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Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2011 at 9:57 am

Redesigning Your Homepage: 3 “Must Do” Steps

By Melissa Burdon
July 6th, 2011

Changing your homepage is something you may consider doing seasonally, or just periodically to give your site a fresh look. Regardless of when you chose to undertake the endeavor, here’s a word of caution about how you do it: never just throw up a new design of a homepage based on what “looks good”. You should approach any reworking of a new homepage in a more logical way that ensures your new homepage will not only look fresh, but will perform more effectively than your old one. Read on to learn the specifics of the 3 “must do” tasks, and the associated questions you should ask yourself, to inform your homepage redesign efforts.

Task #1: Evaluate how your homepage is performing today. What is your Analytics data telling you?

Before you can figure out where to go, you have to assess where you are. A better understanding of what’s already happening on your current homepage creates the foundation for doing a better job of addressing any problems in the next revision of the page. This is true not only for a homepage redesign, but for tweaking any page on your site, or any marketing campaign or effort you’re engaged in. It’s the idea at the very heart of all conversion rate optimization. There is no excuse for not having analytics installed on your site. If you don’t have analytics, go get Google’s free analytics tool to keep track of where your visitors click and where they give up.

Here are some things you should be evaluating to determine how your homepage is performing:

  • How many unique visitors and what sources of traffic are sending visitors to your homepage? In the next section (Understand homepage traffic…), we discuss why this is important in more detail.  Until we get there, just remember that any landing pages (including the homepage) should contain easily identified information that addresses the visitor’s search or the intent behind it.
  • How many of these visitors are bouncing and exiting the homepage? Remember that a bounce happens when someone lands here and leaves right away without clicking. High bounce rate is typically an indicator that there is a disconnect between the expectations set by whatever brought them to your page, and the information they are able to find on your page.
  • What is the conversion rate of your homepage compared to your other pages? A custom report can be created to see how well your homepage is converting. Also, dig even deeper to see how each source of traffic and each keyword that is driving traffic to the homepage is converting.
  • Where are your visitors going next? In-page analytics and navigation summary are two reports that tell you where visitors are clicking on your homepage, providing an indicator of what currently is capturing your visitors’ attention on the existing homepage. Then create a custom report so that you can look at the conversion rate for each of these “next pages”.

If you’re struggling with how to find these data items in your analytics, or understanding what they’re telling you, check out the snapshots to the right, or read our Google Analytics Basics series of posts.

Task #2. Understand homepage traffic and drive more of the right kind of traffic. Who is coming to your Homepage?

A homepage can work as an effective landing page for some keywords and traffic sources, but it should not be the front door for every single visitor, for every source of traffic. Be choosy about who you send to the homepage. Once you have a good understanding of who is coming to your homepage (from which keywords and sources of traffic), you can determine what will work effectively on your homepage to help move these visitors forward in their buying process.

Looking at keywords and sources of traffic will help you see whether you’re driving the wrong kind of visitors to this page (symptoms of this problem might be high traffic, with a terribly low conversion rate on the page). Does the homepage contain contain easily identified information that addresses the visitor’s search, or the intent behind it, for all the keywords you are seeing?  Should you add that information to the homepage, or is there another page on your site that already contains that information? If so, perhaps it makes more sense to send them directly to that page instead.

Task #3. Create effective scent trails on your homepage for the visitors you’re interested in targeting. Are you giving visitors the information they seek, and appropriate actions to take?

You don’t want to just throw up a new homepage based on what your marketing or design department feels looks good.  Any change you make to your homepage, or to your website for that matter, should be driven by improving the continuity of the visitor’s experience and helping them move forward in their buying process. The prior tasks in this exercise have given you valuable information regarding who your visitors are, what their motivations are, and what their intent is. Knowing that allows you to come up with some ideas of the questions your visitors are asking when they land on your homepage.

Create a list of questions each segment of traffic will have when they land. Help the visitor connect the scent from the traffic source/keyword that they came from by featuring bolded copy and content for each segment on the homepage, or the right call to action link for each.

