The Marketing Blog

  1. SEO Video
    5 steps you can take to improve your video search ranking, including transcription, content, keywords and more.

    Videos are becoming increasingly important for B2B marketing. Companies with dedicated video marketing strategies generate more leads, earn more revenue, and enjoy better brand awareness than those engaging in all other forms of marketing.
    Impact of video marketing

    Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are great places to get eyes on your video content, but prospects aren’t necessarily in work- or buy-mode as they scroll through these platforms. 

    We do know, however, that 90% of B2B decision-makers use search to research business decisions. To reap the benefits of video marketing, your videos must be optimized for search. By following a few best practices for video SEO, you’ll enjoy more visible video search results and drive more organic traffic—and qualified leads—to your video content.

    How Does Google Rank Videos?

    In its general search and video search functions, Google ranks videos using the same ranking factors as written content—content quality, number of backlinks, and RankBrain are the most important signals. When hosting videos on your site, the tasks for optimizing video content are similar to those for written content and images. 

    Similar, but not identical. Here are five steps you should take to improve your search rankings so your videos stand out in search results: 

    1. Transcribe Your Video Content

    Providing both a video and transcription on a single page offers dual benefits: it caters to different reader preferences, and it makes video content more likely to appear in general Google searches.
    Video transcriptions can be optimized for search in the same way as any other text-based site content. While this may seem to break duplicate content rules, transcriptions actually provide a good user experience by catering to different learning styles. While some visitors may prefer videos, others may prefer reading. In fact, 85% of business executives prefer reading over watching videos when making business decisions. 

    When transcribing video content, there are two approaches you can take:
    1. Provide a full, word-for-word transcription as Moz does for their Whiteboard Friday videos.
    2. Provide text highlights like Content Marketing Institute does for their This Old Marketing podcast.
    Full transcripts provide more engagement SEO opportunities, while highlights are good for long videos and can encourage more views by teasing readers with compelling content that’s discussed in more detail in the video. Ultimately, use the approach your audience prefers: you can poll them to find out, or do some A/B testing to see which approach drives the kind of engagement you’re looking for.

    2. Optimize Video File Metadata

    Just like general search results, titles and descriptions display in video searches. While Google will find something to display if this data isn’t provided, you’ll drive more views and rank higher in results if this metadata is optimized. 

    Video titles and descriptions should:
    • Be compelling to encourage click-throughs.
    • Be relevant and applicable to the content.
    • Include keywords that match user intent.
    • Feature titles that are 55 characters or less.
    • Use meta descriptions that are 155 characters or less.
    Additionally, Google displays a thumbnail for video results.Thumbnails are to videos as images are to blog posts—choosing the right thumbnail is crucial. While most video processing programs will select a thumbnail using a single screen from the video, you should create a custom thumbnail that illustrates video content, attracts attention, and inspires interest.

    3. Implement Schema Markup

    While some users conduct searches using Google’s video search function, many just use the general search tool. To help videos stand out in general search results, use schema markup (semantic vocabulary) to provide the information search engines need. With schema markup, general search results will appear in the same way as video search results, providing a video thumbnail and length.

    At a minimum, you’ll need to add schema markup for the title, description, thumbnail, and either embed- or content-URL for each video. You may also want to include video length, upload date, and height and width dimensions. Google has a page describing exactly what it expects from schema markup for videos and allows you to validate schema markup with the Rich Snippet Testing Tool.

    4. Submit a Video Sitemap

    While Google’s crawlers will discover videos on your site, you can enhance discovery of site-hosted videos by creating a video sitemap and submitting it to Google Search Console. Create a separate video sitemap, or add video entries to an existing sitemap.

    Entries in a video sitemap must include video title, description, play page URL, thumbnail, and raw video file URL, and must match the information included on your site. There are a number of optional pieces of data that can be included as well—video duration, rating, view count, category, and live status. While the optional fields do not need to be included in a video sitemap, they provide additional data Google can use to properly index video files.

    5. Find Keywords That Populate Video Results

    The best way to know if users prefer video content for certain queries is to conduct searches for targeted keywords. If video results appear on the first page of results, it signifies that users are typically satisfied with video content for that query. For example, conducting a Google search for the query “Twitter tutorial” results in a YouTube video in position two, just below the official Twitter support page.

    video marketing keywords

    Prioritize video creation for keywords that populate video results in general search and create videos that are higher quality or more comprehensive than those that are already ranking for relevant keywords.

