Featured Internet Marketing

Writing online? Put it at the top.

This post is a guest blog by Bruce Lee, marketing copywriter

This is the most important message in this article, so it is placed here, at the top, where you’re most likely to see it.
Put the message you most want to communicate at or near the top of your web page.

Marketing expert Roger C. Parker notes in one of his designtosellonline newsletters, that “There are no readers! There are, however, ‘skimmers’. Everyone is in a hurry. No one, other than your spouse or your mother, really wants to read your message.”

To that list I would add my spouse and mother.

All you need to do to bring this lesson even more clarity is to observe your own web browsing behavior. If you’re normal, when you land on a web page, you want answers to three simple questions:

  • Have I arrived at the right place?
  • Can this business be of benefit to me?
  • Is it worth my time to dig deeper into the site to learn more?

Usually, you answer these questions in a few seconds. Then you either click away or stick around to learn more.

The absolute masters of this approach are the folks at Apple. For example, take this page for the MacBook. At a glance, you have answers to all three questions. Before you’ve read a word, the graphic design (layout, image and typography) alone tells you you’re in Apple Land. The first things you do read are benefit statements (more speed, power and battery life). The subheads are welcoming and enticing – they make you want to know more.

To this I would add the effectiveness of redundancy.

Many years ago, I had a job selling stereo gear. A demonstration technique that made it easier for my customers to discern differences in sound was summed up in the little triplet:

  • Tell them what they’re going to hear.
  • Let them hear it.
  • Tell them what they heard.

You see a similar technique used in the Apple site. The first two subheads (on fast graphics and long battery life) are reiterations of features stated in the headline:

apple page 2011

Accordingly, I say again: Avoid putting your “bottom line” at the bottom line.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. I don’t think people skim posts in the same way they do newspapers.
    The best term I have heard for how people deal with blog posts is that they ‘mine’ them. That is they go looking for something specific.
    I think this means that the message doesn’t necessarily need to be in the headline – but that it needs to be highlighted. People will look for bullet points or bold or block quotes. They won’t necessarily read the headline and first par as people do with newspapers.

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