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Q: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata
Category: Business and Money > eCommerce
Asked by: sadgrove-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 10 May 2004 12:21 PDT
Expires: 09 Jun 2004 12:21 PDT
Question ID: 344170
1. From our website at, we sell four times more product
in the UK than the US. Looking at the site, and the information
below, why is that, do you think?

2. How might we amend our website so as to increase our sales in the USA?


We sell vocational courses. We?re based in the UK. And we have a small
office in the US. Our US address and phone number appear prominently
on the site. So on first sight I think we look fairly US-friendly.

We attract enough US people to the site. An online survey showed that
40% of web visitors (note, visitors not purchasers) came from the US
and Canada. So why don?t 40% of our sales come from the US?

In fact, given the respective populations, our US sales ought to be
five times those of the UK.

The majority of our advertising expenditure goes on pay-per-click ads
in Google, Overture and other search engines. As a result of our
internet advertising, the majority of our customers are people who?ve
surfed the net looking for a course. Their first contact with us is
our website,

I suggest you concentrate on because it?s a good
example of what we do.

US visitors are somewhat less likely to buy our product. Only 18% of
US visitors said they were ?very likely? to enroll on the course,
compared with 27% of all visitors. Why might that be? Remember that
they?ve seen only the website.

And could that difference really result in a 4:1 sales ratio (UK to US)?

Many US visitors think we?re not US-based. When asked ??Where do you
think the company is based??, 45% of US visitors thought the business
was based in the US, while 5% said Canada, 24% said the UK, and 24%
said ?Don?t know?. What tells them that? Is that likely to account for
the difference in sales? And how do we overcome this?

When asked what would make them unlikely to buy the course, answers by
US visitors contained nothing very distinctive. The high cost of the
course was cited by 14% of US respondents, lack of money by 22%, and
?still researching the issue? was mentioned by 31% of US people who
answered that question.

So, do the web pages look excessively non-American? Or are people in
the US less likely to buy distance education courses? Or does the
dollar/sterling exchange rate make the courses too expensive for US

Typical competitors are,,

To conclude, should I amend the website? Should I take steps to
understand the mindset of the US consumer better? Would usability
research tell me anything?

I?m reluctant to have separate US and UK pages because we?re a small
business, and maintaining two sets of pages would be a lot of work.

It?s possible that our brochures, customer service or some other
problem contributes to our US weakness. But while I admit that
possibility, customers get most of their knowledge from the website,
and we don?t get negative feedback about our brochures etc.

Finally, I don?t want you to discuss wider promotional activities in
the US, such as PR or press advertising. I?d like you to concentrate
on the website, because that lies at the heart of our communication
with the customer.

Request for Question Clarification by serenata-ga on 10 May 2004 14:01 PDT
Hello Sadgrove ~

Thank you for asking for my assistance in answering your questions
regarding your website.

As you can imagine, this is going to take some "digging" to give you
answers which are both helpful and accurate. I mention this only to
assure you that:

1. I am indeed working on the site and using the resources at my
disposal to give you a valid answer; and

2. Don't be alarmed if you see the question "locked" by me at times
and at other times it becomes unlocked.

Regardless of the lock status, I will move forward with finding the
answers you seek, including running it by a group of my students to
get their feedback, which has proved to be invaluable at other times,
in answer to other questions. If nothing else, it produces food for

Thank you, too, for your concise requests and your valuable input -
that helps immeasurably in getting to the information you seek without
wasting valuable time elsewhere. If I need clarification, of course
I'll use this vehicle to ask for it.

And please don't worry about my "discuss[ing] wider promotional
activities in the US, such as PR or press advertising ..." as I quite
agree that this is more a perception issue than a marketing issue. You
can rest assured I'll concentrate on the contents within the website

Thank you again for this interesting challenge.

Warm regards,


Clarification of Question by sadgrove-ga on 11 May 2004 04:00 PDT

Thanks for tackling this. I'm not in a rush for an instant response,
and I'd value your considered thoughts rather than something

Request for Question Clarification by serenata-ga on 16 May 2004 18:27 PDT
Hi Sadgrove ~

I'm pulling this information together in some sort of a cohesive format.

A portion of my answer is directed toward the keyword metatags used on
your site, but if you care to share, I would be interested in what
search terms bring the highest portion of your traffic.

