Can Someone Tell What Your Website/Blog Is About In 3 Seconds?

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You’ve heard me talk about the 3-second rule before. When someone visits your website, you have about 3 seconds to convince them that they’re in the right place. That’s it. If they searched on baby buggy bumpers and clicked on a link to your site, they better immediately see something about baby buggy bumpers or they’re out of there. If they land on a site and are so overwhelmed by links to Google Adsense ads and affiliate marketing programs, they’re probably out of there too. (I would be.)

Call-To-Action

With the abundance of good content that is available online, why would someone stay on your website long enough to complete your call-to-action. You do have a call to action right? If you’re selling a product or service, you want them to “buy now” or “request more information”. If you’re building an authority site, sharing information or building your email list, you may have a “download now” link for a free product. If you’re building awareness and trying to increase your website traffic, you may want to encourage commenting. If you provide a service, you may want your visitors to contact you or hire you. Whatever your call-to-action is, it should be clear to your website visitors and blog readers.

Cluttered Noisy Websites Don’t Get the Job Done

This week on one of the LinkedIn groups that I participate in, someone asked for our opinions on their new blog. When I read the message thread, one person had offered their opinion and the person who had asked the question was offended by their answer. So, I took the time to check out the site.

I agreed with everything the first person had suggested. Below is my response:

Hi Steve, I agree with Alexis as far as the overall impression that a website visitor will have of your website. The design is pretty overwhelming. I think the background graphic (colorful books) isn’t adding any value and is actually adding to the “noise”. Your social sharing buttons don’t stand out at all because of it.

I also agree that you have way too many links on your home page and not enough content. I have no idea who your target reader is. The first post I saw was about MATLAB Tutorials and the second is about Oracle. I also saw a link that mentioned having a date, something about restaurants, cats…… calculus…

I can offer several tips but for starters, you need to identify what niche you’re targeting. Who is your ideal reader? What keywords will they be searching on to find your site? What do you actually want them to do? Is your intention to direct them to affiliate ads? What type of products does your niche customer need/want? If you’re blogging to people interested in MATLAB tutorials and calculus, that’s a focused niche. If that’s who you decide to blog for, don’t talk about cats, dating and restaurants. That’s for another blog.

Other overall suggestions would be to write more meaningful content for each post. Check out my blog (keepupweb.com) as an example of a blog with keyword rich titles and concise descriptive paragraphs on the home page. If you’re new to blogging and just trying to build awareness, you may want to consider not having ads on your site. Unless a reader is already convinced that you’re an authority on those products, there’s really little incentive for them to click on any of those ads and buy from you. Ads will turn off a lot of potential readers before they even read their first post. – Just my two cents.

A Quick Review of Your Website or Blog

Does your website/blog (yes, a blog is a website) clearly represent your brand? Is your navigation consistent? Is your website “noisy”? To me a noisy site makes me feel uncomfortable. If there are lots of ads and links , I personally find it stressful. I’d much rather spend time on a site that feels homey –  the sort of site that makes me want to pull up a chair and share a virtual cup of coffee.

Do you agree with me? Are there certain sites where it’s okay to have a lot going on? How do you feel about sites that are loaded with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and Google AdSense ads. Do you stay or bail? Do you think your site could use a little sprucing up?

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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  1. Pingback: Google Authorship, Blogging, SEO And Social Media – SpeedLink 41
  2. Sherryl, awesome post I really like it, I actually consider this is an art. how we can attract people for the first very few seconds, we need the skills to to that 😀

    thanks a lot for the post 🙂

    1. Thanks Faissal. I think what really helps is to know as much as we can about our target customers and clients. I always suggest checking out the competition to see what the sites that are scoring high (organically – for your targeted keywords) to see if they have common design elements. It helps to give you a flavor of what’s popular. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Hello Sherryl,

    I definitely prefer a minimalist design – both when I’m visiting someone else’s blog and on my own blog.

    When visiting someone else’s blog a clean design without too many flashing banners, pop-ups and other visual distractions allows me to “get the message” and understand what’s being said.

    For my own blog, a nice clean design means a faster load time – something which Google is factoring in to rankings these days.

    1. I agree with you completely about too many distractions. Sometimes I find valuable content on a site and there is just so many ads and distractions that I won’t even share it. I think that sends the wrong message to people who follow me. It’s really a waste of our time to have to look for the content.

