5 Rookie Home Page Mistakes You're Probably Making

Your website is one of your biggest marketing opportunities. Don't let it fall victim to these 5 home page missteps.
October 02, 2013

It's all too common for small-business owners who build their own websites to make a handful of rookie mistakes. Unfortunately, it's not unheard of for hired professionals to make errors when designing websites, too.

Your website is one of your most important marketing tools, so whether you're taking on the creation and design of it yourself or you're hiring someone else to do it for you, make sure you avoid these all-too-common home page mistakes:

1. Too Many Choices

People won't actually read your home page. They'll scan it, looking for the information that's most immediately relevant to them. If they can't find it quickly and with minimal effort, they'll visit a site where they can.

Your site should be designed to guide new eyes exactly where you want them to go, even if they don't know for sure what they're looking for ... especially if they're not sure what they're looking for. Simple navigation with clean lines is the way to go. If your business requires that you offer robust, complex choices, do that on a deeper page. Your home page should be simple and easy to navigate.

2. Wall Of Text

A few years ago, a multimillion-dollar ad campaign from five major magazine publishers who were touting the power of print stated "We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines." To do that surfing, people will interact with, share and return to websites that have pages with: 

  • Short paragraphs
  • Bullet and numbered lists
  • Lots of white space
  • Images and other graphics
  • Sections with subheadings

Anything that breaks up the information you're presenting means people will read more about your company, your products and services, and why they want to do business with you.

3. No Blog

Blogging for your business doesn't mean you have to post something every day, but it does give your website dynamic, rather than static, content. Dynamic content means something on your site changes often enough that people will come back to see what's new. More important, it engages Google in a way that unchanging pages don't.

Even one post per week, or two each month, will be enough to get the attention of Google and other search engines. To attract the attention of human readers, be sure to announce the newest blog updates on your social media platforms and encourage subscribers to sign up for your blog.

4. No Optimization

Yes, there's a lot of voodoo feel to search engine optimization (SEO). Yes, there's a larger-than-is-reasonable group of charlatans pretending to provide good SEO advice without actually helping your business. No, this doesn't mean you shouldn't build your site without sound SEO practices in place.

A full discussion of SEO could fill several books, which would then need new editions fairly quickly because of how rapidly Google changes its algorithms. A short list of essentials includes:

  • Identifying three to five keyword phrases for your site to aggressively pursue
  • Including keywords in metadata, URLs and similar "behind the curtain" aspects of your home page
  • Avoiding "black hat" SEO methods like keyword stuffing and courting unrelated links
  • Using smart, natural instances of your keywords in your blog and on the static pages of your site

5. Neglecting The Obvious

Google gives bonus points for including a handful of simple page components on your website, which will help your site perform better in searches. Including "Privacy Policy" and "Contact" pages with specific data about your company, information about how to reach you and what you'll do with customer information takes no more than 30 minutes per page, but it's been shown to give sites preferential ranking over similar sites that lack those pages.

The small-business world is full of horror stories about companies that were given bad website advice. What are some of your favorites, and what did you learn from them? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Jason Brick has contributed more than 2,000 blog and magazine articles to local, regional and national publications and speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at www.brickcommajason.com.

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