Look at where the traffic is most commonly navigating to from the homepage. How well is each of these pages converting visitors? Make sure you’re doing a good job of featuring the most attractive links and calls to action within the active window of the homepage. For the OnTarget subscription work we do with our clients, we define “most attractive” as those links or calls to action that lead to the pages 1) receiving the majority of traffic from the homepage, and 2) converting at the highest rate. If a page gets a ton of traffic from your homepage, but converts at an incredibly low rate, then you’re better off not making the link to that page more prominent. Add that page to a list of items to evaluate next, and instead feature links to highly converting  pages that still are attractive and highly trafficked from the homepage. Once you’re satisfied with the work you’ve done on the homepage, you can turn your attention to an analysis of each of the pages on your list of highly trafficked but poorly converting items, and focus on how to improve each of those scenarios.

Add Your Comments

Comments (79)

  1. Great post thank you. I’d just like to add a tip that might save someone from the same kind of trouble I went through.

    Bear in mind how resistant most people are to change!

    I was trying to update and improve my homepage and had a LOT of repeat visitors who were used to my homepage setup. They were outraged when I updated and moved things around and they let me know about it!

    My final solution was to have them bookmark the old homepage so that became their landing page for my site and then fed them into my new flow. alongside this I created an updated homepage which did appeal to and convert better for new visitors.

    Just a hopefully helpful tip to not forget about your old faithful visitors as you update and improve.

  2. Thx for these informations, I’ll think about my HP, but if it’s a blog, visitors will be lost, aren’t?

  3. Great article. I totally agree you have to assess how your homepage is currently performing before you make any changes and Google analytics id the best tool to use. Your homepage has to make it incredibly easy for someone to click deeper into your site. I find using article snippets work great as you have to click to read more. Regards Andrew

  4. I have to echo the comments above – whenever you change something on your site, beware of the backlash of long-standing customers, as they will not find things where they usually where.

    So I would add: send out an email to all customer announcing any major changes, and explaining where things can now be found.

  5. I agree with you. Good design not necessary works well, good navigation and strong CTR to convert traffic into conversion should be the priority.

  6. >>. If you don’t have analytics, go get Google’s free analytics tool

    Google Analytics is a MUST these days. More and more small business are taking advantage of these invaluable free tools. I can’t even count how many clients I’ve helped setup their Analytics account.

  7. Nice article. We keep updating and reviewing our website too. To find the right keywords we use google adwords keyword analyzer

  8. Thanks for all the info! I always want to make sure that my webpage is fresh and informative. I totally agree that the best way to do it is by redesigning logically.

  9. This article has inspired me to do more with my Google Analytics than just seeing which keywords are getting people to my sites.
    I’m always somewhat hesitant to change the layout of my sites because I don’t want to confuse any repeat visitors.

  10. I am agree with your all those points those we have to consider during our web design. and in more I can say that we have to think about our Audience (Male, Female, Child, Elder), also think about geographic location, colour psychology of specific country and we have to setup proper call to action and our website should be simple not to be more complex structure.. so anyone can easily get the information whatever they want from our website and they will not lost in our website and By that way we can reduce the bounce rate of our page.

  11. Great post! . We should also keep in mind not to make our homepage not too flashy. As many visitors might have a slower internet connection . Also as we all know it is a bit harder for search engines to read javascipt.

  12. A very smart thing to do before you start to renew, is to create a copy of your website in your Wix account and experiment with it.
    It also allows you to redesign your website, while it is still live and running, which is crucial, saludos from Mexico

  13. I would suggest adding a #4 here that you need to also consider if changing your homepage (especially the content of the homepage) will affect your search engine ranking. When I do redesigns, I normally try to do it in phases. For instance, I might only change the design and behind the scenes code but won’t touch any of the content.

  14. Excellent advice, Melissa.

    The biggest problem I see with most home pages is that they try to do everything. Too much information, too many keywords, too many fonts and too many calls to action.

    As you say, this is easy to see with commonly available analytics tools, which show that an overworked home page is generally the landing page for just about any query. In addition to being ineffective for human users, overloading the home page also degrades performance with search engines.

  15. The homepage is the face of your online website. If it is cluttered with blemishes users will get turned off. This is your site’s image and must be maintained in a professional manner.

