You’ve Got 5 Seconds – Don’t Waste Them

What goes through a visitors’ mind in the first 5 seconds after they land on your site? After all, that just might be all the time you’ve got until they reach for the back button. Let’s speculate on what happens at each moment…

Second 1 – Impressions: First impressions are forming. What loads first? Your header logo? Your navigation? Ads? As your page finishes loading, your visitor is already unconsciously judging your site based on the quality of your website design. Though average visitors know nothing about web design best practices, they are quite good at identifying poorly designed sites, and abandoning them for lack of trust. After all, if your site design sucks, what does that say about your products or services? The first impression is often the last.

Second 2 – Definition: Here comes the big question, “Who are you and what do you do?” At this point the visitor needs to know the purpose of your site and what sets you apart. Your landing page must communicate unique value, not just what you sell. Keep in mind visitors come in from all directions, so don’t ignore the backdoors such as product and category pages. Does your website header (viewable on all pages) have a unique value offering or only your homepage?

Second 3 – Relevance: Relevance is key at this at this moment. Can your visitor continue to follow the “scent” of what they were looking for after arriving on your page? However they got to your site, whether by Google or a link on another page, your visitor is learning whether or not you keep your promises. For example, if they arrived from a Google search for “gourmet coffee”, can they find a reference or picture that matches this phrase?

Second 4 – The Hook: They’re starting to get it. Now what’s the hook? Based on personality type, the hook is different for many. Some are looking for the deal. “Free shipping” or “10% today only” might resonate with this crowd. Others are hungry for an emotional connection. These folks vicariously envision themselves enjoying your product through your lifestyle and contextual images. And still others are looking for solutions, fast, easy, and painless. They need reassurance that you understand their needs.

Second 5 – Action: Your visitor is now asking “what do I do now?” You’ve kept their attention for this long (ok, only 4 seconds) but now you need to solicit action. Strong calls to action are critical in this moment. The MIA (most important action) needs to be painfully obvious. There should be no question what you want them to do.

The good news is they’ve made it this far, the bad news is everything repeats on the next page – relevance > hook > action.

Do you doubt that visitors make decisions this quickly? Try it for yourself using StumbleUpon (the equivalent of Channel surfing for the internet). You’ll be surprised to see how quickly you judge and abandon a website.

Will you only get 5 seconds from all your first time visitors? Of course not, each visitor is different, and this is only a speculative scenario. But all visitors have one thing in common: they have no desire to have their time wasted by unconvincing websites. They have better things to do.