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April 05, 2007

11 Ways To Drive Traffíc Away From Your Website

By Jerry Bader (c) 2007

Why Web-Users Are So Impatient

While watching a Toronto Raptor basketball game I saw T.J. Ford, one of the fastest players in the league, rush down the court like a man possessed and proceed to throw the ball behind his back to a trailing Andrea Bargnani. The trouble was the ball sailed over the head of the seven-foot Bargnani into the second row of seats. Ford, himself, ended up with a beer and popcorn facíal after landing in the lap of a front row patron. So what does this have to do with website design and marketing you ask? A lot.

As talented as Ford is as a basketball player he sometimes plays out-of-control, and his major asset, his speed, becomes a liability. When this happens in a basketball game the answer is to slow the game down and get back in control.

Don't Speed-It-Up; Slow-It-Down

Website visitors are like the speedy T.J. Ford; they are so intent on getting what they want as quickly and efficiently as possible, that they often surf the Internet out-of-control.

How many times have you sat in front of the computer with your hand resting on your mouse searching for some desired product, service, or information, when all of sudden you find what looks like what you want, but before you even have a chance to discover exactly what it is, your hair-trigger finger decides it's time to move-on. It's like your finger has a mind of it's own.

Speed Kills Marketing Efforts

All the talk and discussion about short attention spans caused by people raised on video games and quick-cut-edited music videos is very misleading.

What website visitors won't tolerate are websites that waste their time, and many websites are guilty of exactly that. Contrary to popular belief, the job of a website designer, who understands marketing, is not to speed up website visitors, but to slow them down so they can absorb the marketing message.

If you want your audience to remember you, if you want to make an impression, if you want website visitors to understand why they should give you their business, then you have to slow them down long enough to absorb your message. And that message better be worth their while or they will nevër come back.

It isn't about how fast a page loads; it's about delivering an appropriate payoff for the wait.

Now I will admit there are people who absolutely, positively will not wait more than eight seconds for anything to load. You know who you are. And I say, the hell with them. These are the same people who won't wait their turn in a brick and mortar store either, they demand to be served before everyone else - it's just not possible to satisfy these people, so why design your entire website marketing around them. They are nevër going to hang around long enough to grasp your message and learn why they should be giving you their business, so forget about them.

The people you should be worrying about are the ones that really want to find out more about what it is you do, and are prepared to invest a little time and effort to give you a chance to explain yourself. These are the important people; this is your real audience, and you disappoint them at your financial peril.

The Reasons Why Web-users Are Impatient

The real reason website users are so damn impatient is not that they have such short attention spans, it's because most websites are designed to meet perceived company objectives, rather than audience needs.

How To Drive Traffíc Away From Your Website

Let's take a look at some of the reasons why your website visitors may be leaving your website before they've had a chance to hear what you have to say; or to put it another way, if you want to drive traffíc AWAY faster than you attract it, here are some of the things you should do.

1. Give Web-visitors Too Many Options and Choices

Social scientist and Swarthmore College professor, Barry Schwartz, has coined the phrase, "the paradox of choice." His studies have concluded the more choice you give people, the less likely they are to make a decision. Some choice is good, but too much choice creates confusion: it's a case of diminishing marginal utility.

A well designed website explains, directs, guides, and focuses visitor attention on the things that are of real benefit to your visitors and to your company.

Every business provides a variety of products, services, and information to their customers, but these things are not all of equal importance. Your website is a place to focus attention on your core marketing message, not a place to provide a shopping líst of everything you are able to do and every product or service you may be able to offër.

2. Give Web Visitors Too Much Information To Process

Architect, author, and information designer, Richard Saul Wurman, in his book, 'Information Anxiety' talks about, "the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand."

Good website design is about more than technology and aesthetics; it's about deciding what information needs to be presented and what information needs to be left out. If you are truly an expert in your field, you should know what information is important to your customers in order for them to make a decision. Too much information is like too much choice, it confuses rather than clarifies. Focus on delivering meaningful content or risk having your visitors hit the exit button.

