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Monday, Nov. 14, 2011 at 7:30 am

The Most Valuable Real Estate On Your Site

By Melissa Burdon
November 14th, 2011

gorgeous home with reflective pondThe Duties of Your Homepage

The homepage has so much responsibility.  In most cases, our client’s homepages are the highest trafficked landing pages.  They are the entry point for many different types of visitors in different stages of their buying process.  The homepage needs to present content and images that effectively speak to the return visitors that already know your brand.  It also needs to feature elements that will engage the visitor who doesn’t know your brand, has never been to your site, and needs a lot of love and tenderness to even begin browsing your site’s offerings.

The active window of your homepage has the highest real estate value. The active window can be found below the top header and navigation and above the fold of the site. The images and content found in this area will need to speak to the different types of visitors and engage them to move forward easily within the first few seconds when they first arrive.

The Data Tells You What and Where

It’s really important to take a look at the bounce rate on your homepage to understand how likely visitors are landing and leaving before clicking on anything else. To take it a step further, you should look at the bounce rate for the different segments of visitors on the homepage; those that know exactly what they want and those who are in the early stage of their buying process and need a lot of hand holding. This data will help you determine whether you’re doing a good job of presenting the right content and entry points for the different types of visitor segments.

You should take a look at navigation summary to see where visitors are going next from the homepage. This will give you an idea of what is standing out to the visitor effectively based on what you are presenting them today. The other data point you’ll want to take a look at is the effectiveness of each of the pages people navigate to from the homepage at converting visitors to your goal. Perhaps you’ll find that most visitors are going to pages x, y and z.  With some digging, you may find out that although very few visitors are currently going to pages a, b and c, these pages are actually more effective at convincing visitors to convert. What this data will tell you is what you SHOULD be prominently featuring in the active window of your homepage instead of what you’re currently featuring.

A Client’s Win Based On Our Hypothesis

One of our clients, thepartyworks.com, has a tremendous amount of traffic landing on their homepage. Based on some of the above mentioned analysis, we determined that they weren’t featuring the most valuable entry points within the active window of their homepage.  The fact that the active window of their homepage was scrolling and had different entry points each time, confused the visitor even more.

See the original homepage active window to get a sense for the experience. We mocked up a new homepage active window with entry  points that we knew would drive more visitors into their intended experience and would result in more sales.

See the variation that they tested their original homepage against.

Using the testing tool Visual Website Optimizer, we tested these two versions of the homepage against each other for the period of 20 days. The conversion rate was improved from the homepage to the cart by 19.99%.

What You Can Do For Your Homepage

One of the first few steps you take in your optimization project will likely be to optimize your homepage (of course your data should direct where to focus first).  Be sure to feature links in the active window of your homepage that help drive visitors in any and all buying stages into their buying process, to get the answers to their questions and gain confidence to take action and reach your conversion goal.  Be aware how the homepage influences the navigation experience on your site, and set it up to help convert more prospects.  The homepage is the task manager for your website, make sure it gives opportunities to both your experienced and your fresh prospects.

Do you have any homepage building tips? Have you run any tests and found that certain homepage features worked really effectively, or better yet, failed you miserably? What kind of data do you look for on your homepage?  Do you need help making sure you can placate all the visitors that see your homepage?  We’re here for you!

Add Your Comments

Comments (48)

  1. I have tested several page layouts and paths to my website but I have not tested the home page. If anyone has any suggestions on things that should improve my bounce rate, let me know and I will test your ideas.

  2. Wow. Excellent case study and post. I have run some A/B tests in the past on clients homepages that have nearly increased conversions dramatically and it was all just due to a few simple changes on the homepage. Some times it was just as simple as changing the color of the call-to-action button or changing the an image.

    Always pays to test, test, test, test and test.

    Thumbs up!

  3. Just to add, your homepage should be interesting enough for people to actually read it and not just pass through the contents.

  4. I just contacted you via the form you have on your site. I am very interested in seeing what you say about my site to improve my conversion rate. Been in business since 1996 and it just seems like I am missing something on my home page that would take my business to another level. Thank you again.

