The beginning of the year is a great time to take a step back and evaluate our habits, both off line and online. With 2012 in the rear view mirror, we’re looking forward to 2013 by putting together some resources to audit your online efforts in 2013. Think of it as New Year’s Resolutions for your website!
Photo Credit: nimishgogri
In this first post we’ll start at home base – your home page. Your homepage is the doorway where most people will enter your website, and from there they’ll decide if they want to go any further. Below are 7 recommendations for improving your homepage in 2013:
Your 2013 Homepage Audit | Resolutions for your Website Part 1
Note: Try your best to be objective as you go through this list. Websites are living things that need to evolve to stay current and interesting, so it’s natural that things will need to change over time to keep your site providing value. Every new year is an opportunity to make your website work even harder for you!
1. Do a Squint Test
Pull up your homepage and give yourself 2 seconds to determine “What does this organization do?“
It should be clear what your organization does, and ideally also what differentiates you from other organizations. Whether you are a large company and can provide the benefit of a network of partners, or you are a small company and provide the agility and personal service of a small team – think about how you stand out in the crowd and make sure it is clear on your site. For nonprofits, you may stand out because your cause effects a wide group of people, or that it is a niche issue that needs more support for education.
Don’t feel like your homepage is quite communicating those elements? Some things to think about changing in 2013:
- Revisit The Headline – (see #2 below)
- Update the images – A site can feel fresh and new just by updating the main large banner image. Test different images in this spot.
- Add a video – Some organizations have a complicated or highly visual product or industry this is hard to sum up in short copy. Video is a powerful way to communicate a complex message on your homepage.
- Feed in dynamic content from other places – Feed in content from your blog, photo albums, articles feed, etc. – so visitors always see something new that showcases your expertise in your field.
2. Re-Evaluate your Headline
Your headline is one of the most important elements on your page. It should give your audience an idea of who you are and intrigue them to spend more time on your site. It takes humans about 3 seconds to decide if they are interested in something, and you want to make the most of that time.
There are three types of headlines:
- Benefit headlines – Showcase the benefit of your product/service/cause
- News headlines – Communicate the latest and greatest from your organization
- Curiosity headlines – Pique their curiosity into learning more
Getting Started – Brainstorm! When we are writing headlines, we’ll often brainstorm 100 or more before we start narrowing down. Write down anything that pops into your head, even if it seems silly. Ask for input from different departments for ideas to get a wide range of perspectives. And when in doubt – Test, test, test!
3. Run the Keyword Density Analyzer Report
Schipul has a free Keyword Density Analyzer Report SEO tool that analyzes which keywords and key phrases are used the most on any one page. Enter your homepage URL and check the results to see which phrases you use the most within your homepage content. These top phrases are what you are communicating to the search engines that your site is about.
Focus on the two word and three word phrases. One word terms are so generic that they’re not only hard to rank for, but are probably more generic than what your target audience would search for (the average Gooogle search is 3-5 words). When looking at this report, really hone in on those 2 and 3 word keyterms.
Look at your two and three word keyphrases and you should see:
- Your brand name (this may be in the one word column)
- Your geography (if you serve a target geographic area)
- Your top product/service (or industry if that is a better descriptor of what you do)
If any of those items are missing, update your page to incorporate those terms in more places across your site. Think about the Title Tag, Meta Description, within the Tagline, in alt tags, headers, or of course the content of the page.
4. Update your Title Tag
Your title tag is just a few characters, but is one of the top things the search engines look at when attempting to determine what your page is about. Make sure your title tag follows the following:
- It is accurate – a lot can change in a year, and maybe you are marketing yourself using slightly different terminology than you did last year, or have prioritized your service lines differently. Your title tag should reflect these changes as well.
- It includes your brand name, geography, and top product or service – Like your top keyword list, your title tag should display who you are, where you are, and what you do.
- Keep it short – ideally 70 characters – Google only displays the first 70 characters of your title tag in search results, and you’re not guaranteed that they will index any more than that (many SEOs believe this limit is actually getting smaller in 2012). Bing may index more, but only shows 60 in search results. Keep your title tag short and the most important key terms toward the front.
