8 must-have elements of a strong home page

8 Must Have's for Home Page

When visitors arrive at the home page of your website, are they able to quickly and efficiently find what they’re looking for? Or do they become confused and frustrated – because they can’t easily figure out exactly what you do or how your website is structured and where to look for the information they need?

Here are 8 must-have elements that will help you attract and engage the right prospects with your website’s home page:

  1. Jobs to be done. What tasks or “jobs to be done” do visitors have in mind when they come to your website? What do they need to accomplish? What questions do they need answered? Are they seeking product education? Make a list of these popular tasks, and then rank them in order of importance. Next, brainstorm ways to make relevant resources more visible on your website. Your goal is to help visitors find what they need in as few clicks as possible.
  2. Economize on home page features. Don’t overstuff your home page with every article, tool and resource you can think of. That will only confuse visitors.
    Ideally, the design of your website should visually guide visitors to the most important content and resources.
  3. What does your firm do? Your home page needs to communicate that quickly, in a matter of seconds. If your home page confuses visitors, they will quickly click away from it.
  4. Clear and unambiguous website navigation. Visitors should be able to quickly discern how your website navigation works. It should use terms that your target audience knows and understands. When it comes to website navigation, ambiguity is a big problem. Seek to eradicate it at all costs.
  5. Responsive design. Is your website based on a responsive design that adapts to a variety of mobile screen sizes? If not, you should make this a high priority. In many industries and markets, the majority of website visitors are already accessing company and product information via mobile devices. The time to adapt your website’s architecture is now.
  6. Hero image. This is a large image, frequently located just below your website’s masthead and primary website navigation. The best hero photoshots perform a gatekeeper role. In other words, they inspire the audience you want to attract to explore further. Ideally, it should also encourage the people you don’t want to attract to leave your website.
  7. Contact information. Your website’s home page should contain easy-to-find contact information, either in the header or footer. Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a website and searching in vain for an email address, contact us form or office number.
  8. Shortcuts to the best stuff. Give your website visitors a way to quickly navigate to your most popular and most valuable content.

Next step

Why not use this list as a “report card” for your website. How does your website rate? Where do you need to improve?

9 Ways to Make Your Website a Lean, Mean Lead-Generation Machine

Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. It should be a lead-generation machine: a hotbed of activity, delivering a steady stream of qualified leads to your sales team...or it can just sit there and stagnate.

Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. It’s where you meet, greet and impress your customers enough to buy your products or engage with your services. It should be a lead-generation machine: a hotbed of activity, delivering a steady stream of qualified leads to your sales team…or it can just sit there and stagnate.

If your website isn’t helping you close sales, here are 9 great ways to ramp it up.

 

  1. Spruce up your homepage. Unless they’re following a link to a targeted landing page, most of the time your site visitors will land on your homepage first. Is yours welcoming, informative, and easy to navigate? If your homepage is crowded, outdated or confusing, your visitors will bounce. Figure out why potential customers are coming to your website and make sure what they want to find is prominently displayed.
  1. Check your contact information. Sounds simple, but be sure your contact info is correct and easy to find on every page. Customers want to know you’ll respond. If a form on a contact page is your only option, you may lose business to more accessible companies.
  1. Communicate clearly and quickly. Is your language friendly and conversational? In the interest of professionalism, many business owners choose wordy, formal language delivered in dense paragraphs. Informal language, larger text, and shorter sentences and paragraphs appeal more to web users.
  1. Get your content on. Fill your pages with rich and varied content. Tell your brand story to engage visitors. If you don’t offer a wealth of information, instructions, training, and how-tos, your competition will. Win loyal customers with your expertise.
  1. Update frequently. Keeping your content fresh gives visitors a reason to return, plus, it boosts your search engine rankings. Add new press releases, start a blog, and ensure any current news on your site is, well, current.
  1. Growth Cycle Marketing: What’s your new comprehensive marketing strategy for quantifiable business growth?Create stand-out CTAs (calls-to-action). What do you want visitors to do? View your catalog? Sign up for your mailing list? Learn more about your services? Make your CTA bold, clear, and consistent on every page.A word to the wise: “Buy Now!” may seem like an effective CTA, but use it cautiously. You website visitors may be at any stage of the Growth Cycle Marketing process. In the early stages, they want to check out your products, compare prices, and find information. They may not be ready to buy. Others may be returning customers. Address visitors in different stages of the buy cycle with targeted landing pages and offer something valuable in return for their email address.
  1. Shorten your forms. In the early days of the web, IRS-length forms were common. Companies needed to collect everything. Today, you can cut it down considerably. Early in the process, many companies just ask for name and email. That’s all you need to build your email list. If you have a great CRM, your email list will link to your social media accounts. Once you earn their business, you’ll collect the rest.
  1. Evaluate your SEO. If you haven’t performed a comprehensive SEO audit in a while, your website may be buried deep in search page results. The rules have changed, so what worked just a few years ago may be hurting you now.
  1. Follow up. The Internet has raised expectations. Customers want a response in hours, not days…and certainly not weeks. When a lead is generated, a salesperson should get an alert, and follow up should happen as quickly as possible. Even in the digital automation age, customer service is your greatest asset.