3. Give Web Visitors Too Much Non-relevant Content

The only thing worse than overloading your website with more information than visitors can absorb is confusing them with useless and non-relevant content.

Non-relevant content is content that doesn't advance your major purpose: to deliver your marketing message in an informative, engaging, entertaining, and memorable manner. If it isn't relevant, dump it.

4. Give Web Visitors Too Many Irritating Distractions

Websites should be designed to direct visitors to the information they want and that information should be the content you want to deliver.

You cannot sell someone a product or service they do not want. A real prospect is one that needs the same information you want to provide; the art of salës is directing potential clients to relevant information, and presenting it in a way that visitors see your product or service as fulfilling their needs.

On the surface, third-party advertisements and banners may seem like a good way to make some extra cäsh from your traffíc, but these ads become so distracting, visitors either get fed-up or clíck on one of the links that takes them away from your site. Whatever few bucks you earn from these ads, you are loosing by chasing real customers away; this of course assumes you are a real business with something legitímate to sell and not a website that's an excuse to deliver advertisements.

Other nonsense like favorite links and silly fluff-content merely distracts visitors from investigating your site to find what they are looking for.

5. Give Web Visitors Too Many Red Flags

Website visitors are constantly looking for red flags that tell them that the site they are visiting should be skipped as soon as possible.

If you want to make sure visitors won't deal with you make sure you don't provide any contact information: no contact names, no telephone numbers, and no mailing address is a sure sign that you won't look after any problems that arise from a website transaction.

Your website must be designed to build trust and foster a relationship, not scare people away.

6. Give Web Visitors Too Many Decisions To Make

How many decisions do you demand from your visitors in order for them to do business with you?

Take for example the seemingly simple task of purchasing a new television. Do you purchase the inexpensive but old tube technology, the newer Plasma technology, or the LCD technology? How about all the various features to choose from like picture-in-picture, commercial skip-timers, and on and on? All you really want to do is relax with your spouse and enjoy a good movie - is that on a VSH, DVD, Blu-ray, or HD-DVD?

7. Give Web Visitors Too Many Stumbling Blocks

Do you make people go through the order processing system before they can find out how much something costs, or do you demand potential customers read a ridiculous amount of small print legalese that only a lawyer could understand?

If you want to drive traffíc away from your site make sure you build in as many stumbling blocks as possible.

8. Give Web Visitors Too Many Forms To Fill-in

Do you attract your visitors with special offers or free white papers and then demand that they fill-out complex forms, surveys, and questionnaires before you give them access to what they came for? If you do, you are probably losing a lot of people you attracted, and you are guaranteeing that your next email promotion will end up in the trash.

9. Give Web Visitors Incomprehensible Page Layouts

Good design, proper page layout, consistent navigation, and well organized information architecture that promotes serendipity, helps visitors find what they're looking for and provides a pleasant, efficient and rewarding experience for the website visitor.

Website designs that rely on technology, databases, and search engine optimization rather than focused content, coherent organization, articulate presentation, and a memorable, rewarding experience are designs designed to chase traffíc away.

10. Give Web Visitors Too Many Confusing Instructions

One of the most frustrating experiences website visitors encounter is confusing instructions and incoherent explanations of how your product or service works or how to order what you are selling.

11. Give Web Visitors Too Many Reason To Clíck-out

If you really are determined to fail, make sure you provide website visitors with as many reasons as possible to leave your site: irrelevant links to your favorite sites, links to your suppliers because you're too cheap to put their information on your own site, or any combination of the reasons mentioned above, all contribute to driving traffíc away from your site.

About The Author
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit www.mrpwebmedia.com/ads, www.136words.com and www.sonicpersonality.com. Contact at info@mrpwebmedia.com or telephone (905) 764-1246.

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