This is Part 6 of my continuing Series on "requisite pages" for your website.
This article goes in depth on what you need to know about creating your all-important "HOME" page...
Why a simple "blog page" will actually hurt your traffic
Plus an easy visual layout formula for what to include.
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Your HOME page is not just important...it's critical to getting readers to get to know you and how you can help them!
Every website must have a HOME page, and yet it's one of the most dreaded pages & the one most solopreneurs keep putting off!
This article will show you just how quickly and easily you can create a winning HOME page that will attract your ideal reader...and get them wanting to know more about how you can help them!
I'll cover what your HOME page should really tell your reader, and give you several visual HOME page "formulas" for layouts — for several different business types — so there's no guesswork. You're sure to find one that fits your business, or can easily be modified.
Let's get started!
Understanding the Purpose of Your HOME Page
There are a lot of misconceptions — and just bad information — about what your HOME page should do and it's "real" purpose.
It's often hard to decide just what information should be included...
The #1 thing to remember is to look at this from the perspective of your first-time visitor! What would they want to know?
It's also helpful to consider how this visitor arrived at your HOME page... Typically, they followed a link in their own search for information, so these are probably "top-of-mind" questions when they arrive at any new and unfamiliar website:
- Am I in the right place?
- Is this going to answer my current question?
- Who is the person behind this site? What are their skills? Can they be trusted?
To sort this out, it's often helpful to take a cue from writers and journalists to answer these important questions:
- WHO: This really is 2 distinct questions. (1): Who is most likely to visit your HOME page,& (2) Who is your ideal reader/client/customer? Answer these questions first, and you will have a great start!
- WHY: Why has the reader come to your website? What are they looking for? BTW...chances are they are first-time visitors (return visitors have most likely bookmarked favorite areas of your website), possibly directed here from from a search query, an ad or external link (think social platform).
- WHAT: What help or solutions can you offer this reader?
- HOW: How will you help them & why should they trust you? What's the first step to getting help?
These are fundamental questions you must clearly answer on your HOME page!
If this is your first experience, it's helpful to invest in some thoughtful planning to really get clear on these answers!
I recommend you do some brainstorming in your favorite writing tool, such as Evernote, a word processor, or mind map...or even pad & paper. The most important thing to do is get clarity on these basic questions.
Busting Some HOME Page Myths... and what to do instead!
Unfortunately — as you might have already discovered in looking for guidance on writing your own HOME page — there is a LOT of misinformation.
I'm guessing you have read lots of conflicting advice on just what to include...
Let's start by dispelling some myths around what you should and shouldn't include on your HOME page!
"You've got to appeal to everyone."
"Everyone" is definitely NOT your ideal customer! That's simply not possible...and quite unrealistic!
REMEMBER: Your HOME page is just as much about clearly communicating to the reader IF they are the perfect fit for you and your services/products.
It's common courtesy! You don't want to waste their time or yours if they are not the ideal fit!
Before you discount this, a few examples should help illustrate this point:
- The reader simply can't afford you... Right now, they need free solutions. This is a good reason to point them to key free articles on your website (I'll explain exactly where and how to do this later in this article).
- Your reader is looking for one-on-one coaching but you offer group coaching.
- Your reader is simply not in your industry/niche and you don't have the expertise they need. Not all skills are translatable across industries.
- Your reader is looking for personal "tutoring" but you offer on-demand online courses because they scale and you can serve exponentially more readers.
"It's all about you..."
Your HOME page is all about your readers' most daunting obstacles & challenges!
"You" only come into the picture to illustrate how you are the best one to help them overcome these problems!
By addressing their specific obstacles and how you have helped others in similar situations, you can change the focus from YOU to your reader, while still demonstrating your expertise.
Case studies are a great way to do this...but there is a time & place for these, as I'll explain below.
HOME Page Design
Unlike most pages (I usually emphasize "content first") it's much easier to select your "design" (think: layout) of the Home page first...
"Layout first" then drives the content you will be presenting, and greatly simplifies your decision-making content process.
This means it's much less stressful: most people stress over creating their HOME page because it is so important to creating a great first impression!
When you focus on design first — using the layout formulas I present below — the design will drive the necessary content! It also has the added benefit — especially important for first-time writers — of curbing the tendency to 'write too much!'
Design First Caveat!
Of course, the design you select must enhance your business model first! So...let's take a look at some content essentials.
Your "design" or HOME page layout choices will usually be guided by your focus & business purpose for your website.
The following 3 examples will serve to illustrate what I mean by this:
- You offer online courses: your main focus is to showcase your courses to your readers.