    The Most Important SEO Video Ranking Factor

    Video content is held to the same standards as text content in search results—it must be high quality. Optimizing fluff videos isn’t a valuable use of your time because—like general content—engagement factors are important. If people are watching only a few seconds of your video and then leaving, your engagement scores will fall, and Google may determine that your video is either irrelevant to the query or low-quality.

    Video content should cater to user intent, provide value to viewers, and have a high production value. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune hiring actors or designing animations that make Pixar jealous, but it does mean that videos should be in focus, audio should be clear, and unnecessary pieces should be edited out.

    Once you’ve created high-quality, engaging videos, upload them to your site, add transcripts, and optimize display in results with metadata, schema markup, and sitemaps. Completing these tasks will enable more visible—and higher ranking—search results for video marketing content.

    -By Nate Dame
    Courtesty of Marketo 
  2. by Paula Borowska

    Design Myths that will ruin your website

    Adhering to design myth guidelines can result in bad design and a poor user experience, Paula Borowska writes. Borowska outlines seven of the most common myths she regularly sees, including the idea that the home page is the most important page and only minimalist designs can be simple.

    When I was a junior designer I made plenty of mistakes. I believed false assumptions mostly because I did not have the experience yet to know better. I still don’t know it all. But, I am always eager to learn new things about design and to see which preconceived notions are accurate or a complete myth. That’s how this post came about. I want to address seven common design myths which I still see influencing design decisions.

    Unfortunately, false design myths like these to lead to poorer quality design and poorer experiences for end users. We can avoid this by making smarter design decisions to improve the quality of our designs.

    1. The homepage is your most important page

    For a long time, people believed the homepage was the most important page. Way back when, it may have been the case when the homepage served as the main directory in getting around to the rest of the pages. It’s no longer the case. The way we browse, and even find web pages, has changed dramatically. Often, visitors will land on a web page from a direct link to a product page, missing the home page altogether. This direct access to other pages is largely due to SEO results or links shared on social media.

    Today, home pages serve one main purpose: to get you to the content, whatever it may be. For websites that are constantly filled with new content such as BuzzFeed or Darling Magazine, the home page serves to show the top stories. There are also websites that show off products or services, like Maison Deux. In both of those cases, the user is bound to enter the content specific page because they are not there for the homepage, the directory, they are there to consume information or make purchases. Next, there are services like Mailchimp or InVision where users are interested in using web apps instead. There are plenty of websites out there whose homepage you don’t see as a logged in users, such as Facebook.

    Viewing many design gallery sites such as Dribbble, Behance or Awwwards by the sheer number of showings of creative and amazing home pages. There is nothing wrong with having a great looking and well functioning homepage. However, let’s get one thing straight: compared to other pages on a website, a homepage is not as important.

    2. Minimalism is the only way to achieve simplicity

    Minimalism is a style, while simplicity is about the overall feel and functionality of an application or website. A complicated and extensive design can be made simple. The goal of simplicity isn’t to have the minimal amount of things such as steps, UI elements or interactions.

    Steven Sinofsky put it well. He explains that minimalist design decreases the visual surface of a design and its experience, whereas simple design—which he calls frictionless design—decreases the energy required for the experience.

    Let’s take for instance the UX of a form with no labels but only placeholder text. We all know this infamous pattern. So although having less visual elements, in this case missing a label, is more minimal the interaction is often confusing for users filling out the input. The interaction is no longer simple. Adding the extra UI element, the label, even providing an example outside of the placeholder, adds to the quantity of UI elements. But, the interaction becomes simpler, easier and more intuitive for the users. That’s a great differentiation between minimalism and simplicity. They are not one and the same.

    3. Limit the number of navigational choices

    Many people misinterpret George Miller’s theory that the human minds can keep track of 7 (plus or minus 2) bits of information at a time. His theory still holds true but it’s exclusive to the human cognitive condition regarding short term memory. Somehow this theory made its way into web design, specifically to navigation and menus.

    Additionally, there is research on limiting the number of choices, which was popularized by Barry Schwartz. Barry Schwartz’s research was referring to choices in product. In his research, Schwartz was referring to jams where the customers had a harder time picking, committing and therefore purchasing a jam if there were a multitude of options. The customers were purchasing jams at a significantly higher rate if they were presented with just a few choices. This can apply to any other product like cars, phones or online subscriptions. They key here is still products.

