In the “Build A Better Website” series, we’ll dissect a website page by page and put it back together with purpose and great content so that each page of your site can build trust, earn credibility and drive revenue for your business.
Fun to do if you’re playing in the back yard or working out at the gym, but not as much fun when it applies to your website. In internet marketing-ese, Bounce Rate refers to when people visit your site and then summarily leave without bothering to check anything out.
People can bounce from any page – not just your home page, but in many cases your home page is their first impression. It’s the entrance point to your site, via an advertisement, social posting or search listing. And if people are getting to your home page and bouncing away, well, they may as well not have visited at all.
Figuratively speaking, wouldn’t you rather have a home page that’s a magnet for customers instead of a trampoline that sends them bouncing off to a competitor?
Here are some tips for building a home page that grabs people and draws them in. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to consider these before you build your site. Otherwise it may be time for a redesign!
Get To The Point
Have you ever been to a website and scanned the home page trying to figure out what the site was about? It probably used words like “synergy” and promised to help you “leverage” something vague into something even more vague.
If there’s only one thing you do to change your website home page today, make it this: state your purpose, clearly, succinctly and loudly.
There’s almost no such thing as “too obvious” when it comes to websites. If you can’t say what you do in a single sentence then stop building your website and practice your elevator pitch instead.
Here’s an example of a home page done right.
Do you have any doubt as to what this company does?
I want you to sit down and think about this right now: how can you communicate your site’s purpose, your product or service offering, in a single sentence?
Don’t get hung up on making it the most brilliant sentence ever written. Don’t for a moment worry about being clever, funny or unique. Just state your purpose.
There’s nothing particularly clever about this headline but there’s no question about what this company’s services are.
Could they have said something clever and “copywritten” about creating visual impact by leveraging digital media using a solutions-based approach?
Um, I guess so. But I’m glad they didn’t. I bet every time they look at their Bounce Rate (or lack of it) they’re glad, too.
Now, I’m not trying to pick on anyone, but can you tell what this next company does?
Are they artists? Tech people? Interior decorators? If you read the fine print there’s something about coding so perhaps they build apps or sites? But the visual doesn’t exactly clue us in. Neither does the vague tagline.
With dwindling attention spans and a crowded online marketplace, you’d do yourself an incredible service by thinking long and hard about making the “what you do” statement on your home page short and simple.
Keep It Clean
This can apply to any page of your site but it’s especially important for your home page where the tendency is to “throw everything out there”… you know, in the event someone opts not to click to another page.
But consider this: if you state your purpose clearly then someone is far more likely to click to a product, service or “About” page than if you’d tried to cram every important detail up front.
In fact, usability studies have shown time and again that people will click… and click… and click… and keep right on clicking… as long as they think they’re on the right path.
So if you’re worried that you need to put all 12 of those rock-solid benefit points on your home page and make sure people get a good picture of your experience and also list each of your 4 service areas – you can take a deep breath and relax. There are other pages for those things. Other pages that would serve those things far better than your home page. And people will click to those pages if you don’t scare them off first.
I thought this was a beautiful example of a home page for a photographer.
Source: Alan Grant Photography
There’s no long explanation but you know this guy’s a photographer. There are no long lists of services but you get from the small photos which types of photos this guy takes. In fact, there’s not much at all – just some work that speaks for itself and some links you can click through for more information. Does it matter how many years this guy has been taking photos? Did you need a testimonial on that home page? But I bet you’d click through anyway.
Stop Trying To Sell What You Do And Start Selling What Your Customers Need
Everyone has a list of products or services somewhere on their site, right? Among some of the advice I’ve given you about building a good website, I’ve encouraged you to clearly outline your services and describe your products so people know what they’re getting and what the benefits are.
But I want you to take this a step further and think about what your customers really want and need.
If you’re a florist, your products may be daisies and roses but chances are your customers want get-well baskets and birthday bouquets.
Do you own a spa? Your product may be massage and pedicures but your customers probably want something more like a weekend getaway, a quick pick-me-up or a night out with the girls.
Here’s a website that segments people by action – whether they want to buy, learn or subscribe.
