In a mobile-first world, where the screens are smaller and the user’s attention span is shorter, never before has it been more important to have your website’s home page do the lion’s share of the work required to convert your users into paying customers.
Besides being found in the search engines, your site’s home page has to load quickly and deliver that knockout punch as clearly and as quickly as possible before your user is distracted, or worse yet, moves onto your competitor’s website. Do it right, and you’ll hit your users so hard that they’ll turn into paying customers instantly, but do it wrong, and you’ll have users ducking away from your site in seconds.
Know Your Audience
Your home page is your first and often only chance at converting a user into a paying customer, so you better know who they are and how to hit them! For example, what you present on your home page through content / design / structure for a 20-something, always-distracted, on her phone at dinner female will be completely different than what you would to a 60-something, semi-retired, read every word, still getting used to a touchscreen male.
Figure out who your end customers are by researching and building customer personas . Then you’ll be able to deliver a home page that hits them in a way they respond to – wherever and whenever they are looking at your website.
Google Bonus: The best part of knowing your audience is that you don’t have to rely on Google to bring you hordes of traffic. If you’re converting 75 out of 100 users versus 10 out of 1,000 users, you win every time.
The Knock-Out Punch is the First Punch
How do you sell your product or service to someone who is most likely walking around with smartphone in hand? Someone who happens to have come across a link to your page while swiping away through social media feeds, while messages from friends continuously pop up on the screen, all the while they’re trying not to trip on a real life sidewalk and slam into a fire hydrant? You hit them with your knockout punch immediately. Not physically (even though it’s sometimes tempting), but from the top of your home page, no matter what the screen size.
Whether it’s a headline, a graphic, or even a video, this knockout punch has to tell user exactly what you want them to do (ie. BUY) in a way that they’ll actually want to do it. It should be so crystal clear, so compelling and so inviting that it rips through any of the other distractions of the moment and causes the user to actually look and click on that BUY button… or trip over the sidewalk.
Google Bonus: Kill two birds with one stone by using a headline that both delivers the knockout punch to your visitor AND also acts as the H1 text for your home page, loaded with your chosen keywords of course.
Prioritize Your Content
It’s important to structure your page and content in a way that mirrors what your audience will deem important while reinforcing your call to action and appeasing Google’s thirst for keyword-laden text content. Let’s say you are a theater company putting on a new show. From your customer’s perspective, in order of importance, it would make sense to organize the content into three groupings on your home page (from top down), all based on the 5 W’s (plus How) where the “Why” – the essence that turns the user into a paying customer – gets the most emphasis throughout the content.
- The Name of Show (what)
- Short Headline / Intro text (why)
- Striking background Video / Image from show (why)
- CTA to Buy Tickets (how / when)
- The Show’s Location (where)
- Show Details (why)
- Show Photos (why)
- CTA to Buy Tickets (how / when)
- Latest News About the Show (why)
- Testimonials / Reviews (why)
- CTA to Buy Tickets (how / when
When organized this way, whether your customer is on your home page for two seconds or two minutes, delivering the knockout punch to your users is never hard to do.
Google Bonus: By creating an outline for your content like this you can usually meet the 500 word minimum for keyword-rich text, without clogging up the Primary Info at the top of the page.
Be Quick or Be Dead
A recent Google study showed that users, especially on mobile devices, can be lost in as little as three seconds. That means your home page needs to load quickly. This can be tricky to accomplish, especially if you rely heavily on images and video to sell your product. However, there are a number of ways and services to help you optimize even the heaviest of elements to ensure your site loads faster.
Google Bonus: Google has already stated that page speed is a ranking factor as well as a HUGE factor when it comes to your bounce rate. Then consider that your bounce rate is also a ranking factor and you can see that the faster your site is, the lower your bounce rate and the higher your rankings.
Keep the Design Simple
Your home page is not a work of art; so don’t treat it that way – Ever. Too often clients and companies get caught up in what their home page looks like (and all the wizzy animated garbage that can come with it) through their eyes only. Not once do they think about what the home page actually needs the user to do! When it comes to your website, the design is nothing more than support for the overall user experience. Visitors need to easily engage with the content and call to action in the best and quickest way possible. The only thing artistic about your home page should be the report showing a giant number of conversions, month after month.
Google Bonus: Passing Google’s User Experience and Mobile Friendly tests will also give you a boost in your site’s search engine rankings.
Never Use Filler
Your home page is the most prime piece of real estate on your website, don’t fill it with junk! Every element you put on the home page, whether it’s images, text, or video should have a very good reason for being there, and all work towards converting users to customers.
Text should be short and to the point, always pushing the call to action. Images should support what is being said in the text, and show clearly what’s being offered. Icons and graphics should act as visual reinforcements to the call to action.
Avoid using the following filler…
- Unrelated / Overused Stock Photos
- Unrelated Stock Video
- Bloated Text to get the Google Word Count Up
- Oversized Graphics and Icons
Google Bonus: Although they should be avoided at all costs, if you have to use a stock photo then check Google’s Image search to see if anyone else in your industry is using it. If they are, don’t use it!
Be Clever with Video
Want your users to invest 60 seconds of their time to watch your amazing product video? Better pull them in the minute they see it! The first frame of a video, or the thumbnail you choose can make the difference in if your user actually watches the video or not. By cleverly putting your knockout punch into this spot, you’ll have customers clicking play all day long.
Google Bonus: There are many ways to bring traffic into your website and Google loves to diversify its universal search results with video. Maybe when you’re making the video for your website you can use it to create a solid resource answering common questions your potential customers are asking. Do that right and your video can do more than just make sales – it could bring in traffic.
You Can’t Predict The Outcome
Even if you know who your audience is, and have followed all the rules of building the perfect home page for them, it’s absolutely impossible to predict exactly what your users will do when they land on your home page. But don’t let that stop you, because the only way to fail here is to simply not try. Get your home page in front of users and start looking at real data. Use real data such as heat maps to tweak your home page, and A/B tests with multiple home pages to get comparable data.
Google Bonus: Thankfully, many of the tools including heat maps and click through data are at your disposal in Google Analytics. Take the time to learn how these tools work and apply them to your home page the minute you launch it. Warning: It might become slightly addicting.
The Final Bell
If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be the visual of your customer (you know the guy that tripped on the sidewalk when he saw your home page). This is the world we live in. Distractions abound, everyone seeking everyone else’s attention, and the mental capacity for only holding onto a thought for a few seconds at best. So whatever you’re putting out there, it has to cut through it all in the most compelling and disruptive manner, or you’ll just become another distraction.
Enough with the tough talk, get your home page in the ring and start throwing that knock-out punch to convert your users to customers now!
Writer, User Experience Expert & Technical Project Manager