Why I Don’t Like Slideshows

In years past, I was a pretty big fan of having slideshows. Scrolling photos on the home page of a website was useful and successful in helping to generate conversions from “browsers” who are just viewing your site and getting ideas to customers who actually reach out and make a purchase or take another action to interact with your business. But as is often said with anything in the website design realm, Bob Dylan said it best: the times, they are a-changin’.

In the fast paced world we live in, a website is at its most effective when there is one (maybe two) key tasks a user is being prompted to take. Oftentimes that task is referred to as a “Call to Action.” Most business owners know what that one activity is that they want site visitors to do in order to convert that person as needed. Previously, we used to say that a slideshow kept users on a site for a few seconds longer; however, things have changed and we simply are not seeing those results anymore. The biggest focus on many of the sites we’ve built recently is to encourage or entice the user to engage in one of those Call to Action graphics and complete a conversion.

The problem with slideshows is that they provide little value and have considerable downsides. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to someone who made a conversion on a site, be it buying a product or filling out a contact form, who said, “Ya know, it was that third image in the slideshow that made me do it…” The space that was taken up by that slideshow can still be used for a large image, but done in such a way as to help with the goal conversion.

The harm in using a slideshow is simple – load time. Anytime you have a slideshow on your site, it’s going to require JavaScript. The more files that have to be loaded, the longer it will take the site to load. I remember when I first started designing websites; we were told that we needed the page to load in 8-12 seconds. When I started Full Scope Creative, it was half that at most. Today, we are lucky if a user will wait 3 seconds. Therefore having a slideshow load with the required JavaScript (which takes an extra .25 – .50 seconds to load) is simply no longer an option. On a mobile device, the images will likely be so small and clunky that there will simply be no benefit whatsoever of having them.

There are countless other things that can be done in that place. Putting a strong Call to Action is what will drive your results. With several of the sites we’ve done recently, we still use a larger image at the top of the site – but that’s not what drives conversions. Specifically, Call to Action graphics or buttons are what drive those successes. For many of our clients, that Call to Action is more important than any other feature on the site. Why let a slideshow take up those valuable resources, such as load time, when there is simply no benefit to it?

Do you have trouble closing your blog articles?

Watch what I do here: oftentimes when I’m writing a blog, the opening of the blog comes pretty easily to me. The body of the is fairly painless to write as well. The part I get hung up on the most it seems, is the closing. However, recently I found a great way to help get the closing piece written quickly and easily as well.

If you’ve talked with me much at all, you know I’m a big fan of having a blog on your site. It’s a great way to provide your users and readers with more of your ideas and let them get to know who you are. The problem with writing articles for your blog, however, is oftentimes the actual writing of the article. When I give a prepared speech, I always go in knowing what my opening is, have a couple of bullet points for the body of the speech, and then state my intro again, but in reverse. The same applies to writing a blog article.

Simply start by writing out your opening since quite often, that’s not very difficult. Introduce your subject and say why you feel it’s important. Moving into the body of the article, simply list some bullet points and then expand upon each point and turn it into a paragraph or two. Offering an example or two can be a good way to help illustrate your point as well.

However, it’s those pesky closing paragraphs that can trip me and many other writers up! One of the easiest ways to handle the closing is to simply to restate your opening. As we say in Toastmasters, in the opening of a speech you should, ‘tell us what you’re going to tell us,’ in the body you should actually ‘tell us,’ and then in the closing you should ‘tell us what you told us.’ Simply apply the same method to your blog or other writing projects.

By writing your opening in reverse, you’ll be able to quickly and easily bring your blogs to a close. The closing is the part of writing a blog that a fair amount of writers get tied up on, even with the opening and body of the article come easily. Simply switching the heading around is a great way to easily bring your blog to an end. (See what I did there?)

The Role of the Headline

One part of every web page that can be a little confusing for many people is the main heading. It’s the one large piece of text, just a few words, that is featured in a prominent location somewhere on the page. Far too often, I see sites and pages that are attempting to do too much with their headings or H1 tags. The role of those headings is actually pretty simple.

