This is usually the first contact a visitor has with your brand : your homepage. It is therefore also the first impression you will make on him. You won’t have 15 seconds to convince them to stay (in fact, this is even less that 5 seconds). Consequently, it is crucial to take good care of this first impression. But who lands on your homepage? What exactly is it used for? Why do we have to make it as perfect as possible? In this article, We are going to see each of these points, and above all, what are the 12 essential elements that you must insert to improve its efficiency.
What’s the real goal of a Homepage ?
Yes, your homepage is one of the main page of your website. It is the “root” of it, and will be accessed most of the time by using your domain name alone. For example : “mydomain.com” will display your homepage. That’s why this page is so important : it will represent your entire website on its own. Its task is enormous: it must inspire confidence, present your product or service, show your success, present who you are, you and your values, answer the most common questions, and much more.
Its role can be summarized as :
- Explain what your product or service is
- Explain for whom is it
- Display a real value proposition
- Display your success
- Inspire trust and confidence
- Represent your brand
- Answer common questions
- Properly orient the user according to their needs
As you can see, the task is huge ! Taking time to correctly design your homepage will have an overall impact on your website and its conversion rate.
But, who is this for ? Which kind of visitors will land on your homepage ? You have to understand one key fact first : you’ll never send paid traffic on your homepage. NEVER. If you want to run paid ads, you will send this traffic to a specific landing page, with only one conversion to do (most of the time, to capture the leads’ email address, or selling a product at a low price). People that will come to your homepage will be mainly the organic traffic (that comes from search engines like Google), and curious that will want to learn more from you before purchasing a product. Who hasn’t already opened a second tab to see a site’s homepage before clicking on the “Buy” button ? Or it may be a referral that came on the advice of a friend who has purchased from you before.
In all cases, it is important to spend time and efforts, for it to be well-designed, with a clear message, to create a high-converting homepage.
What are the differences between a Homepage and a Landing Page ?
The very first thing you must keep in mind is : a homepage IS NOT a landing page (and vice versa). A lot of people (including some web designers) make the mistake of confusing them.
Here is the goal of each one :
- A Homepage’s goal is to display your products and services, show your success, build trust, orient the visitor to the service he needs. It’s mainly made for people looking for more information about your brand.
- While the purpose of a landing page is to focus on a specific conversion. For example : make more subscribers, download a Lead Magnet, sell one specific offer.
The elements you’ll need to build one or the other will be different. While you can have a main navigation on your homepage, a landing page won’t have any (except links to legal pages), to focus only on CTAs.
Now, let’s have a look at the anatomy of a great, high-converting homepage.
The “Fold” in the digital world, means the bottom of the screen. So everything above-the-fold is immediately visible when the page loads, while everything below-the-fold will be visible when the user scrolls down the page.
[Image of the fold]
If pages were like real estate, then highly visible areas of pages would pay very expensive rents, while inconspicuous elements would pay very reasonable rents. Every element before the “fold” is extremely important, because they are visible as the page loads. The more you have to scroll, the less the elements will be seen by visitors, because ultimately quite a few of them make the effort to scroll down the page.
Most of the time, you’ll have a hero section below-the-fold, which will take up a large part of this space.
1. Designing your Menu Bar
The main menu bar must display only the main navigation of your website. Do not try to include every single link to all of your pages of your site. You must orient the users where you want them to go to increase YOUR conversion rate. So it is useless, for example, to orient them to your blog if you do not have a specific strategy powered by your content.
The sweet spot is often between 3 and 5 links only in your main menu navigation bar. The common links are :
- Features : a link to your “Features” page that will explain in detail all the features of your product
- Pricing : a lot of people will go right to your pricing page because they already know that your service fits their needs
- Blog : only if you have a clear content marketing strategy. If not, place the “Blog” link in your secondary menu.
Do NOT include a search bar, it’s a bit too “old school” these days. And in addition, it will encourage visitors to go anywhere on your site, while you want to direct them where you want. This will result in chaotic navigation, and a drop in website conversion.
2. Have a clear Call To Action
If you build a website, it means you have something to tell or to sell. And you want your visitors to do this action. That’s why you absolutely must insert at least one CTA (Call-to-action) in your hero section (so above-the-fold).
You can have 2 different calls-to-action : a primary CTA and a secondary CTA. The primary CTA will stand out visually, while the secondary CTA will be more discreet.