Source: Really Wild Flowers
If you’ve ever tried to find a financial planner or research anything financial on the web, you know how you almost need a degree in financial planning just to figure out those websites. A whole lot of them list services by type, so they’re great if you know what the heck a Mutual Fund or an IRA is. As for me, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a 401(k) and A-OK!
This site does it better by putting services into language a customer can understand.
Source: Financial Pathways
It can take some time to figure out how best to present your products and services but it will be time well spent. Consider how you can subdivide your target market into groups based on interest, need or even price range. Then, instead of leading them to a generic product or service page, lead them to one that specifically addresses what they’re looking for.
Tell People What To Do Next
Don’t assume that just because someone got to your website that they know what to do next.
This might sound counterintuitive – after all, you just spent a lot of time making it very clear what you do and offering your services in an attractive and relevant way. So why wouldn’t someone know that they should visit your service page, check out your product, learn more about you, shop or contact you?
Do you want the ugly truth? Because people don’t like to think.
I don’t like to think. I think all day long. I make about a zillion decisions large and small, from “Do these earrings match this shirt?” to “What’s the best way to segment my client’s website audience so I can design a good home page?”
By the time I visit your website I’m a zombie, even if I visited it for a reason.
That’s why websites with big “Start Here!” buttons and loud “Subscribe!” boxes win every time.
You know those popup windows that ask us to subscribe or download the free eBook? We hate those things. We complain about them constantly. But contrary to what we say, what we do is sign up and download. Why? Because we’re told to.
We go on autopilot. We don’t have to choose whether or not to subscribe because that box is sitting there telling us to subscribe.
Now, I’m not advocating for popup boxes (I’m one of those stubborn people who will specifically not sign up if you stick a box in my face) but I am telling you to come up with a call to action and make it loud and clear.
You can do it tastefully. But do guide your visitors toward an action that you want them to take.
Barring the creepy smiling girl, this is a good example of telling people where to click next.
This site not only speaks right to a pain point but puts an action-based solution right in front of you. I bet this site gets more leads than the one that buried its service request form on a secondary page somewhere.
Source: Two River Technology Group
Think in terms of verbs. If you look back at the visual of the flower website, you’ll see that they segmented their visitors and provided calls-to-action at the same time. If you can find a way to make your page both specifically segmented and actionable you’ll go from magnetic to practically a force of nature.
A Few Don’ts And Permission To Experiment
There are just a couple of things I implore you not to do. They’re common things that seem to have gained hold as “the thing you do” on a home page but as far as I’m concerned they’re just trampolines in disguise.
Don’t treat your home page like an art project. Yes, your home page is where you can get a bit creative and splashy. But don’t get so caught up in “designing” it that you forget its business purpose. You know those giant carousels full of stock photos? Lose them. The big custom graphics and gigantic headers? Ditch them. If you’re sacrificing space to show off your creativity then you’re just sacrificing space.
Don’t use a Flash intro. Flash intros say, “Hi, I’m a website from 1998.” Flash intros take time loading… loading… loading… Flash intros are not visible on some mobile devices. But mostly Flash intros are boring, don’t drive people closer toward your business goal and exist to turn a website into an art project. Just don’t do it.
DO try different techniques. I’ve given you a few ideas that you can use to attract and keep visitors on your site (and get them to take action) but you don’t need to do every one of these things – nor are these the only things you can do.
Sometimes a strategic testimonial is called for. Sometimes a service list is needed. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit to see what works for you.
Check your Bounce Rate regularly. If people are coming and going, it may be time to rethink your home page layout. Make a change, wait, and measure. See if things have improved. Keep improving in increments until you’ve got the traffic and conversions you want.
Is your home page inviting visitors to stick around? Or are they all but pole-vaulting to the nearest competitor? Can you think of one thing to do to try to improve your Bounce Rate?
Join the discussion 12 Comments
Now those were perfect examples Carol. I know that when I even visit a blog and I have no idea where to go next because it’s just got so much junk on the page that totally turns me off.
When I land on sales pages, I want to know what they offer. Even if their services are a little over my head, tell me what you do in a simple and easy format. It’s really not hard.
I love some of the examples you shared because I think a lot of times we need to “see” what you mean instead of just sharing what we should be doing. You do that perfectly my friend.
