Clint Mally knows web design strategies and backs them up with people insights that benefit a company's website and web presence. Today, he'll provide tips and insights that go beyond the basics and get into the motivations, reactions and needs of...
Clint Mally knows web design strategies and backs them up with people insights that benefit a company's website and web presence. Today, he'll provide tips and insights that go beyond the basics and get into the motivations, reactions and needs of consumers to apply that to your company's website design.
Scott: Welcome to today's episode of Get the Message.
In January, the website design company Sweor, I hope I'm saying that right, S-W-E-O-R, updated a recent study that focused on consumers, websites, and first impressions. They say that users tend to take 50 milliseconds or 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about a website. It probably took that long to hit play on this podcast. Maybe longer.
Here are some highlights. It takes 2.6 seconds for a user's eyes to land on the area of a website that most influences their first impression. Seventy-five percent of consumers admit to making judgments on a company's credibility based on the company's website design.
Thirty-eight percent of people will stop engaging with the website if the content or layout are unattractive. And users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s written content. And 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
You know, as Sparketers, we have to be aware of stats like these. Because the website is another trap where old-school marketing philosophies can create barriers between you and your audience.
I mean, think about one of the other barriers we talk about. Brands that post content that they think the consumers want versus really knowing what they're looking for, consumers experience that on websites. And they're only going to spend a very limited time making determinations about whether or not you can help them.
That headline, that the marketing team thinks is brilliant and creative, may not resonate with the users. And they're not going to burn a lot of brain calories trying to figure out if that creative headline really communicates to them that this company can solve their problem.
What about that other big stat? Seventy-five percent of consumers admit to making judgments on a company's credibility based on the company's website design.
That's kind of tricky, isn't it? Because you may ask, “What's the best design then?” Well, you may have to test some things, but let's ask a few questions. Does your website look like it was created in the last one to two years, or the last 10 to 15 years? Do you use a lot of stock photos instead of real pictures of the people in your company? Is it easy to find common things that consumers want to find, like pricing and answers to questions?
When you look at your site as a user, is your first initial reaction, “Oh my God, where do I start?” Or is it easy to navigate and understand your business quickly?
Are you making too much of a sales pitch on your pages? Meaning you're working so hard to make your case about your business, products and everything in between, that you're throwing way too much text at the user. And, as you talk about what your business brings to the table, do you position yourself as the hero of the story, or your ideal customer as the hero? Another thing we've talked a lot about here is how to stand out in an increasingly crowded digital space.
And last year, TechRadar estimated that there are over 1.86 billion websites online, and it's estimated that more than 547,000 new websites are created globally every day. That not only means you need to get it right, but your consumers have already had enough experiences to know what they like and don't like.
Like everything else today, website design has to be created with the consumer, or your target audience, in mind. And my guest today brings a great combination of content marketing and web design knowledge to the table. So, let's take some of what we know about people-focused marketing and apply it to creating people-focused websites.
Scott: Hello, and thanks for joining me today.
Clint Mally is a content marketer and website design expert who helps clients build websites that effectively grow their businesses. He's been featured in Digital Journal, USA TODAY, the Content Marketing Institute, and more. And he's the Director of Marketing for Sandstone Care, a family-centered addiction and mental health treatment provider. And he's here today to provide some tips, and some things to think about when it comes to optimizing your website so that it connects and communicates with your audience.
Hi, Clint. Thanks for joining me today.
Clint: It is a pleasure to talk with Scott Murray anytime. I'm thankful and grateful to be here.
Scott: Well, thank you. I'm grateful that you're here as well. You provide so much value on your website and through the tools you provide there, as well as the activity you have on social media. And one of the things I love about your focus, especially on the website front, that kind of complements the content marketing side of things, is when I think about a website, I think about how that is just one of many ways or opportunities you have to make a first impression on somebody.
You and I are both in podcast. We know what we have to do on the podcast front. You know when someone says, “I'm going to try this out”, and they listen for the first few seconds, and you wonder what kind of impression you're making today. The website obviously makes a very big first impression. And I was wondering what got you so passionate about website design that you decided to turn that element of content into a business?
Clint: So, websites, everything that we do in marketing.
So, I loved marketing. I started a small business and it was an online coaching company. I was a teacher before that. So, I had a master’s in teaching. I was in the classroom in the inner cities of Atlanta, and so I liked being able to create content and kind of craft that learning journey. But I didn't want to be in front of kids all day, right, because that is a lot of emotional energy to throw around.
And so, when I started this small business it was an online coaching company. People would film themselves doing the basic barbell movements. Then it was asynchronous, so I would get it, I would annotate on the video, I would give them a video response in 24 hours, and that was the business. But I realized that was just part of it, right?
Anybody who's ever started a small business, as you know Scott, you've got to be able to do the social media, you've got to do the website, you've got to figure out ads. You got to figure out all the ways that you're going to be able to promote your services, not just be able to do them.
And so through that process, I started understanding just how essential having a really solid website is. And I built websites in all the different platforms. I edited in WordPress, and I used their website builders like Divi and Elementor. I tried Wix. I even tried a Google site. Did you know there's Google sites, Scott?
Scott: Yeah, there's so many options out there.
Clint: So, I tried a Google site back in the day and mine was so terrible. I tried Kajabi, tried it all. Finally landed on Squarespace and was able to create some websites that I felt really represented me and my brand, that were scalable, that were agile. And that's when I saw such a big uptick in my own personal brand and being able to promote my product and services.
And so, when you actually nail the website, what a difference it makes for your business. That was a turning point for me. I had always been posting on YouTube, I had always been creating content on social media. But when I really nailed the website part, that's when I was actually starting to get customers. That's when I was able to really showcase my services.
