Overcoming the paper-to-web barrier

The conversion rate from print to web is terrifyingly low. Companies continue to run advertising and articles in print media with exhortations to type in such-and-such a URL to find out more, take up an offer, or whatever. The response is invariably tiny, and the media gets the blame.

The reality is that people reading a sales letter or a magazine on paper don’t necessarily have a web browser to hand. Even if they do, nobody seems to want to type in a URL. We need to accept this and stop trying to think we’ll be an exception. Paper is excellent for getting over a message, but awful for response.

If you have no alternative, then at least make it as easy as possible for the reader. My own preferences would be:

  • Tell them just to visit your website and make sure the offer is front and centre on the home page.
  • Tell them to search for something, if you can absolutely guarantee you’ll be the first result. If you can devise a search which doesn’t generate any adverts, better still.
  • Use your own link shortener, i.e. instead of quoting bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/products/widgets/blue/special-offer-2021 or something awful like that, set up a redirection system which means you can at least quote just bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/blueoffer …which then redirects to the real URL. This can be hard coded, or many content management systems have the capability (or plug-ins) to do this.
  • Use a third-party link shortener, such as tinyurl. This is not as professional, and may put off a few users, but it’s still better than a really long URL. If you do use one of these services, write your own intelligible URL and never use the random character sequences they offer by default.