The role of the heading isn’t to sell the product or service, nor is it to explain the whole page. A successful heading will simply grab the reader’s attention and make him or her want to read the full page. It’s really that simple. Sure, it is possible for a heading to sell a company’s product or service, but for many businesses, it’s going to take more than simply a heading to get the job done. The heading should be there simply to generate interest and get the reader to scroll down the page.

If you’re looking to have better headlines on your site’s pages, here are a couple of things you can do. First, you need to understand which problems your user is having and how the information on that page will solve that problem. What pains or problems are they currently experiencing that the information or product offered on that page will solve? Once you know that pain or problem, write out the headline using no more than five words. If it’s more than five, there’s a good chance that a lot of people won’t pay much attention to it.

If you can find a way to work in an emotional or pain aspect to the problems you are looking to address, you’ll be able to connect with your reader in a way that will leave them needing to know more. The sale can be made in the next couple of paragraphs or the next chart or image – but not through the heading. Use the heading to grab the reader’s attention to encourage the user want to read the page.

While proper use of headings (or H1 tags) can be puzzling for many people, they don’t have to be. It may help to think of a heading on your page like a headline in a newspaper: it’s there to quickly grab your interest and make you want to read further. Short and to the point is the key here.

If you need help with headings or any other issues you may be experiencing with your website, feel free to reach out to us here at Full Scope Creative. We’d be happy to help you reach your customers in the most effective ways possible.

Focusing Too Much on Budget?

I recently went through the always fun process of putting the company budget together for 2018. When I had it ready, I met with a few key advisors to go over it and make sure I didn’t miss anything. I got a lot of great feedback from doing that. One of the nuggets of advice I received was from a trusted mentor when he said to not focus on the budget so much, but rather focus on what goes into making the sales happen.

I know it sounds obvious: don’t spend all day staring at your budget wondering if all the numbers are correct or not. But I had never really given a ton of thought to creating an almost second budget, a recipe of sorts, as to what goes on to make each sale happen. Once I took the time to really dig deep down into what typically makes a sale happen for Full Scope Creative, I had a list of some key activities that result in success for company sales.

Once I had that list assembled, I was able to focus in on a few key activities that I can almost dial up and down as needed to result in more sales for the company (key activities such as cold calling). With that list assembled, I now have an identified list of tools of sorts that I can turn to should sales turn out to be less than what was budgeted.

Having a yearly budget is a great thing to have. I have a yearly budget for the company and even a monthly budget for my personal life. Having those budgets is great, but they’re obviously no guarantee for success. If the income lines don’t come through, all that hard work can be for naught. Focusing on what goes into sales will provide just as valuable of a tool for you and your company – one that can continue paying dividends long after the budget year is over.

The “Call Us Now!” Button

There is a concept in physics that states that objects in motion tend to follow the path of least resistance; people work in much the same way. When looking to solve a problem, we tend to look for the path of least resistance. I know that for some of us (myself leading the pack) we’re a bit impatient and want results and answers right now. When it comes to our websites, we can take that ‘path of least resistance’ mentality and incorporate it into solving our users’ problems, especially when it comes to getting in touch with us.

A friend of mine was recently in need of some repairs to his house after a storm. He picked up his phone and did a Google search just like most people do. He found a contractor and knew they could handle the work based on the first page of their website. In addition, there was a very convenient button that said, “Call Us Now!” When he clicked that button, his phone rang the contractor’s office. They answered and had someone out to his house quickly. He didn’t have to dig around and look for a phone number, write it down, or even copy and paste it. Just one click and he was dialing the contractor.

I know it’s probably not the most optimistic outlook of our society to say that we’re too lazy to copy and paste a phone number, but it is where we are at in 2018. We’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification. On more than one occasion, I’ve decided to order pizza from a different place because the first one’s website didn’t have an easy to use, “Click here to order!” button that rang the pizzeria. We like things NOW and don’t want to wait the small amount of time it takes to copy the telephone number, open the phone, paste the phone number, and hit the green call button. We want things now.