Your website is not an online sales brochure. An optimized website can be an extension of your marketing department and a logical step in the buying process. By implementing the newest SEO and marketing techniques, providing information your visitors are looking for, and offering fast, personalized response, your website will become a lead-generation machine.

 

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! A great content marketing strategy is a big way to make your website into lead-generation machine. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource

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6 Keys to Build Engaging Relationships on Your Website

Growth Cycle Marketing
Here at Cultivate we believe in a long-term, cyclical marketing strategy based on the idea that building real relationships with your customers is the best way to nab new business and build brand reach.

Your website is the hub of your marketing strategy, so it needs to be user-friendly and easy for search engines to find. Add in the content your customers want when they want it, then engage, engage, engage.

Here are some key concepts to explore if you want to build engaging relationships on your website:

1. Know Your Customer

Hey, remember how that Pets.com Super Bowl ad worked out? Super Bowl ads are the MOTHER of all scatter-shot marketing. Spend a 4.5 million bucks to advertise to a giant audience…then go out of business in a year. Well done. Mass marketing is becoming a thing of the past. When you choose a leaner, more targeted approach, you speak directly to your potential customers and your base…and no one else.

You can’t engage your customer until you answer these questions: Who are they? What do they want? Where do they hang out online? How can you deliver?

There are a ton of benefits to targeted marketing. Your emails are less likely to be ignored (or worse, marked as spam), you’ll only have to respond to potential and actual customers, and you’ll save money over expensive ads that reach tons of people who will never, ever buy from you.

Let’s contrast that Pets.com fail with the Dollar Shave Club viral ads win. This startup company spent a paltry $4,500 on very funny ads and attracted 4.75 million views in 2012. In the first 48 hours after the first ad debuted, 12,000 people signed up. The ads are hip, funny and brash—just the formula to appeal to young men. Of course, we can’t overlook the economical price, either. The markup on retail razors must be astronomical. Bottom line: Great business model. Great marketing strategy. Great value. Boom.

2. Be Accessible and Tailor Your Content

At every stage of the Growth Cycle Marketing process, accessibility and customization are critical. Give your visitors what they want, when they want it and your conversion rate will go up every time.

Here’s how…

  • Your content must be easy to find and easy to navigate. Start with your web design. Be sure your website is responsive so it’s always accessible on any-sized device. Your website shouldn’t be a game (forcing your visitors to play ‘find the hidden gems’) or a maze (compelling your visitors to scroll all over a page too wide for their mobile device). Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • … and don’t overlook the importance of optimizing your content for search engines.
  • What is Marketing’s Impact on Innovation for Growth? Download this whitepaper on Growth Cycle MarketingYour content must be customized. Give your people what they want. Know what your customers are searching for and don’t hesitate to dish it out solutions on a regular basis. That means fresh, updated content, plenty of information and lots of opportunities to interact.
  • Answer concerns and questions immediately. People are impatient, and if you don’t answer them, your competitors will. Customer conversion and retention depends on fast response.

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Attract and retain new customers and expand your brand reach at every stage in the buy cycle. Learn all about Growth Cycle Marketing when you download our FREE white paper.

3. Give ‘em MORE

Fresh content is essential. There’s no size limit on your website, so why limit yourself? You don’t want customers to visit once, you want them to come back again and again. New content gives your current and potential customers a reason to revisit, plus new stuff to share. Blogging is one of the most common ways to regularly add fresh content, but don’t forget: informative articles and white papers, graphics, videos, and even sales copy can also be great forms of engaging content.

