Is your website a drag?

Fun fact: barnacles can slow a ship down by as much as 50%.

These tiny crustaceans live on any hard surface in salt water environments. Boats of course are hard surfaces, and when crustaceans start growing on the bottom of a boat they can quickly cause the normally smooth bottom of a boat to become a tangled mess of shells. This crusting can slow a ship right down.

The US Navy spends about $500 million per year battling biofouling - the technical name for the crusting of barnacles, mussels, and bacteria on ships. All sorts of solutions have been tried - in the 18th century copper bottoms were a great solution because copper forms a toxic film under water. But copper gave way to steel - much stronger than copper - but copper also causes steel to rust faster.

So the barnacle problem remains.

Your website is the primary place where (potential) clients go to find out more about what you do. But just like barnacles can slow a ship down, your website can slow your business down.

In this newsletter we're going to look at three things that can really make your website slow you down:

  • It's not clear what you do - or for whom;
  • clutter; and
  • no clear call to action.

Barnacle 1: It's not clear what you do - or for whom

Your website has a job. It's job is not to talk about you or your great products (that too), but its job is much simpler:

Your website's job is to generate leads. In some cases your website will also sell products (like the infoproducts I sell) - but its primary job is to generate leads.

To generate leads, you drive traffic to your website. When visitors arrive on your website you hope to offer them something of value, and in exchange for their email address they can have it (usually) for free. And once you have their email address you have a lead - you can provide them with more value, establish yourself as an authority and eventually they will contact you or buy directly from your website.

If it's not immediately clear what you do - and for whom - visitors to your website will most likely go away. How many times have you visited a website just to leave it after a brief scan? You probably figured out that what they're offering is not for you - or more often, you couldn't quite figure out what they do. So you leave.

Explaining what you do in terms your ideal clients can understand is one of the biggest problems I see most businesses struggle with. If it is not clear what you do - and for whom - even your ideal clients are going to turn away. So you need to capture them in the first few seconds - even before they scroll down.

Being crystal-clear about what you do, and for whom, is really tough. Sometimes you're so close to the problem it's difficult to express it in words your clients will resonate with. Here are some ways you can determine whether you've hit the spot:

  • Listen to what they're saying - the problems they have and the challenges they need to overcome. Then use their words to describe what you do.
  • Ask them what you do. If they're using the same words you use you're on target. Even close is good enough.
  • Use basic analytics to see what your bounce rate is. A bounce is when someone visits your website and immediately leaves - they don't click on anything or read any other pages. Obviously you want the bounce rate to be low.

Barnacle 2: Your website is cluttered

When your ideal client comes to your website, what do you want them to see and do? If you overload your website with tons of information they're going to be confused - they don't know what to read, where to go next or what to do.

If you're a Forbes or Inc you have a very wide reader base - and that diversity is reflected in the range and sheer volume of stuff they have on their home pages. Are you big enough to offer the same variety?

If you're reading this newsletter you're probably a solopreneur or small business; your ideal clients should be very well defined; and your offerings to them should be crystal-clear. How many different problems are you offering to solve for your clients? If it's more than 2 or 3 you probably have too much.

Less is more It's easy to determine if you're overloading your visitors: just look at how many different pieces of information you're presenting to them. If they have a choice of three or more things to do you're trying the shotgun approach - shoot in the general direction and you're bound to hit something, right?

But when you use the shotgun approach you're more likely to hit something that you didn't quite want. You're going to get leads that are of lower value to you because they're not your ideal clients - and you should be aiming for a smaller number of high-potential leads rather than a larger number of lower-value leads.

So offering up less is all about refining your message and your offerings to target your ideal clients.

Barnacle 3: There's no clear Call To Action (CTA)

This is a well-known and common problem - but I still see it more often than not. Here's the problem:

The job of your website is to generate leads. You must provide visitors a way to become a lead - usually by signing up for a free goodie or newsletter.

If you don't clearly show visitors what you want them to do they're going to miss it. So you need to have a big button - in an attention-grabbing colour - to show them what they need to do. This is called the "call to action" or CTA in marketing-speak.

But here's what most of us can miss so easily:

You need to have a clear Call To Action (CTA) on just about every page of your website. Website visitors don't follow the path we would like them to follow. They read half-way through a page, click on a link that looks interesting and forget to come back to your carefully crafted home page or landing page.

So you need to provide a Call To Action on every page. Remind them what they need to do - and make it easy for them to do it.

But I'm going to miss out on business!

I often hear that people want to cast the net wide - catch as many visitors as they can - because they're afraid that they're going to lose potential business.

Here's the deal: There are more ideal clients out there than you imagine - they just haven't heard about you yet. You need to attract them and when they land on your website they need to know that they are in the right place.

If you also target non-ideal clients you will be building up low-value leads and sales funnels. These people have legitimate problems, but you're not the person to solve those problems for them. If you try to solve their problems you're going to end up doing stuff that you don't like doing, or that you're not ideally suited to do - and there's a slippery slope right there.

Example: Forbes Magazine

Forbes Magazine has a huge base of readers from extremely diverse backgrounds, businesses and profiles. So they offer on their home page a veritable smorgasbord of stuff you can select from.

I find their website difficult to use for 2 reasons:

  • there's a ton of clutter; and
  • there are annoying popups and adverts that distract me from what I'm trying to find.

So the Forbes website is not one of my favourites, but it's probably working for them.

Example: The new Britewrx website

I'm in the process of rolling out a new Britewrx website. I took inspiration for the design from various place (most notably the new Psychotactics website) but I would like to point out the following:

  • The design is very clean and easy to digest. Information is presented in chunks with as little distraction as possible.
  • The home page is a sequence of information designed to draw visitors to a single Call To Action (CTA).
  • Visitors who miss or skip over the CTA are offered more choices - but if they didn't respond to the CTA they're probably not an ideal client.

I won't claim to be a great web designer. But I've taken lessons from many places to come up with this design - and it reflects a lot of my personality and the way I like to present and consume information. This design attracts the kind of clients that I want to work with.

Let's summarise:

There are 3 things that can make your website a drag rather than an attraction. They are:

  • It's not clear what you do or for whom. Ideally you want visitors to immediately see what you do - and if they're your ideal client they will continue reading.
  • There's too much clutter. You're going to lose potential ideal clients if you present too much information, too many choices or clutter up the information so that its difficult to find the piece they're looking for.
  • There's no clear Call To Action (CTA) on every page. Your website should be generating leads, and if you don't offer visitors a clear CTA they're probably not going to look for it.

We still haven't quite solved the barnacle problem

Barnacles are still with us and even modern science has not found a way to get rid of them where they're not wanted. Current solutions range from underwater robots (something like a Roomba for ship hulls) to chemicals in paint - but not everything is eco-friendly so the search continues. Even capsaicin (the compound that makes hot sauce spicy) has been tried.

Fortunately the website barnacles that can slow our businesses down are easier to identify and fix. You just have to put the work into doing it.

What can you do now?

I've listed three things you should be looking out for in your website. Use this as a micro-checklist to see how your website is doing:

  • Your website home page immediately identifies what you do, and for whom.
  • It's easy to read your website - there's no clutter.
  • You have a clear and compelling Call To Action (CTA) on just about every page.

And finally, download the Beginner's Guide to the Tornado Method from the Britewrx website - it's the simplest system in the world for dealing with overwhelm in your business.

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