Are you floundering with what to put on your homepage? Second-guessing yourself until you’re paralyzed?
I see it all the time—from all types of companies. Even experienced digital marketers struggle to nail their homepage content.
There’s no perfect formula. Your options are many. After consulting with a slew of clients about their homepage strategies, I concluded a checklist would be helpful.
This post is in part a checklist, how-to, and planning tool. I can’t tell you precisely what to put on your homepage, but I know if you understand your options you’ll be better prepared to piece together a smart homepage with content conceived to achieve your goals.
The first thing your visitor should see is your logo. Place it on the top left. Resist urges to:
Create a menu featuring the most important pages of your website allowing visitors to quickly navigate to the sections that interest them. Consider the following:
If you choose to present an expandable menu on your desktop homepage, using a combination of the icon and word “menu” is a smart approach.
Does your site serve members or need to provide access to special features for a subset of your visitors? If so, devise an elegant way for these types of users to log in (as demonstrated in the screen shot above).
Hero shot is a web phrase meaning “main image.” Your hero shot is likely to be the largest, most prominent and most important element on your website’s homepage.
Give your hero shot squint and blink tests. After creating your homepage, expose it to outsiders in two ways:
From whatever distance you look at this homepage hero shot, you’ll quickly understand what this website has to offer.
The most important passage on your website is the homepage headline.
The headline might appear above, below or within the hero shot, usually the latter. My post How to Write a Home Page Headline that Gets the Job Done offers a complete lesson, but here are some key points you should find useful:
Unless you’re highly confident in your writing chops, you should hire a professional copywriter to write your homepage headline (as well as the rest of its copy). Cutting corners with your copy won’t save you money; it’ll have the opposite effect.
Your homepage is likely to have multiple calls-to-action (CTAs). Make one visually prominent by creating a button and building it into your hero shot or creating an unmistakable visual cue that leads right to it—preferably before scrolling is required.
There’s no mistaking what action the Orbit Media site calls for first.
Consider the following techniques to create more effective CTAs:
Get additional pointers and an infographic offering 25 power words for your CTAs here. (You might note how the link you just read is a very explicit, value-focused CTA.)
Your homepage is the place to begin a dialogue with your visitor. Introductory copy should generally be tight, benefit-oriented, informative and friendly. It’s also the perfect place to include keywords and internal links.
Does your business deliver products or services that can be showcased via images, descriptions, and/or case studies? If so, your portfolio might be the thing your visitors most want to see.
Architecture is one of many industry types for which a portfolio is a powerful homepage asset.
The vast majority of online marketers are content marketers and therefore publishers of blogs and/or content hubs. By directing visitors who are cruising your homepage for the first time to your blog, you’ll increase engagement, and hopefully, gain subscribers.
Use one or more of the following techniques to take advantage of the opportunities a blog or content hub afford you:
The homepage of Convince and Convert dedicates the largest portion of its homepage to presenting articles and podcasts in the style of a content hub.
Pods? I picked-up the expression up from a website designer. I suppose it means nothing more than “section” or “box.” Orbit Media’s design team calls them “content blocks.” They’re often presented 2, 3, or 4 across and tend to stack atop each other on smartphone screens.
Pods are worthy of inclusion in this checklist because you can use them to present whatever you believe your visitors will find valuable. Options include:
Psychologists, sales professionals and website creators are just a few of the professionals who understand the persuasive power of their own voice pales in comparison to the favorable opinions of others.
Content representing such opinions have come to be know as social proof. Make a place to present social proof on your homepage in at least one of the following ways:
If your website’s objective is to sell something, chances are you want to at least begin to communicate the features and benefits of your products on the homepage.
You can do so in a variety of ways by presenting:
The current Evernote homepage (it’s updated often) presents benefits in what I call a “ping pong” layout, made popular by Apple. It creates a great narrative for presenting benefits and is easy on the eyes.
Thanks to plugins and third-party services, invitations to subscribe to newsletter or email updates now come in every conceivable fashion: popups, headers, footers, fly-ins, scroll or exit-induced windows, and more.
However, a static homepage section presented to entice visitors to subscribe to the content provided by a website host remains another popular option. It may appear as a row, sidebar, in the footer or even the hero shot.
If building an email list is one of the priorities of your digital marketing efforts, consider:
Another effective way to generate leads from your homepage is to feature an offer or “lead magnet.” Your options for doing so are nearly infinite.
