By Heather Lutze, CEO and Speaker
How many times have you visited a web site with generic images of attractive people with headsets on? You know what I’m talking about, those photos of well-dressed men sitting in a meeting with other handsome people that you find on web site home pages?
Don’t we all wish we were as handsome and smart as stock-image-people?
Or how about those obligatory clipart images, the company logo in the top left hand corner, and those same-old navigation buttons that read “about us”, “Services”, “Testimonials” and “Contact Us.” Or you’ll see images of offices, storefronts, clinical settings, office buildings, and case studies — but NO REAL PEOPLE anywhere.
It’s a Ghost Town homepage. Boooo!
I call this a Ghost Town Web Site. It has no heart or personality. No life. People are like bloodhounds; they can smell a lack of authenticity. They have a gut reaction that your home page is a farce and you’re trying to create a larger-than-life image that really doesn’t exist. Ouch, this can really hurt your site results and your online impact.
Customers want to see the internal reality of your business: are your employees friendly, does your office look comfortable and welcoming? They’ll make a split second decision whether to stay or to hit the back button. I think designers have done huge disservice to their clients by creating template web sites with boring clipart, standard design conventions, and photos that say nothing personal about the company.
Shame on them! Take a good look at your site and evaluate whether or not it’s a Ghost Town. Can you resuscitate your web site? It’s time for all you business owners to start asking your Webmasters the tough questions. Here are some common red flags to assess your site effectiveness of the most important page on your site, the home page.
Take a quick home page assessment and rank your site:
1. BOUNCE RATE:
A bounce rate is like a bouncing ball. Your visitor finds you in the search results and clicks on the link to visit your site. They do not find anything interesting or compelling and they BOUNCE right off to another destination. If you don’t know your bounce rate, the geek in your life can readily find this statistic in your web stats reports. It’s readily available in Google Analytics at Analytics.Google.com. You can get your bounce rate from other reporting tools as well, but Google Analytics is one of the best for small to medium sized businesses.
Does your home page have a high bounce rate, say over 80%?
a. Yes – Score 0 points
b. No – Score 10 points
Easy Tip: Ask your web person to add Google Analytics to every page of your site. It should be easy and quick for them to add this. If they say, “What’s Google Analytics?” consider their employment with your company and immediately go to elance.com or 99designs.com to find a savvy, budget friendly designer who is knowledgeable about all the tips in this article.
What is your conversion rate? At Yahoo! Search Marketing we often-called conversions “yesses.” Yes, I would love to subscribe to your blog. Yes, I would like to follow you on social media. Yes, I would love to contact you and have a chat about your services
a. 0 -5 % – 1 point
b. 6% – 15% 2 points
c. 16% – 25% 5 Points
d. Over 26% – You are doing the rights things to get conversions – 10 Points
Easy Tip: Eye tracking & Heat Map studies are readily available on the web. These sites tell you what is really being noticed, what your visitor clicks on, and where their eyes go when they first see your home page. I recommend SiteTuners.com ($$), but worth it. You can also search for “free heat maps” and you will get a ton of great sites. Put in your domain name and it generates a simulated searcher behavior sourced from hundreds of thousands of recorded online behaviors.
3. INTEGRATED CONTACT FORM:
Do you have an integrated contact form on your home page or just a “contact us” button in the navigation of your home page? An integrated form is a form fill that is “baked” into every page on your web site asking for Name, Email, Questions, and Subscriptions. Business owners tend to think that a web site is like a marriage rather then a date. Let’s say that you are on your first date. You sit down and order cocktails. Your date smiles at you and says, “You are beautiful and I want to marry you and have 10 babies!” After you engage your emergency text to your friend, you quickly exit the situation. I call this the PERFECT CLICK. Unfortunately, the PERFECT CLICK does not exist. Rather it’s a series of micro dates each time someone visits your site. You need to romance your visitor with tiny, bite-size actions. When you have an integrated form, it makes starting the dating process easier. Visitors say to themselves, “Yes, I would love to talk to you,” and you’ll eventually get married. Your contact form should be omnipresent on every page of your site. Treat your site like match.com rather then theknot.com.
I have an integrated contact form.
a. Yes – 5 Points – Congrats!
b. No – 0 Points – Consider changes your site to add this form
4. YOUR PHONE NUMBER:
Is your phone number in large type (over 18 point) on the right hand corner of your home page and every page in the site? Don’t make your visitor work to call you. I am shocked at how many people bury their phone number and address in 12 point type in the footer of their pages.
a. Yes – 5 Points – Smarty Pants
b. No – 0 Points – Add this today!
5. SOCIAL MEDIA ICONS:
If you are not on board with social media, then you already know it’s time to get with the program. Oh by the way, Google uses social media engagement (likes, comments, subscribes, followers, views) as an important ranking signal for your web site. Yes, if you use Twittert, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube your site will rank higher in search engine results! Convinced you yet?
a. Yes – 10 Points – Great! You are leading the pack!
b. No – 0 Points – Sorry, but it’s time to get into social
6. WEB SITE BODY COPY:
Do you have at least 200 words of body copy on your home page?
If you want to rank in search engines, you MUST have something to say. If you look at your web site and it’s composed of primarily images, even if you have captions under the images, you are not giving enough body copy for search engines to index. As thought leader in any area, you MUST publish or perish. Remember your college professors? If you knew that they had not published in the last 2 years, would that change your mind about taking the class? Just ask RankYourProfessor.com and see how students are evaluating professors today. Wish I had this tool when I was in college. Google only wants the MOST published thought leaders in their search engine results.
a. 1-50 words of body copy on your home page – 0 Points
b. 51 – 100 words of body copy on home page – 5 Points
c. 101 – 200+ words of body copy on home page – 10 Points – You Rock!
