Your homepage is arguably the most important page on your website. In many cases, it is going to be the first impression of your brand. It is also the most easily accessible page from anywhere else on the website. It is what loads see when your domain is entered in a browser bar.
This is why providing the right experience is so important, so I have provided some suggestions for getting the best out of your homepage.
What is the Purpose of a Homepage?
Imagine standing just inside the front door of your house, your favorite restaurant, or your workplace. What do you see? Go ahead and walk there if you need that perspective.
Chances are you notice these three things:
- An attention grabber. The one object or area that immediately steals focus before you look at everything else.
- A strong indicator of what you can expect to find during your time there.
- A selection of paths and doorways that lead to other areas.
The homepage of a website serves this purpose in a digital format. The purpose of a homepage is to immediately grab the visitor’s attention, explain where they are, and direct them to other areas of interest.
Now let’s dig into each of these a little bit…
An Attention Grabber
A good homepage will capture the visitor with a single visual piece like an image or video that spans across the whole width of the page. This is known at the hero banner or hero image. This visual is complimented with just a few words that sets the tone of the brand. When done well, the page will capture the visitor’s attention long enough to decide to begin scrolling down the page.
I will discuss more about the hero image soon, but it is important to drive home now. A visitor makes a crucial decision in those first 50 milliseconds of visiting a page: to pounce or to bounce.
By the way, a “bounce” is a marketing term for any time a visitor leaves a website without any interactions. This is why this piece is so important. It does not matter how great the rest of the homepage, or even the website is. The visitor is subconsciously looking for a reason to stay or leave, so give them a reason to stay.
A Connection Between the Website and the Visitor
If somebody is on your website, it is for a reason. This reason needs to be justified. This can be done through content that confirms for the visitor that your website holds the answer to their problem.
This is where the search intent of the visitor is very important. Here are some typical reasons a visitor will come to your homepage:
- They searched your brand name
- A click of a link on a referring website
- A click of a link in an email
- Through a social profile
- A click from an ad
- They entered the domain directly into the URL bar
Do you see the connecting thread between all of these? Many people who arrive on a homepage have at least heard of the brand. Maybe long before the visit, or maybe a few seconds. Either way, they are looking for an indication that your brand will help them on your homepage.
Directions to Relevant Content
Finally, the homepage is designed to direct a visitor further into the website. This is through a creative layout and content that connects to the intent of the visit and the personas of the audience.
By persona, I mean a hypothetical model of a typical person who would benefit from the content on your website. Paths can be created by learning and anticipating their online behaviors, and making sure the homepage leads them on a path to what they need.
Homepage Tips & Best Practices
Now that we have established what a homepage is for, let’s discuss how to actually do this right. Your homepage on your website should follow certain guidelines that allow for a clean design, and valuable content.
Tip #1: Layout Your Homepage Like The Front of a Newspaper
Websites and newspapers share a major layout concept called “above the fold” content. Now, there is a high possibility you haven’t seen an actual newspaper in quite a while.
In case you need the reminder, this is what they look like.
Above the fold content on a website is very similar to a newspaper, it is what you see on first glance before you explore the rest of the page. This is where your most attention-grabbing content should go, including that hero image we discussed earlier.
Now repeat after me:
“Important content is not the same as attention-grabbing content”.
There have been many instances where I’ve been asked to include specific content “above the fold” on a homepage because it is new and important. This request is fine…exactly once. But if your website is worth anything, all of the content is important. It cannot all be included above the fold without damaging the user experience.
Speaking of which…
Tip #2: Create a Simple and Clean User Experience
A homepage is easy to get carried away with. It is likely the most visited page on your website. This makes it tempting to include anything and everything on it. Do not do this.
When it comes to UX best practices on the homepage, it is wise to break the homepage into sections. Each section should act as the doorway to the various parts of the website. Similar to the directions discussed earlier.
The sections of a website homepage should include:
- That-attention grabbing hero
- A brief explanation of what the website is about
- Various sections that include a few lines of content and a link to deeper parts of the website.
- A feed to the blog (if applicable)
A clear and concise is honestly the way to go. The simpler the better. Otherwise the visitor may be overwhelmed by what they see.
Tip #3: Consider SEO on the Homepage
Your homepage plays a special role in search engine optimization. Since it is the top-most level page of your domain, it is the foundation of many aspects of your website’s crawlability. This is why those links out to your main sections of the website are important.
The website’s internal linking structure begins here. Those “directions” we’ve talked about are very important. Every page on a website should have a path from here. I am not simply talking about the site navigation. I am referencing access through the main content of the pages.
