September 8, 2011 By Barry Densa
(An older post from a few years back — and still oh so true!)
Just because you build it, and they come… doesn’t mean they’ll stay.
So you’ve got Google adwords, banner ads, co-registration and joint venture deals, postcards, print ads, radio commercials, your mother-in-law and everyone else you can bribe, cajole and threaten, driving traffic to your website.
Yes! You’re an absolute genius at driving traffic to your website. You’re getting a gazillion hits and unique page impressions—every minute!
You’ve got so much traffic, tying up so much bandwidth, that Al Gore is thinking of producing a new movie about you: An Inconvenient Internet Presence: How one marketer destroyed what I invented.
And yet, despite all your fame and glory… no one’s buying what you’re selling!
In other words…
Your Website Sucks!
Way back in the stone age of Internet history… roughly five or so years ago… a website was a website was a website.
They all looked alike, they all worked alike (which basically meant they really didn’t do anything) and they all accomplished the same thing—pretty much nothing.
A website was a virtual business card. And since every business ordered business cards, every business ordered a website.
And then vanity and misguided creativity took hold of the entrepreneurial imagination.
The business card website quickly evolved into a multi-varied, multi-page behemoth. And as technology grew faster than our ability to master its consequences, the art of website design became an addiction—consuming the health, time, patience and money of the website owner—and the unwary visitor.
Pop-ups, hover-overs and other hovercraft, web 2.0, RSS, flash media, video, audio, 4-wheel drive, GPS, this and that, inspired and invigorated web developers and designers to continually raise the bar. Their ultimate end game: keeping visitors hostage to a website—tossing them into the black hole of web pyrotechnics, where nothing, not even light can escape.
And it didn’t bother them in the least that their Frankenstein website creations required an eternity to load on the average computer screen—eating RAM, disturbing REM, crashing hard drives, destroying transmissions, shackling legs in irons—lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Okay, let’s get back on track here…
Today, there are basically two and a half types of websites… those that inform and educate, those that inform educate and sell… and those that only sell.
Do You Know to Which Group Your Website Belongs?
Are you sure?
As a marketing and sales copywriter—I can tell you in a heartbeat.
I get phone calls and emails—almost daily—from individuals and company representatives lamenting the fact that their website doesn’t convert, and they want to know if I can help.
My first question, of course, is… how much money you got, pal?
Just kidding… but it is in the back of my mind.
Anyway… here are those two and a half website styles in a nutshell… and in their absolute worst incarnations…
The “I’ve really got nothing to say” Website
Typically, this website belongs to a small business owner. They’ve got a single product or a single service that they’re offering—yet, they have 20 or more pages on their website.
They’ve got a home page, a contact page, an about us page, a mission page, a subscribe-to-our-newsletter page, a link page, a testimonial page, a preferred vendor page, a site page, a leave-a-comment page and a product page for each person, animal, business or situation for which this one product can be of use.
But… there’s only two or three sentences on each page—if that much! So by default or design, graphical wizardry fills the remaining and yawning void.
Now, is there anything wrong with having a “brochure” style website?
Of course not—if you’re GE, Amazon, Dell Computer or any other business that has a diverse and extensive product and service mix.
For quicker and easier surfing (read: optimized usability) such a company needs a website that will logically and intuitively segment their wares and information on to different web pages.
But, if your company is a one-trick pony… a microsite will do you just fine.
Why waste your visitor’s time, forcing them to click here and there (and out of boredom flee to your competitor’s website), when everything they need to know and find about you, your product or service can comfortably and ergonomically fit on one page?
“…But I don’t want my website to look like one of those long-scrolling websites, you know, the type that sells information products!”
You’re laughing. Trust me… I hear that all the time, and it kills me.
My preferred retort to that bit of ignorance should be: “Well, those sites, the better conceived ones, typically rack up millions of dollars in sales—usually in a very short time. And so how much did you make last week?”
But instead, I politely suggest that they be sure to tell their web designer that he or she should stay away from that sort of, uh, look—but still put it on one page (two at the most).
Which now brings us to “that” sort of look, or site, the long scrolling, one-page kind.
The Kick-butt, Killer Commando Website
Because I don’t want to get into the debate, again, over whether long copy outsells short copy (it absolutely does!)… let me just state that a long scrolling, one-page, “information product kind” of website has but one purpose in its virtual life. To sell one thing—and to sell that one thing right off the page—right then and there!
And because “properly executed” websites of this kind can sell, and sell very well… uninitiated and salivating entrepreneurs who won’t take the time—or spend the money—to achieve a similar level of selling sophistication… will blindly, poorly and sacrilegiously copy that type of website’s form and style—while ignoring its compelling substance.
They’ll slap up a website, using a website design program they downloaded off the internet the night before.
And then they’ll fill it up with pages and pages (the amount of which seemingly corresponds, oddly enough, to the entrepreneur’s age) of overblown, hype-filled, irrelevant, stream of conscious verbal diarrhea.
And Holy Baloney! the impossible promises they make—with no credible proof provided—and the multitude of “freebies” offered (valued at thousands of dollars more than the $49.95 or $495 program, system or product being hawked)—is an absolute marvel to behold.
And then, of course, there’s the false deadline and limited supply (without a reasonable explanation as to why).
The list of unadulterated snake oil BS, sales gaffs and obvious chicanery on these sites is endless—indeed, the list is as long as the website.
Fortunately though, few are swindled, and these sites disappear relatively quickly, simply because…they don’t sell well.
And yet… the online, long-copy, scrolling sales letter, when conceived with good and honest intentions and executed with consummate sales skill, can quickly create a fortune, and a loyal and well-deserved following for a gifted entrepreneur where neither existed before.
That cheap imitations have muddied the worth and image of one of the mightiest and most sublime manifestations of salesmanship in print… is unfortunate. But they will endure… to the benefit of seller… and customer.
Which now brings us, finally, to the website by half…
The Landing, Splash, Squeeze Page
This rose by any other name—should be short, sweet and to the point.
What a surgical military strike is to the field of combat, the landing page is to the theater of marketing. Its sole purpose is conversion—to get the reader to buy, subscribe or inquire—fast. All the “selling and persuasion” typically comes before the visitor lands on this short-copy, quick-strike page.
Interestingly, one mistake many marketers make in regard to the landing page is not in the design of one—but in the lack of one.
They’ll do all the right things (hopefully) to generate traffic—but rather than drive the visitor to a page that is a dedicated follow-up to the ad the visitor just read—they drive them to their company’s home page, instead.
Then the visitor has to hunt and click for their particular item of interest.
If you give a visitor/potential buyer the slightest opportunity to get sidetracked and not complete the desired action—they will!
Another mistake is not designing the landing page to look and read the same way as the ad that attracted them in the first place. In short, there’s no continuity—no sense that they’re in the right place—primarily because there’s no repetition of the offer made in the ad.
Even though the potential customer has already been seduced, persuaded and sold on purchasing your product or service—or just providing their email address—you still must continue to seduce, persuade and sell them on your landing page.
You just don’t have to take as much time doing it. Just repeat the salient selling points already made in the ad—including the guarantee or risk reversal element.
But don’t be too quick and smart about it, either.
Don’t request your customer’s credit card number in a cold, calculating and peremptory manner. Continue to entice and excite your customers on your landing page—so that they can’t bear to wait a moment longer to give you their name and email address… or their money.
About Barry Densa