So, because it made such a big difference for me, before I even got into just doing web design and marketing, I knew that I wanted to eventually, down the road, help other people in that journey as well.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, I want to say the first website I ever created was when I was independently writing and producing an episodic 80s cop show parody in the Dallas area. And I want to say, that was probably in the early 2000s. And I think, you want to talk about older website builders, I think Homestead was this website builder I used back then. And it was so different from even some of the drag and drop stuff you have today. I mean, it's there. It was very similar, but it was this wireframe and you were trying to perfectly align things everywhere. And, oh my gosh, it was nuts.
But things changed quickly and one of the things that we talk a lot about on this show, as we help marketers evolve into Sparketers, is not only being aware of the changes. But also, being able to ebb and flow with them as things continuously change year-to-year. How often do you see trends changing when it comes to user behavior, web design, and how the two interact and meet when it comes to those changes?
Clint: So much, so much. I think that, as we've seen in the past couple of years, everything is different, right? Everything is different from a couple of years ago. The way that we interact and exchange ideas, the way that we work, the way that we use social media. If you think about social media platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram reels and YouTube shorts that are these algorithm-based social media. That is a completely different game than Facebook and Instagram early on, right?
And so, we know that marketing is going to change in the future, that it's changing right now. And anybody, your audience, who has a small business, or any business knows that your business is going to have to change with it. And if it's not agile enough, if you don't have a system in place to where you can update your website, where you can change your offers, to where you can display the new types of content that you're creating, or what you're doing in your in your day-to-day business, then you're going to get left behind pretty quick.
Because as they say with website design, digital ink is never dry, right? Stuff is always changing. So, I am seeing stuff change all the time from user experience best practices to SEO best practices to content creation to search engine result pages. And so yes, all the time I'm seeing this change.
Scott: And you provide, as I mentioned before, a lot of helpful resources on your site and social media. And that includes even collaborating with some other thought leaders in the digital marketing space.
And I'm just wondering, even as you got into this, when we talked about how quickly things change, even as you got into this and started to successfully make a business out of it. I mean, what are some of the things that you've learned from some of those thought leaders, that you've been able to talk to in recent months, that you've been able to apply to your website advice?
Clint: Yeah, I'm glad that you bring up the collaboration aspect, because everybody's learning something from somebody else, right? Like, even the best artists are influenced by other artists. And so I don't have the monopoly on knowledge. All the good things that I know, that I've been able to learn and to practice, have just been things that somebody else has gone before me and helped me figure out, right? So literally everything.
But when it comes to website design, if I'm talking about specifically, there's a few different things. One, if you're a B2B company, if you're a SaaS company, if you're anybody who works with subscription models, right? A technology company is listing your prices.
So, we have this idea, oftentimes with smaller businesses, is that they're afraid to list their prices big and bold in the header of their website. They're afraid that in order for somebody to really understand the value that they have, that they're going to have to get on a consultation call or have an e-mail exchange with them.
But the best websites these days, especially modern, minimalist websites, are displaying their pricing in their header navigation, so that people know how much their stuff costs. We know your stuff costs money, and if you're not upfront about it, then people are going to be skeptical, right? Like, if I have to get a massage, and I look at three different websites. And two of those websites say, “Hey, call us for pricing.” They're already exed out. Like, I don't want to call you to figure out how much it costs. I just need you to let me know, right?
So that's one of the things that I'm seeing with SaaS companies. There's a million, and we can go into those if you want. But have you seen this too in your experience?
Scott: Yes. Well, and I've seen this in my experience as a consumer. And that's the thing that I think gets lost so often with marketers is we forget, we get in that marketing business mindset, we forget that when that's shut off, we're on the consumer side. And we may as a marketer be saying, “We can't show our pricing because that's going to scare people off.” And then we go home and we're looking for something. We're like, “Geez, why aren’t these people showing me any pricing?”
So, I think about how, yeah, I've seen that as I've done consultations before, but I've also seen it as a consumer. I think if your website is showing it and your competitors are the ones that are thinking the old way, which is, “We're too scared to share it.” Well, guess who becomes the thought leader in the space? Guess who's making a better first impression, like we were just talking about.
Clint: Yeah. You get to come across as somebody who's confident, right? And who’s also not going to waste your time. Like, I remember I was working with an agency and somebody scheduled to get a website built, and I was having a call with them. And they're like, “So how much do websites usually cost?” And this agency wasn't listening their pricing. And I was like, “Oh, it's like around $5,000 apiece. And he's like, “What? I don't. I don't have that.”
And okay, well, where does the conversation go? This was a human being in a building having a face-to-face with me. I can't give this guy money. He feels embarrassed. I feel like I wasted time. And so, being able to come up front and be like, “Yo, this is how much this stuff cost”, right? That's an important part.
And something that's connected with that, something that Andy Crestodina helped me to understand is that really with websites, you want your social proof everywhere.
So, people have a tendency when it comes to social proof…and by social proof I mean logos of businesses that you've worked with. I mean charts and graphs that show the results that you've gotten, especially if you're a B2B company. I mean video testimonials, not just quotes, but video testimonials of your customers talking about what life was like before you, and what life was like after working with you. Having those things on all the places on your website where people have a key decision that they're making, right?
So, if I go to the pricing page and I see $5000 for a website, and then I also see a video testimonial of somebody who paid that and who was happy. That helps me to make the next decision, which is “Okay, schedule up.” And guess where you're going to see more social proof, right, on the schedule page where somebody's going to choose a time. They've taken another step, they have to choose a time, they have to make another decision, there needs to be more social proof.
And you need a diversity of social proof. Something that you see in websites and web design that's just outdated is having a page on your website where it's like testimonials. Like it seems spammy, right? It seems like something about having a testimonials page doesn't make it feel authentic, right? You want testimonials to be everywhere. That's something that I'm seeing that people are doing is that they're putting them all in one spot, because they're afraid that if it's not broadcasted in their header navigation that nobody's ever going to see it.