If you also want to share, which of your Google and Overture terms
bring the highest share of traffic?

Please know this will not change the material I have already, but
would most certainly add to what I already have.

The other caveat is that this information IS in a public forum, and
you may not wish to share all the information with your competition.
This is perfectly understandable, and we'll just hope I hit close
enough to home to be of value to you.

Thanks ever so much,

Subject: Re: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata
Answered By: serenata-ga on 16 May 2004 23:13 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Sadgrove ~

Although I asked for a clarification, I shall publish this answer and
if you care to supply the info, I'll address that separately if need

When I first undertook the answer to this question, I had some
immediate "first impressions", most of which have been borne out by
others, including some comments from:

  * Unsolicited comments volunteered by other Google
    Answers Researchers who were curious about the site,

  * Members of a class I teach at a local junior college
    (the class being for web designers with an emphasis
    on marketing effectiveness).

  * Members of a class who are learning to use their
    computers and how to find things online (sort of a
    move up from beginners starting out on AOL)

  * Members of a class of "boomers" looking for ways to
    make a living online with their own products/services
    of selling someone else's.

Their perceptions are revealing and probably raised more questions
than are answered; however, I think it will be useful in answer to
your questions and helping you to more effectively make your course
attractive to those in North America.

Besides those comments, observations and perceptions/opinions
mentioned above, I have attempted to pull together resources to
address the issues you raised in a cohesive manner to enable you to
understand what others are "seeing" (and in some cases, "not seeing")
from this side of the pond.

It seems appropriate at this point to mention that the observations of
educate-ga in the Comments section below are valid, but are very broad
in scope.

I concur that you need to assign a portion of this site (or a
subdomain, or even another URL) directly to the visitors from North
America (one size really does NOT fit all); but with all due respect,
educate-ga's observations don't go far enough to give you the answers
you seek. The recommendation to separate the content is included in
the recommendations presented later in this answer.

The Mixed Message

It is quite obvious from your background information that you have a
lot of statistical data at your fingertips.

I wouldn't ask you to post in such a public place your conversion
rates or even the stats on how deeply into your site your visitors
travel; but let's assume that your visitors get there because they are
at least interested in your subject matter.

In other words, they are there to look into ... what?

   * home business opportunity,
   * home based business opportunity,
   * work at home business,
   * home business idea,
   * start home business,
   * home business solution,
   * internet home business,
   * home business opportunities,
   * home businesses,
   * work at home business opportunity,
   * home business ideas,
   * course
   * Diploma
   * home study

The above, taken from your keyword metatags, takes 11 terms or phrases
before we get to what your site is "really" about, a course of studies
in order to start and run a home business.

Anyone looking for ideas for a home business would be disappointed to
find a site about courses.

Obversely, anyone looking for your courses must wade through almost a
dozen irrelevant terms and phrases to find the first information about
your courses of study.

By now you're thinking, "Aha! But keywords don't matter any more!",
and to some extent, you might be correct - but a more correct
statement would be that keywords aren't given the weight they once
were. There is a lot of evidence that misleading keywords or a keyword
metatag that is stuffed with confusing messages can negatively affect
your search engine results pages (SERPs) ranking. While I know you
didn't ask about your ranking at all, it is something you do need to

Every bit of information on each page, html tags, the contents of your
header, body style, content, etc., - every bit matters. There should
be signs of logical thought, of continuity, on every page.

It has been my experience that the more keywords are jumbled in this
fashion, the less focus the page content has. If for no other reason,
your keywords should be a tool to focus the content within that page.

Remember - you have exactly one screen to direct your visitor's focus
to the contents on that page and to compel him to do what you want.

Some General Observations

Your headers are confusing.

"Take charge of your future" is interesting enough to make your
visitor take a look, but the next header - in larger type - says,

     "Get a new home-based career"

which would lead your visitor to believe this is about home-based
business opportunities available to him right now. Then you add,

     "by studying at home"

which loses those who got to your site looking for relevant
information on an immediate home-based opportunity. And the first part
of the sentence has lost those looking for online courses to aid in
their career choices.

The message is confusing - not just to your US Market, but also to
those in the UK. A visitor looking for either the immediate
information or the course is lost in the other part of the message.

