Improving Conversions Through Scent Trails

When it comes to generating more sales on your site it’s all about conversions. Traffic is great, but unless your converting that traffic it might as well have never found your site in the first place. I’ve talked previously about using calls to action to increase conversions. Another way you can increase conversions on your site is to leave a good scent trail for your visitors.

What Is A Scent Trail?

The idea behind scent trails comes from research done at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center which found that humans beings look for information on the web in the same way that that animals use scent in food gathering.

According to Chi’s research, people almost always start out with a search engine, then engage in what he calls “hub-and-spoke” surfing: They begin at the center, and they follow a trail based on its information scent.

If the scent is sufficiently strong, the surfer will continue to go on that trail. But if the trail is weak, they go back to the hub. “People repeat this process until they’re satisfied,” Chi said.

By laying down a good scent trail for your visitors and can lead them to the products they want and increase the chances you’ll convert them into paying customers. Not laying down that scent will send them back to where they started and onto another trail at another site.

How To Lay Out A Scent Trail

It’s not very difficult to lay down a scent trail. The main idea is to ask yourself what someone would expect or want to see next. On every page of your site think about what potential customers would be interested in seeing while on that page and provide a clear link that will take them there. Make it obvious where they should go next and remember the rule of thumb “Don’t make me think.” By providing a place for them to go next you have created a trail for them to follow.

On that next page ask yourself what promises you have made to your visitor in sending them to that page. If you led people to believe that by clicking a link they’ll find a page about digital cameras you better make sure that page is about digital cameras. If not then you’ve lost the scent. You can start the trail with the keywords you use to optimize your page and the keywords you bid on in pay per click ads. Don’t send all of your visitors to your home page. Send them to the page that’s the most appropriate for the keywords. If someone clicks on a link in search engine results page promising digital cameras what do you think that person wants to see? Yep didgital cameras. So don’t take that person to your home page. Take them directly to a page about digital cameras.

If you can anticipate what your potential customers are looking for you can provide an obvious trail to lead them there. Anticipate what your visitors want and provide it for them and you’ll have left a scent trail they can follow. Don’t limit yourself to just one trail either. Different people are looking for different things. Lay down several trails and let your visitors follow the scent they find most enticing. You’ll increase your conversions and sales along the way.

Resources

The Sense of Scent
Map Scent Trails That Lead to Better Conversion
Does Your Website Stink?

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

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