Many homepages, especially those offering online services, offer free trials.
Content marketers often offer a free eBook, guide or report of some sort.
A discount or coupon can be a very compelling offer.
The Mint.com homepage offers a free mobile app. Apps, calculators, assessments, templates, and all types of tools can be effective offers.
How might you feature your offer? Examples above include:
Or you might consider presenting your offer:
You might want to offer resources—free or paid—including the offers discussed above, via a specific section of your website. If so, you’ll attract attention to it and increase click-through by dedicating a section of your homepage to showcasing your resource library.
If your website has a large amount of pages, it’s wise to offer a search function on your homepage. Your search function is a convenient shortcut for your visitors enabling them to quickly discover content without needing to navigate.
The homepage of an ecommerce site begs to have a search function to help visitors quickly find what they seek.
Make your search mechanism easy to find by conforming to the convention of offering it somewhere in the top-right area of your site, either in its header (as above) or atop your sidebar.
While your homepage should feature a “can’t miss CTA” designed to inspire the action you deem most important, subsequent sections of your homepage might also offer additional buttons and links to quickly satisfy your visitor’s information needs.
On the TransTech homepage (an Orbit client), the section immediately below the hero shot offers three CTAs, each presented at the conclusion of a pod.
Keywords give your homepage SEO juice. You won’t budget dedicated space to displaying keywords (a popular technique from days gone by), but you should budget planning time to select keywords and work them into your homepage.
To optimize your homepage for search, place keywords:
Our Web Content Checklist post offers additional information to publish better content and optimize it effectively.
Like your header, the footer of your homepage is likely to be a standard feature all across your website. You’ll want to create a footer and carefully consider the elements it contains.
Leading contenders for inclusion in your footer include:
Here’s a comprehensive list of items your website footer might include.
Indeed. And it’s probably not complete. Your homepage can feature whatever you want. However, it’s more important to plan and parcel your page based on what your visitors want.
Do you know what that is? Put some effort into the discovery process by thinking through:
Go crazy answering these questions and any additional ones you believe to be relevant. Get your team together and plaster a whiteboard or mind map with your thoughts.
Then it’s time to kill some of them. You may have seen this great quote before:
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Writers, designers and artisans of all sorts must master the fine art of subtraction. Creating a homepage provides the perfect example.
Put things on your homepage that inspire visitors to want more, not less.
This was extremely helpful, and for me timely!! Thank you for such well organized and easy to read tips that can be used immediately. New fan!!
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RE: Hero shot.
This comment is very true and made me laugh: A $5 shot of two businesspersons shaking hands screams “marketing BS.”
Really unusual writing of the author.
Excellent and valuable information. Thanks Barry!
Hi Barry, no mention of video content. Would an, ‘about us’ video work just as well as the hero image?
in my opinion, silent video are fine, (like in background of your hero page or something), if your video have sound, do not make it start automatically after the loading. Have a ”play” button (Nothing is more annoying than random automatic sound on a home page)
All of these elements should be considered for a homepage design. In my experience, companies are going overboard with including too many things. There isn’t a true focus as to what is really important to showcase to visitors and so the homepage just becomes a cluttered mess.
I’ve found this is often the case with new product releases. The first thought for senior executives is to add the new product to the homepage. Oh, you’ve got several new products? Create a slider that moves through a hero shot of each new product, describing it’s benefits. This just doesn’t work.
In my opinion, the homepage should briefly describe what your company does and offer a way to interact based upon what’s most likely the desired action of visitors (eg. request a quote, contact). Anything else should be handled through clear, easy to use navigation menus.
very useful post for new bloggers.
Isn’t a large hero shot a counterproductive waste of the most valuable screen real estate?
Ivan asks a question that gets into a concern I have: a recent trend toward huge images, huge (non-resizeable) video players, large fonts and massive amounts of whitespace.
– I find myself scrolling a whole lot
– It’s tougher to scan a web page to get some idea of where it’s leading or what it’s point is.
– There seems to be an assumption that my browser is at full-screen when, in fact, I’ve got 5 browsers open–all somewhere around 50% to 70% of full-screen.
– It’s tougher to remain oriented on a page that has a lot of content on it.
Are there surveys or science that support this trend?
It can be if it doesn’t draw the visitor into your site further. However, the idea is to communicate your selling proposition and earns clicks.
What are your thoughts?