Another tip about CTA is to always use a clear action to describe what will happen next if the visitor clicks on it. Avoid broad terms like “Submit” or “Go” for example, but use “Buy” when the user will make a purchase, “Shop” when he will be redirected to your ecommerce side of your website, “Join” when he will be part of a group, and so on. Do not hesitate to write “free” in addition to a verb when you offer something for free. For example, “Free download”, or something similar.
Do not forget to insert CTAs everywhere, all along your homepage. You’re not limited to your hero section, good practices want you to place CTAs as much as possible, so that the visitor does not have to go up or down to find the button. It gives visitors more opportunities to take action.
3. Use a compelling Headline and Sub Headline
Writing good headlines is not so easy. It must be punchy, but not too pushy. Here’s a tip that you’ll be able to apply, even if you’ve never written a headline before.
Your headline and sub headline should answer these 3 questions :
- What is it ?
- For whom is it ?
- Why should I care ?
If we take the example of the Hawke website, here are their headline : “Performance insights for Performance Marketers” and the sub headline “Optimize based on data trends, compare against benchmarks, and report your findings”. We can find these 3 ingredients :
- What is it : “Performance insights”
- Who is this build for : the tool is built for “Performance marketers”
- Why should I care : Because I’ll be able to optimize my efforts based on trends…
You have here everything you need to explain in a second all the aspects of the product.
If you succeed to answer these 3 questions in a simple headline and sub headline, it will be more efficient, and your homepage will get better conversions. Don’t forget that your copywriting must resonate with your target audience. Take time enough to create a good headline because it will be the first thing visitors will read when they will land on your homepage.
4. Choose your perfect Hero image
The imagery is important because it will be analyzed by your visitors’ brain in a fraction of a second. So choose it carefully, with some rules in mind :
- Ideally, the photo or illustration should show the user (or the result) in the final state, after he consumed your product.
- Avoid as much as possible the product itself, as all your website should be user-centric, instead of product-centric.
- You can use illustrations or photos, as long as it sticks to your overall branding.
If you want to use illustrations, you can use tools like Blush, for example.
5. Create your Trust bar
A trust bar is a section on your homepage when you’ll display information that will make your website trustworthy.
You can inspire confidence in different ways.
Build trust by association
- List the companies you partner with
- List the big customers you serve
- List the integrations you have, if any
- Show you social media proofs
For example, the Content Studio website displays several of them.
Build trust through proof of knowledge
- List the certifications you have
- Show the awards you’ve won
Build trust by Story telling
- Share your customers’ success stories
- Share case studies
- Share testimonials
Showing social proof is powerful because it uses a known social mechanism: you’ll be more likely to believe someone you know than a ready-made speech. Showing that other users have had a good experience with your business uses the same mechanism, and will boost conversions.
An important tip: do not lie about testimonials or trust bars in general. Display only real numbers and quotes, because it is better to be honest and say that the business is new, than to lie and say that we have a lot of customers when it is false. A simple analysis of your traffic can reveal the truth.
If your business is brand new, you have sales funnels to launch it.
What if I don’t have any of this ?
This is indeed the situation of many very young businesses, which do not yet have customers. In this case, you still have one solution : the Press Release.
As a business owner, you’d want to inspire confidence even if you don’t have customers yet. So you’ll use the Press Release to inspire trust by association. You can use specialized sites, such as Brandpush for example. They will ask you some questions, and will write an article about you and your business before spreading it on several hundreds of well-known websites. You’ll then be able to display a banner on your homepage “As seen on…” with logos of websites that everybody knows. As visitors know most of these websites, they will be more confident about your business.
The last trust tip
If you sell something, so consider including a money-back guarantee just next to your “Buy now” button. A such guarantee is important, because people don’t want to be trapped in your game if they don’t know yet if your product perfectly fits their needs. The more consistent the guarantee is, the best.
6. Key Features and Benefits
The benefits and key features section holds significant importance after the Hero section. They will highlight the most crucial features of your product, in the form of benefits for the customer.
Remember that it is always better to have a user-centric pages, because visitors will be more likely to consume your content when it talks about them and their problems.
Some examples of benefits instead of features :
- Sell a good night instead of a soft bed
- Sell an amazing journey instead of a comfortable car
- Talk about the wonderful dad that you are rather than talking about the entrance ticket to DisneyWorld
It is easy to find benefits when you have done your homeworks about your Ideal Buyer persona. Indeed, this exercise will already give you the answers to these essential questions.
