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Seven Words That Will Make Your Web Site Worth Viewing

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Seven. A number like any other. But it does seem to come up on a fairly regular basis: the Seven Wonders of the World, the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Seven Dwarfs: Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Doc, Dopey, and (my favorite) Grumpy.

Phone numbers have seven digits. And may say the optimum brand name should be no more than seven letters long. Seven, it seems, is a magical number, because the human brain can grasp only seven things at a time (on average).

So I've been thinking, What are the seven most important words associated with Web-marketing? I'll give you a hint: Search, engine, and optimization don't make the cut.

So what words do make the list? What are the seven words that will make your Web site worth viewing?

Words Can Move You

By someone's count there are 171,476 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, plus another 47,156 words that have fallen out of favor, but not counting the 9,500 additional permutations that don't deserve their own special attention.

Half of these words are nouns, one-fourth are adjectives, and 14.285% are verbs; the rest consist of all those other things the purpose of which most of us long ago forgot.

Others may find fault with these numbers, but no matter what the total, it's a lot of words.

Of the tens of thousands of words to choose from, most people recognize less than ten percent, while teenagers seem to only be able to handle about half that amount; of course, that doesn't count slang, instant-messaging jargon, or the ever-popular four-letter variety.

Why the heck are there so many words if we all refuse to use them? I mean, why waste all those perfectly good words on English teachers and college professors? (By the way, they say swearing is the refuge of the feeble-minded, people who can't express themselves in a more articulate manner—but, to be honest, I really don't give a damn.)

Here's the thing: Words have meaning and impact, and they provide the emotional context of our communications; and we add subtlety and nuance by how we deliver them, using tone, cadence, and gesture.

That is, as important as words are... the way they are delivered is even more important.

What Web Site Design Is Really About

The other day I was listening to a local all-news radio station. It is mostly rip-and-read wire-service stuff that they repeat over and over like some kind of psychological torture, but they do provide traffic reports on a nauseatingly regular basis. You have to wait only 10 minutes until they repeat everything. So if you want to hear what traffic snafus to avoid, just wait a few minutes. But here's the problem: The announcers talk so fast that no matter how hard you concentrate, you can never quite get the particular information you need; and if you're driving, you have other things to consider, like the idiot in the Hummer who just cut you off.

None of these guys ever uses a period, let alone a semicolon or comma. Either they have very small bladders and are under pressure to finish quickly, or they're late for their afternoon pilates class. They seem so intent on rushing to the commercials that they never deliver the content in an appropriate manner.

Your Web site just might have the same problem.

Too much information is as bad as not enough. Information overkill leads to information anxiety, buyer's remorse, reduced satisfaction, unattainable expectations, and purchase-decision paralysis.

Web site owners have been told that visitors won't wait for anything, that they are impatient, and you've got to get to the point fast, make the pitch, and close the deal. Well, that approach just isn't going to work with any sophisticated product or service.

Your Web site presentation needs to slow people down so they hear what you have to say, and you have to say something worth hearing.

Web site design is about more than layout, markup language, and technical wizardry. Web site design is about communication; it's about turning advertising into content, and content into an experience that viewers will remember.

Seven Words to Remember

1. Communication

People are always asking us what's wrong with their Web sites, and the answer in the vast majority of cases can be summed-up in a quote from the movie Cool Hand Luke (1967): "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Communication is the key to success, and that doesn't just apply to your Web site—it applies to almost everything you do both inside and outside your business life.

If your Web site isn't communicating on both a rational and an emotional level, if it doesn't provide the psychological and emotional context of your marketing message, then exactly what is it doing?

2. Audience

I can't think of too many people who actually like being sold to. In fact, sometimes customers get so irritated by sales tactics that they end up not buying the thing they came specifically to your Web site to buy.

Solving the problem is merely a question of altering your perspective. The average buyer is predisposed to dismiss and ignore high-pressure tactics and meaningless sales pitches. So instead of treating customers like customers, try treating them like an audience. Audiences want to be engaged, enlightened, and entertained. And that is the most effective way to make a sales impact.

3. Focus

All too often, Web sites inundate their Web audiences with facts, figures, statistics, and an endless list of features, benefits, options, and whatever else the sales department can think of throwing in. But all that stuff just confuses people.

Focus your message on the most important elements of what you have to say. If your Web site can embed that single idea in an audience's mind, then it has done its job.

4. Language

The words used, and how they are put together, provide meaning; they inform personality; they provide mental sound bites; and they turn whatever you are saying into something worth remembering.

Language is one of the critical elements of "voice," the ability to convey personality. Writing that doesn't have "voice" is instantly forgettable.

5. Performance

Even the most articulate prose can be lost in befuddled delivery. Communication is more than words; it's a combination of language, style, personality, and performance.

Things are rarely what they seem. Even our memories are a stylized versions of what we've actually experienced. Creating a memorable impression is about managing the viewer experience and providing the right verbal and non-verbal cues that make what is being said memorable.

6. Personality

Every business has a personality. The first problem is that few midsize companies ever attempt to manage that persona, and as a consequence the buying public forms its own opinion. And that opinion is often not the way you want to be regarded.

The second problem is that companies either don't have a firm grasp of who they really are or, if they know, they are afraid to promote it. If your company's identity isn't worth promoting, it is time to think why that is... and change it.

The bottom line is that a company without a personality is a company without an image, and that makes you instantly forgettable.

7. Psychology

The most important feature you can offer your audience is psychological fulfillment, not deep discounts, fast service, or more bells and whistles.

The real reason people buy stuff is that it makes them feel something. Cosmetics make women feel attractive or sexy, while cars make men feel they've achieved some level of status. Even services make people feel important, as in "I've got a guy who does that for me."

