Homepage Content: Tell a Better Story
The homepage. It’s one of the most important pieces of your website—the majority of your visitors land there, it gets a lot of traffic from many different sources, and in many cases, it’s the first impression of your company or brand.
This is why homepage content is so important. During the redesign process, I hear a lot of clients talk about how they want their new sites to feel uncluttered and have less copy. Many times, this can lead to a very minimalist homepage: a logo and a navigation track, lots of images, and a headline perhaps, but not very many words. It’s true that visuals go a long way in communicating things and making your brand resonate with your audience, but I don’t believe that a visually powerful homepage should be short on, or required to lack, text.
You’ve got a story that needs to be told, and the homepage is the perfect place to set the stage for that story. If your content and design teams collaborate effectively, I believe you can come up with a homepage that makes words and visuals work together to tell your story in a better way without feeling crowded.
Why You Need Words on Your Homepage
I work in SEO, so the words on a webpage are really important to me. I think the homepage is an opportunity to tell not only your visitors, but also the search engines, what your company is all about. Yes, Google has gotten better at seeing the big picture of a website. That is, the search engine can better piece together content signals from across a site to determine its purpose and what it should rank for. However, the homepage is still important real estate, and having some text there can reinforce those signals from other places on your site. Plus, it can be really helpful to your visitors. Go ahead and give those folks who’ve only seen your homepage an idea of what you’re all about.
This is probably the most frequently asked question I get about content, and the truth is, there is no definite answer. When discussing homepage content, clients immediately want to know how much they need. I’ve seen everything from one paragraph to 150 words to 500 words referenced. I would argue that it’s not how many words you use but how well you structure your homepage content and what you choose to include that matters. One analogy that I think is really helpful is a play. Success isn’t determined by the length of the work, but rather by the characters, the narration, etc.
So, in short, don’t get hung up on a number. Focus instead on showcasing the things you want your visitors to see and understand about your brand. I would still caution that you don’t want a ton of text, but you want enough of it to give a good picture of what your brand is all about and how you help your customers.
Use the Homepage to Boost Conversions
One thing I frequently recommend to clients is that they use their homepages to help turn site visitors into conversions. You can help them navigate to the important sections of your site by placing this information on your homepage. Consider the questions potential clients might ask, and guide them to the answers on your site. If you do this, you’ll encourage them to click through to other sections of your site and learn more about what you have to offer. Images can work really well here, too. Perhaps include a little icon (or even a full image, depending on the design) to draw some visual interest and a quick snippet of text to explain your offerings. I personally really like the Mint homepage. You can see how they use images and text to draw attention to the key features of their product.
I also encourage clients to include calls to action on their homepages. These can be things like email or product sign-up buttons, or even links that encourage visitors to read other pages of the site. These can go a long way in getting semi-interested visitors to become customers. Plus, when someone comes to your site, you might as well tell them what you want them to do when they get there, right?
Keep it Focused
One of the things to keep in mind when coming up with your homepage design and content is to keep things focused. You want to highlight important aspects of your brand, but you should be careful not to include too many “shiny things” as I like to call them. Trying to cram everything onto your homepage can actually distract visitors and instead of drawing their attention to the things you want them to see, they won’t know where to look. It’s all about finding a balance.
If you’re a content person, working with the design team is really important here. Collaborating with them can help you better understand how many things can be on the homepage without it looking crowded or cluttered. Of course, they’ll also provide invaluable insight into how images can be used throughout the page.
Don’t Sacrifice the Words!
The truth is, words are important to your website and they’re important to your homepage. Don’t feel like you have to strip things down to a headline and a bunch of images to achieve an open, uncluttered feel. Rather, figure out what’s most important on your site, then let your content and design teams work together to create a design that tells that story quickly and effectively using both words and images. This will result in the sleek, modern look that many clients are seeking, and it will also result in a homepage that works to increase your business.