Focus Points

Poor focus points is one of the most common reasons for low conversion rates.

Poor focus points is one of the most common reasons for low conversion rates.

When visitors come to your site, you need to give them something to focus on.

If nothing on the page captures their attention, the page looks unfinished and amateurish, at best.

And your visitors leave.

Sure, you need to grab their attention, but I’m not talking about writing strong headlines or understanding your customers’ innermost desires.

I’m talking about a critically important web design technique: how to use focus points to lead visitors to your conversion goals.

It’s something you need to be aware of even if you haven’t designed your own site and don’t do the updating.

Your designer might not know anything about it.

And that means your visitors might be leaving your site just as fast as they get there.

But a word of warning: focus points aren’t the easiest things to get right.

You should know how to use them, though, because they can make a huge difference in your conversion rates.

What are focus points?

“Focus point” isn’t a term you’ll find in marketing books, but it accurately describes the idea it represents.

Focus points are specific elements, such as images or text, that visitors are naturally drawn to.

Each of them should lead seamlessly to the next one.

When you’re in control of your visitors’ focus, you can tell them the right things in the right order and move them towards your conversion goals.

But if you lose that control, you lose your chance to persuade and influence them.

And when your visitors aren’t headed in the right direction, you can’t showcase your product’s benefits. You can’t handle their objections. You can’t encourage them to take the next step.

Don’t count on luck. Instead, take control of how people view your site.

The confusion sets in without them…

Imagine walking into the biggest store you’ve ever seen. There’s a nearly endless number of products and everything from vegetables and dairy products to high-powered drills and lawn mowers.

You’re distracted by all the possibilities, and shopping is next to impossible because the products aren’t in any recognizable order. Instead, they’re all mixed up randomly.

You just wanted to buy groceries, but it’s going to take hours to find all the things you need.

Will you stay, or will you go to the other side of the street to your usual grocery store?

This is how your visitors react if your site doesn’t have focus points.

They don’t immediately see the benefit of your site or what they could get from you. They don’t want to waste time.

And they only need to click a button to get to your competitors’ sites.

Get your site in focus

A page with no focus points is confusing.

Without them, visitors have to stop to think about whether they’ll stick around, where they should start, and where they should go next.

You shouldn’t expect that from them; it’s too much to ask. Instead, you should help them as much as you can.

The first focus point should tell them what the site is about. It has to be specific. For example, my topic isn’t “business” or “marketing.” It’s “converting visitors to subscribers and customers.”

The site’s name and tagline should usually (but not always) form the first focus point.

The second focus point should tell visitors what the individual page is about. It’s usually the main headline.

But after that things get more complicated.

The third focus point can be almost anything—what it is and what it should do depends on the page.

It can be a video, an image, a graphic, or some text depending on what you want your visitor to do next. It usually starts the actual content of the page, but there are many exceptions.

Regardless of what your site’s focus points are, they’re there to lead your visitors to your conversion goals.

Lead readers in the right direction

Focus points don’t necessarily make your site better. If not done right, they can just as easily make it worse.

Focus points increase your conversion rates only when they’re leading visitors exactly where you want them to go–on the site and in their thoughts.

What’s more, a focus point that isn’t conveying the right message and pointing in the right direction isn’t just neutral, it’s a huge distraction.

If your focus points aren’t capturing attention or if something is wrong with the direction, you’re not only pushing visitors away from your goals, you might be pushing them away from your site altogether.

So, before you start thinking about focus points, you need to know the shortest, most persuasive path to your objective.

Focus points can help you lead visitors to that path, and they can help you keep visitors moving forward.

But unless you’re communicating the right things, your visitors will leave your site anyway.

Focus points can create huge differences in your conversion—positive or negative.

They’re hardly ever neutral; they’re either working for you or against you.

If you’re not sure they’re working for you, I can help you get them right.

But most importantly, don’t forget focus points.  And don’t just blindly copy what you see on other sites—maybe they’re working, but usually they’re not. You need your own focus points geared to your site, your goals, and your products or services.

Increase your conversion rate quickly

Whenever I build or evaluate websites and landing pages, I use a three-step system.

It helps me find the issues that are causing low conversion rates.

And it works as a solid guideline for creating effective conversion paths...

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Peter Sandeen

Do you want to improve your value proposition or conversion rates?

Or create an effective marketing strategy based on your strengths?

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21 Comments

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  1. Alex said:

    Lots of food for thought here. After reading the title of the post I stopped, sat back in my chair to see how or if your blog scores in terms of focus. My attention was powerfully lead to your subscription box. Well there’s no obvious monetisation on the page so I guess that is your priority and focus?

    Most blogs want to earn revenue from Adsense or affiliate banners and want you to subscribe.

    In that case the optin box is competing with the adsense and everything else. Perhaps then inserting optin boxes at the end of each post would be an answer?

    You’ve stirred me up Peter !

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Alex,

      Yes, I like to get people to the list. It makes sense in my business. And it makes sense for them, as they’ll get the best content I have to offer…

      And yes, if you want people to click your ads, you need people to come to your site. And there are few ways to do that more effectively than getting them to your list :) For many people it’s just a bit difficult to find a way to lead people to the list..

      Cheers,
      Peter

  2. Peter,

    I definitely need to work on this… I also think that many of my Landing Pages “Sell” too early.

