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When It Comes To Your Website, You Make The Rules.
You’ve probably heard me (and about a billion other people) say that when it comes to online marketing, your website is the home base for your business.
You own it (or should! If you’re not sure, well that’s a whole other story…)
Nobody can tell you how much text to put on a page or how many characters you can use or what type of content or language is appropriate.
With such an important job to do, it’s a wonder that there are so many thoughtless websites out there that do nothing to advance the goals of the business. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone complain, “My website isn’t doing anything!” I could stop writing right now and retire to that villa in Barcelona.
Building a customer-focused, lead-generating site is no joke. Free website builder tools aside, it’s a lot of work to dig deep to the bottom of what your customers and prospects really want and need and what will get them to take action. The “building” part of a website is the easy part. But knowing what to build? Not so much.
The three lines of text at the top of our own home page took us an entire weekend to write. We tossed out one idea after the next as we aimed to hit the right note.
Is it perfect?
I don’t know.
But we’re testing and keeping an eye on our analytics and lead numbers.
How about you? Are you doing the same for your site? When was the last time you made a change and then watched what happened as a result?
If you said, “I don’t know” or maybe even, “Never” then now is the perfect time to start. If you want your website to generate leads and work for your business, you need to do more than practice wishful thinking.
Here are a few things you can examine on your site and work to improve. They’re common trouble spots for many sites but they don’t need to be trouble for yours.
Fix Your Font
How big is the text on your site right now? Nope, don’t tell me.
However big it is, assume it’s too small and bump it up a few pixels or points or ems or whatever measurement you’re using.
When we redesigned this site about a year ago I thought the font was abnormally large. It seemed to take up so much space on the page. Just lines and lines of big, fat text.
Then one day we decided to make it bigger. At that point it looked rather clownish to me. And I thought, “Nobody is going to read this, it’s like a two-month-old’s chewy bath book.”
Surprisingly, people actually sent me emails and thanked me for making the text bigger. “Oh thank God!” someone said. “That’s so much easier on my eyes.”
And those were only the people who were vocal. Imagine how many others just clicked away when they got tired of straining to read.
When I look back at what the text used to be, I now think to myself, “Wow, that was ridiculously tiny!”
That’s why I don’t want you to judge the size of the text by looking at it. Chances are your perception is skewed by what you’re used to. And chances are your text is too small.
Especially if it’s the default text that came with your WordPress theme, I can almost guarantee it’s too small.
Do this: increase the size of your text. Now increase it again, because you probably think it’s too big… and you’re probably wrong. Now go into your Google Analytics and add a note on the date you made the change. In a month or so, run some comparison reports and see if your time-on-page has increased. Give it a few months and see what happens.
And while you’re at it, ask your readers and visitors what they think. There are definitely some vocal ones out there who will gladly tell you that you’re giving them eye strain.
Make Some Room
In the year 1999 we went to great lengths to get the important content on a web page “above the fold”. That meant that people could see it without scrolling.
Nowadays, the question is… what fold? The one on my widescreen monitor? Or 13” laptop? Tablet? iPhone? Everyone’s experience is so different that you’ll never be able to control exactly what someone sees at any given point.
Plus, in 2014… almost 2015… some of your audience was probably born with a scroll bar in their hand.
The idea of putting important information in front of someone because they might not know how or bother to scroll is 15 years out of date.
So while you do want to capture your visitor’s attention when they hit your page, you don’t need to cram everything right there in front of them.
Here’s what I want you to change next: the amount of empty space on your site.
Empty space, otherwise known as “white space” in web lingo, is just as important as the other stuff you put on the page.
Empty space gives people’s eyes and brains a chance to rest, process and move on. When you fill your page edge-to-edge it’s very difficult for people to focus on any one thing. It’s difficult for you to draw their eye where you want it.
Think of your web page like a treasure map. You want to draw a nice, big line from one clue to the next to the next until your visitor reaches the final X that makes the spot – which is where you will ultimately convert them. But if you squash all those clues together it’s going to be very easy to miss things.
