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What  B2B Websites Get Wrong

Posted February 2, 2024
dark thumbnail image with headshot of Andy Crestodina introducing podcast and article entitled "What B2B Websites Get Wrong"

Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder & CMO of Orbit Media, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report Andy shares common missteps he sees in B2B websites and how to avoid them.

So Andy, what do you see or what are you learning perhaps from other industries outside B2B Tech, what do we consistently get wrong on the tech side?

“Oh, I think there’s a certain UX and design elements and copywriting, things that are common across the board. Visitors don’t have two different brains depending on the website they’re on. So things like visual hierarchy and clarity.  Here’s a classic example.: not always, but almost always, the homepage is one of the top pages on the site. Almost always, visitors don’t scroll on homepages. I put a whole bunch of homepages into Hotjar and made a composite scroll heat map and showed that in that dataset and I found out 75% of homepage visitors weren’t scrolling at all. They were going straight to the navigation. Therefore, prioritize above-the-fold homepage content. Let us ask this question: does it pass the five-second test? Can a visitor tell at first glance what you do? 

“If I asked you what you do and you read me your homepage headline, would I know what you do, or do I have to keep asking you more questions? What if I looked at your main navigation, do the navigation labels just say who you are or what you do? What about the service pages, blog or contact us pages? Is it specific at all? Specifically, correlates with conversions. So make everything more descriptive and specific so that at a glance, the visitor and the search engine can tell what you do. This is a huge benefit. Yet, a giant percentage of websites don’t have a descriptive homepage headline.”

And I see many people focusing on value, which is great but not actually describing how they solve pain points or provide that value. I was on a website the other day, and this is very common. Therefore, if you’re guilty, I’m probably not talking about your company. So the website says increase sales with AI and then it has this stock image and a bunch of tiny texts that I couldn’t read without zooming way in. I could tell what they do from that headline and I see so much of what it’s either all about the value or they’re using techno-babble that sounded good in a boardroom.

“Did it make sense to the visitor? It doesn’t make sense to the main audience, the actual visitor. I once had some research done and I hired a VA to go look at 500 websites and I published a piece about web design standards and what these sites do or don’t. Only 58% in the dataset have descriptive homepage headers. In other words,  almost half of those websites fail the backyard barbecue test. I met you at a BBQ. I ask you what you do. You read the homepage headline and I’m confused. So that’s one is an obvious thing. 

“If you go down the page, other pet peeves of mine are the subheaders where people just say things that are super vague. It’s very common to have a big subheader that says our services and then very smart descriptive texts below it. Flip that and make the big thing, the descriptive thing. The entire page, pan out. Stand back and look at the whole page. Read every word. What’s the most compelling thing on that page? What’s the most specific, descriptive strongest, most intriguing and compelling combination of words on that page?

“Question two is what about the most visually prominent things on is the largest or the highest or biggest thing on the page? The job there is to align web design comes down to this. You’re creating a visual hierarchy where each element in the hierarchy, more and less aligns with this visitor’s information needs. The job is to control the eye as it flows down the page. The farther down they go, the more descriptive and the more clarity and persuasion they’re getting. So there are tons of sites that have big vague things. And then if you dig deep, it’s like a carousel at the bottom. The fourth slide is a testimonial that has some amazing quote that should have been at the top.”

I want to ask you whether or not you feel the same about carousels in the header. I suspect we may be on the same page here.

“ the data is clear. There’s a funny joke about this. I wasn’t the first to say this. The homepage slideshow was invented to keep people from stabbing each other in conference rooms. It’s a political solution to debate between people inside a company. It was never for visitors. Marketing is about making decisions, right? We’re going to make some tough choices here and pick the one they need to see at that depth. Show it. The next most important thing is in the next page block. So when someone from HR says where are my pixels? I want to be in. Let’s make a carousel. You’ve got to fight that. Just go look at the data, and see the click-through rate on the the call to action (CTA). On the third slide, it is either zero or very close to it.”

Other things I see a lot are very in-depth, lengthy animations that go through every single feature. People don’t realize they’re killing their page speed and that kills your SEO rankings.

