In the world of tactful communication, it’s often unwise to be too direct.
It’s the reason we make “small talk” when we meet someone new. We have to feel each other out and get comfortable before we discuss anything serious.
In many cultures, it’s a serious breach of social etiquette to be direct with people. Even in the American workplace, where directness is often valued, we walk a line to make sure we don’t offend anyone.
But at the risk of offending, I’m going to be direct. Your website is too vague. I don’t understand what you do, how you can help me, or why I should care.
Your website isn’t doing its job. If it were an employee, I’d advise you to fire it.
Peep Laja of Conversion XL is even blunter. He cites “vague bullshit” as the #2 problem most common on business websites, behind (the related) lack of a defined value proposition.
Your Ego is Killing Your Conversions
Why do so many businesses come out of a website design project with such vague content?
Mainly because nobody is looking at the website from the perspective of a visitor who is totally new to the business. It’s ironic when you consider that’s the very audience the website is actually for.
Business owners can be their own worst enemy here. They are just too close to their own business. They’ve spent so much time working on their solution, they can’t explain to someone looking at it for the first time.
Another problem is that new businesses overdo branding. They want to make a brand impression, but since they are an unknown to consumers, the brand impression isn’t associated with a value offering. Brand image by itself isn’t worth anything if consumers don’t associate the brand with something they care about.
Websites with these problems are easy to spot. You often end up with an attractive, meticulously designed website that is polished in every way. The problem is that when a new visitor arrives at the site, they don’t understand what the business does – much less what it could do to solve their problem.
The business owner loves the site. The designer thinks it looks great. Then it goes to the marketing team, and it’s a different story. They can’t do their job with looks alone. Cool doesn’t convert by itself. The website must communicate the value message, and it must persuade new visitors that it’s in their best interest to take action.
The 2.5 Second Rule
Here at Marketing 360®, we espouse the 2.5-second rule. This rule states that you have 2.5 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention and convince them they are in the right place. After a few seconds, if the visitor is confused, you’re at great risk of losing them.
The truth is, we never tested this number with such exactness as to know it’s 2.5 seconds, but you get the idea. It’s a general rule in conversion rate optimization that you have a brief window (about 3-7 seconds) to hook your visitor.
To demonstrate, I’ll took a look at this construction company website and see how it does on the 2.5-second rule.
My result? I don’t really have one. After spending over two minutes on the site, I still only have a general idea of what they do. In terms of specifics, I can’t find it. Their content is so vague and confusing I can only make a general assumption about their offer.
Here is a breakdown of my experience.
This is the content I get above the fold on the homepage:
When you enter this site, there is really nothing that suggests what this company does. Even the large hero image is totally vague…I don’t even know what I’m looking at. They seem to assume I already know what they do.
So I look to the navigation. My choices are: Who we are. What we do. How we do it. Which of these should I choose? I just don’t know…I try for What we do, but it has too many drop down choices. I try How we do it. I get this page:
We have experience is a diverse range of sectors, they say. What does that mean? I’m not even sure what they do, but from the images I’ve seen, I guess they put wood on hinges and design football stadiums.
I go back to What we do to check the first drop down, their properties page:
They say: In simple terms, we develop, design, construct, refurbish, and operate outstanding buildings.
Okay, at this point I get this is some kind of construction or architecture company, not sure which…maybe both. I don’t know what they mean by “outstanding building”. Still lost.
I go back to the Who we are tab and take a chance on Past, Present, and Future (itself an incredibly vague page title).
At this point, over 2 minutes into my visit, I conclude they are a construction company that builds a variety of buildings. But if I needed such a company, I still have no sense of why I’d hire them.
This site is plagued by vague copywriting and imprecise imagery. The writer assumes you already know everything about their company, but if that’s the case, why have a website? Vague, ambiguous, and confusing. A really poor user experience.
Here is a recent design from UXI® with communication that is far more direct:
This site passes the 2.5-second rule. I get what they offer and why I should care immediately. If I happened to have had a few too many Margaritas last night, it’s a done deal.
Many websites languish with vague, ineffectual content for years, wondering why their online marketing doesn’t convert better. Some even run specific ad campaigns and use general, vague homepages as their landing page. The widespread problem of being vague with content explains – in part – why it’s so common for conversion rates to be under 2%.
If people don’t understand what you can do for them, you have no chance at conversion.
So be polite with Grandma. Make small talk with new acquaintances. Listen carefully when you need to learn.
But with your website content, get to the bloody point. Be direct. Be blunt. Communicate the value you offer with specificity. Don’t make me figure out what you can do to help me, spell it out for me as if I was a 5-year-old.
Assume people have no idea what you offer, then clear it up for them fast. Make sure your design supports your message.
Just those steps will do a great deal to improve your conversion rates.