Do this: move stuff around so there is empty, open space on your site. Increase the space between photos and text. Increase the space between the lines in your paragraphs of text. Increase the space around your bulleted lists and above and below your headings. Increase the space between sections.
Then open up your Google analytics… make a note and much like with your font change, wait and see what happens.
Think About Your Colors. Then Stop Thinking About Your Colors.
If you read anything about “conversion optimization” (in regular speak that means turning your visitors into leads and leads into customers) then you probably have a head full of “rules” about what colors work best for getting people to take action.
Tomes have been written about whether red buttons get people to click more than green buttons or orange buttons.
There are WordPress plugins that let you change the color of your email opt-in box to see what color works best to get people to sign up.
My advice? Stop obsessing.
I’m a big fan of testing but I think sometimes we get too caught in the minutia and forget to do the things that really make us money. Like talking to customers. Like meeting new people and building relationships.
Besides, the color that works for me may not work for you. Our Web.Search.Social brand color is the blue you see in our logo. We use it everywhere. So if my buttons were blue, they would probably blend into the background, no different than anything else that’s blue on the page. For us, an orange button stands out nicely.
But just because I see an uptick in clicks on an orange button doesn’t mean you will. If your logo color is orange you’d be better off with the blue button.
The point is to find a color that contrasts enough with your overall branding that it stands out and gets noticed.
I tested colors on our opt-in box until I was blue… no pun intended… in the face. And I found a whole lot of not much. Red, orange, green… I can’t tell you any one was statistically more successful. And if there was a difference, it was so minute as to not be worth the extra time testing and obsessing.
Do this: go to a site like Adobe Color and put in your brand color. Then find one that contrasts nicely. Use it. Then go do something else.
Overhaul Your Testimonials
Do you have a “testimonials” page? Get rid of it!
But don’t get rid of the testimonials. Just move them to a far more effective place than the sad, ignored testimonial page.
It’s not that your prospective customers don’t want to read what other people have to say. It’s just that your testimonial page is so long. And random. And way over there in the navigation where almost nobody ever clicks.
So what’s a better way?
Intersperse your testimonials in relevant places throughout your site so that each product or service page has a related testimonial. Turn them into part of the fabric of your site, not just some quarantined page somewhere.
Don’t have any testimonials on your site? Get some! A few words from a real customer can sell better than all the marketing copy in the world.
But all testimonials are not created equal.
Read this one: “I really enjoyed working with Company Q. They met all my needs and their service was great.”
If you’re not snoring yet, can you name that company? Of course not. You can insert any company name and that same testimonial could apply.
When you solicit testimonials, prime your customers with questions that get them to be specific about their experience.
For example: “I really enjoyed working with Company Q. When they delivered my new sofa, my pitbull Fluffy ran out into the yard but instead of panicking they were quick with a dog treat. I love my new sofa and so does Fluffy!”
That’s pretty specific. Can you imagine pitbull lovers everywhere thinking, “Finally! A company that knows how to deal with pets!”
Your testimonials should reference your customer’s experience with you specifically. If it’s generic “happy customer” talk, it’s probably not the best use of space on your site.
Do this: Aim to put at least one testimonial on each product or service page and be sure it relates specifically to that product or service.
Prepare by putting together a short questionnaire or survey for your customers to complete and target the questions toward eliciting a personal response. If you need help generating meaningful testimonials, it might be worth it to hire someone to interview your customer and elicit testimonials in person. A marketing professional can listen for what works and help ask questions to guide responses.
Stop Working Around Themes
If you have a WordPress website or any other template or theme-based site, this is for you.
Themes are great. They can provide a cost-effective way to build a nicely designed site with all the basic functionality you need and even some nifty bells and whistles.
The problem arises when sites are built around a theme – not around business needs or website goals.
Consider most themes on the market today. They are some version of header/sidebar/footer with your content in the middle.
But what if you don’t need a footer? Or a sidebar?