    Neither of those two pieces of research has anything to do with navigation. The job of a navigation is to help a visitor explore what a website has to offer. Back in 2006, Jared Spool wrote on the topic of link-rich websites which are sites filled with many links and pages. In the article he uses an old version of the Dove website to demonstrate his point, and although the website has changed, the conclusion still stands. Dove’s sitemap was more usable to a visitor than their own homepage’s navigation. The reason for this is that is allowed anyone looking for a specific product to find the necessary product page.

    Navigation can be large but still allow the user to browse to the product they are looking for. Good navigation won’t hide the multitude of pages. Instead, it will cluster and group them into similar categories to be findable by a visitor. Now, if the groups and clusters are poorly made that’s also not helpful to the user. The bottom line is, hiding pages from the navigation is not beneficial to the user.

    4. Everything must be no more than three clicks away

    On computer interactions, the rule is said to be three clicks but this rule has also been extended to mobile devices in the form of two taps. Multiple usability studies prove that this is bogus.

    Visitors and users don’t care about the exact amount of clicks or taps. They care about obtaining the information they are looking for, they care about finishing the task they are doing. Additionally, it’s relevant to the user whether clicking through will get them to the desired information. If the user feels they won’t find what they need in their journey, they may leave without clicking just once even though the information might be revealed after a single click. Users will keep on going through as many as 25 clicks, as found by UIE, in order to complete their tasks. The UIE research also states the importance of user satisfaction is also irrelevant to the three click rule.

    5. Mobile device users are always on the go and are always distracted

    When speaking about mobile apps or responsive websites, both of these points are mentioned. First, mobile device users are presumed to be on the go. Second, they are also presumed to be distracted. Way too often, these two assumptions seem to go hand in hand with one another. Someone who is on the go is bound to be distracted. The fact of the matter is, neither is actually the case.

    Let’s tackle the first assumption first. A 2012 Google study found out that majority of smartphones were used at home, 60% to be exact. Another study in 2012, this time by InsightsNow on behalf of AOL,  found that 68% of mobile page views happened at home. InsightsNow’s study excluded texting, calling and emailing. But, as you can imagine, playing games, browsing Tumblr or Facebook, and any other mobile interactions such as reading articles or shopping, is mostly done at home. Although we should still keep designing for on the go use, it’s not the primary way most of us use our mobile devices now.

    Next is the assumption regarding distractions. Distractions are eminent everywhere, albeit it working, watching tv, driving or using a mobile device. That’s just a fact of life. Just because someone is using their smartphone instead of a desktop computer does not make them more distracted. I will point to the same 2012 Google study which found that while using a PC 67% of the time a user is also using another device compared to 57% while using a smartphone.

    6. Good usability is good enough without aesthetics

    Don Norman devotes a whole book to explain how emotions and design go hand in hand. That’s because while great usability may be a great start and it’s certainly necessary, it still may not actually be good enough. Don Norman’s book centers around emotional connections created through design.

    Positive emotions can be powerful in helping sell products. There are numerous studies to show that more attractive products appear to perform better than products with poorer designs. Not to mention that first impressions are excessively made through appearances.

    More importantly, looks and design are often related to credibility. Stanford University’s Credibility Project proved just that. They presented people with websites to learn about the correlation of credibility. They found the 46% of people based the credibility of a website by its appearance.

    Emotional responses play a greater role in connecting with people than usability. Emotions are human while usability is technological. Therefore, great visual design and aesthetics is a competitive advantage and a differentiator within a marker. Ultimately aesthetics help enhance usability as mentioned in Don Norman’s book, Emotional Design.

    7. Your users will tell you what they want

    This one is my favorite. Asking your users for feedback is important. It’s equally important not to take their feedback literally. Noah J. Goldstein wrote:
    people’s ability to understand the factors that affect their behavior is surprisingly poor.
    And he couldn’t be more right. This type of thinking goes back to days of Henry Ford where he famously said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” That’s because people are bad at explaining their own behavior patterns, intentions, and behavior predictions. This phenomenon is also known as introspection illusion, in psychology. It’s okay, I’m bad at it too.

