When I tell you what these 4 words are, you will most likely be surprised for a couple of reasons.
First, they seem innocent, and second, they are used on many, many web sites.
It wouldn't do much good though if I did not tell you why they are so bad, or what you should do, so I will cover that too.
What are those 4 words? They are, "Welcome to our website.
" Even more surprising is how many professional web designers use these performance killing words when designing web sites for their clients.
This common error runs rampant across the Internet.
Why is this so bad? The first reason is that it violates a rule that every professional web designer should be aware of.
This is commonly called the 8 second rule, and here is what it means.
When a visitor first lands on your web site, they make a decision about whether to stay or leave in an average of 8 seconds.
A welcome message squanders those precious few seconds.
Remember, people are visiting your site anonymously, virtually, and they are looking for content.
The friendly greeting that works well in face to face reality is counter productive on your web site.
Leaving your site is a simple mouse click away, and visitors don't need to return your courtesy by saying excuse me or goodbye.
In those first few seconds, that web site visitor is only interested in knowing if you have what they are looking for, and if it will be easy to find.
There are ways to let them know they are in the right place, but, "Welcome to our website," is not one of them.
The second reason is that these words lack something critically important to your web site--uniqueness.
I mentioned already that many, many web sites use these words.
Just out of curiosity, I did a search to see how many.
I chose Yahoo! for technical reasons, and they showed over 8 million results using the exact quote.
By removing the quote marks, the results were over a billion! Google shows different (lower) numbers, but I'll spare you the details on why they filter results and don't show actual totals.
No matter how you run the numbers, those 4 useless words are way over used, which is reason enough to avoid them.
Your site will never stand out if you make the same mistake so many others have made.
What should you do instead? Well answering that question completely would fill a book, so I'll simplify it down to the basics.
Perhaps most importantly is getting immediately to your point.
The visitor should get a good idea what your page is about at a glance.
Page titles, headings and subheadings, first and last paragraph, and navigation structure all play an important role.
Have someone from an outside perspective look at your page.
If you gave them 5-10 seconds, could they get a general idea of what the page is about? Do all the page elements support the message without causing a distraction? Could the visitor be visually overwhelmed or over stimulated? Keep it simple and clean.
Obviously, you can't give visitors everything in 8 seconds, but you can give them enough so it "pulls them in" to keep them on your site longer.
Make sure your site is easy to figure out and use.
Plan and organize your content in a logical way.
You can, and probably should, go into detail about your product or service to inform your buyers, just don't violate the 8 second rule.
Even if you don't use those 4 naughty words on your web site, I trust the principles here have been helpful in evaluating your web site's content to make it more effective.