  5. This was interesting. But it is indeed very difficult to make the active window appear to everyone. If you try to sell to everyone, nobody will buy.

  6. Your homepage should “speak” to the customers and give enough preview on what you’re all about and can offer. Good read!

  7. Thank you very much for this… I’m just starting to make money on my website and this really gave valuable insights…again thank you…

  8. many home pages have unnecessary links . They hinder the visitor and don´t report what is most important. I try to leave my homepage as simple as possible, with clear information. Lay out some information and are the most important on the web page. Excelente article!

  9. I am constantly surprised at the number of people who do not place a high priority on the homepage. Let’s face it, your website isn’t going to do you a lot of good if folks don’t get past the homepage. It’s kinda like the carnival barker…45 seconds to sell the show behind the curtain. Great post. I will read often.

  10. A great post – way too many people focusing on getting the clicks to the homepage and don’t think beyond that about their bounce rate or visitors’ path through their site. I’m having a nightmare at the moment with my bounce rate thanks to StumbleUpon.

  11. These are great tips guys. The question I have is, how do you optimize a homepage that has nothing but Teaser Boxes? My fitness blog has teasers on the homepage; Does that prevent me from fully optimizing the site? Here it is: http://www.Kodjoworkout.com

    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Kodjo

  12. Jenni,
    I do use Stumbleupon as a Social Bookmarking site to drive some traffic to my blog. What do you mean by having a nightmare using Stumbleupon?
    Can you explain?

    Best,
    Kodjo

  13. Kodjo,

    It is hard to give advice on how to optimize your homepage without knowing what your goals are. In any case, every industry is different. Make sure you are tracking clicks on your site to see if your teaser boxes are leading to more content interaction with your guests. If not, you should try other design strategies to optimize your visitors experience.

  14. Thank you very much for this… I’m just starting to make money on my website and this really gave valuable insights…again thank you…

  15. Interesting.. I never thought of the homepage as setting the tone for the entire site navigation experience. In the homepage A/B test, I can see why version #2 was more successful. I have adopted a similar style ‘active window’ (new term for me) on some of my sites with good success

  16. Yes, I do agree with this article. What the visitor will think about our website is what they see in the homepage, so it is really important to give a strong and clear impression about what your website is offering and what your website talks about. If you are not clear about your offering your visitor will leave the page because they don’t find what they were looking for and worse they get confused with the homepage.

  17. Optimization is not about getting links and links for only your “home page”. If you promote only your home page for a couple of keywords, then obviously your website’s or blog’s bounce rate will increase. Search engines have no idea what the bounce rate of any page of your site is; unless you make your access logs accessible to all search engines …

  18. A lot of testing is important and time consuming. I’ve actually found that as much as split and other conversion testing is greatly important, many clients still have no idea what they are doing on the backend of their marketing and in what way to process their leads

  19. homepage is like an aircraft carrier, sub-pages are hornet

  20. Right, optimization of the homepage is really important to “lead” your visitor. But a “long tail” strategy is also useful and can bring a very qualified trafic.

  21. Thanks for this very interesting article. I’m gonna change my homepage ASAP and add some nice call to action buttons. They lack in my current homepage. Hope it will lower the bounce rate.

  22. Thank you for the insights. Early October, I completely gave my site a makeover. It has greatly improved my bounce rate, traffic flow and overall reader engagement. However, I am a work in progress. It would be nice to gain feedback on the effectiveness of my site. I think I am going to post a poll for visitors to partake in over the next month. Very great tips thank you.

  23. I was interested in this article because I have seen all the different “heat map” and google triangle graphics showing where to place certain things on your site. I have a question though, how do you best decrease bounce rate. It seems like it is a matter of content not placement. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  24. I originally had a plan to keep my home page interesting and interactive. I got caught up in the content pages and have left a too much of the homepage undone. It’s not unlike building a house but leaving the garage door off and not painting the trim.

