(Reprinted with permission from Your Virtual Insurance, Feb 28, 2002)
For most sites, the majority of visitors arrive at the homepage.
And most of those visitors then leave that homepage without seeing any other page on the site.
And that’s a bad thing because, one way or another, you have paid real money to get them to take
a five-second peek at your site before leaving.
Here are three ways to increase the clickthrough from your homepage, and improve your chances of
converting those visitors into customers.
Let them know what your site is about.
Don’t assume that every visitor knows what it is you do and what you offer. Many first-time
visitors won’t know what they can expect from your site or your business.
To bring each new visitor up to speed as quickly as possible, use a few words at a prominent
spot on your homepage, and articulate what value you deliver.
> Your Guide to Adventure Holiday Destinations.
> Complete Accounting Solutions for Small Business.
> Custom Blinds and Shades Delivered to your Home.
It doesn’t take many words. Just enough so that people can read that line and think to
themselves, “Yes, it looks like I’m in the right place.”
A side benefit of this is that sitting down to describe what your site delivers, in nine words
or less, can be quite a challenge.
But when you succeed, when you find those few, important words, it will do wonders for helping
you focus on the purpose and ‘deliverables’ of your site.
Direct their first click past the homepage.
It’s really important that people look at your homepage and then quickly determine what their
next step will be. You need to offer clear directions that point to the way forward beyond the homepage.
For instance, on the Custom Blinds and Shades site homepage, there could be a link in a
nice, central location that says:
> Automatic size and price calculator, click here. . .
Visitors see the link and recognize that such a calculator could really help them. So they
click. And once you have visitors beyond the homepage, you have achieved a small level of commitment on their
part. Now they are involved. Now they are in your site and you can hold their attention for a little bit longer.
Look at your own homepage and try to identify links that clearly direct the user to take a next
step. Tell people what to do. Direct their first few clicks into your site.
Too many directions are as bad as none at all. While some homepages may fail because they
never succeed in pulling the first-time visitor deeper into the site, other homepages fail because they offer
too many ways forward.
Go to the Ford.com site and you will see that there are over 50 different links on that homepage.
Fifty ways in. Fifty choices.
That approach makes considerable demands on the user. It is assumed that a first-time visitor
is committed enough to put a lot of work into finding the right link. And that’s probably not a very sound
Other sites fail for the same reasons, but with far fewer links. These sites fail because
their creators fail to construct a clear pathway into the site and the sales process. So they throw everything
onto the homepage, hoping that their visitors will sort things out for themselves. For most sites, this approach
simply confuses visitors and prompts them to leave.
On a very complex site I worked on a few years back, we cut back on the things we wanted to
say on the homepage, with a corresponding cut in links, and quickly saw a significant increase in people clicking
deeper into the site. Too much choice is confusing.
In Conclusion, you know your own business far too well. It’s easy to assume that others will
understand your homepage as quickly and as completely as you do. But that is rarely the case.
So tell people what it is you are offering and then create a small number of clearly directed
pathways into the site. Make it clear, reduce the number of choices and tell people what to do.
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