How to Optimize Your Website for Lead Generation

For many businesses, optimizing their website for lead generation is the best investment they can make. It not only ensures that you're building relationships with your audience, but also that you're constantly bringing in future business.

But how do you do that? In this article we'll cover the five steps for turning your website into a lead generation powerhouse.

  1. Optimize your website must-haves
  2. Lay out the buyer's journey
  3. Optimize your content backwards
  4. Implement lead magnets and tools
  5. Implement lead nurturing

1
Optimize your website must-haves

The first step is all about optimizing your website. Only after you’ve covered these three “must-haves” will your website be ready to generate leads.

  • Fast: Website visitors don’t stick around long if your site is too slow. In fact, one study found that 87% of visitors will bounce if there is a load time of over two seconds. Use a page speed tool to get a sense of your website speed.
  • Clean: Think about your own online experience. Are you likely to leave your contact information on a website that looks like it was built in the 90’s?
  • Mobile-optimized: Over half of web searches worldwide are done through a mobile device. The mobile version of your website is likely the first impression you have to a potential lead.

A website that does lead generation well creates a seamless experience from first entry to leaving one's contact info. Online lead generation just doesn’t work if your website isn’t optimized for it. Website design is a huge topic in its own right, so be sure to check out some of the best elements of a high quality website .

2
Lay out the buyer’s journey

Now that you’ve optimized your website for speed, clarity, and mobile-responsiveness, it’s time to dive into the buyer’s journey .

cartoon of a map

The most important thing to keep in mind is this: different website visitors are at different stages of the buying process and therefore want different things from you. The truth is, the majority of people that land on your website are not ready to purchase.

But not to worry. If you pay attention to the different stages people go through before a purchase, and work to understand the typical desires and obstacles that they have, many site visitors are willing to become leads and start the process.

One way to conceptualize this buyer’s journey is by using frameworks. I’ve gathered three below as well as examples of how they might work in practice.

AIDA

The first framework, one of the most well-known in marketing, stands for “awareness, interest, desire, and action.”

In this buyer’s journey, the business must first make a customer aware of them and generate a vague interest in their product or service. After this, the business needs to create a much more specific desire in the customer before they are willing to take the action of purchasing.

Example:

  • Awareness: A person looking for dog food doesn’t know your dog food business exists. They come across a blog post of yours about the healthiest dog foods. They are now “aware” of your company.
  • Interest: After reading more of your dog food posts, they find your company’s gluten free brand and develop an “interest” in the product.
  • Desire: They research and compare other brands of gluten free dog food. Reading customer reviews convinces them that your gluten free brand is the choice for them and they develop a stronger “desire” to buy.
  • Action: They take the “action” of ordering. Your gluten free brand has gone from total stranger to their #1 choice of dog food!

AEC

The second framework stands for “attract, engage, and convert.”

In this buyer’s journey, the business attracts potential leads with helpful information, engages with them after they’ve become a lead through outreach and empathetic content , and converts them into paying customers and fans.

Example:

  • Attract: You offer an email course on your dog food website about how to make the best diet for your new puppy and “attract” new email leads.
  • Engage: Once leads have signed up and taken the course, you “engage” them by sending notifications about new and informative blog posts on feeding your dog.
  • Convert: You “convert” a certain percentage of email subscribers to customers of your “Gluten Free Dog Food Monthly Subscription” package.

The Five Stages of Awareness

I suggest you check the third and final framework on your own because of the length. Here’s a short description of the basics:

People start “unaware” that they have a problem, and it’s your job as a business to bring them to the “most aware” stage. This is the stage where they not only realize that your business’s solution is the best for them, but also rave to their friends and family about you.

Example:

  • The Unaware Stage: A person is “unaware” of the various risks storebrand dog food poses to their dog. Your business runs a campaign on Facebook directing traffic to a blog post about these risks.
  • The Problem Awareness Stage: After landing on your post and reading through it, they become “problem aware” of low quality storebrand dog food. This is what they feed their own dog, so they search your site for solutions.
  • The Solution Awareness Stage: A separate blog post on your website provides information about healthy alternatives to storebrand dog food. They are now “solution aware.”
  • The Product Awareness Stage: After some research, they become “product aware” of your company’s gluten free dog food product. This is the best product for them.
  • The Most Aware Stage: They buy your healthy dog food and their dog loves it. In the “most aware” stage, they fall in love with your brand and recommend you to all of their dog-owning friends.
picture of a woman with a dog
Happy dog, happy ending. Photo by Samson Katt from Pexels .