Finding the psychological hotspot in your marketing, and promoting the hell out of it consistently and continually, should be your primary marketing goal. All those features and benefits are merely the excuse for a purchase, not the reason.

The Web Is Fast Becoming a Video Environment

Web sites are not just marketing collateral; they are not just digital brochures. They are a new presentation medium that requires specialized communication skills, and knowledge of how best to use the medium.

You may be a great salesperson and nobody knows your business like you do... and you may even be skilled at delivering speeches at conventions and seminars... but performing effectively in front of a camera is a whole different ball game. And for most people it's way out of their comfort zone, let alone their skill level.

The same old methods that used to work won't work any more. You're no longer competing with just the company down the street; you're competing with the entire world.

Web-based businesses may never actually meet their customers face to face or even talk to them on the phone, so it is imperative that they use marketing presentation methods that deliver an experience worth remembering.

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Jerry Bader is senior partner in MRPwebmedia (, a website-design firm that specializes in Web audio and video. Contact him via or (905) 764-1246.

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  • by Dave Kelley Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web


    Appreciate the idea, but you made me wade through almost 700 words before I got to the "focus" of your "Seven Words..." article. I'm not an important person and my time is not valuable, but please spare me your fluff.

  • by Kathy Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    As a direct response copywriter, I find your seven words to be important for more than just Web site content -- they're vital to any form of marketing copy. But you may want to go back and review word three: focus. I had to wade through a page and a half (online) before I found the focus of your article. Next time cut the fluff and get to the point faster.

  • by MarComm1 Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    694 words to be exact, and the next 789 used to describe 7 words were nearly as useless as the first 694.

  • by Hobbes Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    %3E%3E%3EThe most important feature you can offer your audience is psychological fulfillment,%3E%3E%3E

    Really? Why do I buy from the places I shop online? I'm looking for best price, free shipping and reliability of the seller. Each weighs in my decision, although the reliability factor is extremely important. That's what psychologically fufills me.

  • by jstiles Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    Admittedly, after the first paragraph I skimmed right to the list. The points made are not overly original but are absolutely good refreshers.

  • by cstiehl Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    I enjoyed ALL of the article, including the "fluff." It provides a context for the seven words. To the rest of you: SLOW DOWN!

  • by Linda Taneja in Oz Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    My brain is ticking! especially on words psychology and personality.
    Great tips and i agree - its not just appropriate for website it is relevant for all business communication.
    Our websites need to be backed up by our verbal brand and vis versa eg. are you a marketing agent? or do you create fantastic opportunities to small business giving them the greatest difference in their market". Sorry for digressing a little but it gives you the picture.
    Great article - even with a bit of fluff. Have to admit i use a bit of fluff too but appreciate your comments Dave and Kathy as that also has helped me.

  • by Kirsten Tue Feb 10, 2009 via web

    I agree - too much preamble ... the seven words / concepts were good though ... next version, take your own advice and get right to it:)

    PS - where did the Video tidbit at the end come from? Seems thrown in there - but I am interested ... consider writing a full article on that.

    We are seeing web marketers pretty intimidated by video and are trying to demystify it for them (and even ourselves). Please share your thoughts.

  • by Todd Ebert Wed Feb 11, 2009 via web

    Decent, albeit high-level article. What would bring it to life is a real life before and after case study.

  • by Shannon Carroll Wed Feb 11, 2009 via web

    The 7 things you've listed seem to be the main things that capture the attention of anyone, website or not. It's like anything else, you need to grab the attention of your audience with a relatable connection of some sort. By using personality, language or focus you're going to be able to reach a specific person and I find it hard to use all three to capture the attention of EVERYONE. Thanks for sharing!

  • by Tia Dobi Thu Feb 12, 2009 via web

    oh goodness, Waaaaayyyy too many words to wade/read/skim through to get to the point of this article.

    Emotion. That would be my remember word - the emotion you emote/evoke makes or breaks you.

    And what Ogilvy said: "You can't bore your prospects into buying from you."

  • by Nicky Jameson Tue Mar 10, 2009 via web

    Thanks for this article, although...
    You lost me somewhere in the middle... I'm a DR copywriter too and after the firt para I skipped to the end, sorry. Too many words.

    On a web site you have to assume short attention spans, time in seconds and skimming. We are impatient and want to get right to it.

    Which means using words economically, and getting straight to the point - fast. A good rule of thumb I use is "how can I tell my reader what's in it for them" in a way that paints a picture and tells them " their problem is solved" ? How can I answer their questions better than the next person? That's where your 7 points come in online or off.

    But don't offer your audience features - offer them benefits. Or if you do offer features, you must offer the benefits of each one, relevant to their needs.

  • by Rome Sat Mar 14, 2009 via web

    Quite an interesting header... but I had to cut it short and reach the bottom part to get an idea of what was it all about. Isn't it better to come straight to the point... atleast when it's about so many people visiting so many website and having so many options to read.... Maybe we can cut short these so many, for our benefit by coming straight to the point.

  • by dr jim sellner Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    critical maybe could be added to the list as many commenters seem to be. so sticking one's head above the prairie encourages potshots - which, i presume is a reaction in which the person responds by saying "I am too!" to an "I am view." what fun
    dr jim sellner, PhD., DipC.

  • by A S Prisant Tue Dec 29, 2009 via web

    Okay--think I've got it:
    1. Remember to be memorable
    2. Remember not to ramble on as long as this author has
    3. Remember your website is a website, not a non-website

    We at Prism Ltd don't believe this article meets Marketing Profs standards.

    Prism Ltd/San Francisco

  • by Bob Tue Jan 5, 2010 via web

    In summary: Zzzzzzzzzzzz

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