Scott: Yeah. And that kind of a little bit ties into one of the things I know that you talked to people about, and that's avoid writing tons of content over like long form content on your website. I assume a lot of that involves explanations for things, and trying to describe too much, and share too much. Where the consumer may not even have the kind of time to read all that, doesn't want to read all that, and just wants the fundamentals of of knowing how you're going to solve their problem.
And then you can, instead of having more content where you're writing about what people think about your business or what people like about your business, you can just have those people there speaking for themselves.
Clint: Yeah. So, it's the age-old principle of quality over quantity. So we know that Google favors long form content. By long form content, we mean content that's over 800 words. And really, if we're talking about blog post content, over 2000 words, right? So that creates some problems. You have a huge long page. How do you help somebody to, first of all, before we get into that back up, why does Google do that? Well, it's because long form content is generally more comprehensive.
And all search engines, all YouTube or Google, their only job is to try and put the best response, the best answer to a person's query, right? So if someone has made a more complete guide, if they've answered more of the questions that are semantically or spoken related to this person, then that makes sense. That makes sense. That's the better page, right?
So, you have a problem. The problem is you need to create a giant page, that has enough words, that's also value driven. And then, so how do you solve that? Well, one of the things that websites are doing to be able to get around this is providing a table of contents at the top of every single web page, that is a long form piece of content. So that people can navigate to the thing that they are interested in the most. So, a jump link, or anchor link, is just saying, “Hey, if you want to know more about this, you click it”, and it does a smooth scroll down the page to that spot.
The other part about this, that's really cool, is that you can then take that link, and any time you talk about that specific section on your social media…so maybe you're talking about UX best practices of web design, right? And that's only a part of a larger post. Well, in your LinkedIn comments or in any of the places where you're sharing links for your social media, you can use that jump link, that anchor link, and it will take them to the web page. Smooth scroll them down to that specific section. And what's inherently going on in this person's mind is that they don't just answer questions about this topic, but they have a whole bunch of other content about this subject and this topic too.
So long form content is going to win over short form content every time. What that doesn't mean is trying to fluff or to fill the page with stuff that's just trying to keyword stuff, or just trying to make more words on the page.
A good rule of thumb is I try to make the grade level of my content as close to seventh grade as possible. Because most people read on an eighth-grade reading level. And so, we want to be able to incorporate text that gets the most amount of people to be able to understand it. That's free of jargon. It's going to help people to get the topic. And it's also over 2500 words like.
If it's not that, then chances are it's probably not related if you're trying to rank this, or it's not worth creating if you're trying to rank that page in search results. Does that make sense?
Scott: Yeah. Yeah. Well, especially since now, it was always kind of assumed when SEO was everything, before things were as crowded as they are today. When you think of how many websites are being built, and how many websites are out there, and how many industries are all using the same keywords. It seems like if you can get people there, then the focus becomes what they see once they find you, right?
So that's why the keyword part can't be about overstuffing or obsessing over that. Because inevitably, once they're there, you got to have the right content there that's going to make them convert or do whatever whatever it is you want them to do.
Clint: Yeah, and I'm going to give you two hacks right now that can help you if you're that person who's like, “Hey, writing is not my strong suit”, right? And I’m not the best…I'm going to be honest with you. Writing is not my biggest strong suit. That's why on my website you're going to see tons of video.
And it relates to my two hacks. The first one is that, if you can take a video and you can embed it at the top of a post, right? So if you have a comprehensive guide on something, you have a big old long video and you're going to embed that guy at the top of the post.
The the second reason why long form content, other than it being an indicator that it's an exhaustive piece of content that's helpful, is good is because it increases the time on page, right? So, if I'm searching for something, I click on somebody's link. And then I see it's like this spammy looking stuff that's in all caps or something, and it's like red text on a black layout. I'm like, “Oh no, this is not what I want.” I click back. Yeah, that's telling Google that this is not the good page to show, right? It has a high bounce rate.
But if I can have a video that's at the top of that thing, and it's related to it. And I was already anticipating having to read something, but, “Hey, there's a video”, which is probably an easier way to consume information. Every single second that somebody spends watching that video on your blog, on your website, contributes to the dwell time. So, if they're not reading, they should be watching. And dwell time is an even bigger factor when we're thinking about the algorithm and how to be able to keep people on the page.
The second thing is, if you don't know what semantically related topics that you need to use, there is the super simple way to use People Also Ask in Google. And it blows my mind how many people do not do this. So currently, along with my web design business, I'm the Director of Marketing at Sandstone Care. And they do mental health for teens and young adults, right?
And so, these are not people who are super tech savvy, who are super marketing savvy. But the easiest thing to do, and what I've done over and over and over to rank pages on the first page of Google, is we type in a query like ‘teen mental health’, right? And in Google search results we have People Also Ask. And you will see answers that you might not know about. Like, “Is it okay to give my 14-year-old medication? Can you force a teen to go to rehab?”
These are semantic questions. These are words or questions and the words that people are actually asking, right? So, I will take all of the relevant questions that are related to my topic, and guess what my table of contents is going to be? It's just answering those questions. Those are the questions that people want to know that are related to your topic. And you don't need a fancy SEO software to find them. You can just use Google and use those as the H2s, or the questions that you were answering, on that page.
So, using video, using the People Also Ask section in Google when you're talking about a topic for the table of contents, for your long form content, is going to immensely help you to climb the search engine results and to rank those pages.
Scott: Yeah, and if you can answer enough of those questions all in one place, that just positions you even better to be a thought leader. And gives people a reason to not only come back, but also tell other people, “Hey if you're looking for answers to the questions, check this thing out. They got answers to the type of things you're looking for.”
And I know that while you're sharing that kind of content on your website, or developing that content, you also have some rules too in place as far as how big that text needs to be on the site as well. I assume that means, because you are seeing more people out there that the text is too small, or the text is too big? I assume it's too small for most of the time when you're talking about text size.