“So many things wrong with it too. It’s not visitors-focused, not search-friendly. Another test. Just scroll down and ask yourself do 100% of my visitors know what this means? I was up this morning and talked to a company they made. It’s an auction website and it says: the auction ends on  Thursday and I wondered when on Thursday? If I want to bid am I making the last bid? When is this thing and when is the cutoff? I asked them, oh there’s a 30-minute rule? Look at the link, it says 30-minute rule. What does that mean? And then they explained it to me and I retorted okay maybe the link should tell how it works.

“100% of your visitors should know what that means. That navigation labels, 100% of your visitors should know what they get if they click on CTA. The words on the next page should align with that call to action. If it’s a schedule on the CTA, the next page should show a schedule so they know what they’re getting. You want to follow that intent with them as they go. Fortunately, all these problems need only a few minutes to solve. It’s free. You can change them. It costs nothing to improve your copy on these pages. You just crack crack open WordPress.”

Absolutely! Or whatever you’re using. A few days ago, we talked about why it was so important; to talk directly to your customers or at least listen or read the transcripts. I think though that if you want to improve website copy,  yes, you should do that. However, you can also take a step back and say what are the things that I want to know when I first go to a website? One, I want to know if it does what I need it to do. And two, I want to know whether or not it really does what I need it to do by hearing from people who have actually used it. Therefore, if you could just spend a little bit of time on customer evidence and what customer evidence looks like and maybe some things to stay away from.

“Sure. most webpages are giant piles of unsupported claims. That is the hard way to say it. That is the tough love, true message for most of us. Just scan down your pages and ask how many of these marketing claims have support behind them. Most sites have very little or not at all. It’s only in that same dataset, only 28% of the companies we looked at had any evidence on their pages. So social proof like testimonials and reviews are essential. And they’re magical. Since they make the audience themselves the messenger. Every message is a messenger. People don’t think of that sometimes, but that’s what is happening. If you put quotes around something and a company name and a person next to it, you change the messenger to that person. 

Now, it’s much more believable. Quotes are for sure the most powerful; key on your keyboard. Put anything inside quotes and it feels more legit. So yes, add testimonials and social proof. If you go to Amazon and analyze an example;e page, 50% of the pixels are social proof. They understand what they’re doing. That site is extremely well-optimized. Therefore, the idea is to not make any unsupported marketing claims. One of the most powerful supporting evidence is just the testimonial or case study, review, or success story. These should be very prominent on the page.

“When it comes to case study, one of its problems is what people name the case study after the brand. The name of the case study should also be evidence from the case study like a 40% increase in search traffic. That is a better name for a case study because I can get value from it even if I scan past and don’t click. It’s like a game I play. Someone asked me to look at their website. This happens often. I went and took a look at it and headed to a case study and clicked and they’re mostly PDFs, which I don’t like since they don’t show up in analytics.”

Go deep down. Andy called those the rust of the internet the other days and I just fell off my chair.

“Yes, PDFs are the rust of the internet. Your site is old and it’s so hard to manage. So it is easier to just upload a PDF. something’s wrong with CMS or why would you do that? What is the case for the PDF? I don’t know. It’s a perfectly fine alternate version, an alternate format for what’s also on an HTML page. At any rate, deep down inside people’s case studies is often where you find that nugget, that perfect combination of words, that quote, or that data point that shouldn’t be buried at the bottom of a PDF file. No! What percentage of visitors see that? You want the majority of visitors to see your strongest proof points.” 

It drives me crazy and I’ve advised a lot of my clients. You’ve great texts,  Put them at the top, in bold, and circle them.  Put that quote from that person because as was mentioned earlier by Andy, it goes back to why email is in so much trouble now since we’ve abused it and stats ROI  is in trouble now because we’ve abused it. 

“A common question after this is well, where am I going to get those testimonials and my best answer for that is your business should have a process where you call and close the loop and ask for feedback on what you did. I am not going to make up a number. X% of those people love you and they will be happy to do it. And when you hear that gushing review and gratitude that’s the moment when you ask for the testimonial. Some might say yes, while others will decline. No problem either way. No pressure. But there are people who would love to be an advocate for your brand and you got that from them because you’ve got a built-in process where you measure your net promoter score. You just follow it by the very client. It’s also the call where you ask for referrals. So no company that struggles to gather testimonials frequently doesn’t have a process for getting feedback from their clients.”

One of the things Andy mentioned was a clear navigation. I actually do like the full pane navigation where you can add a descriptor for it If necessary. The one word should be enough, but sometimes people want more. And then clear CTAs. people like to know where they’re clicking. They don’t just like the arrow.

