If you’re running a small business, chances are you that have an established presence on the web. Either that or you’re here on Elegant Themes looking for a theme to help you get started.
Picking out a theme is only the first step though. You’re still left with the question of how to layout and present information about your business to visitors so that you have the greatest chance of converting them to a customer or client.
With your homepage being the initial point of entry for your website more often than not, there is no better place to start when it comes to making a good impression.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to cover today – how to build a great homepage for your small business.
Your Homepage Has a Purpose
Your homepage is a critical part of your website. Most of the time, it’s the first page people see, it’s the page most likely to be clicked on in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and it’s the page people will look at when deciding if they would like to do business with you. I think you’ll agree, Rolf at ConversionLab makes a great first impression.
Unfortunately, most small business homepages are not built with a purpose in mind.
At least not a purpose tied directly to the growth of the business. Which is funny because if you were meeting one-on-one with a potential client, you’d probably go into the meeting with a very well defined objective. You’d want to make money by selling your product or service.
Why should your website be any different?
Somewhere along the way, the process of building a website has become more about the business owners, rather than the clients or customers. Instead of building a website focused on generating sales, most small businesses focus on:
- Building a website that looks beautiful.
- Building a website that showcases the designer’s creativity.
- Telling customers what you want them to know instead of what they want to know.
Unfortunately, none of those things contributes towards sales, revenue or profits. Why? Because the unfortunate truth is that people don’t want to know what you have to say. They want to know that you have a solution to their problem. Once you do, a funny thing will happen – your website will start attracting more leads and generating new business.
Thankfully, creating a winning homepage is actually not as difficult as you might think, so let’s jump into the details.
A Content First Philosophy
Content? Yes, content. Although this will contradict what you are most familiar with when it comes to web design, a “content first” philosophy is something you should strongly consider. What does that mean exactly?
It means that before you spend even one minute debating the design or layout of your website, make sure that 100% of your content (copy) is ready to go. Despite what you may believe, the copy on your website is equal to, if not more important than the design itself.
Content has the unique ability to stand on its own. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling legal services or a fancy widget. With the right copy, you can get by with a paper-white background, dark text and a purchase button. However, a beautiful design with no copy is just that, beautiful. It will never sell anything.
Writing Great Copy
There is no secret to writing great copy for your homepage. In fact, it can be boiled down to just three basic steps:
- Figure out who your customers are.
- Understand their problems and challenges.
- Offer a solution to their problem (your value proposition).
Who Are Your Customers
The first step towards creating a great homepage is to understanding who your customers are. The more detail you can gather the easier this process will be. You want to know enough about your ideal customer so that you can write copy which speaks directly to them, as if you were standing in the same room together.
If you’ve ever had to speak or lecture to a large group of people, you’ll probably remember seeing at least one person in the audience who was nodding off. Right? It’s because the information they were receiving was not relevant enough to capture their individual attention. Their need for sleep was more important.
Now, have you ever been talking with someone one-on-one, say in a coffee shop or in the grocery store and had that person fall asleep mid-conversation? I should hope not. Why? Chances are they were personally vested in the conversation – it involved them directly.
You need to treat your website visitors the same way. Speak to them directly as if you’re having a one-on-one conversation. By doing so, you’ll have a greater chance of capturing their undivided attention.
Determining who your customers are means you’ll need to create a buyer persona. While this is an article in itself, you can find a great explanation over at HubSpot. To summarize, a buyer persona would include the following details as a starting point:
- Are they male or female?
- How old are they?
- What is their level of education?
- What is their occupation?
- Are they married and do they have children?
- What social media platforms do they prefer?
- Do they have a list of favorite websites?
- What are their life aspirations?
- What are they afraid of?
- How do they spend their leisure time?
- What is their preferred method of communication?
We’re just scratching the surface here, but you’re probably wondering how you can obtain this information. The most reliable source is directly from your existing customers via a survey or personal conversations. If those methods are not readily available, it might come down to simple research and estimation.
Your buyer personas should be continually evaluated and updated, especially if you were not able to gather your initial information directly from existing customers. Never assume you have all the information that you need.
What Problems Are They Facing
Spend five minutes on Google looking at some local businesses and you’ll notice that most of the time, they’re more interested in telling you about themselves, than explaining how they can help you. This demonstrates one of two things:
- They don’t really know what their customers want or need or;
- The have yet to grasp the importance of developing good, customer centric website copy.
Once you know who your customers are, it’s time to learn about their needs, their wants, and their problems. To put it quite simply, if you don’t know what your customers need, how can you expect to help them?
The easiest way to begin this process is with your customer personas sitting in front of you. Start writing out a list of every possible reason that a customer might decide to do business with you.
- What pain will they be avoiding?
- What worry will they be solving?
- What headache will they be able to avoid?
- What benefit will they receive?
By discovering and understanding the problems your customers face, you’ll have an opportunity to present an appropriate solution.
What Solutions Do You Provide (Your Value Proposition)
More often than not, this is the reason your customers will choose to do business with you. This one piece of information should be placed front and center on your homepage, because it’s more important than anything else. If you can get this one portion of your website dialed in, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of most of your competition.
Another way to look at your value proposition is to fill in the blanks for:
“We do X for Y so they can Z”
What problem do you solve? Who do you solve it for? What are a few of the benefits?
Again, simple, clear and concise. Leaving no doubt in your visitor mind.
For example, as a local appliance store you spend time talking to your customers and discover that their number one concern lies in dealing with out-of-warranty repairs. The incidence of repair for many brands is high as is the cost of those repairs. What’s worse, all of the repair shops in your area charge a service fee just to make the trip out to a customer’s house.
