For Internet Marketing, Clear Beats Clever

Blog Categories:  Internet Marketing  

Simplicity Is the Secret of Conversion

For better or worse, ours is a fast-paced world. When people look online for a product or service, they rip through websites at a mile a minute, looking for some clue that a company has what they want. If that clue doesn't turn up quickly and hit them over the head, they're off to the next site.

It would serve small and midsize firms well to keep this in mind when they are designing their websites and marketing content. The simpler the message, the better. The faster people can understand --

  • What you do
  • Why you do it better

-- the faster they will contact you to learn more.

The creative exercise to put yourself through, then, is to figure out how much fat you can chop off your message. But most of us -- myself included -- tend to get carried away on the creative side of marketing. We want to pack every cool idea we can come up with into every square inch of a web page. The end result is a marketing message that might be suitable for framing, but not for converting.

10 Telltale Signs Your Marketing Is Too Clever for Its Own Good

  1. Light text on a dark background. Looks cool, hard to read.
  2. Highly stylized fonts that look more like a fireworks display than an alphabet.
  3. Cool-sounding tag lines that convey no value whatsoever.
  4. Web forms with 10 required fields. (Better to collect one or two pieces of data from thousands than 10 pieces from a handful.)
  5. Dazzling but huge images that push vital content below the fold.
  6. So many sales messages that they drown each other out.
  7. Brands that nobody's ever heard of that speak as if they were a household name.
  8. Excessive navigation options that make it impossible for visitors to focus.
  9. Using big words when small ones will do; using industry jargon when standard English is available.
  10. Failure to include a call to action. In other words, getting so caught up in the messaging that you forget its purpose.

How about you? What tells you a website is too clever for its own good?

Watch Out for These Bad Assumptions

Having attended, oh, I don't know, about 5000 creative meetings, I'm starting to get a rough idea about how these seemingly obvious marketing deficiencies so easily come to life. A lot of it has to do with the assumptions executives and even in-house marketers make about their customers and prospects. Perhaps it will be useful to take a quick look at a few of them.

I've already talked about the assumption that site visitors will take the time to decipher an artistically packaged message. You can test this assumption by simplifying your design and tracking how much time people spend on key pages and the entire site -- as well as conversions.

Another questionable assumption is thinking that a website needs to tell a long story. Most people don't want to know your whole story; they only want enough information to be able to decide whether they want to do business with you. Any information beyond that is mental clutter.

Finally, it's risky to assume that you need to entertain prospects in order to convert them. Unless you're in the entertainment business, your site will probably score more points by being clear than by being creative. Come to think of it, when you find what you're looking for online very quickly, that in itself is pretty entertaining!

(Image Credit: #7562674 © srnicholl -

Ready to Make Every Click Count?