I spend a fair amount of time doing web site critiques and writing website content.
In doing this, the most common mistakes I see are right on the home page:
1. It takes longer than four seconds for the man from Mars to understand what the website is about.
2. The man from Mars cannot quickly find the focal point of the home page.
(Thank you "Does Your Web Site Suck? Checklist 1")
This is because most people make the text on their home pages too long and too vague.
Since most of the websites I get involved with belong to service providers (like psychotherapists and health care providers) and associations - I also frequently see another common mistake - the lack of a call to action.
If you are a divorce mediation expert who commonly provides a free consultation, why not say so on your home page? (Eg "Click here to sign up for a free consultation") After all, isn't that the whole point of having a website in the first place - to get more clients?
Now, thanks to a brilliant new blog post by Dustin Curtis, I can prove to you that a carefully worded call to action is one of the most constructive steps you can take to improve your response AKA clickthrough rate.
In his post "You should follow me on Twitter", Dustin describes a quick study he performed exploring the power language has on clickthrough rates. At the bottom of most of his posts, he added a phrase with a link to his Twitter account. He started to wonder if he could increase the clickthrough rate by altering the way it was worded.
He speculated about the impact of using commands instead of statements on response rates, so he decided to test forceful phrasing. Each of the permutations he chose was randomly selected so that it was seen by 5,000 unique visitors to various articles on dustincurtis.com over the period of a couple hours in the afternoon.
Ultimately, this is a summary of what he discovered:
First, he started with a statement: "I'm on Twitter." and it led to a 4.70% clickthrough rate.
Then he switched to a command: "Follow me on Twitter." The result of switching to a command was pretty remarkable; the clickthrough rate jumped by 55% to 7.31%!
Then he tried a stronger personal command: "You should follow me on Twitter." Making the phrase more direct and personal by adding the words “you should” increased the clickthrough rate by 38% to 10.09%.
In the final phase of the experiment, he added the literal callout “here”, as in: "You should follow me on Twitter here." Simply adding “here” as the link at the end of the phrase increased the clickthrough rate by 27% to 12.81%!
His explanation for the results:
"You" identifies the reader directly, "should" implies an obligation, and "follow me on twitter" is a direct command. Moving the link to a literal callout "here" provides a clear location for clicking. He tried other permutations that dulled the command, used the word "please" in place of "should" and made the whole sentence a link. None of them performed as well as the final sentence.
Conclusion: You have a huge opportunity to use powerful language and nudge your website or blog users to clickthrough!