Symptoms, causes, and solutions to common inbound lead generation problems

Getting a proper diagnosis about why a website isn’t generating leads can seem intimidating at first glance, what with all the components and “moving parts” involved in the typical website.

Sure, there really are a lot going on behind the scenes. But with a little introspection of your process, and an understanding and application of the inbound methodology (plus all its parts), troubleshooting your inbound lead generation issues will be a piece of cake. 

First things first: the inbound methodology

 

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Popularized by HubSpot, the inbound methodology defines a marketing framework focused on building personal experiences for each audience across their buyer’s journey - from awareness, to consideration, to decision stages.

This means attracting audiences into the awareness stage with educational and helpful content, converting visitors into the consideration stage through lead nurturing, and closing them into deals with decision-stage content.

But it doesn’t stop there, the inbound methodology encourages marketing and sales to delight closed-deals into brand evangelists by offering superb customer service and providing referral incentives.

 

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Troubleshooting based on the inbound methodology

This guide will follow a top to bottom-of-the-funnel approach to troubleshooting common inbound lead generation problems. The funnels will be based on the inbound methodology, covering the attract and convert stages and its equivalent awareness stage in the buyer’s journey.

Troubleshooting top-of-the-funnel issues

Attracting traffic is the most straightforward activity in inbound lead generation. To many, this is the first big step to take.

Symptoms

1. Low traffic volume

Traffic may not be the sole measure of the efficacy of a lead generation campaign, but it gets the lions share of attention even as you move towards the very bottom of the funnel. That said, everything revolves around traffic: given a constant visit-to-contacts add contacts-to-leads conversion ratios, traffic directly and indirectly dictates the number of sales a company can make within a specified period.

Common Causes

  • Low organic search ranking
  • Unmarketed website and blog content
  • Poor website performance and page load speeds
  • Lack of content
  • Lack of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts

Remedy

Achieving a high-enough organic search ranking is key to increasing your website traffic volume. The higher you can get your brand and brand content up the Google Search Results Page (SERPs), the more impressions and potential clicks (“inbound traffic”) you get towards your website.

Increasing organic search engine ranking is no small feat, but it is something that’s certainly achievable within a reasonable time frame. For as long as your marketing team fortifies its content front on a consistent basis, higher search rankings should be on the horizon in around three months.

While you’re still building up on SEO, take the time to work on your social strategy. At this point you will now have to consider three fronts - the holy trinity - of the inbound methodology:

  • Content
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social

The following is a condensed version of a common inbound lead generation strategy utilizing content, social, and search SEO:

  1. Create buyer personas
  2. Plan for, schedule, and write content designed to solve your personas’ issues, pain points, and challenges
  3. Edit written content, optimizing the headers and sub-headers, meta descriptions, and titles based on SEO considerations. These elements, as well as your content, must make occasional mention of your brand or your post’s target keywords.
  4. However, do not let keywords alone dictate the flow of your content. Write as naturally as possible for your audience first, and then edit and optimize for SEO later.
  5. Publish content on a consistent basis. Aim for 1-2 published blog posts per week.
  6. Share your content on social media platforms where (and when!) your ideal audience and prospects are most likely to see it.
  7. [Optional, but highly recommended] Schedule your social media posts by laying it out on a spreadsheet. Know that it is okay to publish social media posts more frequently than your content bandwidth can afford; You may share posts you have already shared before, but keep your captions updated and relevant to current contexts. Keep the same blog posts spaced apart enough, though!

 

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Troubleshooting middle-of-the-funnel issues

It’s one thing to generate traffic, and another thing entirely to make sure that the traffic being pulled in are qualified, relevant, and have a propensity to convert to future sales.

In this stage, marketers are most concerned about making sure the traffic they bring in belong to one of their defined personas - or at least someone they’d want to do business with. If they are, they should be led to the information they are looking for with as little friction as possible.

Symptoms

1. High bounce rate

1. High bounce rate

High bounce rates can indicate many things, but this is usually due to viewers not getting to the content they are looking for. Maybe they think the website isn’t where they’re going to find it, or maybe it’s where it might be, only that they are lost due to site navigation issues.

Similarly, this may be indicative of a campaign that’s driving in unqualified traffic. These views may be coming from websites that have little to do with the subject your content is discussing.

Whichever the case, the viewers’ expectations are not being met by the page they have landed on.

2. High exit rate

Exit rates and bounce rates seem similar - and they are. The difference is in how and where they are tracked, and ultimately their implication for your audiences’ behavior.

Unlike bounce rate - which is measured based on how much time your visitors spend on specific pages, exit rate is measured based on how many pages your viewers visited before exiting your website and from which page they left. That being said, this difference opens new opportunities to gain insights.

High exit rates primarily mean that your viewer can’t get to the information they are looking for. This may be due to a confusing navigation structure or an unintuitive menu text. The copy used to direct their interest towards where you want their attention may also not resonate with them immediately.

If you are inspecting your exit rates on a page per page basis, know that some pages are meant to have higher exit rates than others. A thank you page having an exit rate of 70% or more is normal (though there are opportunities to provide further offers here). The home page showing the same number? There’s probably a problem somewhere.

3. Low average session duration / pages per session

The more relevant your website is to your viewers, the more time and the more pages they will be sifting through per session.

This metric is directly related to your exit and bounce rates. The difference is that this metric provides more of a holistic view of your visitor behavior instead of a per-page basis. Often, this dictates how easy or hard finding the information they need was for them, and the number of steps they had to take before finally getting what they came looking for.

