For the past decade, I have consistently been one of the highest grossing freelance writers on Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk), the largest freelance job site around. In four of those years, I was the #1 individual in the world for the writing category, and I can...
When a person visits a website, they are almost always searching for a very specific piece of information.
As writers and domain owners,we are always quick to assume that we know what that one thing is- people are here because they want to buy our products and services. However, that’s rarely the case…at least not initially.
For instance, you stumbled across this blog post while navigating the Upstate Synergy website. Does that mean you have your checkbook in hand ready to become one of our clients?
Of course not. You want to see who we are as a brand first, how well we know the digital marketing realm and what solutions we offer. And even then, that doesn’t mean you’re here to buy anything.
Again- you’re looking for some type of specific information.
So in order for us to have any kind of chance at turning you into a paying customer, our first and foremost goal is to figure out what kind of information you’re really looking for. The truth of the matter is that it could be almost anything- the possibilities are virtually endless.
That tells us that in order to have great website content, we need to foresee just about every possible need our customers could have when they visit us. We try to do that by-
– Closely watching our website’s metrics and seeing how visitors travel through the site
– Posting contact forms on almost every page to make it easy to get fast answers
– Using FAQ sheets and other compact layouts to get lots of information in small spaces
– Studying feedback in email and surveys to see what info visitors can’t find easily
– Straight-out asking for direct feedback from our current clients
And guess what? We still have large bounce rates at times. That’s because you can’t account for every possible scenario that would cause someone to visit your website. The best you can do is to keep asking questions and study your visitors to have a more complete picture of their needs.
Now, you may be wondering why we go to such lengths- don’t we know our own business and our customers?
Of course we do. That’s not the real problem here.
The real problem is that we know our business too good. And you have the exact same problem. You’re so close to the everyday operations that you can’t fully see the buyer’s journey from start to finish.
Let’s work through a practical example-
A visitor arrives at your homepage. This person falls into your ideal demographic, they can afford your product and they actually need it. They’re an ideal customer in every sense of the word.
Yet, this person doesn’t enter your site on a product or information page- they happen to catch a link in search to your homepage. So they’re looking at your header image, links to different categories and some type of headline. Maybe there’s a few other pictures worked in there or a call to action as well.
The reason this ideal customer came to your site, however, was to see if they can make an online purchase/deposit with a credit card and then receive one of your products/services through a non-standard way. Maybe they want to have a co-worker come by to talk to you about the purchase before making a final selection or set a delivery date sometime in the future.
They look on your homepage for that info. It’s not there. Then they visit your products page. The info isn’t there either. Next they try your FAQ, your contact page and a few more areas- the information they want is nowhere to be found.
So what does this ideal customer do?
While we’d love to think that they’d just call us and ask, modern consumers usually find their backspace key instead. They’re off to another website with the same question.
You may have noticed these days that major brands are actually using a lot less content on their main pages. This is actually for two reasons-
1) Short, bold statements really stand out to the average consumer.
2) Modern search Optimization focuses heavily on visitor actions.
However, if you look at some of our pages closely, you may be surprised at how much content we packed in there while still keeping a minimal look. For instance, our Lunch w/ Friends page has almost 800 words of content, but most of it is hidden in the accordian section. We achieved similar results on the homepage with sliders, multi-layer text areas and other formats.
Now, you may think, “Nobody ever reads that stuff.”
That’s not true though- almost nobody ever reads that stuff. And we’re fine with that, as long as the one unique person with a specific question can find their answer quickly…or spot our contact form on each page that talks about legendary fast response times.
Along those same lines of thinking, every single page of your website should have a “Learn More” button included in each section. While you or I may get excited over the small summary paragraph, we don’t want to alienate those who need more information and aren’t ready to reach out yet.
That means your website’s sitemap should look like a pyramid where every main page starts with a major category and then branches out for every specific need/problem. Every time you introduce something new, then you should also provide 2-3 additional pages to talk about the different aspects of it.
Do you see that sexy hunk of modern muscle car above? It pained us to put a sub-header over it because it is so darn beautiful. That’s the new 2017 Mazda RX7.
Let’s knock out a quick examle for using Mazda USA and an example-
The home page would has some great hero images with snappy text. We’d also see our standard product pages, an about us (Why Mazda), a dealer page, shopping tools and a link to some testimonials.
We already know that the average buyer is going to be looking for things like fuel efficincy, overall horsepower, available colors, etc. So they did well by working all of that information in on the homepage or the first landing page for each vehicle. That’s essentially where the pyramid starts- going from the homepage to the eight different models that Mazda sells.
Each major category page also has content that’s light any airy. We love the negative space to make each photo the star, plus they have some handy tools to learn about the specifics. The layout of each vehicle page matches the exact process a salesman would present the car inside a dealership- so that’s perfect for the buyer’s journey.
However, you can’t forget about the car fanatics of the world either. They want real information.
For instance, what’s the rear differential on the Mazda 3 sedan? What’s the recommended mileage for changing the transmission fluid? Does it require premium unleaded?
One the Mazda USA site, this problem is loosely handled by providing product brochures, spec sheets and numberous other resources at the bottom of the homepage. But is that the best way to ensure that the customer sees it?
Definitely not. It personally took me over eleven minutes to find answers those three basic questions.
So while Mazda did well with “read more” and “learn more” buttons for each section, the information shared is simply too generic to meet all customer types. We hit four different dead ends trying to answer basic questions and had to completely start our search over in other areas of the site.
Don’t forget, we’re talking about a specific car from a specific company that we’re already in love with. If this was an example for printer paper or life insurance, we would have given up after 10-15 seconds of looking.
Nobody earns 11 minutes of patience in cyberspace- not even Mazda. After all, he new 2017 Ford Viper is even more gorgeous.
What’s the moral of the story here?
While your website may be beautiful, it’s probably not optimized for customers anywhere near as well as you think. That’s a huge problem that can’t be fixed through design, navigation or different layouts- it takes real content that gives specific answers to questions that we may not have even thought about yet.
If you take one thing away from this article, it’s to find new ways to listen to your customers about what’s really important to them. Then find logical ways to complete the buyer’s journey from homepage to contact, and remember that each of us will likely want to take a different path during that process.
Websites are not meant to be “one size fits all.” That’s called a sales pitch, not a brand experience.
Be sure to let us know if we can help.