Nobody likes paying service fees or having their appliances repaired. How could you address those concerns right out of the gate?
If your appliance store offers an extended warranty and no charge service calls for the first 18 months, that’s something you should focus on. Don’t bury that information at the bottom of your services page in fine print italics.
Tired of paying for service calls?
We deliver top brand appliances. Professionally installed & backed by our exclusive, no-charge service calls and 18 month extended warranty.
By using your homepage to acknowledge your customers’ dislike of service call fees and present a way for them to avoid that pain, you’ll be able to grab their attention right from the outset.
Layout and Structure
The layout and structure of your website should actually be one of the easier aspects of your overall web design process. I say easy because you don’t want to stray too far from what’s expected. Don’t make the process more complicated than it needs to be. Human beings are creatures of habit and as tempting as it may be, you’ll want to avoid being too creative when it comes to your website.
I’m not suggesting that you throw good design out the window. A well thought out color scheme, high-quality photography, and use of common design elements are all important. Just don’t look to reinvent the wheel.
You also don’t need to look much farther than right here on Elegant Themes, because themes like Nimble, Foxy and Divi will allow you to create an attractive layout that includes all of the key elements described below.
Ok, enough preamble, let’s take a top-down look at the most important parts of your homepage:
In almost all cases, your logo should be located either top left or dead center. It’s not unusual for a lot of time and effort to go into a logo design and as a business owner, it’s something you can self-identify with – you’re proud of what you’re building.
Don’t make the mistake of giving you logo more attention than it deserves. Sure, it’s important from a branding perspective, but in all cases it should be contained to the header of your website and not become a focal point.
Navigation is critical to your website and it’s not an area where you want to leave people scratching their heads. Ideally, your navigation should be placed either in the top right, opposite your logo, or directly under your logo in a navigation bar.
Make sure you use text that is highly readable – a common serif or sans-serif font displayed at 15px or greater.
If you are operating a service based business where customers are required to pick up the phone and call you, consider including your phone number as part of your navigation or placed just above it. Visitors to your website rarely have the patience to hunt around your site in search of a phone number, nor should they. And remember, with over 50% of visitors using mobile devices, make sure your phone number is clickable.
Your Value Proposition
Located directly beneath your logo and navigation should be your value proposition. This is quite possibly the most important few lines of text on your website and it’s an area that deserves some serious attention – both initially and through optimization.
In this section of your website, you’ll need to bring together all of the research surrounding your customers and present a simple one to two line statement, along with a few bullet points that explains exactly what you do.
Call To Action
Your call to action (CTA) is usually placed next to or just under your value proposition and it represents the action you want your visitors to take while on your website. What you don’t want is for visitors to land on your site, browse a few pages and click back to the SERPs.
Your CTA is highly dependent on your business, but it could include:
- Add to Cart
- Click to Call
- Get Started
This one action that you are encouraging visitors to take is essentially responsible for measuring the success or failure of your website. Meaning that if you present your value proposition and a click-to-call button, you should expect that people will take that action. If not, you need to get back to work.
Once you’ve had a chance to present your primary call to action, there are always going to be some visitors who question whether your company is the one they should be giving their business to. For those people, it’s a good idea to display a few prominent customer testimonials on your homepage.
Don’t overdo it, two to three should be plenty. Focus on providing testimonials that are specific and most likely to speak to your customers concerns or objections.
Note: Consider adding small logo’s or links to associations that your business is a member of. A local Chamber of Commerce, BBB or trade association can add further credibility.
Often referred to as NAP (name, address & phone number), your contact information should be placed in the footer of your website, right where people expect it to be.
If you’re set-up with Google My Business already, you’ll want to make sure that the way you display your address is consistent across all platforms, with Google taking priority.
Nothing More, Nothing Less
I know what you’re thinking. What about all the other information that “I” need to display on my homepage:
- My slider full of images
- My qualifications
- A complete list of services
- My recent blog posts
- My newsletter signup
- My Facebook and Twitter feed
- The list goes on and on
While you might be able to build a case that one or two of these items belong on your homepage, most are not required. Nor do they do anything to help you attract new customers.
If you absolutely must have more information further down on your homepage, consider adding content that expands on the services you provide and the benefits you offer.
If you’re still not sold on the risks of presenting visitors with too many options, be it things to look at or buttons to click, take a read through this article in The New York Times. It discusses how too many choices can lead to paralysis. It also presents a different viewpoint that asks you to consider how choice overload (picking one company over another) might compare to information overload (one company presenting too many options).
Either way, you’ll be left with a clearer understanding that more information or choices on your website rarely translates to increased sales. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
It’s unfortunate that most small business owners are still stuck in the mind-frame of “set it and forget it”. While that worked wonders a decade ago, we now know that ongoing optimization of your website can produce significant improvements in conversion rates. Conversioiner reports that 61% of organizations plan to start A/B testing before the end of 2015.
If you want to maximize the results you’re achieving with your website, commit the necessary time and resources. Your website is never really done. There will always be something that can be tested and improved and you’ll also want to make sure it stays relevant to your target audience.
While designing a great homepage for your small business is not a difficult process, it does take a little bit of work. By far, the most important phase lies in developing a customer persona(s). They are key to everything you do in your business.
Once you know who you are speaking to, it’s simply a case making sure your homepage contains all the required elements. Nothing more, nothing less.
Have you experimented with the layout or copy on your small business website? Have the changes you’ve made had an impact on your results? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.
Article thumbnail image by Author Bloomua/ shutterstock.com
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