convert-buttonYour homepage is probably the most visited page on your website — in fact, for the majority of websites, it typically receives more than 50% of all visitor traffic. In light of that, shouldn’t it be converting more visitors?

You may want to start thinking of your homepage more like a landing page that is uniquely designed to convince visitors that you can meet their needs or solve their problems. If your homepage isn’t driving visitors to take some type of an action — especially if it has a high bounce rate — then it can be improved to drive more sales.

Convert Like You Mean It: Goals Of A Great Homepage

Depending on the type of company or organization, your homepage could have any number of different goals. But there are three goals that every homepage must achieve.

  1. Identify With The Visitor’s Needs. In most cases, someone visiting your website is there to fulfill a need they have — whether it is to solve a problem, buy a product, or find information. If visitors are unable to determine within 5 seconds that you are capable of fulfilling that need, they will leave. Your message must be crystal clear and very obvious. Don’t make people read your first paragraph to understand what you do because they will bounce away to find someone else.
  2. Create A Memorable Experience. Visitors are much less tolerant of a bad website these days. Poorly designed websites are equated with a business that either doesn’t care about their brand or doesn’t care about their customers. The website is at the core of all marketing activity for most organizations these days. So if your online brand is suffering, it leaves a lasting impression with your visitors.
  3. Help The Visitor Toward The Desired Action. If the visitor believes you can meet their needs, don’t make it hard for them to understand what to do next. Make it obvious what you want them to do. The visitor should be drawn further into the site to take the next step and become more engaged with your company. Don’t leave them guessing or they will leave your site.

Homepage Conversion Actions

There are a number of different possible actions that a visitor to the homepage could take. All of these are measurable.  You should measure what changes to the homepage are impacting conversions. Here is a sample of things you can measure to see if your homepage is as effective as it can be.

  1. Visited Another Page. This is the main action most sites have now. Usually, visitors will click on one of the main links or graphics shown on the homepage to venture further into the site. Believe it or not, it may not be your main menu they’re clicking on — lots of heatmap studies show that people are more inclined to click on a link/graphic on the homepage rather than using the menu. This isn’t true once they get further into the site, but on the homepage, the menu isn’t generally used as often.
  2. Used Call-To-Action. A button or clickable element within the top header or further down on the page can be a great motivator to get people to visit more of your website. Be sure not to hide your call-to-action (CTA) — make it obvious. You can use more than one CTA on the homepage, as well.
  3. Filled Out A Form. Many websites have forms on their homepage, especially Web-based services that want to sign you up as quickly as possible. Be sure not to use really long forms. Your goal is to quickly convert, and long forms are anything but quick.
  4. Watched A Video. Video is becoming increasingly valuable to businesses because it can create faster engagement with visitors (as compared to forcing them to read a lot of content). On the homepage, any video should be pretty short and very enticing. Because there are rarely any conversion actions to take during a video, be sure to communicate what visitors should do next if they watched to the end.
  5. Read The Content. This doesn’t seem like much of a conversion action, but it is an important one. You can see in your Web analytics how long visitors, on average, stay on a page. This will give you an indication of how much they are engaging with your content. If it is less than 10 seconds, they are just bouncing away. But longer than that and they may be engaging with you.

Homepage 101: Things To Remember

So far, most of what we’ve been talking about surrounds the conversion, but there are some other critical elements to consider on the homepage that will help drive traffic and conversions. These are Web Design 101 tips, but worth repeating.

  1. Banners & Sliders. If you feel the urge to use a slider (multiple images showing one after the other), try to avoid them. They are great for getting lots of messages to show, but in general, they have been repeatedly shown to convert fewer people than a well-designed single banner and message. If you want some animation, use a single background image and animate the text and any additional images that appear in front of the background. Remember to make your main message pertinent to what the visitor needs.
  2. Readability. Be sure your audience can easily read everything you have to say. This means using readable font styles and sizes. It also means using enough contrast so that people don’t have to squint to read it. Anything that hinders the experience will turn people away.
  3. Proper Tags For SEO. Search engines like structured data. This helps them understand what your pages are about. Assuming you want to try and rank better in search engines, you want your homepage content to have some structure to it. At a minimum, you want to make sure you have an H1 tag on your page. This is a critical element for search engines. This H1 can be the main needs statement on your homepage. But when possible, make sure it contains the main keyword/phrase you are targeting for search results. H2 tags can also help you out. H2 tags are a subset of H1 and help search engines understand what the content is beneath them relative to the H1 tag. Be sure not to use more than one H1 tag.
  4. Good Navigation. Navigation is the main thing people will use to move through your website. True, it may not be the main click action on the homepage, but it should stay consistent throughout your website. Make sure it is very easy to read. If you use drop down menus, be sure the links beneath are also easy to read and that the content behind them is very relevant to the menu title. Some sites will use two separate menus in their header. Try and avoid these unless you have a huge amount — multiple menus tend to confuse your audience.
  5. Title & Meta Description. Your page title and meta description are extremely important elements that don’t visibly show within your content, but are behind the scenes. The Title and Description are what are shown in search engine results. Additionally, the search engines use the Title as a major part of understanding what the page is about. The Meta Description doesn’t impact search engine rankings, but you want it speak to someone who sees your listing on search results. Google has some good insights on how to create these.

Examples Of Great Homepages That Convert

There are a lot of great homepages out there. Here are some example homepages that meet the criteria of being more than a homepage, but a homepage that converts.

exacttarget

Exact Target is focused on marketing automation solutions for B2B and B2C. This homepage is crystal clear when it comes to the actions it wants you to take and the needs that they address.

mixbook

Mixbook is an e-commerce website for consumers that want to create different types of scrapbooks, cards and photobooks. Their website is personalized for their primary current shopping audience. We’ve seen this before, but this is an excellent example of an e-commerce store doing it right.

zendesk

Zenddesk has always had a homepage that focuses on the conversion. In the many years I’ve been watching them, they’ve always had a strong homepage that moves people quickly to the conversion.

Key Takeaway On Homepage Designs

As always, don’t take my word for it, but at least A/B test your homepage UI to find what works for your audience. What works for one website doesn’t mean it is best practice for another. Stay on brand, but we willing to try new ideas and content till you find what consistently converts your visitors into customers.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics & Marketing Column | Branding | Channel: Analytics | Conversion Rate Optimization | Google: SEO | Internet Marketing

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About The Author: is Click Laboratory's Chief Scientist, where he leads the company's engagement and optimization teams. He has 20 years of experience in web design, online marketing, customer analysis and lead generation.



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  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    “More than 50%” — that’s a pretty tough claim to sell. I have looked at the analytics for a LOT of Websites. Rarely have I seen that kind of traffic flow to a Website’s home page.

  • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

    Hi – interesting article and a good point to make, I wrote a similar one several years ago looking at Autoglass UK where they have treated their homepage exactly like a landing page and optimised it to give a much simpler page than most.

    That said I would agree with Michael and in my experience it’s around or less than 50% depending on how effective search is/how well known the brand is/how many returning visitors/existing customers. This last point is worth considering since the designs above are focused on first time visitors – you have to make the design work for returners too – possibly with a personalised areas – companies rarely do in my experience.

  • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

    Hi – interesting article and a good point to make, I wrote a similar one several years ago looking at Autoglass UK where they have treated their homepage exactly like a landing page and optimised it to give a much simpler page than most.

    That said I would agree with Michael and in my experience it’s around or less than 50% depending on how effective search is/how well known the brand is/how many returning visitors/existing customers. This last point is worth considering since the designs above are focused on first time visitors – you have to make the design work for returners too – possibly with a personalised areas – companies rarely do in my experience.

 

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