How to Tell if Your Homepage Sucks
A great website is one that people visit again and again. Google uses factors such as bounce rates, exit rates, the amount of incoming traffic, and the amount of time visitors stay on your homepage to determine whether a website ranks well or not, especially for a particular query. Based on those on-page factors, Google’s algorithm ranks your site on a quality scale for search.
Your homepage is your website’s premier page and leaves your visitors with a lasting impression. It also acts as an index for the rest of your website and tells your brands main story and message.
When designing your homepage, ensure it is as clear, unique, and interesting as possible and is built with a purpose. Remember, this is the first page your visitors will see. Make it interesting for them. Use images and videos to engage your audience, create easy navigation to help them get from section to section, and style your website to lead visitors to important pages.
Homepage design, like anything else, is subjective. So, how do you know if your homepage sucks? Below, you’ll learn questions to ask yourself to turn your homepage from dud to stud.
How Do You Know if Your Homepage Sucks?
As a do-it-yourself web designer, it’s hard to know what elements make for great homepage design? When it comes to the question of whether your homepage sucks or not, the first thing you should do is ask yourself a few questions.
Analyze Your Direct and Organic Traffic
Consistent direct and organic traffic growth is one of the main indicators you can use to gauge the effectiveness of your homepage. This is an easy metric to observe. All you need is Google Analytics.
If you’re looking to gauge traffic growth in your analytics dashboard, go to the “Acquisition” section, select “All Traffic,” and choose “Channels” from the drop down menu.
Here, you’ll be able to see incoming website traffic attributed per channel. Direct and organic search channels will likely be your largest source of incoming traffic.
Now, what we like to do is a month-over-month comparison of total sessions, new sessions, bounce rate, and average sessions duration. You can set the calendar values in the top right corner. I’ve placed the pertinent information into a spreadsheet. If you choose to do the same, it should look something similar to this.
In the above table, you’ll find all of the important statistics you need to see if your traffic is growing or not: total and new user sessions should increase, average session duration should increase, and bounce rate should decline.
If you find that the number of your new users keeps rising, that means your homepage is working efficiently. However, if the number of visitors is dwindling, you should know that it’s time to change your homepage. Check out these examples for inspiration.
In the above table, we can see direct traffic for new users in March are dwindling; however, organic traffic for new users in the same month are on the rise.
Organic traffic is a better indicator than direct traffic, as direct traffic comes from unknown sources. Direct traffic can come from directly typing in your business website’s URL; whereas, organic traffic is the result of a search engine. If this is the case, direct traffic can account for a percentage of recurring users and isn’t a good indication of traffic growth.
Now, on to calculate how much you’re growing by. In order to judge your growth, subtract your latest month’s (March – 3,278) new user traffic by the month previous (February – 2,681).
By subtracting 3,278 by 2,681, we get the number 597, which amounts to total new users month-over-month. Now take that number and divide it by the previous month’s new users (February – 2,681). After dividing 597 by 2,681, we get 0.22. Now, multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage, and you get 22 per cent. That means, in the month of March, our website grew its user traffic by 22 per cent.
If you’re growing your traffic above a 10 per cent on average, month-over-month, you’re successfully growing.
This same approach can be applied to page view and unique page views to find out how many new users are viewing your home page.
Create Homepage Conversion Funnels
Acquiring new traffic is half the battle with homepages. What makes a homepage good is if it helps to qualify your new users to immediately or later become customers. You can become aware of this information by setting up Google Analytics funnel goals for conversion tracking. Don’t fret, it only sounds complicated. It’s actually a lot simpler than you think.
We’re going to do a hypothetical example of how to create a funnel goal using Bookmark.com.
Start by going into your “Admin” section of Google Analytics,
and clicking “New Goal.”
This next section will present you with a variety of options to choose from depending on your business goal. There are many types of goal templates to choose from, including creating your own custom template.
For our example, we’ll choose the “Sign up” goal template under “Engagement.”
The next page asks you to choose a type of goal. Select “Destination,” your Goal ID, and name your goal before moving on. The Goal ID has no significance beyond what you give it. We chose to name our goal “Newsletter Sign up.”
After you’ve completed the previous step, you’ll arrive at the goal details page. Here, you will set your destination page (at the top of the page). The destination page we’re using is “/sign-up-thankyou.html” and we’re setting it the value to “Equals to.” This means the funnel will complete only when a user reaches this page load.
Beneath the destination page, you’ll see the “Funnel” value is turned on. It is crucial you turn this value on; otherwise, you’ll not be able to create a funnel.
Underneath, you’ll input the pages you want to use to create the funnel with. The first step is to create the first page in the funnel, your homepage. Input your homepage name in the left-hand text field and enter its URL in the right-hand text field. Now, enter the second page in the funnel, like you did the first. This will be your newsletter sign up page.
