The Web is often (perhaps too often) compared to a freeway, namely the Information Superhighway. The comparison is apt—unlike television and print, where you have viewers and readers, you have traffic; traffic that is constantly moving, changing over, passing by, dropping in and shifting direction. It’s a constant game of grabbing attention and directing traffic to your door, rather than somewhere else along the highway.
Now, we can drop the metaphor and get straight to the point: we’re talking about conversion. Getting web traffic to your website is half the battle, but the next challenge is turning your visitors into customers. Returning to our analogy, we can learn some important lessons from the agents that drive business along the highway: billboards. Here are three important lessons that billboard advertising can teach web developers:
Keep it Simple
A universal piece of wisdom, of course, but it’s even truer for the web. Like billboards, homepages are viewed not by patient audiences, but by web surfers flying by at 70 MPH. You’re lucky if your homepage gets looked at for more than 15 seconds before your visitor decides whether or not to click that back button. With that in mind, you’re going to want to pare down the elements on your landing page to the most essential and compelling details. This is harder than it seems. If you’re passionate about your product, you’ll likely have a book’s worth of content and bullet points you want to discuss with your potential customer. But exercise some restraint for now—you’re goal here is to present the most enticing tidbits so you can hook your reader. Don’t bombard them with infos, offers and specs until you’ve got their attention.
Include a Call to Action (CTA)
Okay, you’ve hooked your audience—now reel them in. This is the number one mistake that online businesses make every day. Once you’ve convinced your readers that they’ve found what they are looking for, it’s important to make it easy for them to know what to do next. Don’t make them scroll back to the navigation menu at the top and sift through your "Services” section or click through to your "Contact Us” page. Instead, at the end of your copy, give them a button or link to click right away. Think of those billboards again—you’re hungry and on the road and you see a picture of a succulent hamburger that makes your mouth water. Then, you see "Take Exit 45 and Turn Right.” That’s your call-to-action. Make it that easy for your web visitors, rather than sending them searching. Deliver their next action to them on a silver platter—ask them to "Click Here” or "Buy Now” or "Start Your Free Trial” right now.
Make it Clear
Clever advertising that works is the exception, not the rule. You may have been inspired by some of the memorable, off-the-wall or just plain zany advertisements that make you think. But achieving something that breaks conventions while achieving that clarity in communication is harder than it looks. When people land on your website, you want them to be able to understand who you are, what you’re offering and why they should accept your offer with minimal effort. Even highly intelligent audiences read web copy differently than they would survey a piece of high literary art—they aren’t going to work hard to decipher your punnery, symbolism and satire. Instead, they’ll click that back button and visit your competitor, who doesn’t confuse them. That’s not to say that you should be boring or predictable. It just means you should be kind to your audience. Instead of challenign them, reassure them, guide them and instill them with confidence in you and your service.
The takeaway lesson from all of these three points is this: traffic moves fast on the Internet. Each time someone lands on your homepage, you’ve got a window of opportunity that only remains open for a few seconds. Get your message across quickly, clearly and effectively before that window closes. Give them a reason to take that metaphorical exit that leads to your storefront and make it easy to close the deal.