In previous articles I have commented on how to apply the 80/20 principle when improving the effectiveness of your website marketing. Examples have included Google AdWords, where 20% of your keywords will usually provide 80% of your sales conversions, and landing page copy creation, where a mere 20% of your sales copy will drive 80% of the effects of the page. The principle also rings true when it comes to copy placement, with key copy best placed in the top 20% of your web page.

But when it comes to 80/20 truisms the granddaddy of them all is how 20% of your web pages will be responsible for over 80% of your website’s conversion success. Yep, while you may have a site chock full of well indexed content that does a great job of attracting new searchers, it could well be just one or two pages that do the heavy lifting of converting these visitors into prospects.

In some cases it’s simple to pick out these ‘golden’ pages. For lead-generation websites, it’s usually the landing pages that sit between your visitors and the content they register for. Improving these pages, through split testing the copy and design elements they contain, can have a dramatic effect on improving conversion rates.

However, when it comes to locating the right pages to focus on in a multi-stage e-commerce site, things become a bit more challenging. In this case, there may be several pages a prospect needs to visit during the purchase process. The prospect might pick the product from the selection on offer, add it to their shopping cart, perhaps return to shop some more, and then decide to ‘check out’ what they have. From here, they are asked to either login if they have purchased before or register as a new buyer. Depending on how user-friendly your shopping cart is, they may see any number of pages before finally ending up on the ‘order receipt’ or ‘thank you’ page.

It would be no surprise that not everyone who starts shopping ends up completing the order. In some cases, the drop off can be as high as 85%. Some pages in the process will have a disproportionate effect on dropping prospects from the sales process. Fortunately, when setting up a Google Analytics goal for the completed sale you can register each step as one that you want tracked and reported on.

Once you have a reasonable number of sales worth reporting on (say above 30) you can see which web pages during your sales process are responsible for producing the most unwanted visitor exits. It’s these pages that represent your 20%, and require your focus. It may be only one of your five possible pages that is causing the damage. Here are some examples of pages that I frequently see falling into this group.

Pages that ask for customer information. This is most likely to be a new shopper registration page, where the more personal information you request the fewer registrations you will get. It pays to critically review what you ask for and compare it with what you really need. Is date of birth really necessary to make a purchase? Unfortunately some product categories – say finance and insurance – need more details than others, so if this is the case then employ some clever page design to make things look like they are a bit easier to complete.

One added trick is to place your phone contact details – ideally a free call 0800 number with an image of a smiling person on the phone ready to take the call – in a prominent place. The prospect may look at the form in frustration and prefer the idea of placing a quick call to get the order over and done with.

Pages that ask for money. It’s no surprise that these types of pages find themselves in the top 20%. It’s when your visitors have to find their credit card and enter its details into your page that all their deep-seated concerns can come welling up. They may be thinking ‘What happens if I order the wrong product? Are they going to steal my credit card? Who will help me if things go wrong?‘ Providing copy that answers some, if not all, of these questions will help improve your results.

So there you have just two types of pages that require your focus because they typically fit within a site’s top 20% when it comes to prospect drop-offs. By setting up your own analytics tools properly you will be able to find your own problem pages. Website optimisation work is a lot easier to prioritise once you know which of your web pages are going to provide the most results from your efforts.