So, here’s the thing, no one cares about your little Web site. I’m sure your mom does. Your mother is probably very, very proud. However, your customers are using you. They’re like that guy you dated right after college who just hung around because you had a job and a paycheck and he had a drinking habit. Your customers are just like that. Only when you do right by your customers, they pay you. Your boyfriend never did that. I hope.

As marketers we have this desire to be loud and to be heard. We want to tell everyone that we’re the best. Our Web designers want to qualify their paychecks by creating flashy sites to amaze and conquer. But your customer’s aren’t interested in any of that. They just want you to solve their problem. And the best way for you to do that and attract more visitors is to become invisible and give them what they want.

How do you become invisible?

Pay for invisible content. Yes, pay.

I know Loren thinks you can hire rock star writers by making them give you their first article for free or by outsourcing to India, but I completely disagree with him (I heart you, Loren.). I don’t think that you can. In an industry that hails content as being King, it’s always been somewhat crazy to me the lengths we’ll go NOT to pay for it or to get it for as cheap as we can. (I blame Google for that bad SEO habit.) Invest the money in hiring a good copywriter. I know I’m incredibly biased, but I think it’s one of the best investments you’ll make for your company.

Your copy is how people find out who you are, what you’re about, how you can help them, what your point of difference is and why they should care about any of that. A good copywriter, one that probably won’t write for free, can get all of that across without making it sound like you’re selling to someone and they can do it in a way that engages the customers, builds trusts and puts them on the conversion path. When it comes to content, you get what you pay for. If you want cheap filler content, then you can pay for cheap filler content. But it’s going to be awkward and cold and very, very visible.

Design for Invisibility

We won’t pay for content, but we’ll absolutely pay for in your face, not even pretending to be subtle site designs. Do you know what designers and criminals have in common? They have calling cards. You can tell everything they have ever done because it “looks” like them. They have a “thing” that they stick to. That’s probably great branding for your Web designer and the common criminal living next door, but your customers are not impressed. They’re really not impressed. They find your flashy site design so distracting that they’re not even willing to look past it. They’re confused. And they’re gone.

The best Web designers know that the design of your site should not distract from the content of your site. The goal of your site is to answer customers’ questions, to serve their needs and to get them on the right path. Or, as Geeks on Steroids says in the linked article, the purpose of Web site design is to help shine some light in a way that no one even notices the light. You know writing is good when you don’t even notice it. The same is true for design. It should be invisible.

Be Intuitive

The next two go along with making your site invisible, but I think they’re big enough issues on their own that they get their own sections. Deal with it.

This means a couple of things. First, most people have been searching the Web for awhile. That means they’ve been trained to look for things in certain places. They know that links should be blue, that the navigation should be on the left or up top, that the checkout cart is usually in the upper right hand corner, etc. Each time you stray from the norm in your attempt to be different and special and unicorn-like, you confuse them. I know that people should be able to adapt to new surroundings and evolve, but we can’t. We’re like trained monkeys. A user will not be impressed that you made them spend five minutes looking for how to get to their shopping cart. They’re going to be annoyed. And want to knock that shopping cart over. With your face.

They’re also not going to be amused when they can’t find the shopping cart because you’ve called it something else, like a goodie bag or a treasure chest or a product receptacle. It’s a shopping cart. Call it that. Call things what they are. It’s not an advanced SEO strategy. It’s common sense.

And if you tell a user that this link right here will take them to your home page, make sure that it does. No broken links. No 404s scaring them off the site. Google makes it very easy to spot your broken links with their crawl errors feature in Webmaster Tools. I suggest you pay attention. Even if you do think Google is evil. They’re also good at helping you make your site more invisible and more attractive to users.

Get the Social Buttons Off Every Page

Social media has pretty much ruined the Web, in my opinion. It’s lowered the standards for what is or is not content and it’s turned marketers into even worse people than they were before. It’s also cluttered up Web sites to all hell.

I know that you have a blog. I know that you’re social media savvy. You’re an Expert, even! That’s spectacular, truly. That does not mean your social media buttons should be located on every page of your site. That actually tells me that you don’t know how to use social media if you think EVERY piece of content you write or display on your site is worthy of being pushed, promoted and whored. I guarantee you it’s not. Save the big buttons for that big piece of content that is worth pushing. Otherwise your site just looks like no one wants to play with it when none of your users have touched your ginormous Digg/Reddit/Sphinn button in 12 posts.  And now instead of focusing on your content, I’m wondering what those buttons are, why they’re there and why no one seems to like you. I must be on a bad site.

