I am going out on a limb here but I assume that you are reading this post because you are wondering how to increase your homepage conversions.
Thousands of dollars are spent on designing and redesigning the homepage. The homepage is the most important page on your website. It’s your face online.
It’s probably the first page your visitors see. Yet, you may not find visitors carrying out the intended action that you so dearly wish them to.
A homepage has the simple important function of either presenting the information the user wants or have links to it.
I am going to show you how you can develop a homepage that gets more conversions in a few simple steps. It begins with understanding who your customer is.
To do that you need to create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is developed considering customer behavioral triggers and as such relates to him/her.
He says, buyer personas are “research-based modeled representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”
It’s like getting into the shoes of your prospective customer and seeing the world from their viewpoint. A buyer persona calls you to have a better and deeper understanding of who your buyer is and what do they want from you.
A buyer persona needs to be backed by research. Let me illustrate the power of research with an example.
Marketers have us convinced that a pair of shrubs from Asia idealizes the state of cleanliness for teeth. From barks of trees to chalk powder, to various concoctions of ginger and lemon— almost everything has been used to clean teeth by mankind.
But none has had the success that mint has had.
If you haven’t guessed it so far, I am talking about the mint toothpaste and its siblings— cool mint, strong mint, vanilla mint and so on.
So much so that cosmetics historian Rachel Weingarten, says that “the idea that mint equals freshness is more of an illusion than anything else. It’s a triumph of advertising. People associate a clean mouth with a fresh mouth.
Freshness here is an illusion created by the mint which activates specific cells to trigger a cool feeling.
That also explains why people brush in the most illogical of times, the morning after when the bacteria in their mouth has had their fill of carnage.
But they had done their research. They knew that people waking up in the morning wanted their mouths to be fresh and thus began the greatest lie that sells even today.
It took decades to arrive at the mint toothpaste that gave the illusion of freshness from something that just made the teeth white.
Let’s find how you can arrive at your own version of the mint toothpaste.
Step #1: Create your buyer personas
Nielsen’s report on Advertising says that over 84% of the people surveyed trust recommendations from family and friends.
As such most marketing messages fail short of achieving their goal. A buyer persona bridges the gap.
Let’s say you have created an SEO tool and are looking to market it. You’d naturally be interested in selling the software to people interested in SEO.
There are many types of SEOs you will think of like hobbyist SEOs, small business owners and professionals. Different goals drive these three people. A hobbyist SEO isn’t making a living and does SEO for fun.
A small business owner wants to grow his business and may not know anything about SEO.
Approaching the small business owner with terms like Latent Semantic Indexing is definitely not going to work. On the other hand the professional SEO will rather prefer that you cut to the chase. He knows the talk and walks the walk.
It’s most likely that the small business owner will buy your tool to automate SEO and the professional SEO to save time. But the approach needs to be radically different.
Here’s to discover what approach to use.
Send questionnaires – Hubspot lists several questions you can ask your potential customers. You can either send these questionnaires by mass mailing them or conduct telephonic interviews.
- What is your job role? Your title?
- How is your job measured?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What skills are required to do your job?
- What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
- Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
- In which industry or industries does your company work?
- What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?
- What are you responsible for?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- How do you learn about new information for your job?
- What publications or blogs do you read?
- What associations and social networks do you belong to?
- Personal Background
- Describe your personal demographics (if appropriate, ask their age, whether they’re married, if they have children)
- Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend, and what did you study?
- Describe your career path. How did you end up where you are today?
- How do you prefer to interact with vendors (email, phone, in person)?
- Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?
- Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?
It’s important to keep in mind that the above questionnaire isn’t set in stone. You should create a set of questions that is relevant to buyers in your industry. The above questions are merely guidelines to inspire you.
Use Facebook to conduct research – Facebook is used by over a billion people. A large number of these people share their interests and lot of other information that can be helpful for you as a marketer.
I am going to show you how you can use Facebook’s Ad Insights to create buyer personas. Facebook’s Ad Insights offers a lot of data into what kind of interests people have and what makes them tick.
On Facebook you can delve down by specific interests. For example “German Shepherd Lovers” and search for additional information that people have shared like their demographic, shopping habits, job titles and activity on Facebook.
Here’s how to do that.
- Go to Facebook. After logging in, click on the Ads Manager from the left hand side on your Facebook account.