“Yeah. if there are two things that can affect the click-through rates on a CTA, one is to make it sound easier. Download now or get the guide instantly or schedule a demo within 24 hours. The other things to make it sound more valuable. Therefore, talk to a conversion optimization expert. People click on things after they’ve done a split-second ROI calculation in the brain and conclude that the benefit exceeds the cost. So you can improve click-through rates by increasing the perceived benefits or reducing the perceived cost. It’s that simple. Look at the CTAs and ask if you made the benefits sound big or if the cost seems small. If it just says contact us or schedule now, it’s not working hard enough for you. You need to add more specifically to manipulate in the mind of the visitor, that a ROI calculation.”

And get a demo example. That is where I definitely want to go next is I see many people directing folks to a page with a form, no navigation, and nothing else. You’re giving them a very binary decision. You are not optimizing for being able to schedule right now, now, or converse with somebody. You’re not giving them another path just in case they do; that ROI calculation, go, to, not ready yet.

“I worry my first concern is that the word demo is a bit ambiguous. A demo could be a video, or a phone call, is it live? What am, I getting here? Does that mean I’m going to schedule a call? Am going to get pitched or get the demo? Is it an explainer video? The other thing so the page that has stripped out navigation, I understand not for a normal visitor’s experience flowing through a website since that person’s trying to browse around. They may want all kinds of different things, but for the PPC landing page. That’s different.

I would expect that,  but if I’m going on the website and your main CTA is to get a demo and I click on it and wonder what does mean? Because as Andy said, it could mean anything and then land in purgatory. I don’t like it as much.

“Yeah. The other day, we talked about GA-04 path that will show the back button activity on your demo page or just close out completely. Yep. the drop-off it’s right there. The path exploration will show you exactly how many people are engaging with that page.

Is there anything else that pops into your mind when we talk B2B websites?

“Oh, blog sites. A lot of sites look like a neutron bomb went off and all the people are gone. I think every page should have people and faces. It’s really hard to differentiate your team is different. You’re the only company with those people why don’t you put them on the page? It adds warmth, life, and humanity. It does half the job of what a testimonial does without even any permission from a client. Just put people there and make a stand. Make a statement. So that’s one of the big differences. There are just modern designs like you should create a clean, simple flow where you shouldn’t think about the hierarchy of the entire page, but every scroll depth has its own visual hierarchy. Therefore, scroll down to any depth of any page and ask yourself if you’ve made a decision about what should be the most important thing at that scroll depth.  Is it also the most compelling thing at that scroll depth?  We already had the mini-rant about carousels, slideshows and CTAs. we complained about PDFs and we call them the rust of the internet.

“There’s a time and place for it, but if you made that PDF, the only version of that thing, that text, that copy, that statement, that PDF goes viral, you’ll never know. You don’t have any analytics on it. It’s just not built for it. PDF is a print simulation. So I understand the utility, but it shouldn’t be the primary version of whatever that content is.”

People overestimate that value, what bar people are at to give their email over. I think a case study, I’m probably not motivated enough. I’m going to go to G-2 or some other review site for that. It’s just smarter to put it on an ungated webpages as well.

“Yeah. I’m known for never having gated anything in my career. I’ve got a million visitors a year. I rank for all my most important phrases. I generate 900 leads a year without any advertising. I\m crushing all my goals. No gate. How did I do it? I’m just prioritizing the visitor’s experience. I am not saying that gates are bad and I might try them later and I encourage anybody to try anything because maybe it will work. But it’s certainly not necessary to put your stuff behind a gate. If people want to give me their email addresses key certainly they can subscribe to a CTA on my blog page.”

I am one of those subscribers. So I can do a little plug for you. You’ve excellent content that’s relevant and timely. You just do a really great job and speaking of which, a little bird told me you’ve got a book out there. Would you like to plug it?

“Content Chemistry and it’s in its sixth edition. I have to keep writing this book over and over. It’s being updated recently and it’s all of my best insights. It covers influencer marketing, blogging, social media, email marketing, content strategy are well as the core pages, conversion optimization, keyword research, and analytics. I’ve been in the digital marketing space for 24 years and it’s everything I’ve learned, all my best techniques described in the step-by-step process between two covers.”

And I will say it certainly has helped me hit the ground running. Thank you.

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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