    Another reason why listening blindly can lead to trouble is that people often speak only about the solution to the problem they might be facing. As a designer, I’m sure you’ve received design feedback such as “make the text bigger” with no explanation as to why. A client or a colleague might have a hard time reading the text with a smaller font or they might feel that the smaller font is less noticeable compared to everything else in the section’s design. The same goes for user feedback. Like I said, it’s important to listen to customers and users. But, it’s more important to get to the bottom of the problem first. Do further research based on user feedback, requests or complaints to figure out what the problem at hand might be, and solve it for that instead of their comments alone.


    There are still many more design myths and assumptions out there. These are the seven most common ones I see other designers cling to, especially junior designers or design students. We’ve all been there—I’ve been there. It’s important to realize that these assumptions are baseless and be smart about them moving forward. Hopefully, exposing these seven will help you make better and smarter design choices.

  3. Marketing Research
    Use digital analytics tools and social listening to understand the content topics of most interest to your audiences. Tap customer segmentation to target and personalize content, and don't be afraid to experiment to see which combinations are most effective.

    Three Steps for Crafting More-Personalized and Better-Performing Content

    Most content marketers strive to create content that not only speaks directly to their target audience but also compels that audience to take desirable actions with the marketer's business or brand.
    That sounds terrific in theory, but producing such content is easier said than done; there simply isn't a template or solution that works for every business.

    To create high-performing content that drives business goals, content marketers must create content highly tailored to their specific industry or niche—no matter how oversaturated or "boring" that industry may seem—and also personalized for their specific audience.

    Concentrating more on your audience's needs, segmenting your community, and using content experimentation can help you to plan for the crafting of more personalized content that's best suited to meet your marketing goals—as well as inspire your customers to take actions you'd like them to take.

    1. Invest in learning about your customers

    Organizations that are committed to investing in their customers are up to 60% more profitable than "non-customer-centric" companies, and 67% of senior marketing executives use customer customer insight- and emotion-based data to develop the right content.

    Agencies and research firms can help you get to know your audience, but they typically cannot replace the hands-on insight that you can collect internally by analyzing your own data sources and by engaging with your customers directly and organically.

    To learn more about your current customers, start by consulting your Web analytics software (Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, etc.) to get a better understanding of your online visitors.
    More specifically, you should look at audience reporting metrics to learn about the demographic information, interests, and behavioral trends of your online users.

    Audience/Demographics/Age Trends Report, Google Analytics
    Audience/Demographics/Age Trends Report, Google Analytics

    Audience reports can help you determine whether your current content and other marketing efforts are attracting the age group of your target audience—and help you identify any surprising outliers in your data.

    For example, if the marketers with the above-depicted data set were aiming to reach a Millennial audience, their marketing efforts would be aligning well with their target audience; however, if they were targeting senior marketing executives, there would be a serious disconnect.

    Next, look into your acquisition insights to determine where your visitors are coming from:

    Acquisition/All Traffic/Channel Report, Google Analytics
    Acquisition/All Traffic/Channel Report, Google Analytics

    For this site, a majority of traffic is coming from organic search, which could indicate that its content has been properly optimized for search engines. Since the content is performing well in search, the marketers could invest in additional keyword research to understand more about what their customers are searching for online.

    In a similar situation, you may find that your site is receiving significant traffic from an unexpected source. If so, you'll need to dig deeper into the channel that's sending the traffic to identify the cause.
    For a more hands-on approach to learning about your audience, begin engaging with your current customers, speak with your sales team, sit in on product-demo calls, and start conversations with your potential customers.

    Consider doing the following to learn more about your audience:
    • Meet with your customer success teams and ask them about your buyers.
    • Send out surveys, or ask for other feedback, through email.
    • Research online content to learn more about what your customers are talking about.
    • Research product-review sites for public ratings or feedback.
    • Monitor mentions of your brand using social listening tools or Google Alerts.

    2. Segment your audience to inform your content strategy

    After getting a top-level idea about your customers via both your analytics solution and hands-on engagement, you are ready to begin creating customer segments.

    Customer segmentation can help you target the different types of people who are engaging with your content by informing how you should market content to them.

    Start by integrating all of your customer data. For many content marketers, Google Analytics is the go-to; however, others use Adobe Analytics, Tableau, or Mixpanel for mobile solutions, among many others. Use the tools available to you.

