Is Your Website a Crazy, Lonely Salesman?


I mean this question literally, because I've seen hundreds of businesses set up their website just like this. Visitors arrive at a website, and the website doesn't say what it sells, and seems to be talking to itself, ignoring the customer.

Imagine walking into a store, and being interested in buying something. You look around and see a sales associate. Instead of coming up to you though, the associate seems to be standing in a corner, talking to himself. You go up to him and ask him, "Hi there, can you show me what you sell?", and the sales man keeps talking to himself, saying something about "value add", "synergies" and "mission critical". You look around a bit more, but still can't understand what the store sells. You get an idea that they might sell what you're looking for, but you can't get an answer, so you leave.

This might be your website.

Disappearing Descriptions

Here's how this unfortunate situation happens:

A business launches a website, and the headline of the homepage says "We sell the best widgets - Call us for the best widgets money can buy".

After a year or two, everyone at the business is starting to feel like the website is looking a little "old". Someone decides that the website needs spicing up. After all, widgets are boring, every day people are talking about widgets. Everyone knows they sell widgets, people come to the website after searching for widgets, so let's differentiate the business from competitors by telling people how these widgets are better. So the title on the homepage becomes "When ordinary widgets won't do, you need Acme widgets!"

Another year or two goes by, and the website is looking old again. Also, customers are buying widgets in bulk now, in larger orders, and business customers need to know the widgets will be delivered on time so that production line staff aren't stalled waiting for their widgets. So to reflect the fact that larger businesses are buying the widgets, the title of the homepage is changed to say "Trust Acme for your mission-critical supply needs".

Now when potential large-company purchasers come to the website looking for someone to supply them with widgets, they see a homepage that doesn't say a single thing about widgets. So they leave and call another site.


You've heard of the KISS theory right - "Keep it Simple Smartguy"? Well it definitely applies to your website. Explain what you do, and how it helps the customer - it's basic common sense.

I'd be willing to bet that A/B testing the headline "Trust Acme for your mission-critical supply needs" against the headline "Get the best volume widgets on time, on budget" would improve the conversion rate from the website significantly.

There are a few fundamental truths that apply to every customer, across almost every industry, and that almost certainly apply to your business:

  1. When people first come to your site for the first time, they don't really know what you do
  2. People are still people, whether they are buying something for themselves, or beginning a year long multi-million dollar purchasing decision
  3. People need to understand how your product will help them
  4. Your website is the first salesman many of your customers will meet

So ask yourself this - if you were to walk into a store and the sales associate were to say to you the headline on the homepage of your website - would you understand what the store sells?

If not, it might be time to run an A/B test!

About the Author: Helen M. Overland

Vice President at Search Engine People, helping clients with Conversion Optimization, Analytics, and On-Page SEO. Online Marketer since June 2000, Internet geek since 1994. Follow me on twitter at @semlady to see what I'm reading now.

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