Leading your visitors by the hand

With any advertising, getting a response rate of more than a few percent is difficult. Even if your audience is perfectly on target, with no waste, well… it’s still an advert. And people have an amazing unconscious ability to ignore adverts.

When Google introduced its text-only AdWords adverts, the initial response was huge, because they didn’t look like adverts. Now everyone’s so familiar with them, you’re lucky to get a 1% clickthrough rate. OK, so that doesn’t matter, because you only pay per click, but it’s still frustrating to consider how much business is getting away.

On your own web pages, your content is what it’s all about. Almost 100% of relevant visitors will read the content. But imagine if you surrounded your copy with adverts. Would they get the same attention? No. They’d get the same tiny response as adverts get everywhere else on the web. The majority of visitors would read the content as if the adverts weren’t there, just as everyone does everywhere else on the web.

What I find amazing therefore is the number of business websites where the designer has been allowed to design some of the most important content on the page, including the vital call-to-action, to look just like an advert. Instead of the text finishing with a suggestion of what the reader should do next, with the last few words underlined as a link, the call-to-action gets transplanted away into a sidebar and dressed up to look like an advert. And most visitors then miss it completely.

If I want you to click on a link now, at the end of this article, why would I stick that link in a box off to the side somewhere? Would you notice it there, or even relate it to the article? But if I end the article with this link, will you click on it please?