Well, if you’re using an out-of-the-box theme it doesn’t matter what you need as much as it matters what you can fill spaces with.
That’s why there are so many sidebars crammed with useless stuff that then gets repeated uselessly in footers. The same navigation shows up in three different places on a page because “add custom menu” was one of your options.
Everything on your page should be there for a reason and not just because you had a widget to fill. If your theme won’t let you remove a useless widget, it’s time to get another theme.
There are some that won’t let you compromise but there are others that will. It may be a few more dollars to buy it or a little more effort to build it but the return is a site built around your needs – not the whims of a theme developer.
If there isn’t a single theme that will work for you, you can always have one custom built. But for most small businesses I know, a good, flexible theme can accommodate their needs a lot more cost-effectively.
Do this: look at everything on your page. Every block of text, every image or menu or thing stuck in your sidebar. Is it there for a reason? Does it further your goals or is it taking up space because a space needed taking up?
If you answered the latter, it’s time to reimagine your site. Figure out what you need to turn leads into customers and make sure it’s there. After that, stop.
Get Out Of Your Own Head
One of the most common problems I see with web copy is that it sounds like it was written by a CEO at a board meeting. You and I, no matter what our industry, have certain buzzwords that we use when we’re talking to other people like ourselves.
When I say “SEO” to a colleague, there is no question about what I mean. But when I say it to prospects I quite often get a blank stare.
Things like “white space” that are perfectly common in the world I live in may be a foreign concept to someone reading this. (Thus, why I also called it “empty” space.)
I’m certainly not immune to losing myself in my own lingo, but I’ve had a lot of practice talking to people in language they understand. It requires forgetting what I know and recognizing what other people may not know.
I had a lengthy debate with a client in the telecom industry recently who listed one of his services as “unified communications”. When he explained what that meant, it made perfect sense. But you don’t always have the luxury of explaining things when someone pops onto your website looking for a solution to their problem.
As an uneducated consumer, I might hit his site, see “unified communications” and not give it a second thought. But when I see “video conferencing with screen share” I’m on board. I totally need that.
Get inside your customers’ heads so you know what they’re looking for – not just what you’ve assumed they’re looking for.
Do this: recruit someone who isn’t familiar with your industry. Can they read through your site and understand exactly what you’re selling? Or do you find yourself explaining – most likely in simplified language – what you mean?
If it’s the latter, then why aren’t you using that simplified language on your site?
This is where a professional copywriter can come in handy. Even if you’ve written everything yourself and it sounds great, that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense to your audience. Get a second opinion.
Point People In The Right Direction
If someone can’t tell, after about three seconds on your site, what you do and why – you’re leaving money on the table.
There are so many options and the internet moves so fast that we no longer have to try to find what we want anymore. We just have to keep clicking until someone hands it to us.
If your site isn’t one that “hands it to me” then I’m off to someone who will.
That means you have to understand why people are coming to your site in the first place and what problem they’re looking to solve.
Here’s an example. We built a site for a dentist recently but instead of adding a laundry list of services on the home page, we discussed who was visiting the site and why.
And after a long conversation, we narrowed it down to this: current patients were visiting, looking for information that they needed such a hours of operation and phone numbers; new patients were visiting looking for specific forms; and prospective patients were visiting looking to see if this dentist was right for them.
So instead of leading with the usual (braces, bonding, cleanings) we led with “who are you?”
In marketing-speak we call this “funneling” people. In regular normal language, call it pointing someone in the right direction.
Do this: figure out why people are coming to your site. The closer you can get to knowing who’s visiting and what they’ll need next, the closer you’ll get to lead generation.
Make A Change Now
Some of these things can be done immediately. Some will take a bit more time and effort. But if you want your website to make you money instead of costing you money, then it’s time to put it to work. Start with the easy changes and get them done. Then make one improvement at a time. Even if you started out with the fast-and-cheap site, you can still make progressive changes toward a better result.
Start now. Be better. And let me know if I can help!