When I first started working in internet marketing, I hated it so much.
All these cheap strategies to gain and hold people's attentions... the long sales letters, the yellow highlighter, the "bonuses", and the "but wait... there's more!"
They all seemed so nasty, and so primitive. I'd come from a background in graphic design, psychology, and technical copywriting, on top of ten years experience as a web user. I thought, "I would SOOO never buy any of these products! It sounds like an infomercial!"
My first few attempts at writing salescopy reflected this attitude. I tried to tone it down, to respect my readers' intelligence. And my sales copy tanked.
I created banners and graphics that weren't just flashing text and fake buttons saying "click here". They also failed miserably.
I created website layouts where everything was in its logical place... and then fielded support tickets from people who couldn't find what they were looking for.
It took a while, but it eventually led me to develop a theory which I now use whenever I'm doing anything for the web.
It's the theory of the 30% brain.
Basically, when we're browsing the internet, our brains aren't really at full capacity. (And when I say we I mean the internet-using population in general.) We might be just wandering around, browsing on our lunch break. We might just be looking for a quick answer. We might have stumbled upon something by accident.
We have a very limited attention span, and if something doesn't grab us, or make complete sense within the first few seconds, we're probably going to shrug our shoulders and go somewhere else.
We're also more prone to making snap judgments based on really shallow factors: Like whether the text on a site is big enough to read. Too small? Move onto the next site. Background color a putrid shade of yellow? Nope, not reading it. Big block of text on a page that looks like hard work to read? Hit your back button and look for another page.
This isn't an insult to anyone, it's simply reflecting the fact that there are so many things gabbing for our attention on the internet, that we can't possibly devote our full attention to everything all the time. We need to cut corners to prevent our brains from overloading!
But this is something you need to account for when creating your website, designing graphics, creating layouts, positioning ads, writing your reviews, writing sales copy... pretty much everything!
If you zoom in on some smaller aspects to web design, you can also see this at work. One of our designers recently created a banner with an image of a big wax seal in the middle of it, to indicate security and authority.
The problem was, if you didn't look at it closely and think about it really hard, it kind of just looked like a big brown splodge thrown at a white wall. I'll leave it to your imagination to think of what I likened it to!
And it's not just design that takes a beating.
You may think that when writing reviews of affiliate products, it's wise to provide a fair and balanced argument. Find some inconsequential "cons" to a product to make it look like you're unbiased. Any logical person will see that they're not really a deal-breaker, right?
Chances are the poor individuals operating at 30% brain capacity reading your review will think "hmmm... I was going to buy, but now you've given me something to think about. I can't decide right now. I might think about it later when my brain is back to normal..."
You may think that having all your articles listed down the side of the page is ugly, cluttered and inefficient, and that it makes much more sense to tuck them away under menu categories.
But if you're hoping that someone arriving at one page is going to click through to another page, you have to assume that they're not going to go digging for the link. If it's not right there on the page, they probably won't find it.
This can be a hard one to grapple with, because we all know beautiful corporate sites with things tucked away nicely, and how "clean" they look.
But keep in mind the intention of the audience: Someone visiting a corporate site is probably trying to find information about that company. They're more dedicated to the cause, actually looking for that information, and not just wandering the web on their lunch break.
For a regular Joe Lunchtime, if it's not immediately obvious, it's hard to lure him in.
So what are the lessons to be learned here?
- Don't try to be too clever. If you need to explain anything (an ad, where to find information on your site) then that's a fail.
- Keep in mind that people on the internet aren't their usual rational selves. Don't try to present a "balanced argument", particularly in reviews. It never improves conversions, and often decreases them.
- As an associated point, don't assume that your audience will stick around to delve deeper and discover the "real you". If your site looks like a dogs dinner, it's obviously targeted at an audience the reader doesn't identify with (boys won't read pink sites!), or does something else to turn a visitor off... they'll just hit that back button.
- But that's not to say your site needs to be a work of art. It just needs to be inoffensive to the majority of your audience, and put the information that they need (and you want them to see) right in front of their faces.
I think there's a bit of talent involved in being able to step back, squint a little, and look at your work with only 30% of your brain active. Particularly when you've been slaving over something for quite some time.
The best advice I have is to "sleep on it" and come back to it with fresh eyes after a period of time. Or get your friends and family to look at something and give their honest opinion.
Also, test, test, test. And when your test results come back and say that your ugly flashing banner with the big "CLICK HERE" works better than your subtle, artistic and informative banner... you won't be offended. It's just the 30% brain in action.
Once again, Christchurch is delving into Winter and Aletta is escaping to sunnier climes. I'll be road-tripping across the U.S for the next three months, so I won't be hanging out in the forum quite so much. (Although it's hard to keep me away.)
Keep soldiering on, you lovely, inspirational people. Keep your eyes peeled for exciting things happening here at the end of July. There will be men in tights, oh yes!
And for all you people in the States, watch out for a small, disheveled-looking blonde chick in an exceedingly family-oriented vehicle, washing her hair in the sinks of your roadside pit stops. It might be me!