Having a simple button on your site that says, “Call Us Now!” – especially on your site’s home page – is a great way to work in that instant gratification we all desire while still accomplishing the goals of your site. The best part is that adding such a button is a relatively easy thing to do, possibly something you can even do on your own. If you find you’re struggling with it, CALL US TODAY!

Don’t Chase the Extremes

My great aunt loves Mountain Dew. Let me clarify: my soon-to-be 100-year-old great aunt LOVES Mountain Dew. Do you remember that one commercial Mountain Dew had that really zeroed in on the 90+ crowd? Nope. You don’t. Why not? Because it never happened. Mountain Dew has their target demographic and they don’t chase the extremes.

Is Mountain Dew upset that Auntie Stella drinks their soda? Not likely. Their target demographic is likely males ages 34 and under. A 99 year old drinking their soda would be considered an extreme, far removed from their target demographic. Every now and then I’ll see a local company we work with that is chasing after those extremes. They’ll rationalize it by saying, “You know that one time we had this one person who was well outside our target demographic buy our product – let’s go after more of them!” If it was more than a one-off purchase from non-targeted demographic and had some regularity to it, then maybe we could justify marketing to that extreme. But for a one-off purchase, or even just a few of them, it’s not wise to take your focus off your target demographic.

Think of it in another way: when you go to a concert, you might love that one rare, unreleased song off of an earlier album. You might be just one of three people in the crowd who loves that song. Chances are slim that the band will play that song for three people and jeopardize losing the rest of the masses. (I’m still hoping that one of these times I see Def Leppard I’ll get to hear, ‘When the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ from their first album, but being as I’m one of probably 2 people in a crowd of 10,000 that wants to hear that song, I’m not holding my breath.)

Your target demographic, your core group of consumers and purchasers, are the ones who helped build your company up to what it is and will help you build it into everything it can be. Focus on that core group; send them well-crafted messages and promotions tailored to their desires, and specific to their needs. Market to that group; don’t chase the extremes.

Customer Service is Not a Selling Point

There are a few things that really drive me bonkers: people talking in movies, ordering a regular large coffee at Starbucks, decaf coffee, and businesses boasting about how great their customer service is.

Just like decaf coffee isn’t really coffee, customer service isn’t really a marketing point for your business. Providing excellent customer service isn’t a marketing angle; offering your customers great service is simply something every business needs to do in order to be successful. The only way people will know if your customer service is really all that great is if they call several times – and that usually means your product or service wasn’t that great!

If you own a plumbing company and you can get a plumber out to a house or business in one hour or less, your selling point isn’t customer service – it’s your ability to have a plumber on the scene to get the problem fixed in an hour or less.

There is a coffee shop I like to frequent in Green Bay that does a great job with this. They don’t market that they have the best customer service. They market that they have the best baristas who are always happy to help you find the drink you are looking for.

Customer service is important for any business, but it isn’t a marketing point. Should you spend time, money, and other resources on developing great customer service? YES! Absolutely – but customer service isn’t your selling point. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find an actually unique selling point that you can easily market and turn into sales.

Maintaining a separate page for keyword variations: DON’T!

Here’s a quick PSA (Public Service Announcement):
Having a separate page for each variation of a keyword is EXTREMELY outdated and ineffective. Not only is this practice frowned upon by Google and other search engines, it is also misleading to your clients – and anything that is even a little misleading to users is definitely looked down on by search engines.
Every now and then I’ll find a site that has a page about car repair, car maintenance, and car tune-ups.
If you drive a car, you know that all of those phrases describe basically the same thing. Anything you say about car repair can also said on a car maintenance page. This technique was used commonly by web developers years ago. Today, however, this technique is one of many that was quickly abandoned within the industry.

If you’re worried that the search engines could miss one of the possible variations, keep in mind that the search algorithms used today are more than advanced enough to figure these things out. For example, if a user searches for “car repair” but your page is titled, “car maintenance,” your site is very likely to come up as well. If you do decide to have multiple pages for each keyword variation, you run the risk of taking a lower ranking for any keyword or phrase with leading search engines.

