Many businesses throw together their websites or landing pages when it's time to launch a new brand, product, or service, putting the digital storefront last on their list of priorities. Developing the product is the real time constraint, goes the thinking. The new widget will sell itself -- no need to labor over the page hosting it.

But that's false logic. Conversion rates may be notoriously low -- across industries, the average landing page has a 2.35 percent conversion rate -- but they don't have to stay that way. In fact, the top 10 percent of landing pages convert more than a tenth of their customers. Here's how smart companies can create websites that do the same.

1. Use minimally viable redesign.

Every digital marketer has intimate knowledge of A/B testing, but most pursue iterative testing, swapping out button colors, fonts, and headline structures individually to see which version results in a better payoff. While this kind of testing does demonstrate a change, the results are often deceptive, lacking in statistical power, and apt to lead teams astray.

Or on the flip side, marketers engage in large, full-scale redesigns that are risky because of the amount of time spent with no guarantee of better performance.

A better approach is minimally viable redesign, which combines multiple simple changes for assessment. Not only does this avoid the iterative method's lengthy process of one-by-one comparisons, but it also minimizes marketers' upfront effort by reusing or repurposing elements. "For instance, we don't generate any new graphics," says Jeff Blettner, strategist, CRO, of digital agency Elite SEM. "Often, a simple adjustment or a change in placement is all that's required. We also avoid wholesale stylistic changes like buttons, layout, borders and fonts."

Blettner says it's important to avoid producing new content, tweaking only existing content to fit the brand's needs. Taken together, these minimal changes can have the impact of a complete page redesign -- saving a company time and money while making the kinds of changes that can drive more money through its doors.

2. Personalize your site.

In an ideal world, a website is drawing visitors from a wide geographic range and a broad set of demographic groups. But trying to appeal to a wide range of people is like trying to thread a needle you can't even see: frustratingly impossible. That's why it pays to get particular. McKinsey & Co. found that personalized experiences -- communications targeted directly at a specific consumer -- result in up to 30 percent revenue growth.

Others, however, caution that getting too personalized can feel creepy, even more so than a seemingly irrelevant ad following a one-stop website visit. Online marketing expert Neil Patel argues that the sweet spot between too invasive and too broad can be found in geotargeting. He says that by personalizing the headline of an offer on his website to include the visitor's city, he saw his conversion rate increase by more than 20 percent.

3. Build up your blog presence -- and don't skimp on the calls to action.

Sleek website design involves avoiding cluttering up pages with endless reams of text or an overwhelming number of images. After a certain point, too much stimulation actually causes people to shut down. Most visitors will expect that if they find the landing page or homepage interesting, they'll need to visit the blog to find out what the brand is really about -- which obviously makes a blog essential. In fact, HubSpot has found that businesses that blog have 126 percent more lead growth than businesses that don't.

While many websites are great at attracting traffic, Forrester Research has reported that up to 98 percent of website visitors don't identify themselves or move to the next step. There are two commonsense ways to combat that: by instituting more calls to action and by making a free offer that could lead to a paying customer. It's OK to make a sales pitch when a customer is already hooked by your educational content. As Content Marketing Institute's Sujan Patel explains, "The ideal sales post should be largely based upon advice. Selling should be a significant element of the post but only in impact -- not in volume of space."

Consider developing a free tool that helps a lead get started on addressing the problem just discussed while making her realize she needs help to actually solve it. That type of experience heightens the necessity and difficulty of a brand's work while underscoring its helpfulness.

Marketers and business leaders have the tools necessary to improve their conversion rates but often overlook them -- and hurt their own prospects in the process. By making a few key changes, however, they can build a site that does most of the work for them.

Published on: Aug 8, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.