Count them: One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
That’s all the time you have to engage visitors when they land on your website. That’s less time than it takes a bull rider at a rodeo to be scored.
If your website bounces off your visitors in less than seven seconds, they won’t be qualified for the ride and you’ve lost.
Bull riding is a risky sport. A bull rider must stay on his bull for eight seconds to qualify for the ride. Those first eight seconds have been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”
Likewise, online marketing is a risky business. The first seven seconds after a visitor arrives on your website is the moment of truth. This is the critical moment in the visitor experience. Website visitors make instantaneous decisions during this time frame about whether to stay or leave.
If you can engage your readers in those first seven seconds, you have a better chance of moving them further into the site and getting them to conduct business with you. The most important element of your website for achieving this goal is a clearly stated value proposition.
Clarity: Your ally in writing engaging web content
In the previous lesson, you learned how important it is to identify your value proposition. You also learned about using copywriting techniques to make your proposition persuasive by emphasizing benefits.
There is a lot more to web copywriting and using words to persuade. The craft of copywriting is complex. Online marketers agonize over choosing just the right words to get people to take action on their websites.
A study conducted by Marketing Experiments found that the principle of clarity is more important than the art of persuasion. Although this study tested for conversion, engagement during the first seven seconds on the website was the key to getting people to take action.
Your challenge now is to communicate your value proposition clearly and unambiguously on your website. Unfortunately, visitors to a lot of websites are confused and not sure what the company offers.
Confusion: The enemy of engagement
Your biggest obstacle in getting people to engage with your web content or buy from you is confusion. If you confuse them, you lose them. And your sales sink, your revenues reduce, and your profits plummet.
The study by MarketingExperiments explains that the first conversation a site visitor has with your website is to seek answers to three important questions:
- Where am I?
- What can I do here?
- Why should I do it?
These three questions are a more detailed expression of the primary question that is in a visitor’s mind — “What’s in it for me?”
As the study further explains, questions one and two must be answered within the first seven seconds after arriving on your site. But the problems these questions raise are easier to fix than the third.
Let your website visitors know they are in the right place
When visitors first arrive on your website, they need to get oriented.
Imagine arriving at a brick-and-mortar business. You need to know that you are in the right place. The sign over the entrance tells you the name of the store. Perhaps there is a slogan that gives some indication of what you can do there.
Then you walk inside. As you look around, you are figuring out where to go and what to do. Most stores of the same type usually have a similar layout and design, so in a matter of seconds, you are guided to the right place.
It is the same for website visitors. Your site name and logo tell visitors where they are. Your tagline gives some indication of what they can expect on your site. The navigation on your site is like the signage in a store indicating the categories of products and services.
Then make it clear why they should buy from you
The next obvious question is why they should do it. Why should they read your web content? Why should they buy your product? This is the most challenging question to answer.
Every element on every web page must answer this question. But the most important element for this purpose is your value proposition. And whether for conversion or engagement, clarity trumps persuasion.
Express your value proposition clearly for better engagement
Now we come to the part of the lesson where it is time for you, dear reader, to take action. Your job is to express your value proposition clearly for better engagement.
Fear not. As Web Content Doctor, I can write you a prescription to use as a remedy for an ailing value proposition. We will have your fledgling value prop engaging your website visitors in no time.
I base my prescription on a formula developed by Peep Laja at ConversionXL. This is the same prescription I used to nurse a winning value proposition to optimal health for my website.
Prescription for a healthy and strong value proposition:
- Headline: Grab attention with a compelling headline that states the primary benefit.
- Short paragraph (2-3 sentences): Explain what you do, for whom, and how it is useful.
- Bullet points: List 3 key benefits of your offer.
- Image: Reinforce your core message with a graphic that relates to your offer.
Example of a winning value proposition: World Nomads
What are they selling? Travel insurance
Who is their target audience? Independent travelers
What are the primary benefits? Convenience and peace of mind
What makes them unique? Simplicity and flexibility
Notice that World Nomads did not use bullet points. That’s okay. This prescription is recommended as a guide only. Use this formula to structure your value proposition, but test it to see what works best for your site.
An important aspect of clarity is the language you use. Keep it simple, direct, and concise. I will have more to say about using plain language in the next lesson on website usability.
Image (author’s collection): Sunset in Istanbul