Clint: Yeah, so there's some big formatting things. And Andy Crestodina has been my content marketing mentor. He's helped me a lot with this kind of stuff. But so, let's break it into two different demographics. If I'm a lifestyle website person, I'm generally seeing this with females, right? And they'll use big cursive font for H2s, right? Because it looks really artsy and it looks really cool, but it's really hard for people to read. It's also harder for Google to upload and to present for people, right?
So, first of all, you want to make sure, above everything else, that your fonts are legible, right? Like that you can actually see them. The second part is making sure that it's big enough, and that means it's at least 16 pixels as the base size. That just means that if anybody has to press control plus, or if they have to lean in to read your stuff, they would rather just click away, right?
And so, having text, probably bigger than you're more comfortable with at first, is going to help you, right? Nobody wants to squint to read your stuff. When it comes to formatting, and this is like another UX thing that's so important that everybody gets wrong, but when you look at the best blogs you cannot help but see it after the fact, is having enough white space on the side. People do not want to read from the far left-hand side to the far right-hand side of the screen. If I have to track with my head from the far left to the far right, that is a cognitive burden, right?
That is hard for me to do. And if I can just have that stuff centered, right? If you look at the Backlinko blog, or if you look at Orbit Media's blog, if you look at my blog, you're going to see that there is a huge amount of white space on both sides because it is easier to be able to read back and forth. The last thing, when it comes to formatting, is having no paragraphs over three lines. All that means is that you just press enter. It's more skimble, it's more scannable.
People do not go to websites to read, they go there to skim. So having a big blocky paragraph is intimidating and people would rather just skip that. So, if you have paragraphs that are three lines or less, and remember when you go to mobile that truncates and that becomes six lines, right? So that's why that's that three line type of thing. It is easier for them to read.
And then apart from that, you have the general things of using different H2s or H3s or headings to bold and to emphasize points that you're trying to use. Using bullet points, underlines all to draw emphasis so that it is very easy to get the gist of what you were saying without having to read every single word. So, if you are not intentionally trying to format your text so that it's readable, then chances are people are not reading it.
Scott: I remember talking about one of the great things about Tik Tok, especially early on when it came to the limitations you had on video, before they started to expand it out a little bit, was it forced you to get to the point. Where it forced you to get creative but, more so maybe, forced you to get to the point. Versus another platform where you can just talk for as long as you want and make a 25-minute video.
Whereas here you've got to get your point out fast. I almost feel like if you're following that rule, that you're talking about, regarding the white space and the font size, then that's going to help you also limit the amount of text that's there in the first place.
Because if you've got white space covering some of the space up on the left and right, and you don't want to have a big old text wall filling up your screen. But your font size has to be this big.
Well then maybe you're also helping yourself out, because it's obviously going to turn into a text wall a lot quicker, because you have to have that space and that size. So maybe there's a benefit to that too, in making sure that you're getting to the point. You're highlighting things in a way that's readable and a little more concise. Just so it doesn't become a big text wall on your side.
Clint: Yeah, and to your point that for that text wall thing, you need to have an image at every scroll depth. Depending on the content that you're creating, you want to have an image that has a keyword optimized name at every scroll depth.
Think about it like a PowerPoint, right? You're not going to have a PowerPoint that's just a whole bunch of texts. Usually, a PowerPoint understands I have pictures with words. And it needs to be the same thing with your website, every time somebody scrolls down to read something new, they need to see a picture.
It's really going to help because you're accommodating different types of learners. You're being able to activate different senses, and it's going to drive the stuff home. Also, it's more shareable. So somebody sees a picture or an image that you use. That is also what they call link bait, meaning that it's easier for people to use that on their blog or to post on social media.
It's just one step easier for your content to be shareable.
Scott: I think about some of the really good advice people can get today regarding just how you craft messages on your website. People like Donald Miller of Story Brand, telling you up front what that first thing is that you have to say to make it completely clear what you do. Because sometimes people can get either oversimplistic or it sounds very generic. Like anybody could say that's what they do.
And then there's the other extreme where it's like, you get so creative people read and go, “What does that mean?” And I know that you put some emphasis on that, too, because you also talk a lot about making sure that you're crafting messaging that lays out your unique selling proposition.
So, what are some of the things that you're seeing out there right now that have really been effective? When you take some of these things that you're already talking about, you've got kind of the layout, right? You've got your photos there, the font, right? But what about what you're saying, especially as you limit what you're trying to say, but also make it very clear to the user what they're supposed to be doing?
Clint: I love that you brought up Donald Miller. Donald Miller, and the Story Brand framer. He was a writer; he was a Christian memoirist before he did Business Made Simple and Story Brand. And I loved his writing. Even when I was growing up, I read a lot of his books. And so, I took the Business Made Simple courses. And so much of what they talk about is being able to craft things in a narrative like format, right?
But to be to be clear, let's let's focus on being clear and simple first. When you land on somebody's homepage or any web page, the big text that you read, it's got a job. It's a one-liner. And that needs to tell who you help, where you help them, how you help them, and the benefit you bring. Right?
Who you help, where you help them, how you help them and the benefit you bring. And if it's not crystal clear within the first six seconds of you landing on somebody's website, that all of those things are answered, then people are not going to go forward. They're not going to want to click on anything else. Because they don't know what you're doing, right?
And this is something that I see most people get super attached to. They have created something that they feel is clever and cute, and they do not want to leave it because they feel like it's part of their personality. But it's important to remember that your website is not a piece of art. Your website is meant to make you money. It's meant to express or communicate things.
So above everything else, is it clear? And is it simple, right? Here's a great litmus test that everyone who's listening or watching can use for their website. If the hero, first line, that somebody reads on your website could be applied to another business or another industry, then it is too generic and vague. Right?
So, so many businesses will say things like, “Great people doing great work”, or, “Let's begin to change your life.” And that could apply to a church or a construction company or a social organization. It could apply to anything, right? But if that could be applied to other organizations or other industries, then people actually don't know what you do.
