Creating a hard-working home page

How well does your home page sell your product or service?  How many hard-won visitors do you lose by not communicating your benefits fast enough or making it easy to discover more?  How can you grab the attention of the casual searcher?  Here are some tips to force you to think harder about your home page, influenced by my background in magazine publishing.  They are written from my experiences working with small businesses on their digital strategy, but I think the principles hold for bigger enterprises too.

1. Think like a magazine cover

In magazine publishing we quickly learnt that covers have to grab the reader’s attention on a busy newstand and communicate a complex package in a few split seconds for the magazine to be picked up and paid for.  Home pages (or landing pages) need a similar discipline: your hard work optimising for search or building links can be ruined if the first page doesn’t immediately appeal visually, connect with the visitor, and explain what you can do for them in a short “strap line” followed up by some strong cover lines.  Take a look at newstand titles in your sector for inspiration.

2. Write succinct, benefit-driven copy

The magazine cover analogy extends to the copy – avoiding descriptions of your business and instead focussing on “what’s in it for me”. Magazine classic coverlines include “drop a dress size” or “effortless entertaining secrets” or “play better golf” or “catch more fish”.  Once you have focussed in on what their problem is and how you can solve it, you can explain why you are different to all the other sites they have visited on their search.  Keep your key “cover lines” succinct and link to more detail deeper in the site.

3. Add the human touch

Most magazines have a face on the cover, and make eye contact with the reader.  People still like to connect with other people – so featuring quotes from your staff or other customers customers  and small pictures will instantly make your visitors warm to your business.

4. Provide simple, low-risk calls to action

Few visitors immediately get their credit cards out after a short visit, so you need to provide simple, low-risk, low-commitment ways for them to register their interest in your service.  Registering to receive a report, or a newsletter, or asking for details about an event is a low-risk way for visitors to stay connected.  If you have a blog, twitter feed or facebook page, you can keep in touch with your prospects and let them know about new products and special offers.

5. Test!

If you change your homepage or landing pages, ask your existing customers to comment on your ideas, or simply monitor the time spent on each page and the links followed up.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what makes a hard-working home page, and any examples you have of good practice.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, which creates practical digital media and marketing strategies for small businesses and has particular expertise with media owners.  If you’d like a review of your website, or a bespoke workshop on how to make your home page work harder, then take a look at our SME workshops or contact us directly for an informal chat.