While bounce and exit rates tell you how many of your visitors got to their information, average session duration and pages per session say how long it took them to get there and how engaging your content was for them.

Remedy

1. High bounce rate

Reducing high bounce rates is done two-fold.

First, make sure that the source links and copies set the right expectation for the viewer. Write your SEO meta descriptions, page or article titles, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) ad copies in a way that encourages the reader to click through, but tells them succinctly what they will be getting once they do click it.

The second step is to simply meet this expectation on the destination page.

When in doubt, refer to your personas. What interests your audience? What verbs and adjectives resonates with them? Will the written copy resonate with them? Is the content on the destination page written in a manner that was designed specifically to address their issues?

Here is a simple “do and don’t” example for an eCommerce website’s SEM campaign:

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2. High exit rates / low average session duration / low average pages per session

Measures to reducing exit rates for important pages are mostly similar to those from reducing high bounce rates. On top of making sure that you set and meet your audience’s expectations, keep your audience engaged by helping them navigate through your website.

A general rule to always keep in mind: don’t just rely on your portal’s navigation bar. When visitors are reading through your content in search for specific bits of information, they will want to check out other, complementary information located elsewhere in your website.

What marketers must do is to anticipate this need by placing calls-to-action or links to relevant pages in-line or in the middle of your page. Write the copy in as conversationally-natural a way as possible; write them as if you know exactly what they’re looking for, what they’ll want to view next, and how your link or button easily takes them there.

Here's an example from our own home page, where we encourage visitors to check some of our tips out:

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Again, when in doubt, refer to your buyer personas, as they will almost always guide you with the language, voice, and tone with which you craft your links and CTAs.

 

Troubleshooting bottom-of-the-funnel issues

The bottom of the funnel without a doubt the most critical part of your inbound lead generation efforts. After all, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time and effort in driving in qualified traffic for your website and performing analysis on how to best take them to what they need. At this stage, you must give it everything you have to make sure they convert into contacts and don’t just bounce out.

 

Symptoms

 

1. Low CTA click-through rate

Before you can turn visitors into leads, you will first have to direct their attention to a landing page - pages that encourage visitors to download an offer of value in exchange for their contact information.

If you have CTAs scattered strategically around your website that directs traffic to landing pages but aren’t getting clicks, it may be indicative of the following problems:

• The CTA copy is not resonating with your audience

• The CTA design does not stand out enough from the rest of the web page’s elements

• The CTA does not facilitate a natural thought flow or conversational-style presentation of the information being read

• The value of the offer is not being immediately made aware to the visitor

 

2. Low visitors-to-contacts conversions

A page is said to have low visitors-to-contacts conversion rates when it receives a high volume of traffic, but is unable to turn these visitors into contacts.

There are many causes for low conversion rates. Common causes include:

• Your contact form is asking for too much information relative to your offer

• The value of your offer isn’t being made immediately clear to the visitors

• The landing page copy may not be encouraging action, using generic text on form and button labels (“submit”, “click here”, etc.).

 

Remedy

 

Take advantage of the fact that CTAs and landing pages are made to stand out. Make the value of your offer immediately stand out. Carefully show your audience that the content being offered is of equal or more value to the time they take filling up your form to give you their contact information.

 

For CTAs

Make sure the button doesn’t just blend in with the rest of the page. CTAs must be immediately noticeable, with the right copy that both encourages action and shows succinctly what’s on the other side of the link.

Of equal importance is where you place these CTAs. These CTAs must be present only on blog posts or website pages that are relevant to the content being offered. Consider the buyer persona link from the “top-of-the-funnel” troubleshooting section in this post as an example.

 

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For landing pages

The secret to forms and landing pages is to be able to demonstrate the value of your offer within five seconds of the visitor loading the page. Leverage five second test, be it through paid services online or through colleagues from different departments (or those who are not directly involved in marketing and sales).

Ask them to have a five-second look at your landing pages, after which they will have to explain what the page was all about based on their first impressions. If they mostly get it right, then congratulations - your landing pages are effective! If they do not, consider making tweaks to your landing pages; you’re most likely only to need to be more direct with your messaging, and to make your message as clear as possible from the top of the fold.

 

For forms

While we’re on the subject of value, ask only for an equal amount of value relative to your offer. If you’re offering an eBook, it may be best to limit the form fields to only the name and email address. If you’re offering a case study of sorts only you can offer, then it’s okay to ask further for things like company names and direct contact numbers (visitors downloading case studies may already be in the decision stage). If it’s a market survey you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on which you think might create a buzz (for the good, of course) and get re-shared, then go ahead and ask for even more information!

The rule of thumb is to ask for as little information as possible. Aim to make the experience friction-free; if they’ve spent time looking at your offer, then they most likely have been thinking about downloading it. Make it easy for them to do so. Keep it balanced: don’t just give out free information, nor lock and keep it out of anyone’s reach.

Keep optimizing

The optimizations listed here are of the more “general” type. Of course, there may be some intricacies with your niche or product that will be subject to other considerations beyond the scope of this post.

It all goes back, however, to your personas.

Just try to keep your website’s experience with them in mind. Map out their potential interactions with your website’s individual pages, and design your navigation and content around getting them around friction-free and as personas as possible.

Optimization is an ever-continuous process. Mind your data, keep experimenting, and, most importantly, keep it fun and human!

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