Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Death of Welcome on the Web

Banish the welcome page on your website. In fact, banish any “welcome” copy all together. It’s totally superfluous. Besides, it annoys your viewers and makes you look unprofessional.

Your homepage is the only welcome your audience needs. Remember, web audiences are in a hurry. Within seconds, your viewers should be able to tell the purpose of your site. They don’t want to read any copy that doesn’t tell them who your are, what you have to offer, and how they can take action.

Your homepage is like a brochure in the print world. Have you ever seen a welcome section in a brochure? It would take up precious space, for one thing. The real estate on your website is no less precious.

When I googled “welcome,” I got about 638,000,000 results. Most of these are wasted; no one uses the word to search for a site unless welcome is relevant to the site name or purpose, such as “Welcome,” the title of a movie, and Welcome Wagon, a business.

I would venture to guess that “welcome” is one of the worst keywords on the web.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Your Audience Is Always Right

Successful marketing & communication require knowing who your audience members are & how to give them value. This is true whether you’re creating web content for a new business or crafting a script for a video designed to increase college enrollment.

Reaching an audience takes a writer, or editor, trained in looking at the project at hand from the audience’s viewpoint. Many websites, for instance, simply don’t work. Why? Because the web copy and design represent what the site owner wants to say, which often has little to do with what the viewer wants or needs to know.

You’ve seen it many times: sites that eat up valuable time with superfluous Flash intros, sites that make their purpose unclear, vanity sites that overemphasize site owner & underemphasize user functions, sites containing too much written copy.

User studies show that if you don’t grab your viewer within seconds, he or she will likely click off your site. That’s because audiences, your users, don’t want to waste time. Think of when you’re on the web looking for products or information or trying to complete a task. Ever feel you have time to waste? Rarely? Never? Your users are just like you.

More about Audiences:

Too close to your website, too far from your customers

Making the customer CEO

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Whose Website Is It, Anyway?

A website is a great marketing tool. As long as the site is doing its job. That job is to attract your intended audience. And then make it easy for members of your audience to carrying out their objectives. How do you do that?

Create a website:

  • that’s easy to find,
  • that provides a good user experience, and
  • that speaks directly to your audience.

Finding Your Site

The main way your audience reaches your content is through Google searches. That means you need search-engine-friendly content. Which is having subheads and copy containing key words your audience will type into Google. And using meta content on your home page to describe your organization.

Most of all, though—and this should not come as a shock—you need quality content that’s relevant, well written, well presented, and up to date. If you’re checking a site for the latest advances in animal ID tagging, for instance, what happens when you notice the site hasn’t been updated in 12 months? You look for another site. And you may never return.

What About My Home Page?

But what about my home page, you ask? I want users to visit my home page. Here’s the scoop: while you may go to your site via the home page, few others will. And if they do, it’s usually because Google put them there so they could decide where else in your site they wanted to go. Which means your home page needs to shine like a window into your content.

But, say, you want your audience to land on your home page for promotional purposes. How do you do that? By promoting your home page and its URL through advertising. And through brochures, email, and other materials about your products and services. Users also reach your home page (and your other content) through links from other websites and by word of mouth.

The User Experience

What happens when you go to a site for information, to find a product or service, or to complete a task? The last thing you want to do is to have to think. The website should be doing the thinking for you—anticipating your needs, so to speak.

What you’re looking for should be easy to find. You want relevant links. Intuitive, well-organized navigation. Now think about a member of the audience you covet going to your site for products, knowledge, instruction, or services. The game of hide and seek now becomes okay?

Actually, it’s natural to think it’s not a problem for your users to have to hunt down the links they want. Because, of course, you know where the information is. It’s right inside that hall closet and down some stone steps that lead into that old neglected root cellar. No, not by the shriveled potatoes. See those beets over in the far corner? Yeah, that’s where it is. Wasn’t that easy?

Influencing Your Audience

Creating home pages with content your audience doesn’t care about—information that reflects your internal structure, for instance—is worse than useless. It’s egos on display. You can have that kind of page, but you should tuck it away, maybe behind the shriveled potatoes.

Why? Because you’re presenting your audience with irrelevant content. You’re creating a puzzle. Or a roadblock. Distract, confuse, annoy your users, and they go somewhere else. There’s always somewhere else to go.

Think about an ad you’d put in the Sunday newspaper to promote your business or organization. Every inch of that ad is valuable marketing real estate. Would the ad contain absolutely anything that didn’t serve the purpose of influencing your audience? Would you put your dog Nipper’s photo in the ad? Or a birthday greeting to your Aunt Jo?

Of course not. These items don’t serve your purpose. Your home page is no different. It’s valuable real estate. It’s there to influence members of your audience—to persuade them that your internal pages are worth visiting and spending time with.

Which brings us back to quality content that’s relevant, well written, well presented, and up to date. Nothing makes a web audience happier and more likely to return.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Marketing Really Is

In essence, marketing is delivering value to your customers or clients. Marketing means always focusing on your clients’ needs and desires. Educators and agents in the field instinctively know their job is to find a need and devise services and products to meet that need. Which is also part of the marketing process.

The next step is defining your target audience and figuring out how best to appeal to it. This can involve word of mouth, letters, emails, posters, flyers, brochures, radio spots, newspaper ads, etc. Using a marketing mix—a combination of marketing tools—increases the likelihood your audience will get your message.

What’s key, however, is that your message convey how what you have to offer is of value to your audience. Picture someone trying to persuade you to attend a meeting. You want to know what you’ll get out of the experience. In other words, “what’s in it for me?” Announcing that a program or seminar is taking place isn’t enough. Your program might be great and probably is, but how does your audience know that?
Last, you need to follow through on your promise and deliver the value.

So, marketing isn’t any one thing. It’s more like a process. And it starts and ends with delivering value to your audience.