ActiveRain Tutorials: Is Your Site Sending Mixed Signals?

Is Your Site Sending Mixed Signals?

After watching the game the other night between the Green Bay Packers & New England Patriots, I noticed that as the game winded down to the last minute of play, the message being sent to Green Bay's rookie quarterback must have been mixed.  He played a great game last night until the final 60 seconds.  It seems as though he became completely unglued in the final 53 seconds.  I think this was caused by confusion in signals which happens when you have inexperienced people running things.  As you watched the final play of the game, Matt Flynn tried to at one point call a huddle, then a timeout and then finally rushed to just get a play off that ended the game.

While part of this fault lies on the rookie QB, I think more fault should be left with his coach that had called a timeout just before that.  At that point he should have given his quarterback a clear and concise game plan as to what he wanted done.  If that had taken place, there would not have been so much confusion and the Packers might have won the game.

This same type of confusion takes place daily on websites across the world.  Consumers visit thinking one thing to be greeted by buttons and flashy objects that simply confuse them and divert their attention.  In this post I am going to give you a clear and concise road map to making your site function better.

I talked last week about ironing only the front side of your shirt and the importance of looking at more than just the visual appeal of your site.  We discussed the importance of your site being shared socially easily and also having a good foundation to the search engine optimization side.  I mentioned in that post there was a third element that I would cover soon regarding the calls to action on your site.

What are calls to action? They are graphics or links on your site that you wish for people to click on and use.  Normally you want to set these up to drive people to specific areas of your site where they can either purchase your products or services, hire you to work with, or subscribe to your site.  If they are placed in the proper segments you can help direct your traffic to the exact places you want on your site to convert to business.

Sorry What Were You Saying? I'm Lost In Adwords!

Have you ever visited a site thinking it was about a specific thing, but when you start looking at the site you get confused what the site is about? I see too many sites where the sidebars are wasted on driving the traffic you worked so hard to get to your site right back off your site to somewhere else just to make a few cents from a consumer clicking on the ad.  Here's a screenshot from a friends comedy website:

So they worked hard getting someone to come visit their jokes and they are instantly met by Google Adwords above the post driving them to school lunch programs, nutrition schools and more.  The sidebar doesn't look much better with ads driving them to natural healing school, eating heart healthy, and other fun places.  While they do receive a little bit of money from people clicking on the links, I asked them how much revenue they actually created each month.  He shared it was less than $20 per month.  It boggles me when someone places these types of ads on their site trying to garner riches and glory.  Unless your site is seeing major traffic, you will not see big money coming from them.  Instead you drive your consumers away from your product and place them off your site on others.

Confusion In Content

Back in 2003 MySpace was king of the customizations and abilities to add all types of fun widgets to your profile.  Unfortunately those days are over.  Having a giant meez dancing or taking photos is no longer a popular practice.  Also, you are once again driving your consumers off to other distractions instead of your products or services.  Over on the right you can see the actual sidebar of another friends website.  You can see they start off with some interesting content telling us that their site has "STUFF you NEED to know if you planning to buy or sell your home." They do warn that they has a sense of humor by saying you will be entertained while learning.  But, under  the brief description we have a broken widget that should be for feedburner.  It has sat like this since at least May 2009.

Following the broken widget is a PayPal Verified seal which baffles me even more.  Last time I checked, consumers are not using PayPal to buy or sell a home.  If they were selling an online product on the site and PayPal was their preferred form of handling transactions it would make sense.  They the finish off the sidebar by adding their Meez of a girl with a camera taking photos.  The sidebar to this site leaves me in complete confusion as to what the site is about.  Is this a product site where I can buy things, is it a photography site, or is int an entertainment site.  To the average consumer, this same confusion will take place.  The search engines too are completely confused which hurts your SEO.

Creating The Dummy Button- My Top 3

The top two or three things you share on your sidebar are the most important.  That is what will show up on the screen above the fold to a consumer visiting your site.  This is your prime real estate space and you shouldn't fill it with jibberish that does not help your business.  Here's a great tool to see what a consumer is going to see on their computer.  I use it regularly as I work on my system with a high resolution 24" monitor that most consumers do not own.  So use Google's simple browser size tool to test what content runs above the fold at different sized screens and resolutions.

So what makes your call to actions effective? The most effective call to action buttons are going to be catchy graphics that are predominantly displayed in prime locations on your site.  I nickname them dummy buttons as I feel it is pretty simple to an consumer visiting my site they know exactly where I want them to go.  On 210 we have three main call to actions.  The first is to subscribe via email to our blog.  Some may debate why I placed this button first, but I think this is huge to growing your readership, your influence and overall business.  In just over 6 months of this being installed on our blog we have over 825 people subscribed and receiving every blog post we write directly in their email.  Unfortunately, here on ActiveRain we cannot install this anymore due to spammers & hackers.