  25. I do agree myself that the one of the most important pages on any site would be its homepage, because it basically lets the reader or potential customers know exactly what your site is all about almost the same as a magazine cover

  26. Lay out some information and are the most important on the web page, If you promote only your home page for a couple of keywords, then obviously your website’s or blog’s bounce rate will increase..

  27. From the article: “The images and content found in this area will need to speak to the different types of visitors and engage them to move forward easily within the first few seconds when they first arrive.”

    That’s very good advice. It’s making me rethink the homepage on some of the sites I have. Although, if what your site is presenting is information along with links to finding that information, it can be hard to narrow down any errors in judgment.

  28. Yes, I do agree with this article. What the visitor will think about our website is what they see in the homepage, so it is really important to give a strong and clear impression about what your website is offering and what your website talks about. If you are not clear about your offering your visitor will leave the page because they don’t find what they were looking for and worse they get confused with the homepage.

  29. Thank you for visiting the Archives, Deb, and profiling the Field Books Project! Hopefully I’ll get to meet you the next time you come in!

  30. To Ryan
    I personally think: bounce rate is effect by images, description, calltoaction, background color, all this can be called user experience. and it should relate to times on sites or pages.

  31. A good spot to mention that on such an important page, you should absolutely have phone and contact information if that’s a common way for your clients to interact with you, and you absolutely shouldn’t devote space to useless pages that don’t offer a lot of value to your visitors. Nobody wants to see your privacy policy on the top right of the page, we can all scroll down to find that.

  32. Real estate pros have a saying that the three most important features that determine the value of a piece of real estate are location, location and location

  33. Really important stuff on the value of internet real estate.
    I wish someone would comment on my site which is simple but I believe serves its purpose.

  34. Thanks Mellisa, after reading this I think I’ll go and check my homepage to make sure it has all the relevant information there.

  35. you get one chance – so getting that homepage right is key

  36. When I check google analytic for one of my websites I see that homepage is somewhere in position 4-5 for number of visitors. I suppose position depends on competition of keywords for specific page.

  37. So true! Allot of my site traffic came from Goolge but at first my homepage was trashy and not attractive at all, all this traffic that went to my Home page left the site in under 30s and since I changed the whole site layout, IT HAS CHANGED DRASTICALLY! Visitors are on now the site on average of 5 mins! Great article

  38. HOme page is the most important thing we have to think about when developing a page. We shouldn’t care so much about the clicks on our home page as for keeping the potential customer on the page and increasing the average stay on the website percentage! Thank you for this post!

  39. Thanks for the informative article. A home page is indeed important. I did not bother about it in the past. Only realised that it makes quite a big difference in the number of page hits if it is organised properly.

  40. It’s a hard mission to find what you want for theme on your web page, I always go for what I like, if I was someone looking for the information that I am talking about. After longs nights trying to set up pages, the best and affordable one, I decided to follow what I described before, It works for me.

  41. Always interesting. Sound as small changes really can do the trick.

  42. Testing different combinations of content above the fold on the first page is something that constantly needs to be done on an ongoing basis in order to insure better performance over time. I have been able to refine some of my home pages to work very well.

  43. Wow! Thanks for letting me know that I am on the right track in promoting my website, right down to the analytics found on Google! I have been working the home page over, testing it to see what works best as well. Thanks!

  44. I worked on my home page and did exactly what you are talking about and the results are really good. Now my home page is quite good.
    Great saying “First impression Lasts.” Our home page is actually introducing us and it must look good, eye catching and technical.

  45. Spot on article. And we only have about 7 seconds to grab a readers attention. Conversions are the second most important element after traffic. Thanks for your insights….

  46. Very interesting study.. this is the type of research I’ve been personally involved in, professionally. The homepage is the heart AND brain of your site.

  47. I think the main thing is to keep the homepage simple. If people look at it and get confused, you lose them. I would look not only at direct conversions from the home page but also the bounce rate. So I tend to think of it in terms of having “here’s what you want:” right there for people to as quick and simple as possible.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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