    Next, identify customer differentiators or behaviors that are important to your business goals.
    The idea is that you become familiar with all of the ways that you can segment your audience using your analytics platform so that you can better understand what type of personalized content and user experiences that you should create.

    Target audience segmentation
    Audience Segmentation, Google Analytics
    For example, software companies with a subscription model should learn more details about why certain customers are retained month over month or annually, whereas other customers cancel their subscription.

    Key differentiators could be...
    • Age, gender, location
    • Buyer personas
    • Purchasing history
    • Brand and social engagement
    • Time on site
    • Total number of pageviews
    Although there are many ways you can segment your audience, start small by identifying 3-4 groups that are valuable enough to market to. This approach can help you avoid over-analyzing and increases the likelihood that you will be able to take action on the segments you create.

    It's also a best-practice to create segments that are mutually exclusive, to avoid overlap in your customer data that could muddle your research and lead to miscommunication.

    3. Experiment with your content to identify wins

    After thoroughly researching your audience and determining which segments to target, the next step is to create new content and marketing campaigns to address your findings.

    Experiment with at least five content formats, such as detailed articles, video tutorials, whitepapers, webinars, conferences, e-books, and others to better determine what content resonates with your segmented audience.

    Measure the performance of your content efforts by analyzing how the data in your audience segments changes in the days, weeks, and months after executing your content. Remember that content marketing efforts can be slow to yield returns, so you should keep your short-term expectations within reason.

    Also collect insight on your content distribution methods to identify how your audience wants to receive content. Think about paid advertising campaigns, promotion through social channels, influencer marketing, employee advocacy, press releases, and other ways to that you are distributing your content. Analyze how much traffic each of your marketing channels is driving and the actions on site that those visitors are performing.

    Generally, you should address the needs of one segment before moving on to others, and you should start with the segment that is most valuable to your business goals.

    If you don't know where to start, experiment with a few of your segment ideas until you find traction. Doing so can help you and your team work through the growing pains of marketing to new audiences without the added stress of trying to cover all segments at once.

    For more advanced personalization techniques, you can use a tool like Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, or Unbounce to deliver custom user experiences for each of your segments and personalize content across your website, mobile app, and any other connected devices.

    Jacob Warwick, MarketingProfs
  4. Conversion tunnel
    Small-business owners might be initially discouraged by how few website visitors become paying customers, but there are ways to improve conversion. Here are 6 tips for optimizing AdWords campaigns, streamlining the conversion process and running retargeting campaigns.

    Search engine traffic is one of the hardest customer acquisition channels to understand, especially for small business owners. Generally, these are the reactions I see from small business owners when they first have Google Analytics installed correctly and learn how to segment the channels down to search engine traffic:
    1. Panic — Some immediately panic because they can’t understand why 98 percent of their website visitors don’t convert into a customer.
    2. Confusion — Some wonder why AdWords isn’t producing a 30-1 return on their investment.
    3. Dismay — Some are happy that they get so many visitors but wonder why there are not enough customers.
    Generally, what happens from here, is they either blame their website, their content, or their consultant/agency who manages or built their website for any shortcomings in getting them new customers.

    However, the issues normally don’t have anything to do with any of those. Instead, it is how small business owners look at search engine traffic and how they are converting them into customers. It is very difficult to get a customer from the search engine and immediately convert them into a customer. Generally, the average conversion rate on websites is around 2 percent.

    Now, this can be a little different for small businesses. Let’s say that someone is searching for a local oil change location. In that case, searchers are more likely to convert. However, it is not that far off because, at the end of the day, customers have two different intents:
    1. Buy — They are looking to buy a product or service at that moment. This also means that they could have chosen your competitor.
    2. Research — They are looking for more information and considering different research before they buy a product or service.
    So, when you take those two intents into consideration, it really isn’t a stretch to think that a 2 percent conversion rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Searchers get a ton of different options when they search Google. They might not choose you, or they might not be ready to buy from you. So, it’s important to capture the 98 percent of those that don’t convert into a customer immediately from their search and try to get them to convert later on down the road. Sounds easy, right? Not exactly. But, don’t worry — here are some tips on converting search engine traffic to help:

    Tips for Converting Search Engine Traffic to Sales

    Focus on the Long Tail

    One issue that you might be experiencing has to do with the customers that you are targeting. If you are running AdWords, and you buy short phrases such as “Pizza Place,” it might be too generic to convert them. However, if you buy “The Best Mushroom Pizza in (Your City),” then you are going to be more likely to convert.