It’s now time to map out your own buyer’s journey. Check out a tool like Smartdraw if you’d like an easy way to do that.

What steps do your site visitors go through before they become leads? Before they become paying customers? Answering these questions will help you fully understand the problems your audience faces and the content you might make for each stage. Only then will you better understand how you can help them with your solution and turn them into a lead.

3
Optimize your content backwards

Content creation is foundational to lead generation. It’s how you drive traffic to your website, educate your reader while becoming an authority and establish a relationship of trust with them.

But the third step for lead generation is perhaps counterintuitive, and one that many companies do, well, backwards: optimize your content backwards . This means that you start at the bottom of the funnel and work backwards from there. In practice, optimizing content like product checkout landing pages should take precedence over blog posts.

cartoon of pyramid

The reason behind this is that the further down the funnel a lead goes and the closer they get to a purchasing decision, the more valuable they become. An entire marketing funnel is complex with multiple points of entry, so it can be quite difficult to pinpoint what works towards the top of the funnel. It makes sense then to prioritize leads at the bottom.

That’s not to say that you should neglect leads that aren’t going to pay off immediately. As we saw in the last section, different site visitors are at different parts of your funnel, and you should make content for all stages of the funnel.

Still, the whole point of content marketing is to turn people into customers by educating them . If you aren’t prioritizing your most valuable leads at the bottom of the funnel, you’re falling short of your business goals.

4
Implement lead magnets and tools

A lead magnet is the carrot that entices people that are not yet ready to buy to leave their contact information. They do so in exchange for receiving something of value.

cartoon of a magnet

But leads magnets offer more than permission and means to follow up with potential customers. Many types of lead magnets also allow you to position yourself as an authoritative source, to build trust with your audience, and to "control the narrative." Which makes it easier to turn those leads into paying customers at a later stage.

Before starting with lead magnets, get familiar with best practices for both lead forms and landing pages . You’ll also want to confirm that your lead magnet is what your users want. That’s where audience research comes in. This shows you where on your website different lead magnets should go as well as which stage of the buyer’s journey people need them most.

Now let’s cover some of the most effective lead magnets you can use on your website, examples from the real world and tools that help you implement them.

E-books

A good e-book usually solves a problem that a specific audience has by giving them a plan to fix it. This can be anything from a step-by-step guide to a collection of your most useful posts gathered together.

E-books build the relationship you have with your audience by showing them that you empathize with their challenges . If the e-book is helpful enough, it also further positions you as a problem solver your audience can trust. This makes it more likely that they become a paying customer in the future.

Example: Search Engine Journal’s e-book on content marketing.

chapters of the content marketing ebook
screenshot of the content marketing ebook

Why it works: Search Engine Journal’s e-book signup form lets you select which additional topics you’re interested in. This makes personalized “lead nurturing” (more on that in the last section) much easier down the road.

The table of contents also wins your trust with its transparency. You are able to see it before you sign up for the e-book, which makes it very clear what you will learn.

Email courses

Offering a value-packed email course as a lead magnet is a wonderful opportunity for you to build a relationship with your audience. If your email course is long enough, you also get the reader into the habit of opening your emails. This increases engagement with your brand and makes nurturing them later on much easier.

Compared to an ebook, an email course has the advantage that the content arrives at the lead in more digestible pieces and over a longer period of time. Which makes it more likely that the information is absorbed.

That is a big advantage for products that require a shift in thinking. It's hard to change people's minds. But you have a chance if you can apply consistent messaging over a longer period of time. An email course is the perfect medium for this.

How does your business think about your industry? How would you like your leads to think about it? How does your offer fit into all of this? Through daily education, an email course can influence the way your lead thinks about these questions and position you as a solution to their problems.

Example: Finance blog Millennial Money Man’s “side hustle starter course.”

example of Finance blog Millennial Money Man’s “side hustle starter course.”

Why it works: First, this lead magnet is front and center on the Millennial Money Man homepage. This increases the chances that people sign up. Second, the copy is compelling and states a clear benefit of “make more money this year.”

Lastly, the lead magnet implements social proof. This is a brand that big name publications trust. That makes winning the trust of new leads much easier.

Website chat

Many of our customers at Userlike use our chat solution specifically for the purpose of capturing leads. For prospects further down the funnel, website chat is the easiest and most natural way to generate leads.

Screenshot of the Website Messenger

As people move from "aware" to "interested" and "desire", questions relevant to your offerings will naturally pop up.