“Junk on the page” is the worst. I usually just leave. There are so many sites out there, why waste a lot of time trying to figure one out that’s bad? Let that be a lesson to those sites! Clean up your act 🙂
I sometimes do wonder what a website is selling when I visit. Clean and to the point is good advice.
I love this advice Think in terms of verbs. If you look back at the visual of the flower website, you’ll see that they segmented their visitors and provided calls-to-action at the same time.
I am not a professional writer so I love your tips. Thank you.
Verbs are a good thing! Go through anything you write and make sure you’ve got strong, descriptive verbs and you get bonus points if they give people a directive!
Hi Carol, Ah don’t you love those sites which you have no idea what they’re about? Funny thing, as you are pointing out, there are still some sites like this. To me a website/blog is like a store. If you have a store, you want to make sure people know what your store is about. If you have a shoes store it’s usually very obvious, and I’m not going to enter your store if I’m looking for computers, right? Thank you for giving us all those examples with pictures of dos and don’ts that really brings your point home with evidence at hand. Have a great day!
I like your analogy! It’s very true: when I walk into a store I want to know where to find things and how to get around. Same thing online! I hate those messy stores that have a lot going on and it seems like there’s stuff everywhere. Again, sale thing with sites. It’s too much work to figure out what to do. There are so many websites and so many options… why would someone bother wasting their time trying to figure out one website when they could just go to another one?
Hi Carol, Excellent article, well illustrated. I loved your examples of compelling home pages. You’re right, my home page is one of my most popular pages but right now all I have are article excerpts. Do you have any suggestions about how bloggers should design our home pages? Do you advise including article home pages or a broader explanation of what the blog is? I’m not trying to sell people anything, just help them to understand and discover great tech.
I think for a blog two main things are important: what it’s about, and those article snippets as teasers. Ok, maybe a third: a signup box/RSS feed. The “about” doesn’t have to be a long thing. A good tagline or a short intro just so people know: is this a cooking blog? A review blog? Why the heck am I here? I don’t want to have to read a few articles just to figure out what the point of a blog is. The teasers are great because they give people quick access to the most recent or popular topics. I think for blogs there is a longer list of “don’ts” – don’t clutter up the page with a billion ads, links, products, whatever. Some blogs have two sidebars filled with junk that are so distracting. I know many bloggers need to make some money and do that by advertising but it has to be done with good taste toward the aesthetic (you can advertise but still have a clean, clear page and not a mess). At any rate, the one thing I might suggest on your blog is a 1-2 sentence intro, maybe next to your photo, that says what your blog is about/what you want to provide. In fact, what you said in your comment is great: “help people to understand and discover great tech.” Maybe add a clarifier like… tech for what? Fun? Business? Are we talking expensive, high-end or general consumer? I think one sentence could say a lot!
Hey Carol, This is fantastic, and so ironic, as I am currently re-doing my front page for the exact reasons you have on this post. In my business the marketing strategy is NOT for people to know exactly what you do, so they will ask, however that does not work well, as if they do not know what you do, they surely are not going to call just to ask. So I am in the process of changing all that. Your artical is so clear I also shared it with my team of developers as well. Just fantastic! Thanks for this wonderful all in one packed with information post.
Wow, I’m glad the timing worked out and that you found this helpful! I know there’s a mindset where people think if they’re a bit vague it will intrigue people and they’ll want to find out more. But people are getting busier and busier, there is more and more competition and information, and attention spans hardly exist at all anymore. It’s one thing to tell people a little bit and entice them to learn more. It’s another thing not to tell them at all! To win on the web you need to be direct and clear. People have to get it in about 3 seconds flat! Good luck with the redesign. Let me know if any questions pop up along the way.
There is nothing worse than going onto a blog and trying to find it! Ever see those home pages where there are so many things and then on top in tiny letters you have to click “blog?” Drives me nuts!
I like simplicity. A tag line with a few words. I am a great believer in less is more. If people want to find out about your product they will.
After reading this, I do want to re do my blog! I especially like the examples above and realize mine can use a make over.
I always want to redo my site and my blog 🙂 But that’s not a bad thing… it just means we’re dedicated! I know what you mean, sometimes you can’t find a blog, or even contact info. It’s nuts. I love simplicity. even if stuff isn’t in your face, it’s easy enough to find on a clean, simple website!