  16. Great articles and tips. I like the overall style of the article and the way it looks (like DIY). However any changes that you are planning to implement on your website should be carefully researched and studied. Nowadays it’s very easy to loose the visitors so be careful when changing something to your website if it is already successful and gets targeted visitors.

  17. It takes a lot of effort to redesign a homepage,the steps that has been given is known but no one pays much heed to it.So firstly i would thank you for putting it into points.And yess its very true,if we cannot provide the visitor with the needful detail i guess the pain is in vain.

  18. I just did a big change on my homepage and search. It was a bit scary, but I e-mailed all of my customers before hand. It was definitely the right thing to do. I now have a much lower bounce rate. I think its good to look at your homepage from a clients perspective.

  19. Hey Melissa,
    Great advice. I use Google Analytics too, and I find it very helpful to know which keywords were leading people to my website. But even more important is to see how things change when a website tweak is made. One thing is certain. Always do something so frequent visitors know that you are active, and that will keep them frequent visitors, especially if you have valuable content.

  20. I always use a nice simple homepage for my websites. Dont use to much images or flash that may cause it loads slow for your visitors. Cheers..

  21. Hey, Mellisa very nice post.
    Its a really good idea to first evaluate what users do on what your website before changing it. Another way to make sure your changes are good is to use those services where you pay them and they send real visitors who record everything that comes to their mind while browsing your website.

  22. Interesting post. I find gradual rather than wholesale redesign of Home Page works best for me. It keeps existing visitors\customers happy, by introducing the changes over a period of time, some people aren’t acceptable to a complete change all at once. It is hard to keep everyone happy- you can but try!!

  23. Great article, thanks. As you say, it is essential to take your customers’ habits as the starting point.
    I would add that you can use the last version of google analytics tool to personalize your data even more.

  24. I hate it how we let giants like Facebook and Google decide, how we design our homepages. And still… I let them do so. Traffic traffic traffic.

  25. I’m someone who hates change – and I really hate going to a site where I knew where everything from the “contact us” to the shopping sections were. Do your viewers a favor and build a good site map and link to it!!

  26. Thanks for this helpful article. What I like to ask is whether Google Analytics is accurate by itself? I often heard people talking that AWstat or PIWIK does a better job in analyzing your website stat than Analytics. Sometimes the numbers are differ too much. Do you think we should add other analytic tools to validate the numbers?Thanks in advance.

  27. Having a very interesting homepage at a glance can really make a difference. This post is really of help most especially for newbies like me when it comes to blogging..But I guess giving them the right information that they needed would certainly keep them coming back..

  28. I have always been tweaking my homepage to test if I can get more visitors. Your article really cleared up a lot of stuff, especially task 2.

  29. Great article indeed. I have several SEO optimized sites and I agree that a great looking site is the last thing on my mind when designing these sites.

  30. Nice points, What I always consider before planning any homepage redesign is if the users would be more comfortable with the new design. Contrary to what the commenter above said, if your redesign is for the benefit of your users, there is nothing preventing you from embarking on it. My2cents

  31. Well, we’d better take a look into the future too. Make it easy to transform and comply to HTML5 + CSS3 trend. This should be a must, not to be left behind when it comes to solid homepage building.

  32. A homepage is like a store front window. You have about 10 seconds or less to attract the customer’s eye. Within that time frame, most people judge the store or website.

  33. When you first create your website, you just want visitors. Over time, you only want the right kind of traffic that is going to keep returning. As far as bounce rate, its impossible to get this rate under 20%. Anything above 45% is a cause for concern.

  34. I agree with great scores make sure your customers know about the changes.Also a good tool to use is the SeoQuake Toolbar for firefox you can do many good things with it and its free

  35. I have bee wanting to re-design my home page but I have been putting it off. Thanks for all the great tips, I surely will have my new home page up in no time.

  36. It is remarkable what a little research does before you undertake redeveloping your own website. Without even considering what your audience is looking at and for, you could dig a deeper hole for yourself than you originally expected! Not a mistake you learn twice.

    I also find that a little subtlety with your changes can go a long way if you have repeat people coming to your website. If it is so abrupt and sudden, some people just might be intimidated away!