And usually, marketers end up being the worst at this, because they feel like they are marketers to be clever instead of to be clear, right? And above everything else we want to be simple and clear. That's an excellent point. I'm glad you brought that up.
Scott: Yeah, it's funny, I appreciate it. I remember working at my first ad agency like in 2003, and this is when we were all doing a lot more print advertising. And we had a big healthcare client, and it was a recruitment agency. And we actually would see the same phrases used by people so often we started to make a board of how many people are using the exact same phrase and everything. And it's interesting to now see that happening digitally.
And I think it almost fits into something that's so frequently talked about on this show, and when I talked to people about Sparketer and marketer, is part of that too comes from if you've been in marketing for a while. It's just, there are just certain phrases and things that you see so often that you almost subconsciously think, “Well, if we need this, you write it with this phrase, or you use this terminology.” Forgetting that, “Hey, look, the reason why we're thinking that is because we see it everywhere. And we actually need to come up with something that is different so that we don't look like everybody else.”
But it's just one of those things that subconsciously happens, because we were so used to as marketers, we were in that marketing mindset, that we always are kind of digging through those files in our head of stuff that we've known for years. “Since this is how this is written or this is how we do it”, and now we really have to be in a much better position to think differently about how we message things.
And we've talked a little bit about social media. And this is an interesting component, I think, of a website. Because we were talking about things that we've seen or things that we've witnessed, good or bad. And I'm still amazed at what I see sometimes when it comes to social media icons on a website. I remember years ago when I first started getting into social media, one of the first things they talked about was making sure that you weren't doing things that would get people off your page.
I remember, at one point in time, that was going ahead and having a widget put into it. Where part of your Facebook was there and you could immediately hit “Follow” right there on that widget as opposed to going to Facebook, leaving your page. I still see a lot of icons that do take people off the page instead of opening a new window. But I also still find social media icons that say Facebook, but they don't actually go to a Facebook page.
It's, I guess, to just share the website on Facebook. Or they don't actually have a Facebook page. And I still see websites that will have the Google Plus logo on it. And, of course, it doesn't link to anything. And I have to think that that's something that you have to have right too. And I wonder sometimes how much of that plays a role in the impression that you're making.
When people are kind of checking you out, finding out what you're doing in the world, how credible you are. They may click on your Twitter to see if you've got a following or if you're engaging with people or answering questions. I would think that stuff has to be right and that has to be something that keeps people on the site as well. So, can you talk a little bit about some of the things that are so important for companies to get right about social media icons on their website?
Clint: Yeah, first of all, I definitely think you should not, I repeat, you should not have your social media icons in your header. I think that that's a big mistake that I have seen businesses make. Andy calls them candy-colored exit buttons, right? Because they lead people off your site. Everything you do in social media is to get people to come to your website, right? So if you're trying to get people to leave, that is an excellent way to do it. So, you don't want to do that.
Two places to put your social media icons, that actually makes sense, are in your Footer, which is really the place where you're going to put any of your links that are not essential to the user's journey to be able to hit your primary or your secondary goal, right? So, either the schedule, or “to buy from you”, or “to download your lead magnet”. Anything that's not connected with those things, that can go in the Footer. Social media icons can go there too.
The next place is in the About Page. The reason why you want to be able to put it in the About Page is that when you're trying to connect people with your brand, and people are trying to learn more about you, that's an appropriate place. And as you mentioned, you still want to make sure that any social media icon or button, it is opening in a new tab? So that it does not increase your bounce rate or make somebody leave your page too soon.
But the thing, that I think that you brought up, that's really interesting when it comes to social media. And the thing that I've really been thinking about a lot lately, and this is from somebody who's been hella active on social media and has done a bunch, is that social media is the icing on the cake. Social media is also not meant to be omnipotent or omnipresent.
Here's what I mean. If you are trying to talk to everybody on social media, you're talking to no one.
Clint: If you are repurposing the same piece of content on Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn, you're talking to no one, right? If you are not actively trying to not talk to people on a social media platform, because you are intentionally trying to talk with other people, then you might be onto something.
But the fundamentals of bringing traffic to your website are not going to come from social media. It is not easy for people to leave the place where they are consuming information, to click something, and then to go to another place. And all social medias are making it harder and harder for you to do so.
So, like putting keywords on your page, with blogging, is fundamental. If you're not creating new web pages on your website every week that are long form content that are connected with your product or service, then you are not going to see organic traffic come to your website ever. Not in the hundreds, not in the thousands, that is for sure.
The second thing is, when we think about these things with social media, we need to have intersections of who we are trying to talk to, right? The trend that I'm seeing with social media and with websites is like, we talked about the hero, trying to talk to everybody, right? Instead of really thinking about intersections.
For example, Scott, if I told you, “Hey Scott, I want you to meet me on S. Walnut St.” You'd be like, “Okay, S. Walnut St, Bloomington IN.” I find S. Walnut St in Bloomington IN. And you're going to find that street. And then you're eventually going to say, “Oh dang. This is actually a long street. Where on S. Walnut St.? It goes throughout the entire city of Bloomington. Like, what am I going to do?
But the second I tell you, “Meet me at S. Walnut St and Second St”, you're going to be like, “Okay, I know exactly where that at. It is the intersection.” So, for your website, for your social media, for all of your content, you need to be thinking in terms of intersections. And the more latitude and longitude, the more crisscrossing, the more exact you can pinpoint it, the better, right?
So, I work with small business owners and solopreneurs. I work with people who need a website redesign or who have a crappy website right now. I work with people who are active on LinkedIn in the last 30 days. I do not work with big ecommerce business where selling things on their website is their primary goal.
I do not work with people who have thousands and thousands of pages on their website and who are pre-established. I do not work with nonprofits because they usually have a big circle of people, and it's too hard to be able to publish a website in two weeks.
So, I know who I'm talking to and just as much who I am not talking to. And it's also caused me to be very picky and choosy on the kinds of platforms that I'm going to be on. Does that make sense?
