Most businesses doing local lead-generation online need to treat their homepage like a landing page. Here’s a breakdown of what this means and why it’s important.
A landing page is direct-response advertising content.
That means that the page is designed to motivate a specific action. For example, local businesses engaged in lead-generation want visitors to their site to make initial contact with them, which usually means making a phone call or filling out a contact form. That action is how they go from being a visitor to a lead.
We usually talk about landing pages in the context of specific advertising campaigns. So a business advertises a service with a special deal or coupon, and the page the user lands on when they click the ad gets them to take action on that deal.
For example this ad:
Leads to this landing page:
This ad/landing page relationship create message match, meaning that the content on the page matches the offer in the ad. This set-up results in the highest conversion rates.
Other than the landing page, the type of page you’ve heard referred to the most is the website homepage. This, of course, is first page people see when they click through to your domain. It’s the central page of a business website.
Unlike the landing page designed to match a specific ad campaign, the way landing pages are developed varies a lot. Often, businesses simply decide on how they want to present their business, designing the page based on personal preferences.
Most businesses see their homepage as serving two purposes. First, it’s a general introduction to the business, kind of like a banner that states who you are. Second, they see it as a portal that helps people navigate to other pages on their website.
But we’d like to propose an idea to you. Your homepage shouldn’t just be a general introduction or a navigation portal. It should be direct-response advertising content with a conversion focus and call to action – just like a landing page.
Your homepage should have message match. You must understand the goals and intent of your potential customers, then match the content on your homepage to those needs.
The Vague Banner
The reason we’re making this suggestion is that too many small businesses’ homepages have useless content, particularly above the fold (which is the area visitors see without having to scroll down).
Two things tend to show up on these inert pages:
- A vague statement that’s more a clever motto than a specific value offering. For example, statements like Customer service is our priority or We work hard so you don’t have to.
- Large stock photos that dominate most of the space above the fold but carry little to no useful information.
Take this financial advisor homepage, for example:
Well, that’s very nice image of a mountain meadow. They are financial advisors who are “independent” and “objective”, whatever that means. But think of all the information missing from this homepage:
- Where do they work?
- How do I contact them?
- Why should I contact them?
- Can they solve my problem?
- Are they recommended?
- Are they experienced?
- Do they specialize in anything or have an area of expertise?
I have so many questions, yet I’m left staring at a huge postcard image of the mountains that has nothing to do with financial advice.
Here’s another odd example:
They have a phone number and address at least, but what does the headline mean? How, exactly, does a smile soar? Why is there a huge image of a man with a falcon? How does any of this content help me select a dentist?
It doesn’t. This is a vapid business introduction. Neither of these homepages make any real impression on me, and they certainly don’t motivate me to act.
I hit the back button.
The Big Fat Stock Photo
Okay, let’s acknowledge something. It’s a popular design element right now to have an image dominating the homepage design above the fold. 9 out of 10 times this image is a stock photo. We even do this with many designs at Marketing 360®.
But there is an important point to make here. These big, feel-good images (which are purely decorative like the mountain meadow) are ignored by visitors. They’re background – basically white space on the page. Website usability tests have hard data that confirms this.
The question (and problem) then, is why do so many websites highlight images – which we know are ignored – above the fold on their homepage?
Because they’re not designing them as landing pages. Instead, the business owner is getting caught up in their own personal preferences. The impression they want to create is one of style instead of substance.
We recently did website usability tests on a homepage that was dominated by a glossy stock photo but with little other content above the fold. We got two responses from testers:
- First, they said something like Wow, this is a beautiful website design! I love this picture. It looks really cool and polished.
- Second, they’d pause, squint, and cast their gaze quizzically at the screen. Then they’d ask So what does this business do?
The first impression is worthless if it’s followed by that type of question.
So how do you get your website homepage working like a landing page? Create a conversion-based design that focuses on the substance of the content instead of the style of the design.
For example, look at this pool service homepage:
Consider how much more information is conveyed on this homepage. Virtually everything you need to know to make a hiring decision is visible without scrolling or navigating to other pages.
Or look at how quickly this roofing company conveys their value offering. You immediately understand why you should consider their product:
This electrician has an uninspired image of wind turbines on their homepage, but fortunately it’s overlayed with a compelling call to action:
The difference between the first two homepage examples and the last three (designed on the UXI® platform) is the difference between designs that confuse and lose leads vs designs that orient and convert them. Note that the last three still have large background images, but they’re not the focal point of the content.
If you’re a local business that needs to generate leads, don’t waste visitors’ time with visually grand design that fails to communicate or persuade.
Instead, design your homepage as a landing page with direct-response content. State your value proposition with precision and make your call to action persuasive and easy to complete.
Your goal is not to stun people with design. It’s to convert visitors into leads.