Easy Tip: Go to your home page and hit the command key or control key with the letter A. This will select all the body copy that Google can see. Google cannot see anything that is shaded out and you do not get credit for that text. Try it, very interesting.
7. SOCIAL SHARING ICONS: I know, I know, Social Media again. But think of your web site pages as individual flyers visitors can distribute to their friends. As business owners, we must do anything we can to spread the word about our services and products. If they find you online, you have already slightly impressed them. But if you offer real value like a newsletter, downloadable checklist, or other assets — they will want to share their discovery with their social circles. The best kind of viral marketing.
a. YES – I have social icons on every page of my site – Score 10 Points
b. No but I have seen them but not done it yet – Score 5 points
c. No I am not aware of this and am ignoring social media all together – Score 0 (big surprise )
Easy Tip: Ask your web designer to install an application called ShareThis.com. It will add sharing icons to every page of your site. Easy-peazy.
8. WEBMASTER TOOLS:
Don’t be intimidated or think this is tool technical for you to do yourself. Go to webmastertools.google.com. You will need a Google account. Once you have setup your account, it spiders your site. Then you will know for sure when Google visits your site, how many pages it sees on your site, and who is linking to your site. So many clients are completely overwhelmed by keeping up with the Google Algorithm. This tool makes it easy and transparent to determine exactly how Google sees your site and how to make improvements.
a. Yes, I have Webmaster Tools – You’re a Genius – 10 Points
b. No, but I have heard about it – Are you warmed up yet? – 5 Points
c. No, have not heard of it – Sorry but now you know. – 0 points
9. KEYWORD USAGE: (T, H, B, I, L) Title, Headline, Body, Images, Links
These elements are the Rosetta stone of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When you have chosen your keyword phrases for each page on your site (remember, one keyword phrase per page), you need to place them in the Title, Headline, Body Copy, Image Names and Links inside the body copy to get the search engine recognition you deserve. I have extensive information about this methodology in my first book, The Findability Formula. Go to Findability Formula Download to download a free audio book. Listen to the chapter on SEO and Keyword Placement.
a. Yes, I am using keywords consistently on my home page – 10 Points
b. Yes, I have tried but did not know about T, H, B, I, L concept – 5 Points
c. No, but I am intrigued and want to learn more – 3 points
d. No, this SEO stuff is just spam and I am not doing to do it. L – 0 Points
10. SEARCH BOX:
Ever wonder how to harvest keywords from your site visitors? Determine exactly what they are not finding on your site and learn from this data to create new pages or content to answer those requests? This is an easy add-on to your site. You can search for “Google search appliance” or “add search box to my site” and you will get a plethora of great ideas on how to work with your Webmaster to get this added.
a. Yes, I have a search box – 10 points
b. No, but I am adding one soon – 5 points
c. No, I don’t’ want to clutter my homepage – 0 Points
HOW DID YOU SCORE? OK, NOW ADD IT UP!
Let’s talk about how to get real ROI from your web site design and content.
Score 75 – Truly a Web Site Rock Star! – You are on the ball! Keep up the great work, keep pushing that bounce rate down, and adding more conversion elements to your site. Don’t forget to harvest keywords from your search box each month and set a calendar event to check them regularly.
Score 74 – 35 – You Are On Your Way, But Not There Yet – You have a great web site with real bones and reach. You need to go back on the items that you scored 0 or 5 and address these with your web designer or adjust them yourself. This will dramatically help your overall Findability online and your ability to get the maximum amount of interactions and conversions on your site. Get to work today!
Score 35 or below – Don’t Panic, Help Is At Hand – Call your Webmaster immediately. You may need to knock the house down and rebuild. Paint and curtains are not going to fix this site. If you are on a static site that was built more then 3 years ago and you have no CMS (Content Management System), then you should consider a new web site, new design and a Word Press site CMS. This will give you all the elements mentioned in this article as well as the ability to add/change pages on a dime. When you get bored of the look and feel, you can simply hire someone to create a new “skin” for the site. You don’t have to tear it down and pay big bucks once again for a new site.
If you’d like to run a web site diagnostic and see what other elements you can add or fix on your site, here are a few helpful sites. They’ll give you other scores to help you adjust your site, not technical background needed.
- SEMRush.com (free and $ account)
- MarketingGrader.com (free)
- Compete.com (free and $ account)
- Woorank.com (paid account only)
Have I scared you yet? Booo!
Remember Ghosts and pumpkins are for Halloween, not your web site. Get the ghosts off your site and start connecting with a targeted audience who wants to engage, connect and convert.
Please COMMENT. Send me your thoughts on other home page strategies you’ve had success with.
Heather is the widely acclaimed speaker, trainer, and consultant who literally wrote the book on search engine marketing. Two books, in fact—The Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing and the brand new Thumbonomics: The Essential Business Roadmap for Social Media & Mobile Marketing. Her writing and in-demand keynotes are delivered with the same witty, “no-geek-speak” style that has managed to demystify internet marketing for countless business owners. Breaking free of corporate “cubicle” jobs over ten years ago with nothing more than a dream of entrepreneurship and a computer in the basement, Heather built her business into a multimillion dollar company—the Findability Group. Today she leads a dedicated and slightly obsessed team of search marketing pros—their mission—to connect clients with their perfect customers online.