4. Get Your Fun On

One thing we know for sure: web users love to engage, especially when the content is FUN! They eat up contests, quizzes, memes, featured photos and videos. Lay’s chips took user interaction to the next level in 2013 and 2014 with contests to design new chip flavors, which resulted in such flavors as Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese (yummy!) and Mango Salsa (not yummy!). Nearly 4 million people from 14 countries submitted flavors.

Most companies don’t have that kind of “holy grail” reach, but the important thing is to share content your customers will want to pass on, and that means getting them excited, amused, or intrigued.

5. Beef Up your Landing Pages

When you set the hook with social media, be prepared to reel them in with your landing page. Your links should lead to the content promised. Don’t lead them astray when they’re so close! (So don’t link to a general page where they have to search around forever, or to a page crowded with other offers, CTAs and links.) Keep it simple.

The Lay’s page mentioned above is a great example. At this stage of the contest, you can vote for your favorite, learn more about the contestants and the flavors, share the page—and not much else.

6. Follow Up

When people give you their precious personal data, they expect a response. A 2011 study by Harvard Business Review revealed that companies that respond within an hour are 7 times more likely to engage the customer in a meaningful conversation and 60 times more likely to engage than companies who respond a day or more later. You can’t ignore that data, folks.

Be sure your team has a process in place to handle email and website inquiries in a timely manner. An automated response lets customers know you’re interested, then quickly following that with a personalized response starts the conversation…and potentially the conversion.

Start growing your business today! Download our FREE Growth Cycle Marketing whitepaper. It’s a free resource designed to help you take positive action to increase your reach, sales and retention.

10 Reasons Why Your Customers Leave Your Website

If you’re getting the clicks and not the sales, it’s time to take an objective look at what might be driving your customers to your competitors.

– Cultivate Communications

10 Reasons Why Your Customers Leave Your Website *Great listIt’s the eternal question—what makes a website sticky? Ok, maybe not exactly eternal, but certainly foremost on the minds of business owners who need smart marketing. When you evaluate your site analytics, can you pinpoint how, why and when people stay…or leave? Lofty promises might earn you the click, but are you losing the sale with bad design or bad delivery?

People leave websites for a lot of reasons. If you’re getting the clicks and not the sales, it’s time to take an objective look at what might be driving your customers to your competitors.

1. The sound and the fury.
Anything that plays automatically is going to turn off some customers for a number of reasons. Websites that play music or video on pageload are annoying, slow and often buggy. Worse, dedicated shoppers with a dozen browser windows open at once may suffer a complete browser meltdown. That’s where the fury comes in. Think they’re coming back after you crash their browser and force a reboot? Not likely.

2. Your website is a slow starter.
Keep your content light and easy to load with low-resolution graphics sized to fit your space and a minimum of scripts. If load time goes over 5 seconds, you’re likely to lose your potential sale. In today’s high-speed world, a slow loading site just ain’t going to fly.

3. You’re forcing people to sign up.
Recently, a ton of retail sites decided it would be a good idea to require customers to create a profile and login before they can even browse. Forcing people to give out personal information before ever seeing the product? Fail! If you’re seeing visitors walk away from your login page, you might want to reconsider this approach. Get them to create accounts after they’re already interested…not before. Offer something in exchange for their details, like special discounts, unadvertised sales, or a useful downloadable freebie.

4. You threaten to hijack Facebook.
Another downright disturbing trend: Apps that ask a potential customer to sign up using their Facebook or Twitter account. Once logged in, the apps nabs permission to post spammy ads all over your wall. While this may seem like a good way to spread your brand name fame, it’s way more likely to increase your bounce rate and generate really bad press. Don’t try this tactic. If you create great content and you make it easy to share your content, people will do so voluntarily.

5. Your content stinks.
The grammar police are in full uniform on the web…and they’re patrolling YOU. Every word on your website should be spelled correctly, every sentence should be grammatically correct, and every fact should be accurate and up-to-date.

Growth Cycle Marketing: Free White Paper DownloadPoorly written, irrelevant or outdated content makes your business look unprofessional and untrustworthy. Never slap up a bunch of content just for the sake of “having content.” You don’t need to “have content.” You need excellent content that appeals to your target market at each and every stage in the Growth Cycle Marketing process.

