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Not to pick on web designers, but in today’s business world, you need to be thinking about so much more than just design when it comes to building out your website. Sure, the design is still an important element since a website needs to be visually pleasing to its audience and have the functionality and user experience that they are used to, but you simply cannot design a website at the expense of content and SEO.
While there is a growing percentage of web designers who understand how to design strategically, there are still many business owners who have the “make my site pretty” mentality. By not keeping SEO, content, strategy, user experience, website functionality, and design in mind, companies risking losing business opportunities.
The purpose of your website
Before I can talk about the necessary elements of your homepage specifically, I need to address the purpose of a website.
Gone are the days of your websites just being a digital brochure for your company. A website now has many jobs including:
- Get found – The website should be optimized for search to help you get found online.
- Build trust – Your website is a key element to building trust. Once a person arrives on your website, it needs to validate their challenges. Your website needs to function the way your customers need it to and expect it to.
- Educate – Your website should teach people how to recognize what their problems and challenges actually are.
- Inform – Once a person has found you and trusts you, you need to inform them on how you can solve their problems.
- Nurture – Often people need to come back to your website numerous times before making a purchase. Capture their email address and continue to create valuable content that is relevant to their stage in the customer journey to nurture them through to the sale.
- Convert – A conversion can be many things from subscribing to a newsletter, to calling you, to actually making a purchase on your website. Conversion opportunities need to be an element of the design of your homepage to help guide the journey.
In today’s world, your customer’s journey starts by researching online. People are coming to a conclusion on their own as to whether or not they are interested in buying from you far before you even realize you are being looked at. You need to make sure you have a presence in these early research stages, and completing each of the jobs above will help you do that.
Tell a story
The main goal your website should achieve is to be able to immediately tell a story. What you may get wrong about storytelling on your website is that the story is not about YOU. The story must be the story your customers and prospects are telling themselves. They need to see themselves in the story which starts with their challenges, problems, and issues that they don’t know how to solve. You have to immediately let your website visitor see that you know what they’re struggling with and that there’s a good chance that you know how to solve it.
Guide a journey
Your website must guide your prospects through the buying process and help them decide how they should move forward. You don’t need to cover everything on your homepage, but you need to help guide your visitor to the next steps. Ask yourself what you want your visitor to do when they’re on your homepage. What actions and next steps should they take to find the solutions they’re looking for?
When you think of guiding people through your website, design is a natural element to think about, but remember, SEO, content, and strategy need to be done in parallel with design. In fact, many believe web design should revolve around SEO rather than the other way around.
Must have homepage elements
It’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for: must have homepage elements. The homepage is often a prospect’s first impression of your website. To get the most out of their visit, consider implementing the homepage elements below. (Of course, different types of businesses may need a few different elements – here’s our post on must-have elements for Professional Services firms.)
1. A promise
You need to have something on your website that shows you understand the visitor and the challenges they face. You need to make them a promise that will solve their problems.
2. Sub promise
A sub promise is the trust factor and social proof that a company offers, as seen below. Include it on the homepage where relevant.
3. Call to action
A call to action (CTA) is an image or text that prompts visitors, leads, or customers to take a specific action. CTAs help to guide people through the customer journey and advise them on next steps
4. Contact details
Make it easy for people to get ahold of you. Consider using a little personality as well to make them want to contact you even more!
5. Visual branding
Visual branding is an important part of your story, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Slack here. They do a great job of marrying visual branding and showcasing their brand’s personality at every touchpoint. Integration of strategy, messaging, positioning, and brand is so important for a business as it become a huge trust factor for site visitors.
Many companies are beginning to feature video on their homepage, and for good reason! Video allows you to give people a real sense of who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story. It’s also a great way to produce content to engage your audience.
7. List of problems
Identify the problems you solve and make it easy for website visitors to see them. This will allow them to quickly know if they’re on a site that will address their needs.
8. Trust elements
You need to have elements that build trust on your homepage, whether they be logos of current customers or testimonials for your audience to glance over. Have reviews or accolades you want your audience to see? Make them easy to find and place them on the homepage.
9. Changing content
Feature changing content from your website on your homepage. For example, place a blog or social feed on the homepage that shows recent activity. It’s a great way to show your company is active and to keep content fresh on the homepage.
10. Mobile optimization
Your customers are always on the go, and the number of people researching companies on mobile devices continues to increase year over year without any signs of slowing down. Google is even penalizing sites that aren’t optimizing for mobile because it provides a bad user experience. To avoid frustrating potential customers and losing rank in search engine results pages, consider optimizing for mobile.
11. Personality/have fun
For most businesses, it’s OK to be human and show your personality on your homepage. Make it fun for your audience! It will help to establish an emotional connection with your audience which will make them more likely to buy from you.
12. Social proof
“Everybody’s doing it!”
That phrase, in a nutshell, is social proof. If you can show that other people love your products and services, new prospects will be more inclined to buy from you. Add elements of social proof across your entire website. It will help you increase credibility and drive more conversions.
13. Clear path
Many businesses have different types of clients and audiences that they serve. Make it easy for them to know which path they need to take to find the specific answers they’re looking for.
14. Content upgrades
I’ve written about this numerous times because it’s important! Give people the ability to download premium content in exchange for an email address or capturing a lead. This is an essential element for conversion on your website. If they download this content, this expresses interest in what you do. Take this opportunity to give them more valuable content moving forward in an effort to nurture them through to the sale.
15. Core services
One of the things many companies don’t do enough of is list out their core services on their homepage. For now, however, people have expressed interest in having all of the information they need on one page rather than clicking around a website. In addition to pleasing your prospects, adding more information on the homepage helps boost SEO as well.
16. Resource menu
Lastly, be sure to add a menu at the bottom of the homepage with links to important resources, site pages, and social media channels. Be sure to include contact information there as well. Prospects expect to find the information they’re looking for in this area of the website. Don’t disappoint them.