I have several clients and colleagues in the UK, and two significant
quotes I think you should hear from them are as follows:

     "At first I thought this was another of those
      get rich work at home sites. It took me a minute
      to figure out that they are selling courses."


     "So what the heck is a complementary therapist?
      And why should I care? Some of these courses look
      suspicious. Counsellor? Shouldn't that be a degreed
      course from an accredited university or college ...
      who are these guys?"

While uncomplimentary, at least you have an idea of the 'perceptions'
from your side of the pond. Over here it was more so.

So you're fighting an uphill battle overcoming some negative
connotations that are associated with "home-based business", who you
are, and the courses you offer.

Which means you need to better focus your visitor to what you offer,
why he should care, and most important, answer the WIIFM question
(What's in it for me?) so he'll do what you want him to do - sign up
for your courses.

Visitor Friendly Design & Focus

You have eaten up a great deal of your first screen with the titles,
as noted above. There are still other things which "should" be
included in your first screen of information, such as:

   * the primary objective for this site
   * helping the visitor get the information he needs
     and lead to your primary objective
   * meaningful content to lead the customer to your
     objective (presumably to sign up for one of your
   * ease of use (can I get to every other page on the
     site FROM every site?)

There is a good "Visitor Friendly Website Checklist" available on the
Applied Marketing Group's website here,

While the above-referenced site is clearly pushing Ken Evoy's
Sitesell, it still contains good information on how to get to the
"nitty gritty" and compel your visitor to do what you want.

Other articles of interest

Some other articles with basically the same information (I don't want
you to think I'm the only soul on the Internet with these opinions),
are cited below:

Morton Marketing's "Visitor Friendly Websites"

Busy Marketing's "Building Credibility"

Free Report's "Building Credibility - Your Key to Online Success"

As mentioned, there is a conflicting message in the headers on your
site; but there are also problems with the overall "look".

Consider the graphic ...

Your graphic says, "A new career dawns for you". I showed your graphic
to my class without the line of text in it. The general perception of
the graphic is that it was a book cover - probably a science fiction
book, and that white spot was perceived as a flying saucer.

Besides the fact it is an over-optimized jpg (it has been so highly
compressed that one can see the visible bands of blue. Your graphic
can be compressed for file size without resorting to such obvious
problems such as the banding), you should have a graphic more readily
identifiable with your subject matter. Surely there is a better dawn
or sunrise available.

The line of text on the graphic itself is good enough - but I'd get a
more recognizable graphic of a sunrise or dawn and make sure the
dimensions can't be mistaken for a book cover.

Is this your only graphic? What about your logo? Do you have one? What
about the company name? That *should* be there and be used liberally
throughout the site.

Your domain name doesn't help you visitor remember your name, "The
Learning Institute", and there is no discernible branding of your name
in the first screenful of information. That detracts from your message
and starts to lead to a feeling of uneasiness in your visitors.

After spending 5 minutes on your home page, only one out of 26 class
members could tell your company name. This is something you should
rectify as quickly as possible.

Perceived drawbacks ...

Besides the fact that your customers can study in the privacy of their
own home, what other benefits will/can your visitor realize by signing
up for your courses?

The drawbacks are basically who are you? What good does one of your
courses and the resultant certificate or diploma do your visitors?

For those courses in which you offer certificates - what benefit is
your certificate? What is the difference between a certificate from
your organization and a similar course at a college or university? The
information is available, but your visitor has to dig for it. And one
of the first rules of good web design is "don't make me work".

It is not clear what benefit is to be derived from taking your
courses. Never assume that your visitor can figure it out by himself.
You need to take him by the hand and point out every benefit of taking
your course there is.

Clear up possible misperceptions. Address potential drawbacks up front
by offering a rational alternative. Anticipate where the roadblocks to
your objectives will be and remove them before they become an obstacle
to your primary objective.

About that content ...

Once we've gotten to the point where we recognize we can study online
for an at-home career, you include text with some features, such as,

     " There are no exams, because we use continuous


     " And you don't have to turn up to a dusty classroom
       to attend evening classes."

Those are nice features, but you need to get down to the 'benefit' of
learning on line, and particularly - learning from The Learning

Address issues that you know matter in an up front and direct manner
in order to avoid the appearance of being underhanded.