- It does not include the word “Home” – Don’t waste space in your Title Tag with words that aren’t helpful to either a search engine or a visitor of your site. We know it’s the homepage… leave it out of the title tag.
Tip: Put your brand name at the end. You should rank well for your brand name without really trying because you are the best answer for that term (and it is probably written all over your site). You are going to have to work a little harder for your other keyword terms – put those first so the Search Engines give them some extra weight.
5. Re-Evaluate your Navigation & Footer
Because your navigation and footer display on every page of your website, these places are prime real estate for cross linking between your pages. Here are some things to think about when evaluating your website Navigation & Footer:
- What does your target audience really need? Make sure to include content that meets their needs first.
- Think of other places to cross link new content – Sometimes we’ll add new content and get excited and put it in the navigation just to make sure people see it, even if it really doesn’t belong there. Think of other places you can cross link to this content, like in sidebars or within the content of other heavily trafficked pages. Or maybe it deserves its own homepage rotator.
- Consider a “Mega Nav” or “Monster Footer” for better usability – These design elements give you much more space than a traditional Navigation or Footer single row of links. If your site is complex, consider giving your Header and Footer even more real estate to fit more content to help visitors get through the site.
Monster Footer examples
6. Is your site Mobile & Tablet friendly?
The importance of the mobile web is growing. As of 2012, 7.96% of all US web traffic is mobile traffic (Source). A study released just a few days ago found that sites with mobile optimized and rendered content are getting more mobile organic traffic from Google. Is your site mobile ready?
- Test your site on various devices – iPhone, Android, and iPad are the most popular (more mobile stats by device). Look at your site’s Google Analytics to find which devices your specific audience views your site on the most.
- Can Visitors Contact you from your Mobile Site? – Does your contact form work from a mobile phone? Is your phone number in text so it is clickable from a mobile device? Pay special attention to these elements.
- The Rise of Responsive Design – 2013 is already being called “The Year of the Responsive Design.” A responsive design is a layout that adjusts to the size of your browser automatically. There is only one stylesheet that adjusts instead of flipping to a separate template or different URL completely. This means that the search engines only have to crawl one site, and you don’t have to remember to update content in multiple places. It also gives you the flexibility of multiple screensizes on the same device (i.e. Horizontal iPad vs Vertical iPad).
- Provide mobile content – Mobile trends that are growing include Location Based Tools, Organization Tools, & Social Integration. Think of how your organization can provide content in those areas on your mobile site.
Example Responsive Design
7. Re-visit the Web Marketing Fundamentals
Ed Schipul wrote the Web Marketing Fundamentals back in 2003, and they still apply to all of the websites we create here at Schipul. It is always good to refresh yourself on these fundamentals and ask yourself questions like:
- Are there other ways you can establish credibility on your site? Think about adding partner organization logos or testimonials
- Is it easy to contact you? Is your phone number clear and contact form easy to find?
Measure your Results!
It is important to also look at the results of the changes you’ve made to your homepage this year. Remember that it can take Google time to recrawl your pages, so keep an eye on these metrics over time to determine if your efforts are making a difference on your site:
- Homepage Bounce Rate – The Bounce Rate is the percent of people who landed on the page and then left without clicking anywhere else (bounced). We like to see Bounce Rates for a site in general less than 50% (this means that over half of the people who came to the site found something interesting to click on next). If you are providing more enticing content on your homepage, your Bounce Rate should go down throughout the year as more of your visitors have a reason to explore your site.
- Traffic from Search Engines – We like to see traffic from Search Engines above 50 or 60% of your total traffic. As you optimize your homepage, you should see more traffic to this page from Search Engines.
- Engagement of Mobile Visits – In Google Analytics (and probably in most of analytics tools as well), you can filter to just visits from mobile devices. Keep an eye on these stats throughout the year – how long do these visitors spend on your site? Which pages do they visit most? Is this changing over time as you make improvements to your mobile site?
Need help implementing any of these features on your website? We would love to help! Contact Schipul for more info on our web marketing services!