(And the most important is last)
Empty? Of course its not! You've got stuff in there, everything, plus things that slide and go 'blink' and 'boink'. Of course its not empty. Its chockers!
But it's failing. Why? There's no message. For a moment, think about a newspaper advert. A single, clear headline, a few explanatory words, and a related image. Or maybe there's no image. But there's words.
Think of it another way: you’re on a busy city street. This street is different, because all the stores are the same. You’re in a hurry, so you don’t pay much attention. You’re walking, glancing occasionally at the stores, reading their signage.
In a fraction of an instant you see a poster in a window, and you GET IT! In an instant, you get it. Bang! there's a single, focused message. You stop, look closer, and the sale is underway.
That's what your website should emulate. But, what message? I'll come to that.
It's a tough blend, balancing the site between regular customers and potentials. After all, if regulars see the same thing, day in, day out, it becomes boring. On the other hand, you need a single, massive message to attract, then hold your potentials. But there's several things you can do.
First, drop a cookie on your regulars - anyone that has been a few times - and give them a different home page. Its easy, and cheap.
Second, choose for your potentials. They are the one's who will grow your business. You can look after your regulars in different ways, like email marketing that carries an entirely different message.
Looks GREAT! Your son said it looked COOL. It's ANIMATED and everything. Everyone you know loves it! It goes 'whoosh'.
Now look again. You have a big generic image of a smiling face (or similar) which dominates 80% of your first screen. There's barely room for a word. Oh, the words ARE there - out of sight. You want me to scroll for them, play hide and seek with your message.
OK, I've scrolled. I've made the effort that YOU should have made. Can I guess how it starts?
"At Thomson Engineering, we strive to bring you total satisfaction. Our award winning team of automative engineers have 35 years of exemplary customer service and are experts in every car.
Using our latest technology, we can find faults in your car, even before you're aware of them, and then rapidly fix and test."
Have you read this before? This sort of stodgy, say everything, say nothing approach - a shotgun strategy, hoping to get everyone, but getting no-one?
Read over your text, and tell yourself what you find. Is it powerful, packed full of insta-hit messages, strong headlines, splitting markets, creating intrigue, the desire to discover more? Or flaccid, a page that is dominated by a useless graphic that has absolutely NO marketing content.
Now, remember what we learnt early on? That a person asks a question - they want information - but all you've given is tosh.
That big fat image has to go - seriously. But why is it there in the first place? Well, there's a reason. Most web developers use 'modern' system like Wordpress or Joomla or Drupal to build a website. These are free systems, and have thousands of free templates, and nearly all have a massive image or animation, like yours.
And then you filled up whatever minimal space you have left with ineffective words. Did they tell you to do that?
As in, "well, there's only space for 50 words, you can do that". Or was it "people don't read anymore, no point in copy."
What makes you decide to buy something? First up, it's TRUST. Trust goes before price, every time. But what do I mean by 'trust?'
It's that soothing sensation that you'll be satisfied with your purchase, that sense that you are respected, that your business is welcomed, that your existence is valued by the seller. Do your web visitors see any of that? Anywhere? (And don't tell me a smiling girl on the phone is designed to yield trust. Really? It is?)
Trust is vital in any exchange, in fact, it preceeds any exchange. When a web visitor looks at your site, they are instantly trying to gauge whether you'll be easy to deal with, whether you'll honour your promises, whether the product you're supplying with perform as you say.
Can they see any of that? Or was your strategy to get them to ring, then sell them? But what do you do when your prospects just aren't calling?
I love you. I depend on you. If you buy, I will forever remember you. I am grateful that you're even reading my webpage.
Well, aren't you? Let me tell you, I am eternally grateful that you are reading MY page. Why? Because I like to write, and my ego is continuously gratified when I create a world-besting set of beautiful words that SELL SELL SELL. My clients admire me. Their daughters want to marry me. Seriously. And if I get you to laugh …
Most of all, I want your ongoing respect. I need the attention to feed my aching soul. It drives me to create fabulous words, for even the smallest client. Being paid is just a pleasant side-effect of doing something I've always wanted.
THAT'S that you need to say, in different words. "Thank you for stopping by - I will entertain you, warm you, soothe and help you feel part of something bigger than just a throwaway commodity."
The Apple Myth
Steve Jobs created a myth, not just a product, and he enlarged the myth until it eclipsed the truth. How did he do that? By loving his customers. By making them feel different in a cookie-cutter world. By rewarding them with an inner sense of their own value, he helped them feel so important - so tribal - they would queue overnight to get an iThing first. Could you imagine getting YOUR customers to queue?
