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.
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:
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.
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.
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.