- Click on Audience Insights on the left side. (Facebook will then show you three options— Everyone on Facebook, People connected to your page and Custom audience.)
- Click on the first option.
- Enter the interest that you want to target. In this case I have typed in search engine optimization. You can select the country, age and interest. The default country is US.
- From the top you can select various tabs like Demographics, Page Likes, Location, Activity etc. to glean more insight into the audience you have selected.
The image below shows the demographic data.
You can see that over 63% of people on Facebook who have an interest in Search Engine Optimization are men. They may like pages on SEO or may have SEO in their job titles.
You can also see the job titles held by people who are interested in SEO. It’s striking to see that over 19% interested audience is in Management.
The image below shows the Location Data
Over 8% of people interested in SEO reside in Chicago. It’s an interesting insight and you can see where your audience is most concentrated.
The image below shows the Pages they Like
People interested in SEO also like pages like Hubspot and Small Biz Ahead.
The image below shows the Device they use
Only three percent of the audience visit Facebook on their Desktop alone. Is your website optimized for mobile?
Use Facebook to gain insight about people in your email list – Facebook can be also be used to gain insight on the people on your email list.
- Go to Facebook. After logging in, go to the Ads Manager. From the Ads Manager, click on audiences at the bottom.
- Click on the green colored “Create Audience tab” on the top right corner and select custom audience from the drop down list.
- You will be shown three options, namely — Customer List, Website traffic and App Activity. Click on the first one that says customer list.
- Here you can upload your email list or copy paste the list directly.(Once that is done, Facebook will offer insights about your audience and you will be better able to understand who constitutes your list.)
- To do that, go to the left hand side and click on Audience Insights and select Custom Audiences this time.
You can repeat the same steps to gain insights about your audience on a Facebook page you own related to your website.
Use Followerwonk to analyze different audiences – Followerwonk is a Twitter analytics engine. I will show you how you can use the tool for creating a buyer persona.
- Go to Followerwonk. If you don’t have an account, connect your Twitter account to create one. Now, you can login with your Twitter Account.
- Once logged in you can either choose to analyze your own Twitter account or a competitor’s Twitter handle. I suggest doing both.
Followerwonk will come up with charts giving you insights into the times of day your audience or your competitor audience is active. The tool will map their location and how often this audience posts on Twitter.
You can see the approximate location of around 5000 followers.
It will also list the bio-cloud of the followers showing you what their bios mostly consist of, say marketers, SEOs, small business owners, social media experts etc.
Take surveys of your audience – You can take surveys of your existing audience to find out more about them. Surveys provide a good opportunity in getting an insight into your audience.
You can use interactive tools like Qualaroo on the homepage to ask specific questions to your visitors like—What’s the purpose of your visit today?
Tools like SurveyMonkey provide hundreds of templates to develop and customize surveys.
SurveyMonkey is however steeply priced. However, I will set you up with an cheap alternative.
Google surveys is an inexpensive tool that you can use to create surveys online. Here are the steps
- Go to this link.
- Name the survey and choose the audience.
- Choose one among the different formats namely multiple answer questions and so on. There are lot of different formats available that you can use.
- Write the questions you intend to ask your visitors and click continue
You can also provide incentives for the same as Fiverr does here. There’s no doubt that incentives increase the number of participants.
Step #2: Use all the data gained to finally model the buyer persona
With all the data at hand you can now proceed towards creating your buyer persona. MakeMyPersona.com is a free tool that you can use for the same.
You can start creating a persona even without creating an account.
- Go to MakeMyPersona.com.
- Give your persona a name and select an image that represents the customer. In this case I have selected an older male who’s probably an SEO marketer.
- Next, answer the questions that pop up and give your persona an identity.
Step #3: Create a better value proposition
Value proposition is defined as the promise of value to be delivered. Value propositions state why someone should buy from you. It explains how a product solves a particular problem and lists the benefits of the product.
In other words, it explains what your company does.
Since different people value different benefits it’s important that you choose to display the benefits which are of utmost importance to them. To find that out you need to create buyer personas.
It also differentiates you from the competition showing how and why you are different.
To make some sense to the visitor it has to be described in a way that’s familiar to them. It’d be better if you keep technical jargon at bay.
