Most of us spend more time online now than we did two years ago, and that includes bloggers, businesses and freelancers.
With more options for entertainment and shopping, a lot of us are pickier now about which sites we spend time on, too. Eight out of 10 people now say the experience a company provides matters as much as whatever they offer.
If you’re running a blog, an online store, a consulting site, or a virtual storefront for your local business, it needs to give visitors a great experience, so they’ll convert. And that starts with an awesome homepage.
Here’s a 7-step checklist you can use to see where your homepage is working for you and where you can tweak it for more conversions.
1. What’s above the fold?
You have just a couple of seconds when your visitors arrive to show them that they’re in the right place and that you have what they’re looking for. That means your homepage has to feature the most important info “above the fold.”
What does that mean? Above the fold refers to the stories and headlines that newspaper publishers used to put above the physical fold on the papers, so the most interesting stuff showed up clearly on newsstands and in vending machines.
On your website, above the fold refers to whatever visitors see when they arrive. It should include:
- Your site’s name and logo
- Navigation categories
- A call to action
- A search tool
- Compelling images
Here’s a great example from the food blog, Pinch of Yum. It has all of those elements above the fold, including two calls to action: “Make this for dinner” “Or skip straight to the blog.”
2. Use calls to action to move visitors closer to conversion
Your homepage also needs to give visitors a clearly marked path to find what they’re looking for and, in the process, take the conversion steps you want. Guide them along this path with calls to action.
A call to action can take a few different forms. For bloggers, it can be a signup form, like this newsletter subscription box on the Engadget homepage:
The site calls visitors to sign up and offers them a way to avoid FOMO.
If you have a store that sells one product—or if your store has one super-popular product—your homepage should make it super-easy to buy that product.
Here’s an example from 2 Hounds Design. The dog gear store’s bestseller is featured in the hero image above the fold, as its own product category, and in a video and a product grid below the fold. The call to action is to shop for their award-winning dog harness.
If you’re a consultant or a freelancer, your funnel should direct visitors to contact you, like this homepage for Manhattan-based personal shopper Amanda Sanders does.
The offer in this call to action is “take charge of your look.”
3. Highlight freebies
Offering visitors something special can make your homepage calls to action more effective. You could:
- Include a discount code in a banner at the top of the page to encourage visitors to start shopping.
- Offer a free preview of your paid online course so visitors can see if it’s right for them.
- Offer a discount for visitors who join your email list.
- Invite visitors to download your eBook when they subscribe to your blog.
4. Show some social proof
“Social proof” means your visitors can see that other people are subscribing to your content, buying your products or using your services.
Your homepage should include a few compelling customer testimonials, embedded customer reviews from Google, Trustpilot or another platform, or social media shoutouts. Oh, and if your customers include a few superstars, you can mention that on your homepage, too, like jeweler Nina Berenato does:
5. Share new content on the regular
If you’re a blogger, you’re already all about new content. If your website is for your store or freelance business, you still need a blog.
Why? New content keeps visitors coming back to your site. It can also help your site perform better in search results.
Not sure a blog is worth it for your store? Etsy has a market capitalization of $27 billion and huge brand recognition. They still feature a blog on their homepage because it brings in traffic and moves visitors into their funnel.
Frequent content that’s interesting and useful to your visitors helps you build a relationship with them—a relationship in which you’re a trusted resource of information, products or expertise.
6. Call out your instant customer service
When visitors need info, they want it instantly, whether they’re buying a TV or planning an event. Giving customers a customer service chat option is especially important if your homepage is for a local business with lots of competition.
For example, many of the 50 or so wedding chapels in Las Vegas feature their phone numbers above the fold on their homepages. Only some of them offer chat, but Viva Las Vegas recognizes visitors who are planning a wedding on their phone would probably rather chat than talk—especially if they’re doing their planning in a loud club or casino.
7. Make policies easy to find and easy to understand
Whatever rules and policies your business or blog has, visitors want to see them up front. For example, dog day care Dogtopia gives visitors a heads-up about its Sunday availability above the fold so it’s super hard to miss.
This is a good practice for any local business that has variable hours. Depending on your site, you may also want to summarize your policies on your homepage for:
If your site collects any data at all about users, and it probably does, you need to make sure you state your privacy policies. This may include a GDPR disclaimer, an opt-out form for data collection for Cali residents under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and/or a general statement about what kinds of data you collect and how you use it.
Comments can make or break the social element of a website, so make sure yours has some ground rules. Maybe you don’t want commenters launching flame wars, maybe you want them to stick to certain topics. Your blog, your rules—just make them clear so visitors can decide whether to take part.
Shipping and returns
Run an online store? Put a nice short summary of your shipping and returns policy—and a prominent link to your full policy—on the homepage and your product pages.
This is key for cart conversions. One of the biggest reasons people leave eCommerce checkouts is shipping costs they didn’t expect. And if customers don’t understand or can’t find your return policy, they may decide to shop somewhere else.
Most of us are at least a little worried about data security, and 75% of U.S. consumers think companies can do more to protect their data, according to a 2021 Dotdigital survey. So, flaunt your SiteLock web badge and put your visitors’ minds at ease.
Track your results and keep improving
Use your current conversion rate as a benchmark and track your improvements over time. A/B test elements of your homepage. Use Google Analytics to see where visitors spend time and where they bail out, adjust the problem areas, and lather-rinse-repeat.
Optimizing your homepage for conversions is an ongoing process, but even small improvements can help you stay competitive and earn more subscribers or customers.
Machielle Thomas curates content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.