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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Websites Irritants Guaranteed to Drive Visitors Away

IMG_1688 originally uploaded by catchthevision.
What irritates you the most when you visit a website? And how does that affect your willingness to spend time on that site?

Here are three of my top pet peeves:

1. I hate not finding relevant content - especially after having been enticed via the Google search results.

2. Even more I hate entering multiple search string combinations [i.e., several extremely specific words including maybe even your company name] - when I know what I'm seeking has to be there - and still not finding my result. In that case, I have to figure out the exact website address...

3. Topping my list, though, are sound effects. First those that can't be turned off - as these two randomly chosen examples demonstrate: Dee's Thai Restaurant, a wonderful neighborhood resource and Big Bob's Flooring Website, a corporate site for a reputable organization with a strong personality. Next are those with sound that I have to manually turn off. Example Digitas, which is tastefully done but still irritating [the images also rotate too rapidly for me]. Sound effects can add a distinct authenticity, as they do in all three examples. Unfortunately, too often they SHOUT, putting visitors on the defensive, rather than soothe or engage.

Now, I bet you spend a great deal of time online, researching, investigating and checking out new resources. I do. I know our customers do, too.

So, if you put yourself in the fingertips, eyes, and ears of your customers [i.e., the equivalent of walking in her shoes for the brick & mortar equivalent experience], and experience their search for your product/brand/store, how do you rate? Do you irritate and drive them away, or do you invite, draw them in and engage them for long sessions?

It's a critical question. Especially when the majority of our customers start at a search window to gather information relating to a purchase. Do you agree?

Consider my first two pet peeves - not finding relevant content, even with multiple word combinations [and, by the way, multiple word search strings are increasing in frequency as we look for more and more specific and relevant content in our search queries] - and ask yourself the following:
  • Is your website heavily flash based, with the majority of your delicious content hidden from those information hungry spiders and robots crawling through your website looking to find just the right digital trail to deliver to a search result page?
  • Do you have enough relevant content on your website? Content that explains and describes what you do, who you are, what you offer? Is your content interesting and well written? Does it answer the questions that visitors want answered?
  • Have you identified the keywords that consumers use to search on your product or location and included those in your website content? Don't forget titles, headers and tags.
  • Have you inaccurately associated keywords with your site so you appear in search results but are totally irrelevant to the original search?
And, about my third pet peeve - sound effects... I say ditch the sound effects. If you really can't, then make sure that your default setting is 'off' rather than 'on' and give your visitors the option to listen at their convenience.

Definitely experience your service/product/offering and website as would your customers. And then pay attention to your own web-based experiences. Gauge your reactions. Chances are, if something irritates you, it will irritate your visitors, too.

So, my recommendations:

1. Kill the flash. If you absolutely must, keep it to a minimum and don't hide any vital information within it.

2. Make your website searchable for the important content - who you are, where you are, and what you do.

3. Keywords count. Have them upfront, first line, first paragraph and within your content in a natural way. Make sure they are relevant to you, your content and your visitors.

4. No noise.

Simple, right? Would you add others?

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