Instead, a strong value proposition is a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons your target customers should do what you’re hoping they will do
- Points of Parity (POPs)
These features are something that even your competitors offer. Think of a heatmapping tool. Every heatmapping tool would do the obvious which yours too does.
- Points of Difference (PODs)
These are the features that are important to your prospects and not available from your competitors. Like does your heatmapping tool provide more bandwidth, better customer support, free trials?
So what should be the key focus when creating a value proposition?
One— Combining the points of parity and points of difference create a value proposition that sets you uniquely apart from your competitors. You need to create a unique value proposition focusing on your core strengths.
Two— The value proposition should make it very clear what it is that you are doing. Use language that customers understand and not technical jargon that only you understand.
Even when using simple language, the value proposition may lack clarity.
This homepage from Macon is a good example. The value proposition is too broad to make any sense to the intended audience. Only scrolling down further do you realize that this is a site for truckers.
The image of a man with a fishing rod doesn’t help either.
The homepage is disconnected from its core theme by a long march.
On the other hand have a look at Academia.edu’s homepage which clearly lays out the benefit of signing up and submitting a paper— as an 83% boost in citations.
I have decided to help you out with a few example templates to help you craft your value proposition.
For ____________ (target customer)
who ____________ (statement of the need or opportunity)
our (product/service name) is ____________ (product category)
that (statement of benefit) ____________ .
[Proven industry example] for/of [new domain].
Instagram for geeks.
Facebook for pets.
“We help X do Y doing Z”.
We help small businesses get engagement from social media
Step #4: Convey the better value proposition with customer focused language and trigger words
Instead of using passive parts of speech you should start using an active vocabulary for your headlines and call to actions.
Jared M Spool and his team conducted a study a couple years ago, where they studied users while they searched specific items on large web sites. In this study no two users searched for the same item.
Before every user started their search,they were interviewed by Jared’s team about the item they hoped to find. Every word they said was recorded.
After seeing which users succeeding at finding their target content and which didn’t, the team analyzed each page they visited thoroughly, including the home page.
They found that the users were far more successful at finding their targets when the description words, which they used to describe their item appeared on the homepage.
When they were successful their words appeared over 72% of the time. When users were unsuccessful, their words only appeared an average of 6% of the time on the home page.
This Hubspot article speaks of a software company that improved conversions by 106% by redesigning their homepage.
This is how the homepage looked before and after the redesign. One of the core reasons behind the conversion lift was the change in messaging.
The original homepage spoke of what the company did in technical jargon that made little sense.
Digging into analytics they discovered that 85% of their traffic was unique. These visitors knew nothing about their software much less relate to the verbal jugglery employed. Hence, the low conversions. Even this example is a crude form of research into buyer persona.
Have you ever dug deep into your analytics? Do so now.
The new homepage addressed that and clearly defined what they did in an easy to understand language.
The Results? Conversion rates soared from 1.65 to 3.49%.
Groove’s old heading looked like this.
However the conversions were not exactly encouraging at 2.3%. They realized the dismal conversions were due to the fact that they were talking about the product(customer support) and not the problem.
When creating a value proposition it’s important that you talk in a language that your customers relate to. In most cases customers relate quite well to the problems they face.
With Kissmetrics, the Groove team identified their most engaged customers and started talking to them over phone.
They asked about the problems that these customers hoped to solve when signing up for Groove, their experience with Groove so far, the difficulties faced getting started and so on.
The answers helped them understand the mindset of the buyer.
They emailed their new customers and asked them what made them sign up. What were the things that triggered their decision?
With all the information they had at hand they started to rethink and redefine who they were as a company. They added a video testimonial on the homepage as well. When everything was said and done their homepage looked like this.
This new homepage converted at 4.3%. Yes, conversions nearly doubled once they changed their headline and copy to customer focused language by interviewing them.
The Groove team bucked a trend by picking up the phone. If you feel that you will get better insight by talking directly with your customers, do so by all means.
SEOMoz’s(now called Moz) home page redesign resulted in a 52% increase in conversions and an increase of 1 million dollars in annual revenues.
The new homepage was a result of feedback from old and new clients. The team at Conversion Experts asked various questions to the customers:
- They asked old customers what they liked the most about Moz’s service. They were asked what convinced them to sign up and how would they describe Moz to a friend.