Last, but not least, we turned on the “Required” value. This value makes it so you have to follow each step in the funnel exactly as follows (homepage, newsletter sign up page, and sign up thank you page) in order for it to count a conversion. This is needed for this example because we want to know how many users only sign up from the homepage; however, if you have multiple entry points into your sign-up page (homepage, contact us page, blog, etc.), and you want to know total sign-ups, turn the “Required” value off or make the newsletter sign-up page the first and only step in the funnel.
Now you know how to track conversions for your website by creating funnels. Examine your conversions month-over-month to determine whether or not your homepage is successfully converting your users into customers. If you find your website’s conversions trending down, make changes to and test your homepage’s layout for improvements.
Again, this is a hypothetical goal we’re making. This isn’t Bookmark’s website structure, so the URLs will be different, but these URLs could very well could be how other websites set up their structure.
With the technical aspects of tracking website performance out of the way, let’s move on to simpler things you can do to help boost your homepage success.
Does Your Homepage Mention What Your Company Does?
Visitors arriving at your website should know exactly what your company does before dipping beneath the fold of your homepage. Your homepage introduction should be your company’s elevator pitch to prospective customers.
The fold of your website is the part of your homepage that loads before you begin scrolling. Anything on your homepage prior to scrolling is considered above the fold.
Communicating your business’ unique selling proposition (USP) before the fold is important. The reason it’s important is because qualified users searching for products or services your website offers will immediately recognize they’ve found a relevant website to their search and affirm their desire to further explore your website.
Only mentioning what the company does in the ‘About Us’ section is ill-advised, since most visitors have no time navigating an entire website. A larger percentage may even fail to spot it, costing you potential revenue.
Are There Pop-ups on Your Homepage?
The use pop-ups to capture information from customers is yet another online advertising practice. It can contain anything from text and buttons to images and videos that suddenly pop up on the website page.
They often intrusively pop up within the first few seconds after users load your website. They also make navigation through websites very difficult at times. Regardless, they’re still common practice because sometimes they work.
Even though the majority of users dislike pop-ups, they have been effective at garnering increased sign-ups on homepages up to 40 per cent of website visitors.
Here’s the rub: pop-ups can be effective, if done right. They can generate good results at around a 2 per cent click-through rate (CTR).
If you’re looking to capitalize on pop-ups, follow these rules:
- make your pop-ups match your homepage colour scheme and inviting
- include social proof in your pop-ups
- make your pop-ups problem-solution oriented
- provide a value statement to the user (what do they get out of it)
How Easy is it to Navigate From Your Homepage?
If your homepage lacks a navigation tab and search box, then guess what? Your homepage sucks! A homepage without a clear navigation menu or search box tool is a major turn-off for visitors. Even without the latter, many users will likely leave if they can’t get around in a few clicks.
Although some content your visitors require won’t typically be linked to from your homepage sections, it should still be searchable on your website. A search box tool is, therefore, meant to offer an easy alternative for them to find what they may be looking for.
If your homepage navigation doesn’t clearly guide visitors through your website, they are likely to become frustrated and leave.
There used to be a rule called the ‘3 click rule’. The rule stipulates you should be able to get to any page on your website in three clicks.
Now, that’s a little ambitious, but the core idea holds true. You should form your navigation around the idea of getting to all of your pages in the least amount of feasible clicks.
Run a test and see how long it takes for you to get to an important page on your website. If you can get to an important page, like a sign-up page, in 2 clicks, you’re doing well. If it’s anything above 2 clicks, consider making your navigation easier to get to your most important pages.
Does Your Homepage Show Your Contact Information?
If it’s important for your customers and users to contact you, it makes a lot of sense to clearly display your contact info on your homepage in conjunction to its own page. You can condense your contact form fields to require only submitting an email and a message.
Many visitors interested in your products or services will want to make further inquiries, so make it easy for them to get in touch. If your business requires multiple touch points to close a sale, like email and phone calls, make your contact process easy.
Lastly, consider condensing your form submission on your contact page as well. No one likes to spend their time filling out forms. By only asking the essential information related to your business objectives, you can see more form completions.
Does Your Homepage Have CTAs?
If you don’t tell your audience what to do next, they’ll simply leave. A call to action (CTA) is a link in websites that helps direct users to the a desired action and also helps you to achieve your desired objective, like effectively collecting emails from your homepage.
These CTA buttons are essential for a homepage as they help your visitors to get in contact with you for more information about a product or service. For CTA best practices, read our No-Brainer’s Guide to Call to Action.
Many website owners are motivated by the cliché: “If you build it, they will come.” That’s just not the case. You can build and launch a beautiful site, but if it isn’t growing its traffic, there’s far less of a chance it converts users into customers. Therefore, you have to think hard about about how you present a website’s homepage to your users, as it’s the first – hopefully not last – thing they see.
Just remember it’s crucial you track your growth and make homepage layout adjustments as needed, state your unique selling proposition out of the gate, make navigation easy, and use CTAs to build a customer base. If you can manage that, your website will be a success.