Visitors to a web site are notorious for doing things differently than we want or expect. But there are ways to ensure the basic process of interacting with a web site is simplified and mainstream.
We see web content and layout requests ranging from “I want no text on my home page, just a search box”, which is appropriate for Google, perhaps, but a devastatingly bad idea for the average business web site, to “I want photos of the latest moose I shot and killed right up top, because people in my area like hunting.” They may like hunting, but is it more important to prove you’re a good ol’ boy, or to have clients and operate a thriving company with a web site that converts leads?
Most business home pages should contain the following:
1. Qualifying Info: If you’re getting low hits to your web site, pay attention!
- Because you’re a search result: When someone follows a link to your web site, whether from a search engine, local directory, or social media, they need to verify two things right up front – that you provide the service they’re looking for, and that you do it in their particular local area. This information should be right up front on the home page and near top of the page on your web site. They need to verify they’re getting a mortgage broker in New York, if that’s what they expect, and not a real estate agent in Florida. If you don’t provide qualifying info, the confusion may send them to a different search result (a competitor’s site) as they close the tab for your site.
- Because you want to be a search result: This info also has some importance for search engine optimization, since any services or place names NOT included on your home page are likely to make you invisible for those search terms. You might be a Realtor for all of Southern Florida, but if your home page doesn’t have the phrase “condo listings” with your services and “Fort Lauderdale” for your coverage area, you might not come up in a search for “Fort Lauderdale Condo Listings”. Search engines know only the phrases you give them, so listing a few counties in an attempt to get all the towns included, or saying “the whole state” and “all real estate services” might work for the visitor to qualify you, but they won’t help you much in getting the visitor in the first place, because you’re unlikely to come up in results for more specific search phrases. You don’t want the top portion of your home page cluttered with lists, of course, so one way to do it is summarize your services and coverage area briefly at the top, and put the bigger lists toward the bottom of the page (below the fold).
- Because you can’t own every search term no matter how much you spend: Also, you can’t always list every single service or place name, if there are a lot of them, and you shouldn’t. Optimization isn’t being comprehensive – trying to do well for *all* search terms, as much as this is often what people want to hear. But in fact, you can take a search engine penalty or have all your search engine “juice” diffused over too many search terms if you try to stuff in too many. There are ways to work on it over time, using blogging and social media, but that’s a different discussion and one of the reasons we provide consulting on internet marketing strategy. Optimizing is selecting a subset of search terms to do better on, and that means reducing them to maybe a dozen that you include on your home page in various ways, for instance “Fort Lauderdale condo listings” and “Fort Myers FL houses for sale”. Part of selecting these terms can be Competitive Search Engine Optimization Research, which is something we do for clients. This gives you intelligence as to what actual, real human beings are typing into that Google search box, and not what we guess they might be or wish they would.
- Because even if you’re global, it matters: Even if you cover the entire US, you need *some* localization – some place names – at least discreetly positioned in the site to garner localized search results, or you’ll simply miss out on them. There are ways to do that, and a good internet marketing strategist or consultant can help point out places for optimization that you’re missing. Don’t let how big you are sabotage how focused actual search results and what people type into Google turn out to be.
- Because people aren’t buying it: Most businesses are really bad at positioning themselves in their market over against competition. We may really believe we’re more professional and reliable, communicative, and expert, but just saying that, or saying “yeah, but it’s really really true with us” has little marketing value. Visitors gloss right over it. It’s obsolete marketing. Just Google whatever industry you’re in, plus those words – like this: “Real Estate Broker Reliable Professional Expert” and see how many search results it shows. If it says 22million results found, or something like that, it’s not going to matter on your home page. Market Differentiators that are effective are something you and an Internet Marketing Strategist develop through consulting.
- Because you want them to buy it: The reason they’re important on your home page, and near the top, after qualifying info, is that the average searcher is pulling up multiple results. Just because they were searching for a Los Angeles Real Estate Appraiser and they got you, and that’s what you do, doesn’t mean they’re going to choose you, because they also got a lot of other people who do the same thing. Setting the bar on what you do differently over and above the other competition is what gets them to close those other tabs and focus on your web site.
- Because you had better be better: The main value of effective market differentiators is that they set the standard above the level of your competition, and position you as clearly the best choice. If you think, “but I don’t do anything differently than my competiton” or “all I have are fluff words like expert, better communication, and more professional and reliable” (even if those things are true), this is why you get consulting. Marketing is an art and a craft blended with a bit of technology. It can be hard to step outside our box and reach out to someone who knows something we don’t, when it touches our business, but it can also be incredibly liberating and helpful, not to mention more effective than just taking our best shot on guesswork.
3. Options for Action: If you want to capture more leads, pay attention!
- Because you’re not in control: This used to be called a “call to action” but it has evolved. About 25% of your web visitors aren’t going to respond to a single avenue for action. Social media and instant search results have made visitors less passive and given them more entitlement when it comes to how they interact with presentations on the web. It’s important to have a contact form on the home page to capture leads, and a CONTACT item on your web site menu, but there are all kinds of options beyond this that people now want.