Scott: It does. It actually does.
I've been at companies where they definitely wanted the big businesses, but then the sales team would turn around and say, “Well, we talked to medium-sized businesses, and we're having trouble closing deals because our website makes it look like that all we care about are the big boys.”
And I've seen even ad agencies really showcase smaller clients and talk about how much they love working with smaller clients. And I've often wondered, “Does that mean that they don't want anything bigger than companies of this size?” So, I think there’s going to be a lot of value really laying out who you're willing to work for, and who you're looking to work with.
Because there might be really good reasons, even from a reeses…resources standpoint. Reese's is good in any situation, right? There's a commercial.
The resources. You may not be able to work for the big companies. I worked with a client just recently who flat out said, “I only helped small businesses because that's all I have the resources to work with.” So that clarity really can be very helpful in helping people understand whether they should even consider you as a client. And that benefits both sides of the equation if you're clear as to whether or not you're going to help a specific group better than others perhaps.
Clint: Yeah. And one of the things that what you're saying makes me think of is you talked about the copy that these businesses agencies, especially marketing agencies, will use. And how many times, Scott, have you heard this, right, “We are your one-stop shop for all of your marketing. These are all of your B2B needs or for all of your fill-in-the-blank needs.” When you say that we are your one-stop shop for all of your needs, what you are saying is that you are not really for anybody, right?
When you try to be this, this omnipresent entity, you're really not for anybody. So, I was on a podcast the other day and I mentioned this and she said, “Well, according to a HubSpot article omnipresent social media strategies are going to be the next phase of businesses’ revenue.
And I said, “Think about what you're saying. Who's citing this article? HubSpot, who has a vested interest in you being on all the social media platforms? HubSpot, because that's part of what they do is helping you to be omnipresent. It's not in their best interest for you to be able to say, ‘Nah, we're just going to be on LinkedIn’, or, ‘Nope, we're going to focus completely on Tik Tok.”
So, Sandstone is a multi-million dollar mental health and substance-use company. And we are on three platforms, and each of those platforms is for different people, right? We're on Tik Tok for teens and young adults. We're on LinkedIn for adolescent behavioral professionals. We are on Pinterest for moms of people who are struggling with substance use and mental health, right?
Those are specific and we're okay with changing our messaging so that it's not that. And if you're thinking about, Scott, you made a good point about actually having a place on your website…what's a good place to put that on? Tell you where, it's on your Contact Page.
You want to have an FAQ section on your Contact Page that answers these top questions that people are having. So, if you've been in business for any amount of time, then you probably have been asked the same question over and over again, right? These are the things you need to put on your Google My Business profile. They need to be on your FAQs on your Contact Page. So that somebody does not waste your time to call you, to e-mail you, to answer a question that was already on your website.
They still probably will, but you need to have it on there anyways. Amazon has a rule, they say, “Hey, never answer the same question twice.” Meaning if somebody comes to you with a question, create some content around it so that you can automate the process more. Make sure that it is somewhere on the website so that that question is answered. Doesn't make sense?
Scott: Yeah. And I feel like if you have an FAQ that is easy to find and answers a lot of those common questions, I think that also goes back to helping how much text you might have to write anywhere else. Because I feel like sometimes the reason why text gets so long on websites is they feel like everybody's got to know everything. Like there's never a second step in the process.
The idea is for someone to reach out to you perhaps in some way, and maybe because this was valuable, but I need to know more is the reason why I'm going to reach out to you. And why that's something you don't necessarily have to do in the text on your website is try to explain everything that you do and almost make too much of a case.
Like you're over-trying to convince somebody why you're the person they want, or the company that they want to choose, is you've got paragraph after paragraph explaining all these things. You may not have to fall into that trap if you can have a standalone site that just automatically, or standalone page, that just automatically gives you an opportunity to write the question and then write an answer.
Clint: Exactly. This is about being realistic, being agile, being smart, and making sure that your website is working as hard at your business as you are. If your website doesn't make your life easier, if creating content doesn't make your life easier, if it doesn't sell for you, if it doesn't help you get customers, then it's just an expense, right?
But when you're able to turn that into a time saving thing, when you're able to use the website to automate the process, where somebody learns about you and becomes a customer, then that's when your business starts to shift, right? So, I usually have a rule that I'm not going to build anybody's website if they haven't consumed any of my content, right?
Because when somebody consumes my content, they see the value I can give, and they understand I'm a subject matter expert on this topic. Then the sales process is no big deal, right? Because it's like, “Okay, you get this. I understand what you need. I can help you get where you want to go.” But when that's not there, when the content is not there, when the person does not have any experience with that, then it's like this arm wrestling where you're having to explain it.
And the other benefit of having the content is like when I'm mentoring marketers at this coworking space where I work out of, and they're like, “Hey, Clint, how do I do video? Right? And you just be like, ‘boom’, here's the link, right? Or, “What do you think about LinkedIn marketing?” I'm like, ‘boom’, here's the link. Right? And that saves you so much time.
And what's going to happen is you're going to get two different responses. Either somebody's going to be like, “Oh, my God, this is super helpful.” Or they're going to be like, “Oh, man, there's a lot more to this than I expected. I just want you to help me with this.” And either way, it's going to be a win, win.
So, that's my perspective when it comes to that. And I know that obviously you have that same perspective because you are so big on content, which is one of the reasons why I think you're this smart marketer to watch and to listen to. Because I think that people are getting that kind of insight from you without you having to explain to them over and over again.
Scott: Well, I appreciate that. And this is why I like to have people like you on this show that provide very clear value in the same way. What's interesting is, I like how you have a scenario where it's almost a win-win. But I think in some cases I fit into a scenario where it's more of some of my content without even having to have a section on the website that tells you this.