Steve Jobs didn't put an image in front of his face, and walk through the streets? No, he talked, and it was his words that built a mythology. Words create dreams.
In mid-2011, Google changed its search process to focus on "authenticity". This was a deliberate change to frustrate all the SEO merchants who charge silly amounts and get it all done overseas for a pittance.
And it's now useless, anyway, because Google wants to see WORDS. Written in a natural way, designed to give your visitors a quality experience. ALL those images don't mean a thing to Google. Zero. And words in the sliding graphic? Zero. Google wants to see a site that is worth visiting. There's a strict set of guidelines, and most sites fail on all measures.
SEO and Marketing
If you put an SEO expert and a marketer in the same room, it’s likely they’ll come to blows. SEO experts believe that, if you get enough people visiting your website, sales will automatically happen.
Except they don’t. You can attract the wrong type of visitor, but this is still seen as SEO success. You can get thousands of visits and a single sale, and this is still a success.
The success of a website depends on a close integration between your marketing and SEO, and marketing should determine the SEO fundamentals. You should understand your customers, be clear about your offer and, most of all – MAKE an offer that is sufficiently attractive.
There is a fundamental law in marketing … copy your successful competitors. Sure, you can do it your way, you can keep struggling along – or learn from people who are right at the top.
Never let an SEO expert determine your marketing. They are technicians, not creative. They work by numbers, not brand development.
Work out your marketing first, then ask an SEO expert to support your market plan.
… but you can't paint a Picasso. Then why do the same with your website by writing the words? I'll tell you why, and it's not the money. After all, why would you ruin an investment of $10,000, just for a few hundred dollars.
It's call VANITY PUBLISHING. You just wanted to "do it yourself". Maybe you wanted to show-off to yourself. Prove that you can write. It was a good feeling when you showed it to your friends. But really, what else are they going to say? Are they your customers?
If your customers aren't buying, and YOU wrote the words then you need to think again. You’re losing money to your ego.
Web visitors are totally unlike your store visitors. In three seconds, they can compare one of your competitors in another suburb. Or in another state. And more and more, in another country. So, you only have a few seconds to grab them.
What grabs? Answering the question that they searched for. That's right, it's called "answering the question". I nearly failed a HSC question because I assumed I knew what the examiner wanted. It was the major essay in my best subject. First failure, great lesson.
So, answer the question that they came searching for. Immediately, they'll develop a rapport, because they've found AN ANSWER. In the millions of web pages, they've found an answer. Does your web page do that? Or does it - like the 90% of sites - boast about how good you are, how long you've been in business, and all the other tripe. Who cares?
Arrgh! That might have been impressive a decade ago, but really!
Most websites are made by men. It’s a statistical fact. Yet, regardless of the product, a little over 50% of the buyers are women. More importantly, women have conquered the marketing departments and business world in a way not quite comprehended, certainly by most webmakers.
Look at the division between left-side, right-side (above). As YOU have been relentlessly told, women perceive through their feelings, men through logic. It’s a big, big chasm.
What difference does it make? Essentially, an inversion of the decision process. Women consider how the product fits with their family, their lifestyle, their emotional senses. Men evaluate based on statistics, features, their status and lastly, how it impacts on their emotions.
Yet, 50% of the market are women. This has given rise to a form of writing known as ‘experiential’, where there’s no regard for formal structure, but rather, it attempts to guess the pathways the emotions might take. How the person ‘experiences’ the product.
Regard it a little as a ‘stream of consciousness’ pattern, except a little more structured. This type of writing appeals to women because it talks to their emotions.
(And you thought copywriting was easy.)
As we discussed, 90% of websites look like Joomla or Wordpress templates. Their popularity as ‘free’ design kits has done a strange thing – convinced the market that ‘free’ equals good.
In Advertising 101, we learnt something different. First, analyse the product benefits. Second, work out ‘USP’s’. Then you define the demographic these would appeal to. Then work out their resistance points and positive drivers. Then define a series of headlines which ‘meet and greet’ their desires and fears.
THEN define a ‘text/visual concept’ which supports the key thrust – just ONE key thrust to maintain clarity.
Then Design it.
But the modern approach is the opposite; a) take a design b) shoehorn a few words into it c) Ram some SEO into d) stand back and see if it works.
As you can see, I’ve left the most important till last.
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