Our second call to action button is to one of the products we sell.  By viewing my Google analytics, I found out quickly that most of the consumers who come to our site are looking for information about our custom WordPress sites that we design.  So, I created a quick and catchy animated gif to place on our sidebar that linked directly to that page.  I also added an image to the footer of every single blog post we write that does the same type of thing.  By doing this, that page that page is now receiving four times more traffic than any other page on our site except the home page.

The third call to action button we found beneficial to our business was the button to hire us to speakWhy would I add this button? The reason was simple: The more speaking gigs we get, the greater exposure we get for our business.  The more exposure we receive, the more business opportunities will arise.  This button is in our sidebar and also in our main navigation to our site.   Since the addition of the speaking button, our speaking page has remained in the top 10 pages for traffic on our site.   It has also garnered speaking engagements in large arenas like the Coldwell Banker Generation Blue Conference in Las Vegas.

The Rest Of My Sidebar

These are the buttons that consumers have to scroll down to use.  They still have good value and deliver your quality business but aren't worthy of prime placement.  This is where my lead generation button is to gather email addresses for my newsletter.   I haven't really pushed much yet with growing my newsletter list and still I get 2-3 new opt-ins daily.  (*Once again, this is an item I cannot install on ActiveRain.) This is followed by our chat buttons which allows consumers to see when we are online and chat with us about anything.  This chat function has been great in generating business as I have sold several sites directly through chatting with a consumer and answering all their questions directly and quickly.  There was no delay in filling out a contact form and waiting for me to respond.  Instant gratification is huge and consumers love it.

If you notice, our Facebook Page widget is well down our page and not as important for consumers to view.  Why you may ask? To me it isn't important to push traffic on my site off to another platform where I have no control.  If Facebook shuts down tomorrow and I have all my business focused there, I would be in big trouble.  I do want people to know we are on Facebook and give them the option to connect, but it isn't near as important to me as the buttons that get space above it because I already have people on my site where I ultimately want them to end up.

Lastly you will notice we display at the bottom of my page the link to affiliates I am connected with.  As you notice, this is at the absolute bottom of my page.  While I am happy when someone signs up for hosting with Bluehost through my affiliate link, I am even happier when someone purchases a Custom WordPress Site,  books me to speak, or signs up for personal coaching because these are the primary sources of income for my business.  Affiliates can be a good auxiliary source of income, but they should not overtake your primary source of income in terms of space given on your site.

What's Your Sidebar Saying?

So now that I shared with you some advice on what types of things should and should not be in your sidebar, take a moment to look at yours.  What does it say about you and your business?  Are you sending mixed signals to your consumers?  Are your call to action buttons clear as to what you want the consumers to do and are they driving the consumers directly to your services/products?  Or are your sidebar buttons and widgets causing confusion and pushing your traffic away to other sites.

Remember, we work hard to get the traffic to our site to generate business, make it clear what you want them to do, and keep them with you not onto another site. If you need help with any of the things discussed, feel free to contact me for help.

Photo Credit: idovermani

Originally Posted at: 210 Consulting- Social Media Advisors

I'm a full time Myrtle Beach Real Estate Agent that focuses on homes for sale in Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest Real Estate.


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I am also the Co-Founder of 210 Consulting- Social Media Advisors.  I have traveled the country as a social media speaker.  If you would like more information on any of the topics discussed in this blog, please contact me directly.  We specialize in social media training, online consulting, and the creation of your own custom WordPress site.


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Comment balloon 26 commentsJeremy Blanton • December 27 2010 09:09AM


Super post and great analogy. Important to look at the message(s) we are sending and priority of communication.  I can't control our home page, but I think it's actually pretty good now w/ the priority call to actio being to sign up for a free appt.

I just added in the newsletter idea on the interior pages.  After I fix this up, I'll see if there is a possibility to add a button to the home page.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 9 years ago

Jeremy- egads, I took a look at my sidebar and it doesn't say much.  I think you make a very good point about having too many things that distract the viewer from learning more about what you do and what you have to offer. I've been to too many sites where I find my eyes being drawn all over the page with no where to land. BTW, since I love football, I loved the analogy.

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 9 years ago

You make some really good points... and after looking again at my side-bar,.. I realize it is really all about me.  (Which is probably not good for biz! )  I mostly just entertain myself with it.... I even have football there.  Thanks for the wake-up call and little push to get me motivated to make some changes.  Thanks Jeremy!  Kathy

Posted by Kathy Schowe, La Quinta, California 760-333-8886 (California Lifestyle Realty) over 9 years ago

Featured @ Club Chaos

Posted by C Tann-Starr (Tann Starr & Associates, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Wow - I sure have a lot of work to do to get my act together for good responses.    Thanks for all of the input...

