By Jeff Haden | July 1, 2011
Want some surprising! amazing! incredible! ways to improve your website?
Go to the carousel at the top of the Yahoo! home page and check out the headlines under the thumbnails. A sampling from this morning:
- “Dangers of debit card use”
- “Beyonce’s very revealing dress”
- “Bad golf shot saves man’s life”
- “Real reason for weight gain”
- “ATM receipt with incredible sum”
- “Middle-class jobs going away”
- “Secrets of a housekeeper”
Breathless and over-hyped? Absolutely. By pop star standards, Beyonce’s dress was fairly tame. The fact that people gain weight because they eat more meals and snacks each day is hardly a revelation.
But we still click the thumbnails. It’s almost like we can’t help ourselves.
Here are five ways to use Yahoo! headline strategies — and what they say about us as consumers of information and of products and services — to improve your website and better engage your customers:
Strategy #1: We don’t want more information; we need an anchor. Take weight loss: Thousands of books, thousands of programs, and millions of web pages are devoted to losing weight. People searching for a way to lose weight can access too much information. Weight loss seems so complicated and overwhelming so we’re almost compelled to click “The real reason for weight gain” because, darn it, we just want to know what to do.
Sometimes more information makes us understand less. Simple, clear-cut, and straightforward is incredibly attractive. Solve my problem — the quicker the better. Explain the benefits — the quicker the better. Determine what is important to me as a customer, especially where buying decisions are concerned, and give me that. Don’t make me sift or I’ll leave.
Strategy #2: We love inside knowledge. Hoping for a peek behind the curtain is a universal desire; who doesn’t want the inside scoop? (I clicked the “housekeeper secrets” article even though no one cleans our house but us.)
This strategy is complementary rather than contradictory to Strategy #1: First give customers an anchor, then, provide deeper, more detailed information for those interested. (Without an anchor no one tries to learn more anyway.) Just make sure you go past specs and fact sheets. Show creative ways to use a product or service. Share tips. Help customers benefit from your experience and knowledge. Engage with an anchor and then provide inside knowledge customers can’t find elsewhere.
Strategy #3: Even though we won’t admit it, we actually like a little hype. Infomercial words like shocking, miracle, surprising, incredible, wild, amazing, and unbelievable are also popular on the carousel. And why not? I like an amazingly wild surprise from an unbelievably shocking miracle as much as the next guy.
Hype can definitely be overused, but strong adjectives and definitive statements also show you believe in your services. While you don’t have to channel your inner Billy Mays, be proud of what you do — and say so. No one else will.
Strategy #4: We respond to fear. Everyone wants to avoid a disaster. Most of us fall in the middle class, either statistically or by aspiration, and most of us have jobs… and those jobs kinds of jobs are going away? Gotta check that one out. “Dangers of debit cards”… everyone has a debit card and worries about money. Probably should check that out too. After all, what I don’t know can hurt me.
While you shouldn’t try to manufacture fear, you should consider the common concerns of your customers and address them. Don’t try to just scare me: Identify a fear or concern and show me how you can provide a real solution.
Strategy #5: Sometimes we’re simply interested in interesting. We all enjoy a “what the heck?” moment. “Bad golf shot saves man’s life”… what’s that about? “ATM receipt with incredible sum.” How incredible? (Turns out, pretty.)
Don’t assume your site must maintain a laser-like focus. Share the unusual or offbeat. If a customer finds a cool way to use your product, share it. If you have a great story about a client, share it. Don’t be afraid to let a little personality show through. (But at the same time never be self-indulgent. If you’re sharing only for an ego boost, don’t.) Customers buy from people, not from companies, so share a few real examples of what makes you and your business unique.