- The free trial members were asked what if anything would convince them to sign up for the paid version.
- Even the customers who had cancelled the service as to what made them cancel and how could Moz improve.
Also, Rand Fishkin, found it easier to sell the service during face to face meetings and seminars. They listened to how Rand sold the product and incorporated the missing ingredients into the website.
After they understood what was holding back customers from buying they introduced a no risk $1, full feature 30 day trial to free members.
What we can learn from the Moz homepage redesign is that a high converting homepage should resonate with the audience. It’s important to study the visitors, gather feedback from them and create buyer personas.
I will share a case study about inadequate persona research.
BrookDale Living’s community page was heavily under optimized and as such they hired CRO experts to boost conversions from the page.
The team came up with two variations. The first one had the picture of an elderly lady.
The second one consisted of a video that was around 2 minutes long. Generally videos outperform text and images on landing pages.
However, this time the results were in stark contrast to what is generally observered.
The variation with the image outperformed the original lander by 3.92% and would have added around $106,000 in additional revenue/month.
The variation with the video however had only a nominal .85% increase in conversions.
The reason why the video didn’t convert that well may be because most visitors to BrookDale surf the site from home and haven’t attended college.
This particular demographic generally doesn’t have broadband and consequently has low internet speeds according to surveys.
Step #5: Create different homepages targeting different personas
Homepages can lead people to specific action only if they are made in that manner.
Collegis Education, an Education services company markets educational institutes and courses. To get soft leads, they offered career oriented eBooks for free download on their site. Their strategy was based on collecting leads interested in a college level education.
They would then softly introduce these leads to specific colleges and courses.
For this particular campaign, six e-book downloads were available for Rasmussen College, in the following categories:
- Health care
- Justice studies
Once the lead downloaded an eBook an automated email reached querying them about their interest for a college level education.
Specifically, the leads received four pathway questions:
- I know what career I want to pursue, and I’m ready to take the next step
- I’m still considering my career options, and need to do some more research
- I’m not sure what my next step is, so I need guidance
- I’m great where I am, and I found your career guide helpful
Based on the response received, the leads were sent to other landing pages.
Individuals who had checked the first option and knew which career path they wanted to pursue were sent to specific degree pages. This is the landing page they were sent to.
Individuals ticking on the second option were given comparison information on various colleges and degrees.
Individuals who chose the third option were given higher level guidance.
Lastly, the individuals sure about their career prospects were given an option to subscribe to the mailing list.
Across this campaign, the team saw:
- A 28% average open rate
- A 7% conversion rate
It all started with a homepage that was geared towards identifying personas. Landing pages were then built and sent to the soft leads. For individuals who were undecided a lot of the content on the college’s blog was repurposed and sent to them.
You can see something similar on Getresponse’s site. It’s primarily an email marketing company but also provides a/b testing and landing page creation tools.
Instead of grouping everything together into one page, they have built separate landing pages for each.
Step #6: Keep a minimalist design
Your homepage faces a major challenge as web visitors are turning into digital goldfishes with shorter attention spans. Attention span is the amount of concentrated time one can spend on a task without becoming distracted.
It’s crucial to get tasks done.
A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. The average visitor online too has the same attention span and that too is decreasing. Brandon Gaille says that the attention span today is 5 seconds with over 17% of pageviews lasting just 4 seconds.
Reason being the increasing number of websites, social media sites all of which multiply the plethora of choices we have.
So, how do you get them to listen to you and see things?
A long time ago, may be 8 or 9 years ago, I happened to read one of Dale Carnegie’s books. There’s one thing from the book that I didn’t forget even after so many years.
The book said that a person would worry more about his toothache than a million people dying from a famine in China.
Why? The toothache is personal, it relates to him/her and it affects him potently. I will show you how you can use the same philosophy to create a homepage that converts.
Research done by Missouri University reveals that people take less than 2/10ths of a second to form a decision when visiting sites.
It’s essential to keep a minimalist design because the eye tends to spend time on each element.
Users devote time to each element on a website as follows:
The website’s logo: Logo is definitely an important element as users spend 6.48 seconds focused on this area on an average before moving on.
The main navigation menu: Users spent an average of 6.44 seconds viewing the menu items.
The search box: Users spent over 6 seconds watching the search box.