Download our FREE Growth Cycle Marketing eBook to learn all about how to hit up your potential and current customers with great content at every stage in the buy cycle!

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6. You’re not telling them enough.
Whether you sell products or services, the customer is going to want to know everything there is to know. Be sure you include an attractive description, technical specs, what it is or what you do, and anything else that makes the buying decision easier. To really drive the sale home, include customer reviews, testimonials, and case studies. Customer input and real-life experiences are incredibly important today.

7. Visitors can’t find the good stuff.
Remember back in the 90s when navigation got artsy and websites substituted pictures for words? Navigating pages should not be a game of Clue. If you have artsy little graphics instead of words, people are going to bounce. Pertinent information, including company and contact information should be obvious and easy to find if you want customers to give you money.

8. You’re not delivering on your promise.
False advertising is a surefire way to drive away potential customers. When you put out a teaser for a product or service, it’s important to deliver on that promise. The ol’ bait and switch is bad for business.

9. Did you forget about mobile?
More people are using cellphones and tablets to shop and that’s not going to change. If your site is not mobile friendly, you’re losing business. Make it easy for mobile customers to browse and buy…and they will.

10. You aren’t paying attention.
To really understand what’s driving your traffic, you need to keep track of the traffic patterns and have a solid understanding of what visitors are doing at your site.

It’s not enough to know how many people see your page; you need to know where they come from, how much time they spend on a page, and where they go next.

In-depth data analysis, or analytics, can give you a highly detailed picture of what’s working and what’s not, so you can do more of what’s working and stop wasting time and money on what’s not.

Improving your conversion rate is often a matter of understanding visitor behavior. If your products or services are attractive and customers are leaving your website, understanding why is half the battle. Once you’ve got a handle on what makes visitors bounce, you have a much better chance of making your website satisfyingly sticky.

Should You Use an Open Source or Proprietary Web Platform?

Should You Use an Open Source or Proprietary Web Platform?
There comes a time when you have to make that decision to build a website for your business or your brand. The trick you’re going to run into is deciding WHAT platform you should build your website upon that will stay within your budget. Luckily, today web development can be performed on an open source Content Management System (CMS) that requires much less work (and expense) than websites of yesteryear.

Many website service providers will build you a custom site on their proprietary website platform so they can keep you locked into using them for continuous revenue generation — through site updates, additions, and modifications.

They’ll tell you it’ll be too much work for you to do on your own, and they’ll justify their rates as reasonable because “they understand their in-house platform and can’t guarantee the effectiveness of the open source platforms available today.” What they don’t want you to know is that it’s not hard to find a new web developer willing to work with what someone else has already put together for you if you decide to “jump ship.”

What’s more, you CAN guarantee the effectiveness and credibility of open source CMS platforms because today there’s a massive community of developers ready and willing to help you out if you’re ever in need. You’re not locked into a software program that nobody else knows how to use. And you can realistically make changes to your site by yourself with little or no coding experience, and with tech support one click or call away.

For small- to medium-sized businesses,
an open source CMS may be the right fit for you and your budget.

Developers are now specializing in using open source CMS platforms because not only are they easier to use, but they are modular, integrate with other software application programming interfaces (APIs), and are search engine optimization (SEO) friendly.

Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of each platform:

OPEN SOURCE WEB PLATFORMS:

  • Are built and maintained by groups of interested people all over the world — While there is typically one controlling body, they belong to no one.
  • Make the source code available to all — Anyone with the skills and time can extend and modify the code and create new functionality as required.
  • Can be hosted anywhere — You can host an open source website with just about any ISP or hosting company on their servers or on your own.
  • Are typically free — or at least the software itself is. Customization, design, and hosting are not free.

PROPRIETARY WEB PLATFORMS:

  • Are built and maintained by a single company — You know exactly who to call to make big changes or to ask a question.
  • Typically do not allow access to the source code — The best of them do provide an open framework (or API), so they can be extended by others.
  • Are typically hosted by the company that created them — Some may be hosted elsewhere.
  • Typically require a license fee of some sort — Often this fee is built into the hosting charges.

For more information about how to effectively get yourself started with an open source CMS, contact Cultivate Communications today to set up your appointment in determining the right path for your business. We’re here to help!

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See all articles by Nicholas Putz

Image Credit: Thank you to Louise Docker for sharing this creative commons photo.