      Great tip about Google factoring in load time. Fewer ads and graphics definitely helps.

  4. That’s the idea i’m going with, keep it simple and the sacrifice will pay off.
    I hate blogs where i’m forced to look for information for like 30 seconds, so why should i build blogs like that? If i don’t like it, chances are others won’t like it either.

    1. That’s a great point Claire. This is slightly off topic here but another thing that drives me nuts is when I can’t quickly and easily share a blog post. If I really find the post valuable, I may go through the extra steps to share it but the odds are if I can’t quickly find a share or like button that I don’t share. It’s sad in a way.

  5. You make a great point. I know a lot of web designers who have learned so much about design and business that sometimes they get lost in their own thoughts and neglect the basics, which is making the homepage as transparent and direct as possible.

    Since you wrote this article, I wonder how many people checked out and evaluated the effectiveness of your homepage…

    1. Marie, I’ve had a couple of conversations with people about this subject. One woman is marketing the same product to two different target customers. We were talking about building two different landing pages that are tailored to the two different customers. I also recommended that she runs two different PPC ads – one to point to each of the two pages. The key there is to have the keywords that the person is searching on appear both in the ad and on the page.

  6. That depends on the name of your blog. If you make the name so obvious then people may have a general idea. Your website design will also be a major factor in determining what your blog is all about.

  7. I think the concept of ‘noise’ is an important one to get across to non-designers when working on a website. Once people know that every new element will detract from other elements on a page, they tend to be far more practical about what they add.

    That said, I think usually the three second rule is probably set before people even click on your page – if your title does not explain the page, then people are unlikely to click on it in any search listings.

    1. Rick, I agree that your titles are extremely important. I also believe that the meta tag description plays an important part whether or not someone clicks on our page. Even though search engines like Google no longer considers this data in their algorithms, this description often appears in the search results and our potential viewers see it.

  8. As a web designer, I think this is a very useful article. As a matter of fact, I use this approach a lot when consulting business owners about the benefits of redesign services for their business. With a lot of local businesses investing in websites that are less than stellar, the stuff you discuss in this article can easily be used to help them reevaluate whether their current website currently maximizes their internet presence…which more times than not, their websites lack these key points.

    Thanks for this article, and I will definitely reference this in the future!

  9. the first impression with a website is very important from my point of view so this article is very helpful..
    thanks for this share..

    ~alex

    1. Thanks for letting me know that you found my article helpful Alex. Good website design is sort of like having a directory map in a shopping mall. There’s a sort of “You Are Here” sign so that your website visitors immediately feel they’re in the right place.

  10. I just learned a harsh lesson making some of the mistakes you mention. I started a web design / SEO company recently. In my rush to get up and running and get the site ranked, I took a bit of a go back and fix things later attitude.
    Not a good idea. Getting more and more of traffic now but I’m getting better sales from FaceBook.
    I have left myself a lot of design, structure and sales copy to sort out. I suppose that at least having growing traffic, I have something to work with, so all is not lost.

    1. Steve, That’s great that you’re attaining sales and traffic through Facebook. It sounds like you’ve done a good job with the design and SEO. I actually commend you for quickly getting your site running and ranking. If anything, I tend to err on the side of being too cautious and taking too long tweaking and making changes. Maybe an approach somewhere in the middle would be better for both of us but we’re probably each being over critical of ourselves anyways. 🙂

      1. Thank’s Sherryl. I should be pleased that I got to PR2 in 10 weeks and that I have steadily growing traffic. You know what us blogger types are like, never satisfied.
        As for being over critical of ourselves, I think that’s probably born out of what we do. I’m always worrying about what others will think. Probably more so about other web designers and SEO bods. Crazy really because it’s my potential clients that really matter.

        1. That is really great results Steve. I can totally relate to worrying about what other bloggers think about my blog, my posts, my comments. You’re right that we should be thinking about our potential clients. In my case though, other bloggers sometimes are potential clients.

  11. Sherryl, I always learn so much from you! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and opinion. The goal for my blog is to increase epilepsy awareness (and maybe sell a book or two). I suspect I need to change my header (I do update it every now and then and it’s due for an update). Your post is just the kick in the pants to get it done sooner rather than later. As always, thanks!