Mostly these won't be worth the effort of reaching out over the phone for, and email is too slow.

Website chat is the perfect ontact channel for answering such questions before they fester into doubts.

Assuming the customer enters their name and information when requesting data, you can follow up with them at a later point.

Example: Trusted Shops capturing leads with website chat.

Why it works: Trusted Shops recognized that plenty of potential customers on their website would not enter the contact form – often because a small question or doubt was holding them back. Through web chat, they can easily answer those questions and guide them through the process.

Whitepapers

Valuable, consistent and openly accessible content is one of the biggest drivers of website traffic. That said, a website optimized for lead generation can also offer “gated” or “locked” content.

Using this fourth strategy, you get readers’ emails in exchange for content that is more in-depth or exclusive. A great example might be a whitepaper that’s longer and more detailed than a regular blog post. While there is an obvious tradeoff here between shutting out more readers that don’t take the next step of signing up, whitepapers can give you a good idea of who is a more “qualified” lead .

If you do choose to use whitepapers, try to make it as natural as possible for the reader to enter their email address. You don’t want to disrupt the reader too much!

Example: Backlinko’s “Definitive Guide to SEO in 2021.”

screenshot of the backlinko’s definitive guide to SEO in 2021

Why it works: Titles like “definitive guide” and “ultimate guide” usually perform well . The year 2021 also shows that this lead magnet is current.

This signup form is also simple. I can only do one thing: enter my email address. This is the format that signup forms should take to maximize signups.

Free trials of product

If they fit your business, free product trials are also great for lead generation. They provide “product education” and win the trust of people that are “on the fence” about buying.

If your lead is already to the point of testing a free trial, they are likely further down the funnel than somebody just looking for information. Your job is no longer to educate them about a topic in general through content, but to describe how your product can be their solution. What better way to do this than by letting them test it out for free?

For software businesses, free trials are a common practice. But they are also powerful in the automotive industry, for example, where they take the shape of free test rides.

As always, you want to follow free trial best practices . The benefits of the trial need to be clearly stated and the trial itself should do an excellent job of convincing your lead to commit to purchasing.

Example: Dropbox’s 30-day trial.

Screenshot of Dropbox’s 30-day trial.

Why it works: Dropbox is very clear about what you get during the trial. They even let you choose which trial plan you’d like to test, and offer a clean and easy sign up form to capture your email.

Webinars

Webinars as a lead generation strategy appeal to peoples’ desire for more connection. It’s a chance for future customers to put a face to a company and to get free value in the process. Because of the relationship development that webinars allow for, they are also effective at moving prospects down the funnel and closer to a purchasing decision.

While setting up and presenting webinars is a big time commitment, they are most effective for lead generation if you promise a specific benefit.

Example: Callbox’s webinar on turning “contacts into clients.”

screenshot showing callbox’s webinar on turning contacts into clients

Why it works: The copy is very benefit-driven. Callbox is promising to show me how to convert more contacts into clients. And not just a vague promise of “more contacts,” but “5x more.”

The current date also makes it feel more relevant to potential leads.

5
Implement lead nurturing

Once you’ve started capturing your first leads from lead magnets, it’s time to nurture them! This step is essential for two reasons.

First, getting a site visitor’s email address is really only the first step, as they are usually still relatively high in the funnel. It’s your job to bring them further down and closer to “customer” through your nurturing efforts .

Second, just as it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one, marketing to an existing lead is easier than a new site visitor. They’ve already displayed interest in what you have to offer.

Lead nurturing is typically done through email marketing. A great way to further the relationship after you have delivered the lead magnet is to set up a welcome sequence . After you have welcomed them aboard, you can send anything from post updates to additional information you think might be valuable. Check out this list of email marketing best practices so you can fully optimize your strategy.

If you are looking for an ESP that lets you optimize your lead nurturing, we use MailChimp at Userlike. Outfunnel is also an excellent marketing tool for automating lead nurturing follow-ups, as it plays well with CRMs like Pipedrive, Copper and HubSpot CRM.

Optimize for lead generation on your own website

Optimizing your website for lead generation is one of the most important things you can do for your business. That’s why it’s worth reflecting on these five steps.

Think about your own online activity. What sort of content keeps you interested and solves your problems? Which lead magnets compel you to leave your email address? Which companies give you the feeling that they actually care about you….and why?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself when optimizing your website for lead generation. Do that, and you are well on your way to lead generation mastery.