While the information above does cover US perceptions, I should point
out that such clarification will carry you further in the UK as well.
Even the so-called "newbies" are more sophisticated today than they
were a couple of years ago, so every bit of information you can add to
your site to help your visitors make the decision you want is to your

So far, I have given you general impressions that are, for the most
part, applicable on "either side of the pond".

You have a LOT of information - very good information - on your site,
but its presentation and arrangement could be made more "visitor
friendly", and should be more focused to compel your visitor to do
what you want him to do.

Answering Your Questions

You stated, "Many US visitors think we?re not US-based" ... 

Starting with your home page, there is nothing there to indicate where
you actually are located until one scrolls down the page. The first
flag one encounters is the Union Jack, which leads your visitor to the
perception that you are UK based.

The spelling of certain words, ie., enrol and enroll, etc., are
different. For those who realize spelling IS different, the spelling
would indicate you're located in the UK. All your prices are listed
with the UK price first and the USD cost second. The perception is
that the US offering is an afterthought.

It really would behoove you to set up a separate but similar set of
pages for your US market. Let's take the course for Private
Investigator - a subject I happen to know something about.

Course work (and a resulting diploma) is required in the state in
which I reside. Would your diploma qualify me to obtain a Private
Investigator's license in Arizona? In California? Would it even
qualify toward the qualifications they require?

This should be addressed in the US course material, and it should be
presented in such a way that your visitor doesn't have to go digging
to find out if the information is even available.

The same thing for certain other courses, such as Landscape Designer
(some states require educational qualifications) and Counsellor. To
what end do your courses help your students meet basic qualifications
required by the state(s) in which they reside?

Does your Web Designer course cover W3C standards, cross-browser
compatability, marketing knowledge to enable designing in the manner
I'm discussing in this answer? It mentions templates, an outdated
trial copy of Paint Shop Pro and Dreamweaver. But it doesn't mention
the things "real" designers should know, which are items like how to
optimize a site for maximum efficiency as a tool for the client and
other matters that most so-called designers who use some template
later find out the hard way. Taking a client's copy and plopping it
into a template no more qualifies someone to be a web designer than a
course in hygiene qualifies someone to be a brain surgeon. Both take
distinctive studies to qualify them to do more than throw up a

Upon completion of your course, do you help your students in setting
up their home business? Do you also help drive business to their
websites or refer others to them? If so, this is a benefit, and you
should develop that part of your site to make it clear to what degree
you help.

Vocational schools in the US aim to get their students employed. How
do you help your students achieve that goal?

Specific Recommendations

The first recommendation is to consider redesigning your own site to
get your name out there and make it stick in everyone's mind. If you
have a logo, put it on every page. You certainly need to get your name
out and in a very conspicuous page. This is true for UK and every
other language in which you may run your site.

Build credibility - after your name, every page should have a link to
your Mission Statement, your About Us page should talk about the
principals of the company, the course instructors, qualifications,
location, and other bits of information that make you more real and
less "virtual".

Your privacy policy is all encompassing, including guarantee
information, etc. Break your guarantee information out to its own page
and add that to your menu items at the left. Keep your privacy policy
limited to privacy issues.

Links to each of those should be included in the dominant links on
your left hand side on every page.

Do set up a site specifically for the US ... and address the issues a
citizen from Montana or New York might have about what enrolling and
completing the course readies him to do. If your diplomas or
certificates will transfer to enable your US visitor complete basic
legal requirements, say so. If not, then you should clearly state to
what degree it actually does aid him.

Do set up a testimonial page from previous students - while everyone
knows you're not going to publish negative information, it still helps
to have testimonials available from every page (part of the constant
left-hand menu). I know you do have them, but you require your visitor
to go digging for them. Make your site visitor friendly.

It would make sense that if 40% of your visitors are from the US, at
least 40% of your sales should be from the US as well. If it's not,
then there is a problem with your conversion rates - which could be
remedied with some user-friendly design and understanding how to
arrange the information better.

Your focus is courses, not starting a business. The only page which
should have starting a business as a focus is one that you use to
explain how your courses arm your students with the knowledge they
need to start their business. Don't confuse your visitors with that
same text elsewhere, except possibly in passing.

I know you're reluctant to separate the pages out. With some clever
designing, you can make much of the course information for both the US
and other countries available from both sites, certainly certain menu
items, etc., but it definitely helps to have the two sites.