- You are a coach and provide coaching services, so your brand is really YOU! A personal branding site is likely the best fit in this case. [Note that this is not necessarily industry specific: the same "personal branding" design could just as equally apply to voice coaches as to business coaches or marketing coaches...or anything in between. It's the "coaching" service focus that's important!]
- You are a service provider, offering "done-for-you" services. [Again, this applies to many services: think web design, copywriting, architecture, graphic design, fashion design, illustration, landscape, etc. What makes the "design" industry-specific is the relevant images, graphics and content on the site.]
1. Personal Branding
This is a very popular and surprisingly relevant topic for so many different use cases!
The first example illustrates Shannon Wilkinson, a Public Speaking coach.
Next, here's a very different use case. This is an author site, showcasing his next book. Meet Harlan Coben.
In this case, he's prominently promoting his next new book, although it's easy to find out more about the author through the Main Navigation at the top of the HOME page.
Journey Mindfulness establishes their personal brand through their "headline" message (the reader benefit) and through images that communicate how a client will feel using their services.
Key Take-Aways for Personal Branding HOME Pages
- These are all "personal brand" sites, but for completely diverse individuals & they all have a unique focus.
- Changing the images and the text is what makes each site truly personal!
- In all cases, the imagery creates the timbre & mood of the individual coach behind the website.
2. Online Courses
Equestrian Tai Chi is certainly unique in niche and topic, and it clearly indicates it's primarily a course-based website.
Parkour Fit... training in the "parkour" niche establishes what they do and who they are targeting with headline and a great image!
3. Product-based Business — (yes...cloud-based products count!)
Trello presents a very minimal layout, but still gets their message across: it's for helping teams collaborate.
4. Service Business
Homelight is a national real estate agent search service, matching home owners with agents specializing in their local area. They communicate this quickly and show exactly who they are targeting and what service they provide.
Cali-Rooter & Plumbing is a local service business, this one based in California. Their combination of the instantly-recognizable "pipe wrench" and explanatory text tells the reader all they need to know... (if you're in New York, this probably isn't the business you're looking for! )
5. Content-Specific Models
These models are a bit different, because the "design" is driven by the content, in a very literal sense.
Consider content-heavy websites, such as news sites or magazine sites.
Here are a couple of examples of such "magazine" sites:
Entertainment Weekly an true online magazine, with multiple departments ( and many journalists covering these specialized topics). It's also well-known, and readers will likely already know why they are there. The website's reputation has already been established.
The Athletic is also a full-fledged magazine site, well-known to sports enthusiasts. Again, there are a diverse number of sports covered, by seasoned veterans (some 30+ years in the sports business!) Like the previous example, readers are already familiar with the brand.
Magazine websites are certainly not for the individual solopreneur! Doing them well mandates that the companies have full departments of specialized journalists, with years of experience and their own reputations among readers.
Note that these types content-rich websites that have been around for a very long time and established themselves through both longevity and reputation.
however, not all are magazine or news sites. Some well-established informational niche sites could also very easily fit in this category. They are successful, largely because of their continued longevity: readers know their brand!
Some personal "blogs" could very well be content-rich and easily use these models. An excellent example of a "personal blog" that fits this content-rich model is ActiveGrowth, listed below under the solopreneur section.
This example is somewhat different from those above, as it can apply to many different purposes and needs. This is my favorite, especially for first-time website owners!
I call it a "layered" format... but you might just call it "your favorite" too!
Let's take a look first, then I'll do a little more "design digging in!"
YEP! this is the model I used for my own HOME page and I'm still using it because it does everything a HOME page should do...especially for a solopreneur.
- My picture is critical because I AM my brand. I teach local classes (well... I did before the pandemic!) My students know & trust me, so having my own photo is important for the trust factor.
- What I do — teaching WordPress and tightly-integrated topics (Content & Writing, Marketing & SEO, and Mindset) — are clearly indicated as my areas of focus, right in the Main Menu. If a reader is looking for something else, I'm probably not the best fit.
- I establish my promise to my readers (in the 'layer' above my picture), giving it even more importance than who I am; then I reinforce this (below the picture) by indicating this is my "promise," not just some hype.
- I have an opt-in right on the HOME page suggesting readers get a FREE download. It's free for subscribing to my own email list, and the topic is WordPress. Getting first time visitors to show interest in a WordPress-specific document lets me know of their interest. It's important to tell readers what their very next step should be.
The full HOME page has a few more elements, which you can take another detailed look at...now that you know what things are important. More specifics on that when we dive into "HOME page Content" below these examples.
