Perhaps the greatest of all mistakes made by marketers online is that of making assumptions.
The downturn has seen thousands of sites fall by the wayside. And on each of their headstones, one could write a very brief epitaph that says something like this:
Site founders assumed that a high volume of visitors would turn automatically into wads of cash (the eyeball assumption). They assumed that users would tell all their friends about the site (the viral assumption). They assumed that expensive software purchases would automatically generate an instant leap in revenue (the software “solution” assumption).
And so it goes on. Most assumptions have proved fatal over the last little while.
However, there is one assumption that isn’t a real killer, but it will certainly reduce the conversion rates on your home page.
This is the assumption that first-time visitors have an idea of what your site is all about.
Sure, they know that Amazon.com is a bookstore (even if Amazon thinks otherwise). Yes, they know that marthastewart.com is all about Martha Stewart. But how about your site? Is your business such a massive brand that you can afford to assume that people know what on earth it is that you do or offer?
In the vast majority of cases, it is not immediately evident from your home page what it is that you do. It’s obvious to you and your development team. But that doesn’t mean that it’s obvious to someone who has come to your site through a link or a search engine. To believe that a one-second glance at your home page will communicate your core value to a new visitor is nothing short of an assumption.
This is why it makes sense to use a few words to let people know what your site is all about.
Here are a few examples of how some sites are getting it right:
Your home for great recipes, meal ideas and cooking advice.
NeoPets.Com is the greatest Virtual Pet Site on the Internet. With your help, we intend to build a community of virtual pet owners, and offer cool things such as chat, games, auctions, shops, greetings, and much, much more. Best of all, it’s completely FREE!
The No.1 Source for Family History Online
Your Guide to Outdoor Recreation & Active Travel
These sites, some with a few words and some with more, take the trouble to introduce themselves. They don’t assume that everyone knows what they offer, nor do they put the burden of discovery on their visitors.
The more time visitors spend on figuring out what your site is about, the less time they will spend on deciding whether to stick around. That’s why the smartest sites of all make sure that their introductory text is placed dead center on the page, below that dead “banner space” at the top.
(By the way, in looking for the four examples above, I went through about 30 sites, the remainder of which did not use any kind of introductory or explanatory text.)
Make it obvious what you do. Don’t leave your first-time visitors to figure it out. Assumptions are bad for you.
Editor’s note: Many of you have noticed by now that ClickZ doesn’t introduce itself — and you’re just dying to write to us and point out, “Oh the irony…” How about, instead, you write in and suggest a one-liner that we can use to tell first-time visitors about ClickZ? “So what will my reward be?” you’re thinking. You mean aside from the satisfaction of having done a good deed? Well… how about instant fame? We’ll announce the winner’s name and other vital info to the whole world, right here in Nick’s column, in two weeks.