Posted by Dagny Eason, Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo (Dagny's Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Hi Jeremy - Great advice that I will take into account when I redesign my blog.

Posted by FN LN over 9 years ago

Thanks Jeremy! I need to create some call to action buttons. Happy New Year!

Posted by Jen Bowman, Realtor - Anna Maria Island & Bradenton FL (Keller Williams on the Water) over 9 years ago


Sidebar pollution, particularly on AR, has been around quite a while.

(BTW, how long are you going to hang in there with the soon-to-be-defunct MyBlogLog? =) )

Thanks for a good and instructive post.

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) over 9 years ago

HA!  AdWords indeed.  I subscribed to that Google feature the week they became available.  The first time they appeared on my primary web site, one of the ads was for my main competitor.

Canceled and never thought about it again.

Then again, some web sites are so overloaded with widgets and such that they just do not navigate. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Jeremy, I need to work on my website.  Your analysis is going to be very helpful.  Thank You.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 9 years ago

Mike- I'll keep it here on my AR blog as long as I can.  It's a very minor way to run tracking here.

So very true Lenn- When you overload with widgets, your site takes forever to load and kills your consumer experience & SEO.

Chris- If you need help, let me know.

Posted by Jeremy Blanton, Myrtle Beach REALTOR®- (Myrtle Beach Homes Blog) over 9 years ago

There seems to be a theme in some of the featured posts today (see Alan May's post on QR codes, for example) of asking ourselves why we are doing what we're doing.  I think as active Active Rainers, we are usually ahead of the game when it comes to technology.  Now may be a good time to ask ourselves whether this has led to "clutter" on our websites that confuse our message or to unintended consequences, like taking people away from our websites.  Lots of food for thought here, Jeremy.

Posted by Tanya Nouwens, Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager (RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. over 9 years ago

Thank you for the post today, it's good to have this information as I'm planning to do something soon.

Patricia/Seacoast Nh & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) over 9 years ago

Thanks for pointing all this out. I am definitely going to redo my sidebar.

Posted by Peggy Chirico, REALTOR® 860-748-8900, Hartford & Tolland County Real Estate (Prudential CT Realty) over 9 years ago

Thanks for sharing these great points. I have learned to keep my web sites simple and to the point with call to action buttons in the right places. However, we can always improve in 2011.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) over 9 years ago

We actually gave this some thought the last time we did a make-over on our website. We offer Avoiding Foreclosure, MLS Search, and our "In The Media links" in those top three positions.

We're focusing on greater SEO for 2011. 


Posted by Tom Branch, Broker, CDPE, SFR, ACRE, Plano TX Ambassador (RE/MAX Dallas Suburbs) over 9 years ago

Jeremy, I've thought about this before, I, being a guy and prone to distraction have been taken off sites by the same things you describe. I will have to check mine!

Posted by David O'Doherty, Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC (Raleigh Realty Inc) over 9 years ago

Jeremy - my week is not long enough to fix everything you find wrong on my site! But, this is certainly another thing that I will be looking at. I am a firm believer in K.I.S.S., with me being that final S.

Posted by Mike Saunders (Lanier Partners) over 9 years ago

A lot of real estate agents seem easily attracted to the latest shiny object - a widget, a cute animation, QR codes, etc. - and don't realize how quickly this takes away from their core message. And one small correction, Matt Flynn is a third year QB from LSU, where he led the Tigers to a BCS National Championship.

Posted by John Novak, Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate (Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace) over 9 years ago

Jeremy, yes, i was working on mine today & going to change my call to action on my web site...great re-inforcement..thanks as always!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Jeremy, Great points on keeping everything clear & running smoothly.  We want to make sure our clients are able to access us easily.  I have some work to do now...

Posted by Susan Brown (Keller Williams NE, Kingwood Texas (Humble & Atascocita too)) over 9 years ago

Jeremy, I've bookmarked this for future reference. I need to tweak my current site and am developing a new buyers site.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 9 years ago

Looks like i have some housekeeping to do!  Thanks for the info

Posted by Linda Lohman, Former Teacher/Broker (Fonville Morisey Realty) over 9 years ago

I don't think the Google sze tool works.  If I'm reading it right, less than 1% of viewers can see more than my photo and a magnifying glass on my site at, and that's just silly.

Posted by Mike over 9 years ago

Great information Jeremy. Many people think they need to be all things to all people and no one can figure out the message.



Posted by Gerard Gilbers, Your Marketing Master (Higher Authority Markeing) over 9 years ago
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