Nicola Wheldrake

7 Seconds - The Importance of a Captivating Website.

by Nicola Wheldrake

7 seconds. 

That’s the amount of time a visitor will take to decide whether to stay on your website or whether to return to their search engine results and look at your competition. 

7 seconds! That’s less time than it takes to read a CV, send an email or post a Linkedin update. 7 seconds to judge an entire business based on a landing page?! I was equally shocked when faced with this statistic this morning, however quietly smug, as it reiterates my rants about the importance of a well-designed website.

Ok… so strip this down and we are purely talking about non branded traffic here… those visitors actively looking to search out content to quench their information thirst; a candidate looking for a role, a client searching for an agency or a future employee looking for a new opportunity.

But, in an ideal world, over half of your visitors should be arriving from search engines anyway, a further 20% from email marketing and the other 20% from online advertising. Branded traffic has already been stamped and most likely has an impression of your business already. Non branded traffic is much more valuable, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.

I had yet another conversation with a Managing Director of a headhunting firm in London yesterday who, when discussing his current site, responded with - “My website might not look the best but it does a job, and it hasn’t lost me any business so far…”

Whilst quietly pounding my head against a metaphorical wall, my initial response to this is always the same…. “How on earth do you know?”.

Having worked for a headhunting firm in the city for 2 years, I completely understand his way of thinking. We were on various PSLs and researchers were employed to source the candidates. My Managing Director at the time initially did not see the need for a flashy site nor being at the top of Google; the system worked. 

But for how long? The reputation of a small executive search business in London may keep a business afloat for the short term but it’s not sustainable. There is a new generation of clients, candidates, HR managers and employees seeping through the ranks and funnily enough, we have grown up on the internet. If a business was based on reputation alone then why are the Michael Pages’ and Hays of this world spending hundreds of thousands of pounds every month on online advertising? Let’s face it, the recruitment industry is still in deep water and in order to brace the oncoming threats of a double dip, companies are going to have to plan ahead and diversify in order to compete and survive. 

So… what are the benefits of a well-executed site and which factors ensure limited bounce rates? 

Every site, whether it’s a small blog, an ecommerce site, a huge encyclopaedia of information or a simple ‘5 page business card’, must be built with a clear understanding of the needs, problems and expectations of its user. It’s an agency’s job to get under the skin of your business and understand your objectives. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are handing over a corporate brochure to a website developer and asking him/her to make sure it has an “about us”, “contact us” and “our services” page then run as fast as you can in the opposite direction! Don’t waste your money. 

You want your site to work for you, give a return on investment and help separate your brand from that of your competition. The web isn’t a place to stick a corporate brochure, it’s a platform that will fundamentally transform your brand, the way you do business and protect against local and global competitive threats. This is your chance to give your business a voice and the opportunity to become an authoritative figure in your market. Yes, the site needs to look good, but it needs to have a purpose, be customer centric, usable, technically sound, well presented, search engine friendly, intuitive, easy to navigate and be aligned with your business goals and objectives.

2011 sees the first year where online marketing budgets have succeeded offline for the very first time. In a recent study by econsultancy, 72% of businesses surveyed have increased their digital marketing budget this year and just over half of companies (52%) are planning to recruit more people into their digital marketing teams this year. This is a reflection of the increased focus on digital marketing and it’s my job to spread the word and make you aware…. I’d hate for you to get left behind.