The site name and description on the homepage are also important. Like any page of the website, the site name and description of the homepage should grab the attention of the searcher. Ideally, it should include keywords relevant to the most important and high-level keywords you wish to rank for.
When you find a homepage in search engine results, you may occasionally notice other links that exist underneath that initial title and description. These are called sitelinks. These are links to pages that the search engine has determined are very important for any visitor. They are also advantageous by making the search result physically bigger, drawing more attention.
It is also important to keep in mind the search intent of the homepage. Earlier in the article, I mentioned that a homepage is likely what a visitor is looking for if they search your brand name directly. Reflect this in the title and description.
Tip #4 Use Strong Visuals
Your homepage should be visually appealing. This page more than any other should have this requirement. Image and video content are great ways to position your brand for new visitors, and give returning visitors a comforting reminder of what to expect.
I am going to bring this up one more time…the hero banner.
Yes, this banner should be punchy and attention-grabbing, but it should also discretely nudge visitors down the page. Get them scrolling. Each visual on the page should match the flow and keep the eye and the hand moving like the visitor is on a guided tour.
Years of UX and design studies have shown that on homepages, the eye tends to flow in a “Z” pattern. This is why the layout and imagery should follow this pattern as well. Each corner of this flow is an opportunity to catch the visitor with a graphic or a video, and then lead them to complimentary text. You should continue this pattern throughout the homepage.
Now that you have built an excellent homepage for your website, it’s time to make sure people see it…
How to Promote Your Awesome Homepage and Drive Traffic
We have already discussed how your homepage is already likely to receive the most traffic on your website, but what we didn’t discuss is how we can effectively promote and distribute access to the homepage through the various channels.
The most straight-forward traffic is going to be through search results. A person searching for your brand name is likely already expecting to show up here, and if you built the homepage and the rest of the website well, this should be showing up first in search results no problem anyways.
Another inexpensive traffic channel is social media. If you know your audience, your brand can actively participate in groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or sites like Reddit. It is important to be careful that you are not selling your brand through groups. That is a bit tacky. It is after all, a social network, not a social marketplace.
However, if your brand offers a solution to a problem someone may be having, certainly share your homepage with them. Others will see it as well.
You can also promote your brand to bloggers or influencers who may have followers that would benefit from your brand. Building a relationship with these influencers can lead to a lot of valuable traffic to your homepage.
If you are willing to put a little bit of extra investment and effort into your promotion, I also recommend paid promotions through Google Ads, Bing Ads, or an ad platform on a social network. Through a marketing mindset, you can reach highly-qualified potential customers through these channels as well.
Make a Content Distribution Plan
Don’t engage in these tactics without a plan. Good content distribution requires strategy that mixes tactics and follows a schedule for efficient implementation, and for optimizing the growth.
Be wise about it though. You want a seamless user experience, even from outside of the website. The homepage is not always the best landing page. Think carefully about the posts you create and the ads you place, as there may be a better option.
Examples of Great Homepages
There is a lot of information and tips in this article that I hope will get you thinking critically and strategically about the homepage of your website. However, sometimes what you need is an inspiring example. This is why I have collected a list of websites that I think have great homepages based on these guidelines.
Note: I have no personal investment or involvement with any of these websites, or the brands they represent besides just being a fan.
#1 Universal Orlando Resort – UniversalOrlando.com
Universal Orlando Resort has a homepage that really understands who it’s audience is and provides an easy flow that directs the visitor all throughout the website.
#2 Mazda USA – MazdaUSA.com
Mazda’s American website really stands out with its visuals. It also uses those visuals to break up the page into effective sections of content, and then send the user where they want to go.
#3 4 Rivers Smokehouse – 4RSmokehouse.com
4 Rivers is a local barbeque chain in Greater Orlando and it takes about half a second for my mouth to start watering. One look and I want to scroll and see more.
#4 PureLinq – PureLinq.com
This is such a clean homepage that has just the right type of visuals to capture attention. I highly recommend this style as well with a great break down into sections of the page with complimentary visuals.
Enjoy Your Awesome Homepage!
Now that you have created and promoted a homepage that will serve your brand well. Relax and enjoy the exposure your brand gets!
Let’s review what we’ve discussed:
- The purpose of a homepage is to attract attention, connect to the audience, and then direct them throughout the website.
- The layout and content of the homepage matters.
- Create a promotion and content distribution plan to attract the most traffic.