If your current site has a page structure similar to this, fixing it isn’t a complicated process. With a redo of page structure and some 301 redirects, you can have your site fixed and avoid this problem. WordPress has a number of plug-ins that can help with this, or you can contact your web developer and he or she should be able to get the issue squared away.

Need More Readable Content?

Writing content can be a bit of a laborious chore. For many readers, reading the content we write can also be a laborious chore. If you simply write paragraph after paragraph of content, odds are your site users aren’t going to eagerly read through it all. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make your text more readable.

Hire a Copywriter

One of the obvious things is to have a skilled writer proofread your writing. When a professional copywriter proofreads your content, they’ll check for the big issues – spelling and grammar – but they can also identify ways to make your writing easier to read. For example, keep your sentences simple. Short, uncomplicated sentences are easier to read. The same principle applies to your words. You could say, “The region of the atmosphere and outer space seen from earth is sky is azure…” – or you can say, “The sky is blue.” Which one gets your point across in the most clear, concise way? That’s the one to use.

In addition, there are some great free tools out there that can help you improve your writing. Grammarly, Grammar Girl, and Virtual Writing Tutor are three that come to mind. You can go to most of these for writing tips as well as just to get an answer for a specific issue, like the differences between the words “there”, “their” and “they’re”, or “your” and “you’re”.

Use Images

If you don’t have access to a copywriter, there are a few other tricks that can help make your content easy to read. One thing you’ll find with just about every human being is that they’re visual beings. They would prefer to see something rather than read it. Even if it’s something as simple as including a photo to break up the content, the image can provide your user with something different to focus on for a moment. Images don’t have to mean strictly photos, either – charts and graphs are also a great way to reiterate the message you’re trying to get across.

Use Headings

Line after line of text can get a bit long. Doing something as simple as adding in headings with a larger or different font can be enough to break up content and make it more readable. Keep in mind that search engines tend to put greater significance on the words in a heading. Because of this, headings can be a great spot to add in some of your keywords for the given page as well.

On some pages, there might be certain portions of text that a user is looking for. By having specific headings set up, you can help those users more easily find exactly what they’re looking for on the page.

Some pages on your site might end up having a lot of content. If that content doesn’t need to be all on one page, it can be broken up to create additional pages, which helps visually and that can help, but sometimes it does need to all be on one page. Especially when you have pages with more information on them, working with a copywriter, using images, and using headings can help make your content more readable. More readable content tends to lead to higher conversion rates.

Repetition Repetition Repetition

Let’s see how you can do on a simple little quiz! Fill in the blanks below.

Bye, bye Miss American _____
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was _____
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and _____
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I _____

Did you answer pie, dry, rye, die? I’m guessing you can recognize the song pretty easily as, “American Pie” by Don McLean. When was the last time you heard that song on the radio? When was the last time you had “American Pie” come up on your iPod? I’m guessing it’s been a while. Even though you probably haven’t heard it recently, you likely knew the missing words to the song. Why? Because of repetition. You’ve simply heard the song over and over again, countless times. Repetition helps your brain hold onto the words of a famous song that charted in 1972. Repetition is also key to the marketing messages of your business.

I’ve heard a few business owners complain that their radio or TV commercial didn’t generate any interest for their business. Sure, sometimes it’s a poorly worded or structured ad, but more often it’s because the ad wasn’t allowed to run long enough to generate any repetition. I’m not saying all of your commercials need to stick in your audience’s head like a hit song will, but it does takes more than a few exposures to an ad for it to “click” with a user.

The same principle applies to online ads that you might run. Whether it is a Google AdWords campaign or a Facebook post, it is repetition that will make your message stick. I’m by no means saying to make the same post on Facebook every day, but on the other hand, don’t think that making a few random posts will provide you with a successful social media presence.

Ensuring that your marketing message gets through to potential customers requires more than just thorough ads. Using a consistent tagline through your business cards, brochures, flyers, letterhead, email signatures, and anywhere else it can be used, is a big help as well.

If you see that your marketing message doesn’t seem to be catching on, before you scrap the message you are sending, look at how often you are sending out that message. Very few consumers will catch on to marketing messages at their first exposure. Keep delivering that message over and over again through a wide variety of different delivery methods.