    Trish

    1. Trish, Thanks for letting me know that you find my blog helpful. I am always inspired by your articles and I believe you do a good job of increasing awareness of epilepsy. Good luck “tweaking” your site! I have a rather long “to-do” list of changes to my site too. I think a good blog is always a work of progress. 🙂

  12. Yes, this is the reality of blogging and only successful online entrepreneurs have identified this method and utilized it to earn money at the end of the money. Internet marketing and affiliate marketing has a simple rule like the normal businesses. When you try to sell something, people are not willing to buy. When you try to offer a resolution, then there is a sale more likely.

    While I was working in a tech support department, this is what we do. We try to resolve customer’s issues and then pitch a sale for an upgrade or replacement. The same principle goes with blogging. When a visitor sees all adsense and amazon links on your blog, they do not trust you most of the time.

    1. In my opinion, a limited number of affiliate and adsense ads can be appropriate if they’re sprinkled in sparingly to good content. Your example of working in the tech support department is very good. You first brought value and then offered appropriate solutions. That’s a good tip for bloggers to keep in mind. Thanks for adding that to the conversation.

  13. I get the three second rule and the philosophy behind it, and that does work with certain areas of the web or certain types of blogs, but I would argue that there are *plenty* of useful and valuable (and even essential) concepts and uses of the web that are complex and could not be satisfactorily explained in three seconds!

    1. That’s a good argument Greg. I also believe it could be the 7 or 10 second rule too – depending on your target market. Some people have more patience than others and some information takes longer to grasp. Generally, when I talk about this rule, I’m thinking initial content and design. Our sites need to be in the “voice” of the person who we’re designing it for. There have been times where I’ve muddled through some really badly designed sites because the content was that good but it’s rare when I’ll take the time to read red text on a black background. It just takes too much time and effort on my part.

  14. I’ve seen this quite often. People ask for reviews and opinions and then get mad when someone doesn’t tell them what they want to hear. They should value the input, and thank others for actually taking the time to check it out for them. There are a few cases though that I see people asking for a review of their site and it is actually just a way to get people to visit their site.

    1. Ray,
      I think this person was legit but even if he was just looking for people to visit his site, he posted this request in a LinkedIn group for Bloggers Helping Bloggers. As a group manager, I felt a bit of obligation to give him some input. I also felt that other members of the group might find value in the feedback.

  15. Hi, Sherryl.

    I don’t have pop-ups, Google AdSense ads or even affiliate links on my website, so I hope that gives me a plus factor already. And, I make sure that at just one glance, my site visitors will already know that I do graphic and web design and if they will look longer than 3 seconds, they will learn what more I can provide them.

    It has always been my belief that clients don’t want to search that long to know what you are offering to them. So, I make it a point to serve as much as possible to them as soon as they land on my home page. That, along with establishing connections with them, is what has kept me going all these years.

    Thanks for sharing this, Sherryl. Appreciate the read and the advice. Had me nodding along the way. 🙂

    1. Your site is a positive reflection on your business Wes. Clients must feel encouraged that you implement the same good design on your own site that you recommend to them.

      Thanks for coming by. I owe you a visit!

  16. I’m glad I’ve hired you to help me with my site! I know I was failing the 3-second rule big time (not that I knew about 3 seconds…) For me, clutter and too many ads are the biggest turnoffs, and if box pops up that I have to delete I get very irritable. Beyond that, easy navigation so I can find what I want stands out as important.

    It actually makes me feel better to learn you have a list of things to work on, too, and that you don’t get to everything at once!

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

    1. I’m glad you hired me too Judy. You had already done a great job setting up your blog. By adding the social media aspect, your blog got a quick update. (The behind the scenes updates made some improvements too.)

      I’m always learning tips and new ways to improve my site (and my clients). I look at it as continuous improvement. Besides, if we implement a bunch of new changes at once, it becomes difficult to track which ones work and which ones didn’t.

  17. It depends on what kind of website or blog do you have. On my business and corporate websites, I want them to look professional speaks the language of business. In my personal blog, I choose to make it a minimalist, so that visitors will only see what they want to get.

    1. Sounds to me like you’re doing exactly what you should Vic. You’re targeting your content to your target reader. Lots of people don’t do that. Sometimes, people make the mistake of designing our sites for ourselves. The true test is are we driving traffic to our site and are we making the conversions that we want. (If we’re simply driving traffic for numbers in hopes of selling advertising, that’s okay too.)

  18. Hi Sherryl

    I wonder if our websites are ever really done 🙂

    You have to keep evolving with the times, changes to your market, technology etc.