7. Solopreneur Model... A Bit of a Hybrid
This next "model" is a bit different — because we solopreneurs are a bit different...in a good way, IMO!
We tend to do everything ourselves, and often offer a combination of products & services.
Shane Melaugh, Active Growth — whom I consider one of my few mentors — elegantly combines both personal branding (answering the "why you should listen to him" question) & clearly indicates that he has a course to offer. This is an excellent example of a hybrid HOME page model, and it perfectly communicates his value to first-time readers.
HOME Page Content
Now...your head is probably on overload after looking at all those visual, real-world HOME Page examples, but design is visual and it's useless to discuss theory only, without seeing it being implemented!
However, "design" or layout alone isn't going to communicate the most important information to your readers.
Let's see exactly what to write in your HOME page content, keeping in mind readers' primary questions and the goals of your own website:
- Clearly establish what niche/industry or services/products you offer
- Clearly state whom you serve...and whom you do not
- Briefly refer to your background or skills; and direct readers who want more information about you to your About page with a simple link
- You may want to include a few very specific testimonials form current and former clients/customers
- Alternately, if you have been in business for some time, you may want to instead have a page dedicated to your best work (if appropriate). This page could also include Case Studies and relevant customer testimonials. If a reader is interested in knowing more, linking to that page — in both text and on your main menu — gives the reader the option of learning more about you and your work.
NOTE: If there's one theme here, it's "be brief!"
Various website analytics show that you have anywhere from 3 - 8 seconds to get your readers' attention before they click away to some other website.
[NOTE: This immediate "clicking away" is considered a "bounce" in search ranking; a high "bounce rate" can seriously hurt your search engine rank. Usually these bounces are caused by the use of misleading content on a HOME page, such as using a "click-bait" headline when your actual content has little or nothing to do with the headline topic! Your readers and Google despise this type of dishonesty, and Google WILL punish you in the ranking of your website! Don't do it!]
The top 3 items are often referred to as your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), marketing-speak for differentiating yourself in your niche. The goal of the USP is to answer the reader's question "Why are you different?"
For your HOME page, your USP should be presented right up front!
A great quick exercise — especially if you're doing this for the first time — is to take a look at the visual examples above and identify each company's USP! (NOTE: I tried to select only well-designed HOME page examples, so they all should have some version of a well-crafted USP!)
Did You Notice...?
I wonder if you were paying close attention when looking at the above visual examples. There's one very important element missing — but, unfortunately all too common among first-time website owners.
Do you know what it is???
None of the examples use a typical "blog page" as their HOME page! Fortunately!
This is a great decision by those companies!
A "blog page" simply lists — somewhat randomly, although often ordered by date published — the latest articles written.
Now, readers are all different... And remember how the readers likely arrived at your own HOME page...through searching for an answer to their most burning and urgent question.
It's highly improbable that a list of current posts will hope to answer that question! Even if one of them did, do you really want the reader to have to scroll through each one of those posts to find an answer??? Remember the "3 - 8 seconds" rule I mentioned earlier...
Other Important Elements
There are a number of ways to do this, and they are driven by both your own business goals and giving the reader some autonomy. Not all first-time readers will be ready to hand over their email address for a free download, or to book a call with you. They may instead want to get to know you better by browsing your current content
- Offering a FREE download (opt-in), as I have done on my HOME page
- Providing links — in list or grid format — of recommended articles they can browse at their leisure
- Suggesting the reader "book a call" with you
- Suggesting they subscribe to a regular newsletter, if you do not have a free download (this greatly lowers the odds they will take you up on this; email is already out of control for most people!)
NOTE: While a single CTA is always recommended — visitors often don't take ANY action if offered "too many choices" — it's okay to offer a FREE download somewhere "higher up the page" then conclude near your footer with a list of articles or resources they can browse. As you can see, I show the reader my primary free download in both the Header (in a button), middle of the page, and also again just above the footer. It's very common for new visitors to take some time on their first visit to not accept the first offer they see. They are still trying to answer those very first questions before committing to clicking anything.
Remember, every reader is different and what motivates one to get a free download may not be as enticing to another.
Now, it's your turn!
- You have visual examples, and when & why to use each one
- You know what specific content to include on your HOME page
- You know to keep it brief, and use internal links to let the reader explore on his/her own
- You know how important it is to show why and how you are different from others in your niche
- You know why you need a real HOME page and not just a blog page
I'd love to hear what you're doing with your own HOME page. Do you still have questions? Please leave them in the Comments below.
This is Part 6 of a Continuing Series
In this part, we've seen just what the HOME page should contain and how different models work for different types of businesses. Links below take you to the other articles in this Series.
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