aligned,” with no surprises.

I’m confident that application of these three concepts, simplicity, target, and alignment, will increase the effectiveness of your web marketing, as they have mine. I wish you the best of luck on this exciting journey.

Mat Greenfield
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