    When running your AdWords campaigns, focus on the long-tailed keyword phrase and capture them, as they are more likely to convert.

    Optimize Your Campaigns

    Similar to above, you want to make sure that you are optimizing for your physical location. Check your Google local page(s) to ensure that they have the correct information and that the directories have the same information as Yelp, YellowPages, etc. The worst thing that you can do is have the wrong local information that takes potential customers to the wrong location.

    With regards to AdWords, one giganticmistake that I tend to see a lot is not using the right location settings. It is absolutely criticalthat you use the correct settings below to make sure you target the right areas if you are trying to use AdWords to acquire local customers. Make sure you set it to “people in my targeting location” for both of those location options below.
    Ad Words Location

    Make it Easy to Convert

    Another fatal mistake that I see a lot is when small business owners make it extremely hard for website visitors to convert. Usually, this is done in three ways:
    1. Phone or other contact information is hard to find
    2. Locations are hard to find
    3. No reviews or reasons to choose them
    4. There are thousands of options on their contact forms
    5. Contact forms do not work
    If you are a potential searcher, and you have 4 different local businesses to choose from, you will choose the one that stands out. If you want to be eliminated quickly from the content set, then do one of the five options above.

    If you don’t want to be eliminated, make sure you don’t make it hard for a customer to do business with you. Make your website inviting and easy to use, and have differentiators of why they should choose you. Were you named #1 Pest Control business in your city? If so, say that your website. It makes you stand out from your competition.

    Retarget Campaigns

    This one should be a no-brainer for a small business owner. If you are not, please, please start retargeting campaigns now. Ninety-eight percent of customers do not convert on the first click. Getting them back and staying on top of their mind is critical.

    Luckily, it is easier than ever before to use tools like AdRoll or create retargeting ads yourself. By doing so, you will get website visitors to come back and, it is hoped, buy when they are ready. I firmly believe offering discounts or other various incentives in your retargeting ads will help convert them into customers.

    Use Content and Email Gathering

    Similar to retargeting, it can be very difficult to convert searchers into customers immediately because they need to be warmed up. This can be very apparent in small businesses with a high revenue per purchase, such as automotive or housing businesses.

    If you are having trouble converting them immediately, I would suggest trying to capture their email addresses and sending them an email chain to stay on top of their minds. In addition, you can build trust by giving them valuable content. I personally use SUMOMe and Active Campaign for this.

    Using SUMOMe, I use content popups and other various content in order to get their email addresses. From there, they get the content, and they go into my Active Campaign account. Through this, they get a 12-email series, which tries to get them to convert within the next 3-4 months.

    If you are in the automotive business, you could use popups with content such as “12 Mistakes Our Customers Make When Buying.” These guides that show mistakes, failures, or pitfalls when making a large purchase are attention grabbing and will surely convert at a higher rate than your standalone web pages. Then your email chain will continue to build trust and value.

    Employ Calls to Action in Content

    If you are eCommerce retailers or sell products in retails stores, you can also have calls to action in your content. When writing compelling blog content solving researching questions, you can also include calls to action when you mention your products/services.

    You can include items such as “click here for 10 percent off” or other various monetary discounts to give them the urgency to convert into a customer. You can also induce urgency by saying things such as “very limited inventory” or other various phrases to show them that they should buy so they do not get left out.


    These are the top ways to convert the “top of the funnel” search engine traffic that has traditionally been a “low conversion rate” source of traffic.

  5. Unique Selling Point
    A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and that's especially important in designing a site that will immediately grab a visitor's attention, Tim Brown writes. He explains that designers need to imagine how they would enjoy the product in order to create a site that will resonate.

    Common web design problem: Just writing out why a company is special is usually an insufficient way to tell a story to people in a way that will give them a rapid understanding of what makes a company’s product or service awesome.

    We have to get visual—people should be able to blur their eyes when they land on a site and know what you do, and what key actions they would take on the site immediately. But it also takes deeper collaboration with key stakeholders in the company you’re working with to be on board, so you can allocate project resources.