At least in my space and in my experience, I think I feel like that my content in of itself sometimes already tells you who I'm going to help and who I can't help. Because there are people that still want to cling to old school traditional strategies. And it might be doing just enough for them. Even though, like the analogy I've used in the past is it's like going on the Price is Right and winning and having a chance to win $10,000, but you're happy you won $500.
I feel like if you're one of those people that doesn't think social media really does anything, or blogging does anything, or that you need to evolve, well you can tell when you land on my site that I'm all about evolving. I'm all about getting away from that promotion side and being more conversational and giving the consumers what they're asking for. And it doesn't take you long on my site to see that that's what I'm about. So, if you're not about that, then you're not going to read that article probably anyway. So, I think that that can be helpful.
And the last thing I wanted to ask you about with trends, with the things that we're seeing today regarding consumers and conversations and relationships and building trust. We've touched a little bit on that already by talking about clarity and giving people an easy way to find out what you do, an easy way to find out how to contact you and everything you're about. But let's also look at that component of emotion.
One of the things that I'm also beginning to see a lot more today when it comes to really showing your humanity in your content. And again, this goes back to breaking down the barriers that consumers have when they land on websites. They have anxiety about, “Am I going to find what I need.” They have skepticism about, “Is this real value or are they just kind of trying to sell me and milk everything out of me they can from a financial standpoint?” What about some of the trends you've seen or are you seeing some really good trends or best practices when it comes to breaking those barriers down? Like for example, we’ve talked about Donald Miller.
But there's also those elements where I've seen people say show empathy on your front page. Write copy as you tell your story on your page that shows you understand the challenges and problems that your consumer is going through, and that you have a genuine interest in being the person or the company that steps in and helps them with that problem.
Because I think that ties to what Donald Miller says when he says, “You are not the hero of the story, your consumer is, you're the guide, your Obi-Wan, your client or customer is Luke Skywalker.” So, are you also beginning to see elements of that too coming into the advice you give as people really are looking for authenticity, and a genuine sense that somebody really wants to help them?
Clint: Yeah, so you said two keywords that stuck out to me when it comes to this topic. You said ‘emotion’ and you said ‘empathy’.
Let's start with empathy, and then we'll go to emotion. So, empathy, Scott, you're like me. You're a superhero nerd. You love comics. You love all of this stuff. Who's the least relatable superhero in your opinion?
Scott: I don't know. I guess the Hulk. I don't get angry like that or something. And I'm not as smart as he is on the science front. That might not be the answer you're looking for.
Clint: No, that's fair. Everybody's answer is going to be different. For me, it's Superman, right?
Scott: I thought about Superman, because as much as I love Superman because of all of his superhuman strength and other abilities that none of us really can even match at any level.
Clint: Right. And do you know what it feels like to be weak from kryptonite?
Scott: No, I just know what it's like to feel weak because I'm really hungry,
Clint: Right, yeah, but you probably have gotten angry before, right?
Scott: Well, sometimes I've gotten ‘hangry’.
Clint: Yeah. So we're starting to catch a theme, right? So, all right, my point is this. Marketers and businesses try to position themselves as Superman or Superwoman, right? When that is the least relatable superhero ever. Because the thing that Superman struggles with is being so freaking strong, and being weak to kryptonite, which is not a substance that we can relate to.
Now we could be metaphorical about it, and be like, “Everyone has their kryptonite.” But in general, if we take it surface level, it is a very unrelatable Superhero, right?
Nobody wants to work with the perfect influencer. Nobody wants to work with the person who feels like they have it all figured out. Think about it. If you are trying to help somebody with a problem that they have, but they feel like they have no idea about any of your internal-external philosophical struggles, there is not an equal exchange, right? There is not like a relationship there.
That is a power dynamic. And nobody likes to feel like the weak person in the power dynamic, right? So if you are going to help somebody, we want to show equal amounts of empathy and authority. I understand what you're going through, and I have the ability to help you get through it, right? I understand what you're going through. I built websites in all the different platforms. I spent a ton of time and money. I created websites that ended up in nothing, and that got me no results. And that ended up just being huge financial commitments, right?
And I'm able to create websites now that work, that help people that grow their business, that make their life easier, right? I understand where you are and I can help you to get where you are trying to go, right? That's the empathy piece, right?
The second thing that you said is about emotion. And when you think about social media, it is one big emotional, I don't know, cauldron, right? Everybody in there is showing emotion. And if you're not showing emotion, then you are tuned out as static white noise, right? Because emotion, or pathos, or the ability to make somebody feel something is what separates you as a communicator, right?
So, we're all trying to do one of three things when we're communicating anything. We're either trying to entertain, trying to persuade, or we're trying to inform, right? And when we think about entertaining, it's not just about making somebody laugh, but think about all types of entertainment. All the different types of movies, scary movies, if you watch This Is Us, or Pose, or anything that has some sad elements to it that's talking about the realness of life, that's also considered entertainment. People go to the movies and pay money to see these things.
If you think about anger, that's an emotion, right? So anytime we're triggering emotion in any way, that is social media in a nutshell. What people, especially within cancel culture, especially within like the larger macrocosm of life. What people are afraid to do more than anything is to inspire any type of emotion and be themselves.
Because deep down I think all of us are afraid that if people really knew the real us, if they understood all of our history, all of the ways we've struggled, all the ways that we've messed up, that they would not like us. That we'd feel exposed, that they would think that we're actually not as cool as they thought or whatever, right? But it's the reverse, right?
It's the person who's vulnerability breeds vulnerability. It is a psychological principle. When I'm able to share with you that my mom is an alcoholic, my dad is a meth addict, and I was put in a foster care when I was 13, right? Like, that doesn't make you like me less. That's just me telling you this is my life, right? That doesn't make me less qualified professional to help you with your website.
That's understanding that I've had some adversity and I understand what it's like to struggle, right? And that it hasn't been all perfect. The more we can break down these walls that try to put on this filter of us being the perfect human, and the more we can show up and actually be ourselves, the more we're going to find the people who actually resonate and hear our voice.
