4 objectives for your homepage, 4 words NOT to use, 4 elements to include
In the Lewis Carroll book ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’, Alice fell down the rabbit hole, where she met the Cheshire Cat.
‘Pray, tell me, where should I go from here?’ she asked.
‘That very much depends on where you’re trying to get to’ he replied.
‘I don’t really care where I get to’.
‘Then it doesn’t really matter which way you go’.
Marketing is all about objectives. That’s so important I’m going to say it again: marketing is all about objectives. If you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, it doesn’t matter what you do; it doesn’t matter which way you go.
The main objective of your homepage is to get people to click the ‘buy now’ button or contact you. (Top right is the standard place for contact details, as that is where people will look.)
Aside from that, here are four more key objectives.
- Let people know they have landed in the right place
You’ve got people to land on your homepage – hoorah! It doesn’t matter whether it’s through your SEO (your search engine optimisation activity) or through your offline marketing activity. But how do they know that they’ve landed in the right place?
In most cases, businesses write their homepage (or other landing page) about them. But your homepage shouldn’t be about you – your homepage should be about your target audience, so they know they’ve landed in the right place. (Your ‘about’ page is about you, if they want to know about you.)
I wrote a website for a financial advisor. He had paid a fortune on Ad Words – those Google adverts you see on the right side bar when you do a search. He knew from his analytics – that’s the statistics that show the traffic to your website – he knew people were landing on his homepage; he also knew they were bouncing away immediately because they weren’t finding what they wanted. I rewrote his homepage and a week later we checked his analytics and we saw: yes, they were landing on his homepage, they were staying on his homepage, they were clicking through to the sub-pages – and THEN they were leaving his website because he hadn’t asked me to write those!
Top tip: Make sure that your homepage uses customer-focused language and that it answers the questions that your target audience want answered. Do the ‘we we test’. Use the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ more than ‘I’, ‘us’, ‘our’ and ‘we’.
- Capture their email address
If site visitors are not ready to buy at that moment, the next thing you want to do is to capture their email address. Because that way you can keep in touch, you can remind them you exist, you can remind them what you do, you can remind them that you’re thinking of them – and then you’re at the front of their mind when they know somebody that needs what you do, or when they need what you do themselves.
What you don’t do is ask people to sign up to a newsletter. Hardly anyone signs up to newsletters any more. All of us have an inbox that’s too full to read the newsletters we want to read. But… if you make it a tipsheet, if you make it ‘offers and deals’, if you make it ‘leadership insights’, if you make it something that adds value, not an advert, people will sign up to it if you give them sufficient incentive to do so.
Here are some ways to get more signups:
- Give them boxes to fill in (not a text link) because people like engaging with websites by clicking things and filling things in
- Ask for minimal information (you only really need firstname and email address) because the more information you ask for, the less likely you are to get it
- Rename the ‘sign up’ or ‘subscribe’ button to be more compelling e.g. ‘yes please’
- Offer an incentive that is high perceived value to them and low cost to you
- Tell them where to go next
Here’s the next objective. They’re on your homepage: you have to tell them where you want them to go next. It isn’t enough to just have simple, straightforward navigation at the top of left hand side. Tell them with nice, clear, graphic calls-to-action what action you want them to take.
I wrote a website for a recruitment agency. They had very naturally spread out their wares on the table to say: ‘We do recruitment; we do headhunting; we do training; we do this and we do that’. And they’d had lovely little icons designed for each of these five main things. But the audience, when they’re looking at a website, don’t want a top-down approach – the audience wants a bottom-up approach. They only know who they are and what they’re looking for, so we redesigned those icons as ’16-18s’, ‘graduates’, ‘employers’ and so on. Whoever was looking at that website knew which one icon they needed to click and then they found the relevant information they were looking for.
Top tip: No one but you is going to read every single page of your website. They’re only going to read the bits that they want to read. So you need to give them signage that directs their journey through the site.
Top tip: Note that bottom-up ‘Continue’ and ‘Next’ buttons work better than top-down ‘Read more’ or ‘More info’, and that all buttons work better than text links.
Top tip: Your call to action needs to stand out, so you might choose a colour that doesn’t match your brand identity – shock horror! Test it to see what works best.