  37. the reason why we need to redesign our homepage is to create new atmosphere :D
    therefore the cuustomers wont be bored..

  38. Thank you so much for this post. I didn’t even know that I could tell how well my homepage was converting using Google Analytics. When I followed along with your screenshot, I was mildly surprised at what my website’s Google Analytics was showing me. Now, I’m going to go off and read the Google Analytics Basic Series of posts that you mentioned so that I can maximize the full use of Google Analytics. Thanks again.

  39. I agree about sending out email to all customers. At least we give them info about the change so they won’t be confused, specially if the change is pretty major.

  40. Really usefull. I didn’t know where to begin with google analytics. This is a start.

  41. While I agree to some extent that existing customers like to get a feel for a site, you can’t grow a business by listening to those who already buy from you. It’s the billions that don’t whom you need to convince. Well, a bit of both in reality but you get the idea… don’t be scared of change. you can’t please everyone.

  42. Excellent advise.Changing home page content should be done of course regularly but design is good to be postponed I think for at least twice yearly.

  43. I haven’t added Google Analytics yet to my current website. I better back up now and also thanks for the tips on getting most from your homepage.

  44. Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for the good tips. I especially agree with tip #3, as visitors like to peruse other related topics before buying. This keeps them on your site longer and increases conversions. I’ll definitely come back to this post when I’m ready to review my analytics to see what I need to look out for! Thanks.

  45. I’m so glad I found this article, I come from a graphic and web design background but it’s nice to learn about development and SEO marketing strategy, I’m going check in regularly! Thanks

  46. Very good article thanks. I think a new design can make sense already. Above all, if you previously had a flash website. As everyone knows, search engines determined not to start with Flash quite a lot. Why should anyone without a new design for flash on all the best. And rely on a pure HTML Web page.

  47. Useful tips related with changing a homepage. Some visitor always like something fresh when the visit a website, change homepage will not make visitor feel bored and i think before we change into another one look, better to see whether the current homepage bring much good effect or not, if not then you need to change with the fresh look one

  48. Thanks for this information. I think it is always important to first consider why you are changing your homepage. Changing for the sake of changing isn’t a good idea. Instead focusing like you said on conversion rates, bounce rates,… are a better reason to make changes. Also like others mentioned small changes are always better than large changes.

  49. I have to say this was very helpful. I’ve been redesigning several of my sites the last few months. The problem my readers are indicating is there are times they can no longer find some of their more popular articles, despite me implementing 301 redirects.

  50. Personally, I think Google analytics has too much extraneous material which makes it all more complicated

  51. This is the real truth that a user friendly design of a a site always works because it makes easier for user to easily find things on your site that you want them to see. thanks for sharing this post

  52. I definitely think that paying attention to your traffic stats is important. You have to analyze them. If you are getting too high of a bounce rate on your homepage then that means people are either turned off by what they are finding there or else you are getting traffic to your homepage that isn’t targeted properly.

    Solving that problem could turn am unprofitable website into a profitable one.

  53. Great blog post. Thanks for making people more aware of design v usability issues. Analytics is the best tool.

    I would add that exisiting site users, should be notified as the site is changed, this not only makes them feel like a valued customer and stops them being confused when they next visit the site, but also gives you a chance to give them some current news about your business.

  54. What can you do if you discover that you have a high bounce rate to determine what the disconnect between the expectations set by whatever brought them to your page and the information they are able to find on your page actually is? If these visitors leave immediately how can I gain the feedback needed to improve the landing page?

  55. So much to learn, this is a great article that I just bookmarked. I’m trying to solve the bounce rate with landing page links more targeted to the content. thanks for the info.

  56. Yeah google analytics is key to improving any site. I definitively like your ideas on improving your homepage.

  57. Important post. Imagine how much pages on Facebook created when they redsign just a new feature. so what about changing the whole design of the site.
    Thanks for sharing Melissa

  58. Hello, just came across this site. I will be installing google analytics on the site I created. Just made the site not long ago and always interested in getting design tips so that it is well optimised. Knowing the bounce rate and the conversion rate would be excellent. I’m doing the h1 and title tags etc and putting some keywords in the content. Thanks for reinstilling my faith in getting google analytics. Keep the advice coming!