    Ideally a site visitor in a company’s demographic should have a positive reaction to the site that is instinctive and immediate. This is why it works so well when sites use photography of a person smiling, interacting with the product or receiving the benefit of the service; when visitors see that, it’s their natural instinct to imagine that scenario—with themselves at the center of the scene. A website created with an understanding of how humans instinctively react to certain types of imagery, will most certainly be more effective in driving action.

    If someone imagines themselves as a client, or enjoying the benefits of a product when viewing someone smiling and doing so, it’s referred to as the “mirror effect,” and you can use it to your advantage if you can first get to the core of why the startup you are marketing appeals to it’s best customers. This works best in conjunction with “future pacing” or website copy that invites them to think about what it will be like when they are enjoying their new purchase—like “imagine how you will feel ten days from now when you are driving a Tesla home from work.”

    Ask: “Why do your best customers come to you vs. the competitor?”

    The answer to this question—is not only pinpointing the core demographic, but is also digging up the key differentiation that’s so critical to hammer on, in a website design. If you can determine not only who the best customers are—but why they come to your client and not their competitor, then it’s time to show the visual representation of that somehow.

    Dig deeper—ask key stakeholders or people in the startup to give actual examples of people that have told them why they went with them over competitors. If there is a sales team, there will be many examples, since people often chew through their considerations before closing a deal. If it’s a product, talk to those doing customer service and ask them the questions they get asked over the phone with people considering purchase. These questions, and the positive answers that led to a sale, will be keys to showcase visually on the site.

    For instance in the case of juicing startup Juicero, their biggest differentiator is the lack of a mess and the no-hassle aspect of their first at-home cold press juicer for mass market. They show someone enjoying the juice, but also a very clean counter behind them—the number one differentiator between their solution and cheaper at home juicers that make an incredible amount of mess.
    If your product has a better user interface than the competitor – perhaps show that in all its glory in a couple different devices, so people can get a feel for what they’re buying, like this site for Oppsource.
    And of course – if it’s a beautiful product, simply showcase it with well done photography in a way that shows its best features like this site for Starry Wi-fi systems.
    Starry Wi-fi systems

    Ask: “What does a successful interaction look like physically? What does a pleased customer look like as they’re receiving the benefit of your product or service?”

    A happy customer is always going to be your client’s best sales tool. Whether they be through referral, testimonials on your website, or my favorite—photos of previous customers, or pictures of people happy and receiving the benefit of what the company does.

    For a traditional business—this might be a satisfied man in front a perfectly cooked steak, taking his first bite, or a woman looking at herself in the mirror with something she finds fits her perfectly well. This is the single most effective principal of effective web design—it’s not about your product or service, and every detailed feature, it’s the customer or client experience—the benefit, and showcasing the emotional appeal of that benefit that will tell the story you need for the site visitors to feel.

    For this medical device and solutions startup Nuance healthcare solutions, they needed to show that their documentation solutions aren’t just the same old, but rather make it more natural with visual components, voice documentation, and imaging exchange within the software.
    Nuance healthcare solutions
    By showing someone, directly benefiting from the solution—interacting with a patient and using voice documentation, rather than taking notes, they are able quickly allow a visitor to understand, at an instinctual level, how their practice might benefit from the software.

    Ask: “How can we get photography, iconography, graphs, visual statistics and trust factor badges to support the claim of superiority for this offering?”

    Of course it’s not just about the homepage hero section—there are ways to do icons in a way that feels commonplace and generic, and  then there are ways to do them that feel intentional and specific to your brand.

    Ask: “How can we show your real team in a fun and down-to-earth way that helps people trust you?”

    People want to see who works for the company. Whether that’s two founders by themselves, a 15 person team at a grill out, or even like this photo for Buffer, sharing transparently how they spent 100k on their team retreat and – thanking customers for their support through their subscription:

    To recap, the keys to helping people have a positive reaction when they land on the page are:

    • Making it easy for them to find what the site is about quickly, and what key action the site is for.
    • Showing smiling faces of customers—or smiling faces on the startups team.
    • Demonstrating the benefit from the startup’s product or service in a visual way by showing it in action, or someone who is receiving the benefit. Make it immediate and evoke emotion.
    • Display brand appropriate iconography that actually makes sense with the key points of differentiation the site is supposed to demonstrate, and consider how motion can communicate those unique value propositions.

    Written by Tim Brown