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Can too much content hurt you?

Let’s cut to it: you’re saying too much. More specifically, your website is saying too much. Most websites do. And this is a big problem for your business.

Let’s cut to it: you’re saying too much. More specifically, your website is saying too much. Most websites do. And this is a big problem for your business.

Let me explain. Every day, we’re exposed to an roughly 4,000–10,000 ads. Broken down, that averages out to roughly one ad every 9.6–21.6 seconds—and that’s just dedicated advertisements.

Zooming the lens out, try to think about how much information we as humans take in over the course of a day—from checking the weather on our phones in the morning, to guiltily reading the nutrition label on a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, to following street signs on our way to a meeting, to reading the menu at the Starbucks drive through. And we haven’t even hit 8:30am yet!

It’s mind boggling how much information our brains take in, filter, and process every minute of every day.

My point is this: In today’s digital world, people’s attention is stretched unbelievably thin. If you want to break through to potential customers, the messaging on your website must be laser focused and clear.

“If You Confuse, You’ll Lose”

Donald Miller, a New York Times bestselling author and owner of the successful StoryBrand consulting firm, tells his clients: “If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

Many organizations, through the best of intentions, mistakenly cram too much into their online messaging and marketing. In an attempt to encompass the entirety of what they offer—or perhaps more honestly, to please their board or because too many people have too much say in a given project—companies often wind up using confusing, vague, and jargon-filled language.

And nowhere is this more prevalent or as problematic as the homepage of your website.

Websites should be able to pass what Donald Miller refers to as a “grunt test.” If a caveman were to look at your website, could he or she, within five seconds, articulate exactly what you offer and how it benefits their life?

The answer for too many companies, unfortunately, is “no.”

Ambiguous headings, long winded “what we do” statements, and vague slogans require potential customers to expend too much brain power in deciphering what they’re looking at and how it benefits them. Remember, our attention spans are a precious commodity. There’s simply too much vying for our attention in a given day, and our brains are incredibly efficient at filtering out information it deems unnecessary or irrelevant.

Plain and simple: if your message is confusing, you’re losing potential customers. And chances are high that if your website isn’t quickly and clearly communicating how you add value to customers’ lives, you have competition whose website is.

Cutting Through the Noise

Practically speaking then, how can we cut through the noise? Fortunately, there are some simple yet powerful steps you can take today to help clarify your message and strengthen your website.

1. Write a compelling headline

One of the simplest, inexpensive, and most effective steps you can take is to rewrite the main heading on your website. While simple, this will require some hard work and honest evaluation. You will need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and be willing to ask brutally honest questions, such as:

Remember, your website should be able to pass the grunt test. An effective website is able to communicate within seconds what you offer and how it benefits your customer.

It’s important to note here that the magic lies in being clear, not necessarily in writing the perfect headline. This isn’t the time to be cute, especially if it’s at the expense of clarity. Clarity is compelling and will beat “cute,” every time.

2. Create calls to action

Do me a favor. Right where you’re sitting, I want you to take a look at your hands. Pause reading, and take a look.

Seriously, real quick. Take a look. Did you do it yet? Ok, good.

My point? People do what you tell them. After understanding what you do and why it matters, give visitors a clear call to action to do business with you. If your visitors have to figure out the next step they should take, you’re almost certainly losing sales or leads.

Calls to action should take the form of a highly visible, colorful button that appears throughout your website, as well as multiple times on your homepage. Depending on what you do, this could be a button that says “buy now” or “schedule a call” or “find a rep.”

Again, the point here is clarity. By this time, you’ve clearly stated how you add value to your visitor’s life. Now tell them clearly how to do business with you!

3. Clean up your navigation bar and put extra links in your footer

Finally, it’s good practice to clean up your navigation bar and put the majority of your links somewhere in the footer.

The reason being is that your header is prime visual real estate. Eye-tracking studies have shown that visitors to your site are likely to first glance at the top left, then quickly to the top right, and then to the middle (like a “Z” pattern). The more cluttered your navigation bar appears, the more confusing your site will feel. And as we talked about earlier, if you confuse, you’ll lose.

Keep only the bare essentials and include a call to action button in the top right corner. If you have a bunch of extra pages on your site, that’s fine—put those links in your footer. It will reduce clutter and confusion in key real estate areas of your site, and viewers today are actually more comfortable scrolling than clicking (thank you, social media!).

By implementing these takeaways, you’ll be well on your way to cutting through the noise and making a compelling, effective website. Remember, keep it clear and keep it focused. Your business depends on it.