  59. Excellent article, I definitely agree with everything you said. Many people just design webpages with what looks good rather than trying to improve the functionality of the webpage.

  60. Here is another tip. As long as you are doing redesign, do some research on colors and how they affect decision making. There are some interesting articles and a different color could increase your conversions.

  61. Oh well, you hit what I really needed. This made me work on my homepage much easier. Thanks a lot!

  62. Changes to a website for a business can be scary, for one a change can take awhile to affect search rankings, and by then you need to remember what changes you made.

  63. Two good methodologies are first a quantitative one, TEST! Look at how people who do not bounce navigate your site and try to make landing pages feature links to where those people go to next more prominently on the page. Second, there are free and easy qualitative surveys you can implement on your site to try to gather more information about the needs of your visitors. Good Luck!

  64. Very effective steps! For me, before I redesign my homepage I always ask for visitor’s suggestion or comments. So I would know what are the things missing in my site and I can add it for their satisfaction. Then number 1, 2, and 3 will now come.


  65. before I redesign my homepage, I create a poll about what they like and dislike of my current design. :)

  66. All analytics tools will count numbers differently. Relative numbers are where the important information is for you to optimize your site. Your time is more valueable than exact numbers.

  67. We’ve got the age-old debate for the homepage of our website about design versus search optimisation. We’ve put copy up at the top to explain the proposition whilst the copy at the bottom of the page is there to help engines deduce what the page is about. We hope we’ve got the balance right but time will tell!

  68. Very good article. I think a new design and can be felt. I agree with their point of all we have to look at the design of our website. and the more we can say that we have to think about our audience, so think about the location, color in particular and the country specific configuration call for action and our website should be easy not to be a structure more complex .. so anyone can easily get the information they want on our site and do not miss out on our website and so we can reduce the bounce rate on our website.

  69. This is a great article, Melissa, with many useful homepage tips. It is perhaps good to remember that it can be helpful to make your blog homepage a static page. I also like the idea in one of the comments – allowing regular visitors to bookmark the old homepage. It is true that many folks become used to the appearance of the homepage and will take time to get used to a change.

  70. A great post. The definition of good design differs from person to person. Good for me may not be good for you. According to me it should look professional, it should have easy navigation, and subjective and unique content.

  71. Following your initial post we reviewed our landing pages with your suggestions re measurement in mind.
    The results are positive although learning the nuances of google analytics remains a work in progress. However, for others seeking to improve conversion it’s the only way to go.

  72. We could find that we get so many visits but with a high bounce rate, ie users are not attracted to continue browsing.
    The cause may be an incorrect development of the home page which inhibits to continue the visit, as said in this article, but it is true for the home page, because for the other pages it could be the result of a direct and full corrispondence between the research carried out and the contents found.

  73. Trying to figure out your site traffic without an ability to analyze the visitors is like driving at night without the headlights on. To get where you want to go, you have to be able to see your traffic!

  74. Thanks for the article, Melissa.
    I use google analytics and clicky to track my sites, and I find it very helpful to know which keywords were leading people to my website.
    I Always do something so frequent visitors know that you are active, and that will keep them frequent visitors, especially if you have valuable content. Btw, do you have any suggestion to reduce bounce rate?

  75. Marshall,
    There are many ways to reduce bounce rate on your site. It depends on the specifics of your site, IE, what keywords, campaigns or PPC ads are they clicking on to land on your site? What page are they landing on? Etc. You can dig through our posts for many solutions on how to reduce bounce rate.

  76. This is a very helpful article indeed. It gives a good insight on Google Analytics than using it as just a visitors and keyword tool for sites.

  77. @ Marshall,

    The tricks that can reduce bounce rate is adding relevant content, site theme, and adding video (this really work well for me).

  78. I had bookmarked this page long back and recently we did a redesign of Analytics data surely helped us to design.

    May be after a month we have to check the data to see if our design is give us results.

    Thanks for this post

  79. Very interesting read about front page design, thanks

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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