    The nature of blogging in itself can make it hard to communicate what our site is about quickly, especially if we cover a broad range of topices. I really do think that design helps to keep new visitors there just that little bit longer to give them chance to find out more.

    This is an interesting test to try: If you removed the header from your website would new vistors know what your site was about? It makes you realise how much we rely on our header & tagline to communicate our message.

    I found this one really interesting when I tried it, and as a result will be making some changes to the format, to communicate better.

    Heres to evolution 🙂

    1. That’s true Jackie. Continuous improvement is what we all should be striving for with our blogs. I have quite a lengthy to-do list of tweaks and ideas for my blog. I keep saying that I need to schedule myself as my own client so that I’ll get this work done.

      That’s an interesting experiment. I didn’t realize that you tried removing the header from your site. Will you let us know when you change it or are you going to wait and see if we notice? 🙂

      1. Hi Sherryl

        I didn’t physically remove the header but looked at the site from the aspect if the header wasn’t there. Would it be apparent what the site was about.

        What this showed me, is that outside of that header area I need to make changes to better convey the message perhaps through more consistency….not quite sure where this will lead me. But I’ll be sure to let you know what I find.

  19. This is a great advice..I am spending a lot of time on my blog making sure it is organized, clean and understandable within seconds what I do. Your blog is a great example for sure!

  20. To-the-point content is the need of the day. When the content is being developed it is important to consider the potential visitors that’s determined by Age, Gender and several other factors.

  21. Hi Sherryl,

    I am reading a lot of art blogs because I am an artist. And what I see in this niche really hurts my eyes sometimes. Black background, flash, music, animated stuff jumping up and down, omg! And the list goes on and on (complicated comment systems if any…).
    Normally, I’d give up and not spend more time than needed on their websites. But these are my readers, these are the ones I am looking for! If I don’t give up too soon and make sure there is a connection, I am hoping they would come to my blog so that they can learn how not to do it.

    I am spending a lot of time on my blog making sure it is organized, clean and understandable within seconds what I do. Your blog is a great example for sure!

    Franziska San Pedro
    The Abstract Impressionist Artress

    1. Thanks Franziska. Other than your blog and Dennis Salvatier’s graphic design blog, I don’t visit a lot of artists’ blogs. It’s possible that I may have visited them though and not gone back for the very reasons that you’re mentioning. Both your blog and Dennis’ are very easy on the eyes.

      What people need to remember is that we’re designing for our readers not ourselves. Hopefully those bloggers are learning from your example.

  22. Great advise as always. I try to keep my blog as simple as possible. I don’t know if I get readers in 3 seconds but I HAVE watched my readership climb steadily. I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    1. Hi Bill,
      Your site has a nice design and certainly won’t scare anyone away. Some people say that you have 7 seconds or 10 seconds but I really believe that some sites are so poorly designed that you can lose someone in that first 3 seconds.

  23. Ah Sherryl — the perfect post for me today! I was just speaking to a client about this very thing — you cannot afford to lose the eyeballs that land on your site. Thank you for backing up exactly what I was talking about today.

    As far as my own blog (not clients’), it’s not as straightforward because of the “commentary” nature. But the POV of a dog is obvious and most of my readers are dog people.

    Heidi (& Atticus)

    ps: I detest pop-up ads!

    1. Hi Heidi (& Atticus),
      I’m so glad that what I wrote backed up what you told your client. There are so many blogs and websites online, it’s critical to make sure that we don’t lose visitors immediately by thinking that our site won’t meet their needs. It really makes me sad to visit a site where I can’t even read the text because the background color and the text color make it so difficult tor read. We need to keep that in mind.

      Thanks for dropping by and joining the conversation.

  24. It also seems to me that one more thing that can attract your site’s visitors attention is its design. As for me, then when I visit any site or blog, and if it is too dark or has colors that irritate my eyes, then I can immediately leave it, even not looking on the content. Web masters should also pay much attention on it

    1. I agree with you completely Jeanie. I understand that some people think that black text on a white background is boring and they try to be creative but I guarantee they’re losing visitors.

    2. Couldn’t agree more, Jeanie. Dark backgrounds with white letters make my eyes bug out. It’s the worst first impression in my book.

      1. I just visited a blog where both the posts and the comment section are set up for white text on a blue background. I did leave a comment but I was tempted to say something to them. It was very weird seeing the text appear while I was keying.