So far as getting negative feedback, I can't see where you'd get it
for your brochures, they do provide information. However, finding the
information is difficult because of the structure you have now. Keep
it esy to find every other page from each page.

You forgot a link to "home" on your pages, this should be the first
link on your left hand site. If your visitor gets lost, he can go to
'home' and start again.

Some resources for your consideration

NUA Marketing Analyses and White Papers

International Marketing Info's "Targeting your market, Narrow your
Focus and Broaden your Sales"

Survey Net Forums on Internet Users Demographics and Psychographics

ISEDB'S "Give your site visitors what they want and they will buy"

Business Town's "Why Visitors Leave"

First e-Commer Corporation's "What Do Web Site Visitors Really Want Most?"

Grok Dot Com's "KISS Your Visitors if You Want Them Back"

Search terms

    * what internet visitors want
    * internet psychographics
    * psychographics + demographics
    * traffic patterns
    * visitor friendly design
    * building credibility


Yes, you should break out a portion of the site for the  US market and
make it user friendly. It will increase awareness and help with US

Following the recommendations as stated above WILL help incrase sales,
both in teh US and the UK.

I wish you the best of luck and success,

Google Answers Researcher
sadgrove-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $100.00
Thanks. Great answer - very helpful.

Subject: Re: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata
From: educate-ga on 11 May 2004 15:44 PDT

I'm not an official Google Researcher, but I may be able to help you
with your question. I looked at your site and there is one thing that
I noticed immediately that may contribute to your lower sales in the
U.S., based upon some personal experience...

I work in the HR/education field and I am also the chief managing
director for a web site that operates in two countries as well, U.S.
and Canada. Without going into detail, we sell services and products
to both countries.

We started out with one site and essentially provided the sales pitch
to users of both countries. If the user decided to purchase, we then
sent them to the appropriate pages (ie. canada or us). What we found
was that when the product was marketed to both countries on a single
page or site with the same url, our response from the U.S. customer
base was lower. It appeared (at least from our findings) that the U.S.
consumer was less likely to purchase when there was the co-branding of
the Canadian and U.S. product. I'm not sure if this was based upon
perception..too many references to Canada may have given the wrong
impression that the company was actually based in Canada ? The odd
part was that the Canadian consumer was not affected by this. This
could be because much of the ecommerce boom involves U.S. based sites,
and therefore users from other countries are familiar with doing
ecommerce on a site that is based in the U.S.

To make a long story short, to remedy the problem we decided to
separate the product based upon country and set-up a completely
different url for the Canadian (.ca) users. The two sites sell the
same product, essentially mirror sites, but they are completely
separate. There is virtually no cross-advertising or cross-linking
execept for some very basic nav links. This also allowed us to add
contextual content that met the needs of the user...whether that
related to the U.S. or Canada.

The results of our switch were astounding. Our conversion rate for the
U.S. population increased dramatically and our Canadian conversion
rate also increased somewhat from its pre-switch days. Our theory is
that in some cases (not all) the consumer is less likely to purchase
from a "global site" and more likely to purchase from a
country-specific site. I believe this to be especially true from the
standpoint of our products and most likely would also be the case for

I recogize that your situation may be somewhat different, but my hunch
is that if you separated your product site into separate url
country-specific sites, along with using only country-specific content
in each...your conversion ratio would improve. It worked for us.


Subject: Re: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata
From: educate-ga on 12 May 2004 16:42 PDT
Further to my previous commments.

My apologies, I did not realize when I posted my comment to your
question that you had asked for a specific google researcher to
provide the answer. Even though I just provided a comment, I was not
aware that I was commenting on a question that was obviously directed
to another person. Sorry about that Serenata.

Subject: Re: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata
From: sadgrove-ga on 14 May 2004 01:40 PDT
Thanks, educate, for taking the time to add this illuminating thought.
We'll certainly take this comment seriously. And I can't imagine that
serenata would be offended by your useful advice. Regards, Kit
Subject: Re: Why does my website attract more UK than US customers? - for Serenata
From: serenata-ga on 25 May 2004 10:35 PDT
Hello again Sadgrove ~

Thank you for the 5 star rating, and thank you for the most generous
tip. That was a very generous and nice thing for you to do.

Do let us know how things are going for your site(s).

Warm regards,


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