From a technical standpoint, your website might look pretty good. You’ve validated your HTML. Every button and link goes where it’s supposed to go. And your shopping cart actually works.
Adhering to usability best practices on your website is key, but don’t stop measuring effectiveness at your forms or navigation. Some of the same best practices we employ to ensure the effectiveness of our site can also come in handy for marketing techniques.
Writing web copy, positioning calls to action, and designing ad campaigns demand the same attention to detail as the rest of your site. In fact, the usability of your marketing-focused sections must be just as effective as the most critical functions for your users. In other words, convincing people your site is the best is just as important as making sure the site really IS the best.
Therefore, consider the following aspects of your marketing-focused materials and how you can improve their effectiveness:
If Content if King, Let Him Be a Wise (and Easy to Understand) King
Users desperately want to discover something that meets their needs or interests, so give them every chance to understand what you’ve got, to relate to it, and to consume it.
If you have something to offer, make it clear and easy to understand. Nothing erodes the effectiveness of websites quite like “clever” catch phrases, vague acronyms, and B.S. buzzwords. Avoid exaggeration, redundancy, and internal terms only you and your sales team know about.
To borrow from usability testing techniques, it also helps to put yourself in the shoes of your average user: would they understand what you’ve written for your site? In the end, it’s always worth testing to know for sure.
“AwesomeForce™ will happily engineer a solution for you that delivers optimum synergy and superior conversion power!!” (Are you selling yourself or a new line of Transformers?)
Keep Calls to Action Close to the UVP
Strong, influential content is a wonderful thing, especially if you have the deliverables to back up your unique value proposition (UVP). But to truly prove your point, you must point users in the right direction.
Relevant calls to action should be close to your messaging, and the connection must be made visually as well as contextually.
It takes just 60 seconds to order your own MegaMan! >> ORDER NOW
It takes just 60 seconds to order your own MegaMan! >> Did you know that MegaMan comes in 8 varieties? >> E. Cartman from Colorado states MegaMan is “totally awesome!” >> Ask about our 30-Day Money Back Guarantee! >> Operators are Standing By! >> ORDER NOW
Information Scent: Can You Smell What This Ad is Cookin’?
Effective ads require more than a strong look and feel. Whether they are images or text ads, keywords need to match, and – above all – promises must be kept. If you offer valuable content in your marketing, that valuable content must be found immediately. One click, same title and keywords used in the link or ad, and – no excuses.
Jakob Nielsen’s research on Information Scent is just as applicable to marketing messaging as it is to the average hyperlink.
If a banner ad claims to offer a free downloadable white paper, it better be free and downloadable, not “free* (with purchase)” and not “we’ll send it to you after you’re created an account and we’ve verified your email address” downloadable. Trust is a precious commodity; don’t risk it with dodgy bait-and-switch practices.
Steve Krug’s mantra of Don’t Make Me Think was initially intended for web design, but the lessons are transferable. Just as you can test a site design, you can also test online marketing strategy, right down to the minute details. Don’t be afraid to put a new banner ad comp or even your Google Adwords text in front of a different set of eyes to see if it makes the right connection.
Elicit desire, not hesitation, and you will indeed have effective – and usable – marketing.
The views and opinions of this post are not necessarily those of Marketing Pilgrim.
About the Author
Dan Gorgone teaches Web Design and Usability in the Internet Marketing Master of Science Program at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @DanGorgone