- Filter out people you don’t want
Nobody sells to everybody. You only sell to the people that are the right fit for you. So the fourth objective of your website is not to attract everybody in the world; it’s to filter out all the timewasters and people you don’t want and only appeal to the people you do want. Do this by adding maximum brand personality into your site.
An image consultant had spent a lot of money on the design, and written her own web copy, but had no enquiries for six months. I rewrote some key pages, and within a week she had six enquiries, including one from a corporate.
Four words NOT to use
‘Welcome to my website’.
In 2013 (when I wrote my latest book ‘The Little Fish Guide to Writing your own Website‘) two million people were still using that phrase. Now it’s down to one million (although I can’t take ALL the credit!)
It’s dated; it’s what people wrote on their websites in the Dark Ages. Also, it gives you no search engine benefit. Why? Because the main heading on the page is one of the many things that Google looks at when deciding what your page is about and deciding whether to serve it up to someone who is searching for that content.
Even more importantly, it doesn’t answer ‘what’s in it for me’ from the point of view of the reader. It’s commonly quoted that the headline is responsible for 80-90% of the success of any marketing piece, because if people aren’t attracted by the headline, they aren’t going to read any more. So make sure your heading is compelling.
If that’s what NOT to do, what are the four elements you need?
The first thing is freshness. It’s one of the many things that Google is looking for. If your website is not kept up to date and your competitors’ websites are newer than yours, yours can gradually slip down the rankings while your competitors leapfrog you.
Here are some ways of including fresh content:
- Fill your home page with your latest blog post/s.
- Add your recent blog headlines linking through to the blog post in full.
- Embed your Twitter feed (this also helps you get more followers).
- Embed handpicked tweets (to do this, go to Twitter.com and click the three dots under the tweet you want to embed, select ’embed tweet’, then copy/paste the code into your CMS website or send it to your webmaster).
- Embed your Facebook updates or likes.
- Provide shortcuts
As mentioned above, we’re all busy. Any shortcut you can give your target audience to make their life easier, saves them time, gives them a service, and helps you.
- Include your client list or logos. It’s a shortcut. People think: “If you’re good enough for clients like that, you’re good enough for me”.
- Include testimonials in clients’ own words or videos. People believe what other people say about you more than they believe anything you say about yourself. So tap into the power of third party endorsements: testimonials, case studies, recommendations and reviews.
- Add star ratings so people can judge you at a glance based on external reviews.
- Take away the risk
They’ve got money in their pocket and they don’t want to risk spending it in the wrong way. So you need to take away the risk of someone deciding to buy from you. Here are some ways:
- Show the logos of trade or professional associations that you belong to. This is a shortcut that takes away the risk. People think: “They are a member of the organisation so they must be alright”.
- Add a satisfaction or money-back guarantee (people rarely claim on them).
- Include any media coverage you’ve received (people assume it’s impartial).
- Harness the power of video
And finally, remember that an on-screen interaction is quite a remote experience – it’s quite impersonal. People’s expectation of looking at a screen is benchmarked against television, it’s benchmarked against cinema. It’s hard to read on screen – but if there’s a video people cannot help but watch it. If you’re in a pub or coffee shop and there’s a TV on in the corner, you can’t help but keep looking at the moving image, even if you’d rather be engrossed in conversation with your best friend.
So if you’ve got video – use it. If you haven’t got videos, get them.
Back to Alice
Alice met Humpty Dumpty in Wonderland.
‘Impenetrability’ he announced.
‘Pray sir, would you tell me what that means?’
‘It means I think we’ve had just about enough of that subject and I don’t suppose you want to stay here for the rest of your life – so it’s time to move on’.
My objective with this article was to help move your website on, and those are probably quite enough tips for now.
If you are going to make a change as a result of what you’ve read here, or you achieve better results by following my advice, please comment below – thank you.
Jane Whitehead · August 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm
You mean Lewis Carroll not CS Lewis of course…
Jackie · August 17, 2016 at 2:07 pm
Argh! Yes, of course I do. I’d love to say that was a deliberate mitskae. How embarrassing. I’ve corrected it now. Thank you for pointing it out.
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