- Because you don’t want to be in control: Some people aren’t ready for action but they’ll “bookmark” you. Except no one bookmarks anymore. Now we follow someone on Twitter or add/like them on Facebook or subscribe to them on Youtube. Social media should be right up front on your home page as an option for action.
- Because there is more than one person per search: Some people are searching on behalf of a friend, family member, or boss, and they may want to socially send your site to a colleague that they communicate with through Facebook or Twitter.
- Because people use a browser to browse: Some people are just web surfing and have come across your site, and it makes them think of people who might benefit or are thinking about doing something you provide as a service. They might want to socially share your site on Facebook or Twitter.
- Because people are people: You might want to give people an application (e.g. for mortgage) or a search box (e.g. for real estate listings) as one option for action, but what if they have a question before they’re ready to fill out something extensive or perform a search? That contact form up front can make all the difference.
4. Graphic Presentation:
- Because it’s a presentation: A web site is a presentation tool for the purpose of marketing. That’s the definition for a business or professional web site. Even purely informational web sites for organizations are trying to reach a segment of the population. That attempt to reach people is what we mean by ‘marketing’ and the means by which we reach them via a web site is what we mean by ‘presentation’.
- Because it’s fast: A graphic image can summarize what a web site is all about in a single glance. This is especially important if you want good search results. Good search results depend on a certain amount of text on your home page. When people are looking for a hot water heater installation (a plumber) in Salt Lake City, they don’t upload a photo of a plumber or hot water tank to Google – they type in text. But you don’t want site visitors lost in a sea of text that doesn’t apply to them. Summaries are good – both text summaries (like a headline) and visual (like a graphic image, slideshow, or video – or some combination of these).
- Because it’s huge: An important point: video marketing is huge. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing out on the second largest search engine in the world – Youtube which, incidentally, is also owned by Google.
- Because it’s alive: A video or slideshow, in particular, adds motion to your site. It can make it seem more interactive, and like someone is actually ‘there’. Think of it as the difference between a virtual secretary introducing the visitor to your services and a static sign that just sits there and can only get a few words out or else seem too cluttered or detailed.
- Because it’s tight: A video or slideshow is a great way to summarize more information in a short space. It can even sum up your market differentiators, which can give it great social media value in Youtube as a lead generator, too – especially if it’s not overly sales-ish.
- Because it’s their time: Most of the time, the written script – the text – for a graphic presentation should be brief. Maybe one short headline per slide with a sentence of text or 2-3 bullet points at most – or, for video, no longer than 2minutes, with videos under 1minute getting significantly more views, all things being equal. There are other aspects to video content selection, search optimizing and marketing videos via Youtube or other social media, and we do consulting on that, but right now we’re just focused on the web site.
5. Blog Page Excerpts:
- Because Google says so: Give search engines what they want, and they’ll give you what you want – that’s the pact – the exchange. Search engines reward sites with fresh, original, locally relevant content. Fresh means that it’s new and is being added to frequently. The most effective way to provide that is to add a blog page to your site, and to feature a selected number of automated teaser excerpts from your blog page on your home page, with “read more” links.
- Because Your Pages are Boring: Most of the time, it’s better to create fewer static pages, which are less traveled, less socially gregarious (share-friendly on social media), and which can clutter up your menu navigation, and add more material as blog posts, on a frequent, consistent basis to your blog page. Blog posts are very search engine friendly, social media friendly (e.g. referral friendly), and tend to engage visitors/prospects more by bringing them into an ongoing relationship with your company instead of a merely one-time transactional relationship which can easily lose them along the way.
- Because You’re in the Deep End of the Pool: Web site traffic has shifted from something you passively wait for to something you actively create, simply because of the volume of competition out there who are now engaging in technology and internet marketing strategy. Blogging, in fact, is one of the central activities in an effective internet marketing strategy – both because it supports multimedia which can be more engaging to prospects, and because search engines still work off of text when people are searching for a business – so you need to be shelling out a continual stream of text along with video and/or images. Building an effective internet marketing plan with a consultant, and then implementing that plan, either with a copy writer or content creator with oversight by a consultant, or doing it yourself (DIY) with coaching from a consultant, is probably the single most important set of things you can do to get web site traffic.
6. Your Brand:
- Because recognition (branding) is one part reach, one part reputation, and one part relationships. It extends into your presence on the web – without which people don’t find you at all, the reviews you attract and prospects rely on, and your social media engagement that creates more referrals.
When looking at what you want on your business, professional, or organization home page, focus on 1. Qualifying Info, 2. Market Differentiators, 3. Options for Action, 4. Graphic Presentation, and 5. Blog Page Excerpts.
Enlist MadPipe to place your brand or business on an outcome driven marketing strategy that moves the needle on your goals.