Why are key messages so important? On the Internet, people are looking for answers to questions and they are comparing services based on their web pages. If they don’t find what they’re looking for within a few seconds of arriving on a site, they leave to check the next search result. That means your website must immediately establish that it has what the visitor wants. Anything that makes a visitor hunt for meaning or scratch their head about what you have to offer is going to lose you business. Consider a brick and mortar store with a sign that says “Welcome” instead of “Auto Parts”. How many people driving by in search of a fan belt are going to stop?

So here’s my rant: why do so many websites spend their most valuable front page real estate saying “Welcome”? In the rogues gallery of bad web design practices, this may stand out as the all-time worst of the lot. The welcome message invariably tries to sound homey and establish something that almost invariably isn’t important, such as that your family has owned the business since the late Jurassic or that you offer free cookies to everyone who drops by. Yum, but if I’m looking for a fan belt for my dead Alpha Romeo, I’m not going to be swayed by a cookie.

We must stop the madness here and now. If you feel the same way, I encourage you to spread the word. Welcoming visitors is what you do at home. When someone comes to your website, show them that you have a fan belt for them…and do it fast. That would be truly welcome.