Social networking links to sites such as Facebook and Twitter: Users spent about 5.95 seconds viewing these social media buttons.
The site’s main image: where users’ eyes fixated for an average of 5.94 seconds.
The site’s written content: where users spent about 5.59 seconds.
The bottom of the website: where users spent about 5.25 seconds
Rentify is a website in the real estate niche.
What the homepage wants to achieve is lead acquisition. An orange CTA(Call To Action) button too is displayed inviting visitors to “get started”.
However there are many more elements on the homepage that effectively divide attention from the goal. There are 6 clickable elements other than the CTA for the average visitor to go to.
With an attention ratio of 6:1, the page isn’t optimized enough to guide a visitor towards the intended action. The redesigned landing page does justice to the CTA and should convert better.
It could convert even better if the model were looking towards the CTA. Usability expert James Breeze found that not only do images capture human attention; they can also be used to guide people around the webpage.
106 people were shown the two images.
When the baby looks directly, the visitor’s attention fixates on the baby.
However when the baby looks up at the main heading, visitor’s attention is less on the face of the baby and more on the heading.
Dr. Kathie, a neuroscientist says that the human brain gravitates towards novel experiences. A tiny part of the brain called the RAS filters all incoming stimuli and decides what to pay attention to.
It pays more attention to novel experiences which in this context refers to unknown experience. A block of text is a known experience. It’s predictable— there will more text till the end of the page.
So, a text heavy homepage like the one over at Rentify simply fails to grab attention.
On the other hand look at the Manpacks website where the important elements for the subscription and sign up stand out. The arrow directs the eye and the surrounding text adds social proof.
Step #7: Use unique Typography to communicate your brand
Typography is defined simply as the art and technique of arranging type to make written language readable and appealing.
However Cyrus Highsmith calls typography “the detail, presentation and voice of an atmosphere”. On a homepage the typography used, communicates the soul of the website.
Between April and May of 2013, researchers at Smashing Magazine collected extensive data about developments in Web typography. It was a follow up to the study they conducted four years ago in 2009.
50 sites consisting of International newspapers like the Guardian, magazines and blogs were taken for the study.
While serif fonts were doubted for their abilities to guide the reader, it has now been found that web designers overwhelmingly chose serif fonts in body.
The choice of fonts for the headlines remained the same with an equal preference for sans-serif and serif fonts.
While Georgia and Arial are the two most extensively used typefaces, the web now shows more diversity with fonts. People have shifted to non standard fonts.
More than 30 occurrences of non standard fonts were found in headlines of sites.
The average heading font size was 38 pixels.
And 14 pixels were as popular as 16 pixels.
As you can see from the stats above not only do we see more diversity in typefaces we also have different typefaces for headers and body.
There are certain overall directions that can follow to make your copy hit the nail on the head with the proper combination of typefaces.
The product will not only be an artistic delight but also combine harmonious elements together.
We have already seen the combinations of sans serif with a serif font. Combining them creates an effect of contrast and not concord and is best used when you want to communicate contrast.
While that happens to be one of the most popular ones there are other combinations which are a tad bit more creative.
Here are a few rules to get the best out of different typefaces.
You should avoid combining typefaces from the same categories.The effect of contrast that we wanted while using different fonts will be nullified if we take fonts from the same category.
It’s better not to use Wisdom Script,Ecolier,Pacifico, Allura, Sail etc. together since they all belong to the script category.
You should assign distinct roles to typefaces.You can use a different typeface for the main heading, a different one for the body and a different one for the sub heading.
The author slug can be assigned a bold heading with a distinctive type face too.
Using 3 or 4 fonts this way creates a rich typographic mix.
In the above example Akzidenz Grotesk Bold was used for the author slug, Bembo is used as the body type face while Akzidenz Grotesk Medium makes for the sub headings.
While using different fonts you can increase the font sizes of one font to make the difference appear distinctive and give a good contrast.
But do not mix too many fonts. It creates contrast in a very unpleasant manner.
A homepage certainly is the most important page on your website. Spending thousands of dollars on it alone doesn’t give you a good design.
It’s essential that you understand the people who visit it and craft a homepage that answers their questions and quells their fears.
I am not putting a good design on the backburner here. It’s important but so is everything else including the copy, the call to actions, the colors and ultimately the message and how you convey the message.