Your customers don’t care about you. They’d rather you not exist. So don’t. Become invisible and highlight what they’re really looking for – the information and value located on your Web site. It may sound counter-intuitive that becoming invisible will help you attract more, but it works.


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


19 thoughts on “Attract More Visitors By Going Invisible


  • Jack Leblond on said:

    Good point on the big buttons with zeros on them. (although I don’t think it’s nice of you to poke fun at my site like that). I think you are right, it may make people wonder why some have zeros and other have higher numbers.

    I disagree that not everything everyone writes is worthy of being pushed by someone else. When I write (and I think you too), I write what I believe is honest, good and helpful material. Even if it is not groundbreaking, I’d like to think someone will find it useful enough they want to promote it. Sometimes they do, other times not. I do not sit down and write something half-assed just so I can say I posted today or this week.

    I think it would equally as confusing to readers if only some of the articles on a site had buttons on them – would that mean the author only puts their best work into some of the articles? Should I only read the ones with the buttons?

    Somehow we need to find a balance between these two approaches, neither seems to be perfect…what does everyone else think?


  • Joe Hall on said:

    Social media has pretty much ruined the Web, in my opinion. It’s lowered the standards for what is or is not content and it’s turned marketers into even worse people than they were before. It’s also cluttered up Web sites to all hell.

    I agree, but at the same time i think it presents an awesome opportunity to excel. If none of the crap existed then the bar would be pretty high. Right now the bar is low enough that those that work at it can get noticed and stand out. If the web was clean and less cluttered then folks would have to work much harder to produce quality content. Which would be good for all, but harder.


  • Casey Yandle on said:

    Nice article Lisa! Kinda scary how close your comment about “help shine some light in a way that no one even notices the light” is similar to my slogan that I chose. Guess I’m on the right track with it! :)


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Jack: I’m not saying that every post you or someone else (but really, you) write doesn’t have value, but not everything is meant to be pushed somewhere. I know I wrote posts sometimes that I’m proud of and I think other people will like, but I know they’re not going anywhere. They’re just kind of “aha!” posts. It doesn’t mean I didn’t spend time writing them or that I don’t stand behind them, but they’re not social media friendly. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m open to being scolded here in the comments. :)

    I think your best content should be saved for social media and those are the pieces you should focus on promoting. You can’t promote every piece of content you write. That’s how people get labeled “annoying”. ;) That said, if someone submits something you write to a social network, you can grab the button later and add it on. It doesn’t have to start out there with a big goose egg.


  • MikeTek on said:

    Great advice – and so few seem to follow it.

    Seth wrote about this recently.

    Regarding the social media buttons – I think they simply clutter your design. And I agree – a big fat zero sends the wrong message.

    The concept of usability assumes a tool – something to be used towards an end. Your website should give your users what they want in a way that’s brainlessly simple. Part of the reason “welcome to our website” messages are so nauseating.

    Your website isn’t a novelty/promotional item.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Joe: So because there’s so much crap out there, everyone else’s average stuff looks better and they should be happy with that? Seriously? Don’t make me beat you with your participation trophy. ;)

    Mike: Awesome comments. Thanks for the Seth link, too, hadn’t read that yet.


  • Joe Hall on said:

    I’ve got a participation trophy?? But seriously, no they shouldn’t be happy with average mediocre content. If you are a content developer, you should always work your butt off to make the best content in the world! But, my point is that its easier to get by with out doing that. Is that wrong? Probably, but i am not a content developer by trade, there for all I can do is focus on putting trust and money into those that i hire, and hope they do the best they can, if they don’t at least i know that their average is still above the bar.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    If your argument is that social media has helped average content look better and that it’s worthy of being praised then you’ve just summed up everything I hate about social media, yes. :)

    I understand that many in this field aren’t content writers. They’re marketers or technical people. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in high quality writers or that mediocre content should be credited with being “above bar” when it’s just that, mediocre. That’s like saying because I write content I can hire someone to create a crappy Web site and that it’s enough.

    And I’m not picking on you. I swear. You’re just making an argument that I’ve heard quite often and it drives me crazy. :)


  • Joe Hall on said:

    When I can, i do invest in high quality content. I agree with you. We are on the same page here.