Let’s go back to our section. Talking about the imagery, you can show your product in these sections, because you talk about features too.
- Imagery can show your product
- Talk about benefits first (user-centric), but you can talk about the most important features
- Try to include a CTA
7. Use a Lead Magnet
Sure, your visitors will come from organic traffic. But nevertheless, do not waste the opportunity to get their contact details! You can use different kind of lead magnets on your homepage, but do NOT use a “subscribe box”, because this is NOT a Lead Magnet. There’s no value here, because they don’t know you, or your brand, so it won’t convert. For a Lead Magnet to be a real “Magnet”, you should create a value proposition, so your visitors will want it. You must give your visitors something that will interest them.
This can be :
- A promo code for a specific product (it’ll boost your conversion funnel as well)
- A calculator
- A specific answer to a customer’s question (Whitepaper, video…)
- A template about something
- A swipe file that is easy to consume and use
Try to avoid :
- A simple subscribe box (no value)
- A 200-page PDF
- Everything that don’t give value or is hard to consume
8. Explain your Product
A good marketing section that is nice to include is the product explainer. This is a section very quick to build, and that will tell visitors how it is easy to consume your product.
The sweet spot is 3 steps, but you can go up to 4 steps (max).
Of course, don’t forget to include a Call to Action just below the steps.
9. Display your customer avatars
This section may seem trivial, but it is actually quite important. I systematically look for it on the sites I visit for the first time, in particular because it tells me right away if this site is going to offer me the offer that interests me.
You should display who your offers were made for. You must have encountered it when you hang out on the Internet :
It’s convenient because visitors (especially first-time ones) will immediately know if you have an offer that will suit them. And more specifically, if you have a solution to THEIR problem. If they don’t match with your avatars, they’ll leave your website. And that’s OK. In fact, you do not want people that don’t care of what you’re selling. This will act as a natural filter for your visitors. The beauty here is that you are going to be able to retarget the “good” visitors because they will go further in visiting your site, browse other pages, spend more time, which is an available criterion for retargeting.
You should include clearly your target avatar (individual, business, entreprise…), and you can insert a brief description of it to improve the result.
10. Use an Explainer Video
This one is optional. If you have a complex product, you can use an explainer video to demonstrate it. Videos are a good medium because they’re alive, and there’s a better conversion rate overall because people would rather watch a 1-minute video than browse through a long homepage.
No need to be the next James Cameron, or produce a 15-minute video (you shouldn’t!). 1 minute is enough, and you can use online tools like inVideo to produce it without hiring a professional. It will help your potential customer to see if your product are what he is looking for. Talk about your visitor’s pain points, and the benefits / main features you want to highlight.
No need to implement it Day-1. You can optimize your homepage over time. But it will definitely help you to make a high converting one.
11. Additional Features
Once again, if you have a complex product, and a lot of features, you can use the “Additional Features” section to complete the “Key Features” sections. You will be able to list all the features that are not the main ones. Be careful not to put too much on the home page. A block of 9 or 12 features is fine. If you really have more, consider making a dedicated full page to list them.
12. Design your footer
Finally, the bottom of your page. You’ll place here the “Footer menu”, with all the secondary links that you don’t want to include in your main menu. Try to group links in a logical / hierarchical way. Remember to include your legal pages links, that will be mandatory if you plan to run paid ads.
Some ideas of links :
- Features (can be in the main menu too)
- Pricing (can be in the main menu too)
- Contact (or directly a contact form)
- Terms of Services (Legal)
- Team / About us
- When you’re starting to build your homepage, don’t try to include every single section mentionned here on Day-1. It’s not a “make or break” exercice. You can improve it over time. Good marketing is a matter of optimization.
- You can use a template to speed up your process, but remember to rework it to include the tips in this article.
- Do not forget the SEO, this page must rank like the others.
- You’ll mainly land people that are not ready to buy. Try to put yourself in your visitors’ minds to produce good pieces of copy.
- You can place a CTA to product pages if this is relevant to your business.
- Take care of your headings (H1 for the headline, H2 for the titles of your sections).
- Think about mobiles. Your page must be optimized for mobile devices.
- You can optionally include a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section at the end of your page.