    Glad to be introduced to focus points though thanks.

    Ryan H.,

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Ryan,

      I need to work on this as well ;D

  3. hi Peter, this is such an epic post (together with your video over at Traffic Generation Cafe) that I am now reading it for the third time, trying to absorb all the wisdom in it :) We originally met over at Firepole marketing, and I think your evaluations are spot on. ‘Focus Points’ may not be a technical landing page or sales funnel term but I think it is brilliant – it describes exactly ‘how to think’ when laying out your page and also what to look for.
    This post is so timely as I am currently in the process of rebranding and redesigning my entire blog right now, trying to really get clear on my ‘USP’ and my ‘message’ to people.
    I would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts on focus points on the blog page itself and how I am doing on that score. (There will be a separate landing page to send new traffic to) . Quick caveat – the site is still in the ‘build’ phase, all the elements are there (bar two) but the styling is less than perfect at the moment!
    The only 2 elements not there yet is a short ‘welcome box’ that will appear on the home page only, like a customised sticky post, that will very briefly tell people what they will get from the blog and directing them to repeating the call to optin if they didn’t already. There will also be a slider showcasing ‘must-read posts’ under that, so people don’t just have all the recent posts thrown at them.
    Any and all thoughts and criticism on those elements, the layout, styling and whether my message is clear and how the focus elements work greatly appreciated.
    Thank you :)

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Mandy,

      Thanks :)

      As for your site, the main problem is lack of any clear first focus point. There are several different colors, boxes, images, headlines, opt in forms, posts…

      If you look at the page from 20 feet away, nothing stands out (or everything tries to stand out).

      You could try to make some elements less visually interesting (less vibrant colors, less pictures, etc.) to give room for something else to get the “first place”.

      Does that make sense?

      -Peter

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  5. [...] “focus points” are the foundation for good [...]

  6. Thanks for this post…it definitely gives me some things to consider. I found you through Danny’s blog and am so glad I did. I really appreciate the way you structure your content- straightforward and simple. I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways I could improve my focus points, thanks!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Kate,

      Your site has a clear first focus point – the header – but not really a second one. In the header, I’d make the second half darker; it’s now so light that it’s on the edge of being difficult to read.

      You don’t have a tagline. Adding one could tell the visitors why they should stay on the site (= what they can gain by staying). The tagline could then be the second focus point.

      And finally I’d make the sign-up area stand out. Now it doesn’t stand out at all.

      What do you think?

      -Peter

  7. Allison said:

    I recommend paying close attention to “Call to Action” Elements and principles for your pages. They increase your conversion chances if done right. There are also factors based on Interface design and user interface that you need to test based on testing models for increasing conversion rates.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Allison,

      You’re right; the call to action has a huge impact on conversion. If surprising how little people usually consider their calls to action…

      Cheers,
      Peter

  8. Arun Nair said:

    Hey Peter, I am from service industry & I am using email list & so on but my conversion rate is not enough or stasifictory from the google ranking. Should I guide my vsitors from one page to other page like showing the portfolio strognly on the landing page or guide on perticular page where I put all services?

    Thanks
    Arun Nair

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Arun,

      I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the question. Could you rephrase it?

      -Peter

      • Arun Nair said:

        Hey Peter, my site is good on ranking with huge competitive keyword but not getting satisfactory conversion from the organic traffic. Can you guide me what should I have to do for the same?
        I have targeted two keywords (web development company & web design company | esparkinfo.com) for the same url & both ranking good. Conversion is the problem? Do I need redesign my site? or any other way where I can guide my visitors for specific page?

        • Peter Sandeen said:

          Hi Arun,

          You have an interesting issue; you’ve done almost everything well, but just one thing is killing your conversions…

          It’s “interesting” because your site is so much better than what most businesses have ;)

          The problem is the lack of a clear next step. I looked through all the main pages and I wasn’t left with a clear idea of what exactly I should do next to get the benefits.

          That being said, I didn’t read through the texts. And only glanced over each page. But still I should have an idea of why I should hire you.

          So, to better your conversion, I’d start by thinking how to more clearly communicate UNIQUE value…

          You could make the guarantees more prominent (put a mention of them to the top of the home page).

          You could be more specific about what you offer (e.g. excluding SEO and SEM services from the home page, unless they’re an important revenue stream).

          You should make it clear why you’re not just another web design company. There are hundreds of sites that look basically the same as yours, and hundreds that look more “unique” than yours. On the other hand, you shouldn’t try to look unique just for the sake of looking unique; your site’s design/structure/copy/etc. should all communicate your unique VALUE.

          What do you think? Am I making sense?

          -Peter

  9. [...] “focus points” make the page easy to read, and enable you to direct the reader to the right ideas in the [...]

  10. Great info here Peter. I know that the call I had with you helped me figure out a ton out. More than anything it helped me to focus on the one major goal I needed to provide to my users.

    Time will tell what happens with my conversation rate because of it, I’m looking forward to implementing your ideas so I can track the increase. Thanks for your help!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Jared,

      Thanks :)

      That’s what most people say. And I think it’s great. Knowing what to focus on makes it a lot easier to get to your goals because you’re not wasting any of your time :)

      Cheers,
      Peter

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