So those are my perspectives. I really want to know your perspectives, though. When you think about emotion and when you think about empathy, what does that make you think of?
Scott: Forget B2B and B2C, it's all P2P. And it's true. At the end of the day, even if you're a B2B company, you still have to interact or get somebody's attention. I've even sometimes tried to be careful when I talk about advice on a content side, that I don't say companies too much. Where I just sound like the company is an entity versus talking about the people in it.
So, I think the the empathy and the emotion is there when you make it just completely obvious to somebody that you really do want to help them. And that the ability to be able to communicate in a way where it's clear to the other person that you're not trying to trick them, you're not trying to get them to do X so that you can gain everything else. We see that happen in LinkedIn. It's kind of like when someone reaches out to you on LinkedIn to connect, you've never met them before, and the first thing they do is say, “Hey, will you buy this, or check out this, or look at this, or click this?”
You know there's no empathy there. That's just like, “Well, now that you're connected to me, why don’t you do this for me?” That's not a good demonstration of empathy. Whereas conversations, when people start talking about what's in each other's space, what everybody's challenges are, how they can help each other out in any number of ways. We've had conversations like that. I think that's really where the empathy comes in.
I think that's the difference between marketing and Sparketing. Because marketing, as we were talking about earlier, we've got all kinds of phrases and cool ways to write things that sound really good, and probably sound really good if you read it on a script for TV or radio. But I'm talking about instead communicating in a way that sounds human to human, like you're speaking to somebody and that generates a whole nother reaction.
And I generally try to get people to think of that when they’re writing communications, especially on social media where people do want two-way conversations. I've asked people before, “Hey we wrote it like this. But if you met this person at a conference, would you have said it this way? Would you have actually walked up to him and said this? Or would you have said it differently?”
“Well, I would have said it like this.” All right? Well say it like that, because that's more human-to-human. So even from a from a marketing standpoint and even from a leadership standpoint, I think the empathy is where those practices really start to show their humanity.
Clint: Man, you're so smart. I just like hearing you talk about it. Yeah.
Scott: Because I'm thinking, “Am I rambling.” I start thinking about the people on the other side of the equation going, saying, “Is he ever going to end this.”
Clint: Nah, man, you're smart.
Scott: Thanks. So are you. So are you. Thank you. Well, I really appreciate the questions you had for me that helped make this a conversation. It's been a very insightful and helpful conversation. And I'm going to have a link to your site, which is clintmally.com. That's Clint M-A-L-L-Y dot com.
Like I said, you're also very active on LinkedIn. That's where we met for the first time, in social media. But is there anything else you'd like to share or anywhere else you’d like people to know about what you're doing online?
Or how they can find you, or connect with you and find out more about what you're doing and what you can do to genuinely help people with their website, or an aspect of their digital marketing or other business that that connects to things that you do?
Clint: Totally. I'm a human being. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, and I will respond to your message. Just don't try and sell me something right away.
Clint: But you can go to, like you said, clintmally.com. If you're that person who's like, you've been listening to this conversation, you're like, “Oh man, there's some work I got to do on my website.” Or maybe you were taking some notes and you're trying to get it all together. I have a free course. It is a big old course. It is How to Create Your Own Squarespace Website Step-by-Step From Scratch.
That's from getting the keywords that you need for your website, to writing the copy for your core pages, to actually going and dragging and dropping blocks, and user experience and design best practices. And it’s all free, right? Because when I did it, I had to pay thousands of dollars. And I thought it should not be that way. Like, if you're willing to put in the hustle, I'm willing to help you out.
So that's clintmally.com, and you'll see all of the things leading you to Squarespace school, which is the place for you to create your own website. That's just a free thing. It's a downloadable checklist so that you can plug in all of your stuff. It's a Google doc, right? It's not like this pretty Canva PDF, but it'll help out, yeah?
Scott: Does the job well. Clint, thank you again so much for being here. Let's talk again here very, very soon in the future.
Clint: Awesome, Scott. It's always a pleasure. Can't wait to talk again.
Scott: I think one of the key takeaways in this discussion with Clint was you can't view your website any differently than other elements of a people-focused content marketing strategy. Because the demands of consumers aren't limited to just one area of their journey. You can't just have clarity, empathy and humanity in some areas of your content and not others.
The focus of our interactions and engagements with our audience have to be viewed as consistent experiences. And you know what that means. It means that a company's attitude towards customers and prospects can't be just limited to content.
Robert Rose has said, “You can't just have that one man or woman in your customer service department that has that one great moment on a certain day where they made a customer really happy, and it just made a really big impact that day.”
He said, “It now has to be that way every day. And every member of the customer service team has to be creating that experience on an ongoing basis.”
So, what kind of experience are people getting when they come to your website? When was the last time you analyzed those experiences from a consumer point-of-view or a user point-of-view? Remember that stat from the beginning of the show, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. That means you may only have one chance to provide clarity, make a connection, and create a memorable experience.
As always, you will find links discussed on this episode in the show notes. Just go to the podcast tab on scottmurrayonline.com and find the episode with Clint Mally. You can find the podcast on popular platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
If you value the show, I hope you'll subscribe and perhaps leave a review. If you would like to reach out and share any thoughts on the show, you can leave comments on the site or use the Contact Form by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use that e-mail to inquire about consulting needs, speaking opportunities, or if you'd like me to be a guest on your podcast.
I'd like to thank our guest, Clint Mally, for being on the show today. And thank you for joining me on Get the Message.
Website Designer, Digital Marketer & Director Of Marketing Sandstone Care
Clint is a Squarespace Website Design expert, He is also the Director of Marketing at Sandstone Care helping teens, young adults, and their families overcome challenges with substance use, addiction, and mental health conditions. He hosts the Real Common Treatable podcast - helping behavioral health professionals stay at the forefront of adolescent mental health, addiction, and substance use treatment.