The soccer season is well underway and my Saturdays until early afternoon are spent ferrying both girls (11 and 14 years old) to their respective grounds and shouting “encouragement” from the sidelines. Both are fortunate this season to have a great bunch of girls to play with and a coach who is keen and able to help them develop.

And so, with the super mild May weather we have been experiencing in Auckland, it’s been a very pleasant start to the weekend. Even better that it extracts both of them from whatever screen is capturing their attention so I can get them out onto the green playing fields of Auckland’s inner city suburbs.

Neither of them is at the stage where their positions on the field are locked in for the season. So they alternate between goal keeper, defender and the occasional flurry at the front as a striker. Ah, the front of the pack. The place where glory can be captured with the deft touch of the ball in the right direction. I must admit that girls’ soccer has a certain grace to it when compared with boys’.

Purposeful runs down the sidelines, which are then capitalised on by team mates being in the right place at the right time. Yes, they all love playing in these forward positions and positively grimace when asked to swap to be a defender, let alone the worst of it all – playing in goal. Now there’s an “opportunity” that requires some sterling selling by the coach.

Nevertheless, even I, with my limited soccer skills, can see that the games they win are nearly always won by the hard work that occurs from the back half of the field. Hard work put in by the goal keeper, defenders and mid-field players – all build to make the task of being a striker so much easier with an increased opportunity for basking in some future forward glory.

Yep, it’s those mucky, hard and rarely recognised positions that, when working well, make the rest of the field hum along quite nicely. And guess what – the reason why I bring all this up in your newsletter this month is that the content on your website works in a very similar way.

Just replace the vision of the football “strikers” with those of the glory pages on your website that are responsible for holding the last smidgen of attention of your visitor before they convert into a lead. Commonly referred to as landing pages – pages and pages of content has been written on how to improve these parts of your website to ensure they perform to the very best of their ability.

Nevertheless, before your visitors arrive on these pages they usually visit pages that represent the “mid-field”, “defenders”, and even “goal keeper” of your site. Those pages that all need to do some solid work to ensure your visitors actually decide to journey onwards to the site’s final landing page. Pages that cover topics such as “About Us”, “Our Services”, “Our Story” and even “Customer Successes”. Places like these that come up again and again in the tracking paths that Google Analytics tells us people follow before they end up converting into a lead.

Unfortunately, most website owners ignore these areas of their website. Perhaps they see them as just showing filler content. Something to complete the story but not necessarily tasked to convert the visitor. How wrong they are. Just imagine meeting a prospect for the first time and starting your conversation by asking for an order, opportunity to quote or receive your bid. Not a good look.

So we kick off by showing interest and then slowly but gradually covering bits and pieces of the back story on the company and what it does. Basic things like what the company does, and for whom, and the types of staff it employs. It’s the back story content like this, when it is on your website and working well, that can make the task of those star landing pages so much easier to achieve.

Better educated visitors are more likely to convert when compared with those who are unsure what you do, why you do it and what makes you so different from others in your category. So it makes sense for this content to be there. Now, how do you go about judging its effectiveness and then move to improve it? Especially when any conversions – think goals – are not going to occur directly on the page but possibly a few pages forward of them.

Here’s a few pointers to help get you going.

Pick the right stats to measure their effectiveness.

This month’s customer call was all about website analytics and what it takes to use this knowledge to push your website into the top 10% of conversion capability. During this session I covered the different levels of competence a website owner can achieve through their understanding of this part of online marketing strategy.

During the first level I mentioned a site’s bounce rate and the visitor’s time on site. Both of these measures – especially the first one – are great to track the effectiveness of your “back field” website pages. During the early part of the call I went through both of these in detail so everyone was aware of what they meant and how valuable they are.

For instance, it pays to track the percentage of visitors who exit your website directly from your “About Us” page instead of moving forward to the “Contact us” section of the site. This stat is the bounce rate of this page. Now, some basic tricks to reduce this stat (with bounce rate the lower the number the better) include things like: a) making the next step an easy and obvious one for visitors to take; and/or b) even including content within the page’s copy to drive them forward to take the next step. For example, “you can learn more about who we have worked with by visiting our testimonials page here”.

Keep all the good stuff above the fold.

Our customer conference calls cover a fair bit. One a few month’s ago explained the importance of placing your good content above the virtual fold of your web page. That is the part they see BEFORE they have to scroll their browser to see more. Google has a great tool to help you here – it was covered during the April Conference call – contact the office if you need more details. By using this handy tool you can see what proportion of your page 90% of the browsing audience will see and if this actually includes the bits you want them to see. Basic I know but very, very worthwhile to test.

For example, last month we worked with a customer to tweak a few of their “back field” pages with the view of just moving the content further up the page. They had all the good stuff – nice images, great content, good information – all just below the fold. Simply by taking our advice and restructuring their content upwards they experienced a 44% drop in bounce rate and a 29% increase in time on the page. More importantly, their conversion rates really kicked upwards as their “striker” landing pages started to receive some more educated visitors.

Map out your preferred content pathways.

For most of us the ideal website visitor is one who arrives after finding us in Google, then heads straight for the contact us page and quickly completes the form so our sales team can start “working” on them. And this may happen. But not that often. The majority will skip wildly from page to page around your site before deciding if they should even look for your contact page, let alone complete it.

Now this wild path will be wild if you don’t try and provide clear directions for them to follow. However, you need to realise that even with these in operation people will still go where they want to. Still, some will take your advice and follow the paths you suggest. Which makes it worthwhile to invest some time and energy to map out the ideal paths that site visitors should follow and then endeavour to present your words in the best way possible to ensure a high proportion remain on track.

For instance, you may want to place your “About Us” page next to the “Customer Testimonials” section in your site’s navigation options. And perhaps at the bottom of each page you include either some clear directions on where to locate your “Contact Us” page or, even better, a quick contact form they can complete there and then.

There’s a great report in Google Analytics that can help you see if these virtual paths are being used. It reveals the pages visitors travel through before ending up on your final landing pages. You can also set up goal tracking that includes a funnel that incorporates these “back field” pages to see how many people go through them in the order you planned.

So there you have it. Like most good teams it’s a complete effort from everyone on the field that ensures the right result in the end. And while the ones that touch the ball – or the visitor – just before they score – or convert – are frequently seen as the ones solely responsible for the achievement, rarely is this the case.

Way back at the start of the play – or the visitor session – is where you will locate some quality achievements by others that made that final result almost a formality. And for you as a website owner it’s those “back field” pages that can make all the difference. So this month give them their own focus and see how well the whole website performs as a result.