8 January 2010
8 January 2010,
Getting Prospects Past Your Front Door

Your website’s home page is your company’s storefront. Think about what a storefront window does for a mall retailer. In a mall, a shopper will only spend a few seconds in front of a store’s window before either going inside or moving on to the next store. Similarly, a home page has only about 9 seconds, on average, to capture the visitor’s interest before he or she clicks away to find one of your competitors.
Ultimately, your home page must provide an enticing window to your business, one that will encourage the visitor to go through this doorway and deeper into your site. Only then can you hope to make a sale or gain a lead.

There are three primary goals for a successful home page:

1. Strong branding and credibility enhancers that create a level of trust from visitors. A well-designed site is mandatory, but that’s not all that’s required.

Your home page should be designed to appeal to your specific market. For example, if your company sells a product or service to small business owners, but your home page looks imposing and impersonal, it probably won’t succeed in getting your best prospects into the rest of the site. On the other hand, if your best prospects are Fortune 500 companies and government contractors, your home page needs to create an image of a solid company with many resources and capabilities.

2. A skimmable, scannable design with text and images placed to draw the eye and make it stop at the most important information. Few visitors will actually read your home page text. But they will skim it for the information they need. Graphics can also be used to quickly provide important information. (A picture is worth 1,000 words, after all.) A home page well-optimized for visitors will include phrases in headlines and sub-heads that appear often in web searches for businesses like yours. (An Internet marketing professional can help you identify these.) And, your site’s header should include an “orientation statement” that quickly tells visitors what your company does and for whom. For example, the orientation statement on my website is “Sophisticated Internet Marketing for Small Businesses.” The orientation statement should be short, and it’s more important for it to be succinct than clever.

3. Text and graphics designed to invoke action on the part of the visitor. Internet marketers call this “interactivity,” but it’s really just a more enhanced version of the old “call to action” used in direct marketing.

What actions do you want visitors to take? Of course, the end goal is usually to obtain a lead or a sale, but it’s unlikely that you can get a first-time visitor to do that solely on the basis of the information on your home page. So, your home page needs to be designed to pull visitors further into your site. There are several ways to do this:
• An offer of a “freebie.” It could be a free download, a free personal consultation, or even a gift that will keep your company top-of-mind. The most common offer is probably an e-zine subscription, but many visitors will just see that as offering you an opportunity to continue to market to them. I recommend that you offer something else as a primary enticement.
• A good navigational design. Make sure that it is easy for visitors to find the information that they most commonly need. Remember, their first goal in visiting your site is not to find out about your company. Their first goal is to solve their own “problem.” So, for example, a page titled “What to look for when hiring a plumbing contractor” is probably going to be more enticing than “About Our Plumbing Company.”
• Link text that is relevant to specific searches. This is a marketing “secret” that is unique to the Internet. When someone searches for a phrase like “laser keratotomy,” they will more likely respond to a link on your home page titled “laser keratotomy” than to one that uses the more general phrase “laser eye surgery.” Why? Because web surfers are used to being in control. The closer the web page is to offering exactly what they were looking for, the more likely that they will stick around. Offering a link to more information about what the visitor was searching for can sometimes be just as compelling as a “freebie.”

With a New Year ahead of us, this is a perfect time for your business to evaluate the effectiveness of your home page. Use the advice above to analyze the value that your home page is adding to your business. If you find deficiencies, give me a call. A revision of your home page content can be one of your best marketing investments.

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