    Do I now get an agitating Lisa trophy?? ;-)


  • Greg Finn on said:

    Agreed that social buttons & badges aren’t for every site, many sites however are hitting stories regularly and these buttons can help if leveraged correctly. Something like a digg button can be optimized to help lazy people promote your stuff with your titles. So something like:

    digg.com/submit?url=http://www.yoursitehere.com/currentpost&title=Really+Really+Awesome+Title+Written+For+Digg&bodytext=Totally+radical+and+bodacious+description+that+backs+up+your+title&topic=the_correct_topic_here

    Would allow for your users to click the Digg button, have a kick-ass title/description inserted & the proper topic selected. It really depends on the site though, but these buttons can be a powerful tool to use if the shoe fits.


  • Tim Staines on said:

    A couple comments:

    1) Good/great content doesn’t have to cost that much. One of the best things I heard at #IMSB spoke to finding experts in the topic and commissioning them to do your writing. We all love talking or writing about what we love and we’re usually willing to talk about it for no charge. Quality writing can often come at a very reduced price if you find someone who really wants to write about the topic and maybe isn’t a full time writer. You may have to rewrite for marketing purposes, but you will already have the quality part to build on.

    2) I prefer the little social media buttons (the ones that are even smaller than those that you use on this post, but have you ever heard of anyone adding the counter buttons in after the article gets Dugg, Redditted, or Sphunn? Is that cheating? Might be a way to avoid the zeros and still get the participation value . . .


  • Yura on said:

    So I shouldn’t change my absolutely minimalistic text design that I created with the user in mind? Wouldn’t hurt to add more personality to it, though. Invisible design doesn’t mean that *you* need to be invisible on your site, right? :)


  • Janeth on said:

    I don’t use them on my sites.

    My content is written for the average site visitor or someone that I might be able to make a sale to. I enjoy making money with my sites, I’m sorry; it’s just in my blood.

    The average site visitor has no idea why that button is there and other than distracting from my site, sending them somewhere else, confusing them and causing them to look elsewhere for a service that I provide it really does nothing else, for the average site visitor.

    The guys that understand the buttons are out looking for content for their own sites are trying to learn something that they didn’t already know. These people are not going to buy from me; they are not looking for my services.

    I just can’t imagine designing my site for people that are not going to spend money while at the same time confusing the people that are.

    Just my two cents.


  • Alex on said:

    Lisa,
    What you told about the buttons is 100% correct.
    Am a starter and I have just set up my site and I had wasted many -hours searching for a plugin for social-bookmarking. :) I realised lately that concentrating on the content which am gonna write would be more important than getting worried about how my plugin will look.
    If you write something really good,Its gonna spread across to others even with out social bookmarking.(May be a little slower).
    Thanks and I ve already subscribed to your post after reading your blog on chat between Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki…Thanks…


  • Cliff Paulick on said:

    I really like your posts, which is why I was all over your site, following links and all that. One of the first things I noticed was the list of 7 large buttons under “Share this Post”. They’re large enough to catch my attention but not too big that they’re out of proportion to your site.

    After following several links to your other posts, I read this post, including this paragraph:

    “I know that you have a blog. I know that you’re social media savvy. You’re an Expert, even! That’s spectacular, truly. That does not mean your social media buttons should be located on every page of your site. That actually tells me that you don’t know how to use social media if you think EVERY piece of content you write or display on your site is worthy of being pushed, promoted and whored. I guarantee you it’s not. Save the big buttons for that big piece of content that is worth pushing. Otherwise your site just looks like no one wants to play with it when none of your users have touched your ginormous Digg/Reddit/Sphinn button in 12 posts. And now instead of focusing on your content, I’m wondering what those buttons are, why they’re there and why no one seems to like you. I must be on a bad site.”

    I’m VERY curious why you would write that when all of your posts have the 7 large “Share this Post” buttons? Please help me understand. I want to do right by the Internet and sharing every post seems to be the right thing to do…


    • Harry Scanlan on said:

      I know this post is pretty old, but even a quick count does show 7 social media buttons, 3 links to rss, 3 links to email, 3 links to sphinn, 4 links to twitter, 1 ustream, 1 digg, 1 flickr, 1 youtube … All on this one page.

      I wonder if linking of social media has changed over the last year.


  • Edman on said:

    It might be even older now, but it still holds true today. The less people stop and notice your website, the more things they can get done. People don’t come to your website just to admire the pretty layout, they want to find what they’re looking for and move on to something else. If you have too much going on, ultimately, it’s a distraction.


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