  25. Pingback: Improving Your Small Business Productivity
  26. Your visitors listne to only one radio station:
    WIT.FM

    What Is There For Me ??

    I thought that it is more like 6-8 seconds, but your 3 seconds can also be right if the site is a mess. Your is excellent by the way. Rock on!

    1. Hi Hezi,
      I’ve heard of the 3-second, 7-second and 10-second rule. All I know for sure is, it’s not long. If I land on a site and I can’t move my mouse without pop-ups, I’m out of there. Another thing that drives me nuts is blaring music. Thanks for the compliment. I like your site as well and I tweeted your post.

  27. nothing makes me leave a website quicker than a pop up >_< I hate when you arrive on a site and then they pop up with a reminder to subscribe. I haven't even read your content yet!

    1. Susan, so many of the bloggers that I interact with on a daily basis use those pop-ups that I’m starting to gain a little tolerance of them – to the point where I would use them on a site that was product based. I don’t think you will ever see them on this blog. Although, I do remember once reading about someone who uses them and visitors see it the first time that they visit and possibly at broad intervals. So, I’m not completely ruling them out.

  28. This is a tough one. I don”t think most traditional blog layouts do justice for presenting information. An example from my experience, I started a word of mouth marketing blog. I came up with several categories, but if you came over my niche probably wouldn’t be clear. I’m going to change the navigation to make the category titles less prominent and make the home page feature only the best and relevant content. I also started a series to explain how the categories fit with the niche and this should help first time visitors.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I think a lot of blogs and websites are works in progress. I definitely have plans to make changes to my own site. (It comes down to finding/making the time to do it.) I’m hopping over to your site now to check it out. Thanks for joining us!

      1. Thanks for checking out the blog 🙂 I just came to the realization that my blog was always going to be a work in progress last night! I keep saying I won’t move on to other projects, but at some point I will have to :/

  29. I’ve heard the 7 second rule not 3. Don’t you think Call-To-Action in 3 is too early? Just wondering…

    1. Di, I absolutely agree that most visitors won’t see your call-to-action in the first few seconds. I just meant that if they immediately bail, you have no chance of them ever even knowing what it is your site is about let alone engaging with you in any way. The site I gave my opinion on was a site where other than clicking on links, it wasn’t clear at all what the purpose of site was.

  30. Great article that I agree with Sherryl. Have to check out the guy you mention:-)

    My website is just part of my personal brand. Honestly find it a bit vulgar to make sure your name and photograph and what you stand for knows. But that’s how it’s done – take it or leave it. And it works. Any visitor will in 2 secs understand that it’s about me – an international businesswoman & writer. Hence the picture that shows how international I am and that I have authortity when I write about international relations, world news, economy and business.

    1. Absolutely Catarina. Both the appearance of your blog and your writing style totally communicates who you are and your point of view. In my opinion, you have done an excellent job of branding yourself.

  31. Sherryl — Excellent points in this post. You make a valid point about having a couple of seconds to grab the reader. That’s one reason why I changed my WordPress template so that my brand and three key service areas are plainly visible “above the fold.” What that means is that everything the reader needs to know can be read on the screen of a laptop. Even more important now, is that your site is formatted for mobile viewing where people can click on a particular section of your website and be taken directly to it.

    1. Excellent point about the “above the fold” Jeannette. Even for a simple blog, I recommend using the “Insert More Tag” to display a variety of your articles and not your most recent post. It gives you more of a chance to catch your website visitors’ attention.

      I’ll have to pay more attention to your site the next time I hope over there (which will be soon, I promise).

  32. Hi Sherryl,
    I think websites are a lot like a first date – even a small misstep can turn off the other person.

    Personally I think advertisements are a mistake unless you are getting tons of traffic. They are a visual turn-off and aren’t likely to generate any money for you. Other things that I feel are “too pushy” are pop ups, aggressive suggestions to “sign up for newsletter/download ebook, etc.”, or auto-play video/audio.

    According to mashable there are 150,000 new URLs a day
    and with all that competition you just can’t afford to turn people off with clutter, ads, etc.

    1. I agree with you Alexis about both the ads and the pop-ups. I especially hate AdSense ads. I’m fine with affiliate programs but AdSense ads totally irk me. Thanks for the link to the Mashable article. That’s an amazing number.