[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

Content is king. Silence is golden. Those are two rules that can be applied to websites – and no, I’m not just saying that you should have great content and never even consider adding music to your website (not even the Simpsons theme). What I would like to see is more websites that get the balance right – enough content, but not so much that it turns into a cacophony of chatter that threatens to deafen your visitors.
In this era of content hype, a mistake that many websites make is to say far too much in all the wrong places.
The simple addition of more text does not make your website better. Too many sites are guilty of boring their visitors to tears, or just numbing them with empty talk as soon as they arrive.
A prime example of this is what you do with your Index page. As I’m sure you know, the first paragraph of this page is the most valuable location on your entire website. Do you devote this to a clear and appealing introduction to your products, or have you fallen into the “Welcome to my humble Internet abode” trap?
To be blunt, the first thing your visitors want to know isn’t that you’ve been located in Sampleville, Noland, since 1978. They’re not itching to discover that you released a small update for your software on January 22. They’re not remotely interested in the fact that you focus on building really good software – you would say that, so why should they care?
What they want to know is what your software does, and how it can help them. No more, no less.
Let’s have a look at some real examples of what you shouldn’t be saying – of course, they have been altered to protect everyone’s honour and privacy. Keep in mind that this is the first thing the visitors to these sites see:

  • Welcome to ABC Solutions. We develop innovative software for a wide range of home and business users. We focus on creating high-quality, easy-to-use applications and have received many accolades for our hard work.
  • Quality Software for Business Users Since 1995. Download fully functional 30 day trial versions. Each trial tells you how to purchase the commercial version of the product, either by mail or by download.
  • Welcome to the homepage of DEF Software! We specialize in developing software for Microsoft Windows.
  • Thank you for visiting GHI Systems. We are dedicated to creating high-quality administration utilities to make your business tasks a whole lot easier.

Were you gripped? Did you want to find out more? I didn’t think so. There’s no mention of what the software does. These dull paragraphs are a complete waste of text that could bore your visitors away before they even have a chance to realise what fantastic software you sell. Let’s contrast it with some better introductions:

  • If you view and share digital photos or play MP3’s on your computer, XYZ Program gets rid of hard drive clutter and makes it fun and easy to use your media – and publish online in an instant.
  • 123 Software is far more than just a file synchronization solution. It also includes a wide range of file, drive, and system functions, and is a great tool for home, office, or network management.
  • Is your back sore and stiff from sitting at your desk all day? 456 Tool reminds you when to stretch, then shows you how to do it!
  • 789 is a powerful link checker and website managing tool that lets you check links for accuracy, find broken links and links with syntactic errors.

These are short, simple and to the point, and they leave you with no doubt as to what the software does. As you can see, you don’t have to make it complicated or fanciful. All you need to do is remember who you’re talking to, and what they want to hear.
Make sure your tone suits your target audience. If you’re selling to home users, you can get away with a more friendly, relaxed approach. If you’re targeting businesses, you should tone it down somewhat, but you still need to focus on your products and their benefits rather than on who you are and what you want to achieve.
Move company introductions, personal information and version updates to other locations on your website. Create solid, interesting and brief descriptions of your products, and give them a prominent position. Everything else will follow on from there.
One last thing. While we’re on the subject, do me a small favour: don’t fall into the “high-quality, easy-to-use” trap. We’re all guilty of it, including me, but it’s getting ridiculous.
An exact search on Google revealed no less than 207,000 hits for “high-quality, easy-to-use”, and most of them are software-related. It’s such an empty and over-used phrase – does anyone really believe we’d call it low-quality, impossible-to-use, even if that were true? Reach for the thesaurus, use synonyms, be creative. From now on, I won’t use it if you don’t!
Be seen, be sold.

Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions http://www.sharewarepromotions.com, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

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