Hidden messageIf people visit your website and don’t ‘get it’ they disappear fast – often referred to as a high bounce rate.  This is bad news, so you need to know how to hang on to visitors long enough to persuade them to take action.

There are lots of reasons why people leave your website without doing anything – and only a few reasons why they stay.  You need to know what keeps them interested and avoid what sends them running to someone else’s site.

Let’s start with why people arrive on your website:

  1. You (or someone else) have given them your business card or contact info and they want to know more about what you do.
  2. Someone has recommended you as a potential supplier of products or services in response to something they’ve said in conversation (or maybe on social media).
  3. They’ve been actively searching for what you do and your site has come up in the search results.

Each of these has varying levels of initial interest from mild curiosity to a red hot lead.  If they don’t easily find what they’re looking for they’ll simply disappear like mist in the morning.

  • It doesn’t matter how good your SEO is if people bounce off.
  • It doesn’t matter how glowing a recommendation is if the visitor can’t find what they want easily.
  • It doesn’t matter how interested they are, if the site confuses, irritates or becomes ‘hard work’ they’ll soon forget you.

Here are my strategies to ensure you keep people around long enough to impress them and get action.

  1. The site must look up-to-date and professional – no matter how smart your SEO team are if people arrive on the site, take one look and judge it to be dated or amateurish, they’ll judge you to be the same and won’t hang around. I’m not a big fan of the modern parallax sites, but they do look pretty.  The secret is to harness the design elements and make them work for you by ensuring that your key message is in the right place to grab your visitor’s attention.
  2. You need a compelling headline that engages the visitor – so it needs to be something that they feel is relevant to them. As search engines don’t only send people to your home page, this means a good headline on every page.  The page name (e.g. Services) is NOT a headline.  Headlines should be the biggest font size on the page – and there should only be ONE, not several.
  3. Have an ethical bribe on offer. This is something free and valuable, such as a checklist, a tips sheet, a ‘how to’ document or a 3 (or more) mistakes people make when …  The idea is to persuade people to part with their name and email in exchange for this information.  This means you’ll need a means of capturing this information such as MailChimp, AWeber, ConstantContact, GetResponse, etc. to create the sign up form and collect the data automatically.
  4. Make sure your navigation (menu) is idiot-proof. No cryptic tab titles, no hidden sections and the order is in order of importance to the visitor from L-R (if you’re writing for an English speaking market).  This means Services comes before About, for instance; people want to know if you’ve got what they want BEFORE they want to know who you are.
  5. Write short punchy copy that is reader-focused – i.e. it’s about what they get, NOT what you do. Nobody reads much on a web page, they scan so short sentences and paragraphs make the content look ‘easier’; subheadings and bullet points re-engage people so be smart about how you use them.
  6. Argue with your web designer if they try to persuade you that centred copy is ‘trendy’ or that justified paragraphs look ‘tidier’. People find it much easier to read copy that is left-aligned i.e. each line starts in the same place, but finishes at a natural break between words.
  7. Don’t be tempted to ask your web designer to create a ‘sexy’ black (or other dark colour) page. A dark background with white writing may look ‘smart’, but it’s really hard to read.  Most people won’t make it past the first paragraph.
  8. No matter how creative your web designer gets keep moving elements to a minimum – and avoid continuous movement. Every time something on the page moves it draws the eye – that’s OK to get your headline some attention, but when people are trying to read the content it distracts them – and, eventually, irritates them.
  9. Avoid fancy fonts altogether if possible. If you have to have something a bit different then stick to headlines only, but it must be easy to read, not require squinting at to decipher!  In fact, on the screen the best fonts are simple sans serif fonts like Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, Trebuchet, Century Gothic, Calibri, etc.  Times New Roman can be too busy for the screen and reduce clarity.  You don’t want anything getting between your message and the reader.
  10. Add images to give each page life and energy. Nobody finds a big wodge of text attractive – people are 30 times more likely to read content with images so add at least one image.  However, make sure the image works to enhance and support the message, not just a random pretty picture to add a bit of candyfloss to the page.
  11. Make sure hyperlinks to other pages or sites are easy to use. Remember that, on a mobile phone, accurately hitting a text link can be quite challenging.  If it’s possible to create buttons that are finger-friendly then do that, otherwise big, fat, bold links.  As a footnote, it’s good practice to go through your site at least monthly and check that all the links still go where you want them to.  Whilst modern technology is pretty reliable it does sometimes manage to disconnect itself.  If a link is going to take people to another site make sure it opens in a new window, so when they close it they’re still on your website.
  12. Know what you want the visitor to do on EVERY page – and then tell them what to do and make it easy for them to do it. This means providing a link to the page (or pages) you want them to visit next – or providing a phone number in the text, don’t expect them to go searching for it.

Follow these strategies and your website will keep many more of your visitors and capture their interest long enough to persuade them to do what you want them to.