What do you have on your website's home page? (The home page is also known as the index page... it's normally the first page people see when they come to your site).
For the past 20 years, home pages have been used mainly as an advertising billboard. These billboards type home pages often have Flash animations (that are slower to load, not search engine friendly, and often ignored), a little info about the company (often ignored too) and some type of menu (maybe the only useful part of the home page). In the past, this was enough. But in these days of social networking and greater community awareness, your home page should be a whole lot more.
So what should a modern home page be? It should be a portal of information – and not necessarily information about your product/service! Think about including lifestyle information, 'green' information and educational information. Your home page should be a launching point to blogs, latest news features, forums and links to other sites related to your product/service.
Let's look at a few of these features:
'Blogs – a blog is a good place to talk about things affecting your industry. For example, if you sell electronics, use your blog to explain acronyms to your visitors. Explain things like HDMI, 1040dpi, etc. Discuss the hot topics in your industry. The idea here is to not focus on your business directly. Use the visitor's interest in your industry to generate interest in your site! (There is no harm in mentioning a product or service you offer that related to the 'blog topic. But remember, the 'blog is an informational tool, not an advertising billboard).
Latest News – this is the place to focus on your business and the products/services you offer... Getting a new product? Hype it up here. Hit a certain sales quota? Taught it here. Expanding to a new location? Highlight that here. If you are having a sale, this would be a good place to tell your visitor. Like 'blogs, your news articles should be rotated often.
Links to other sites – yes, this can actually help your business. (And a good web developer will know to set these links up to open in a new tab, so the visitor never actually leaves your site). For example, a site that is pet related might have links to sites that offer products to help keep track of pets or to directories that list lost pets. The idea here is to be useful to your visitors and earn their loyalty by showing you are concerned with more than taking their money.
Lifestyle and community information – does your business sponsor local events or do you participate in local events? Those should be posted – 5K's, non-profit benefit auction, fallen officer/firefighter benefits, recycling and community clean-up efforts, or any other community action your business is involved in should be shown on your home page.
The final thing to mention is any social networking site you may have a business presence with – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn... A link to your page on these social networking sites should be included on your home page, along with a symbol representing the network.
There is another benefit to including these things on your home page - they are all good for boosting your site's rank with search engines! 'Blogs and news articles add related search terms to your home page. Links to related sites and social networks, are also good methods to boost search engine rankings.
It's time to move your home page into the present... make it work for you with today's internet user!
As always, comments and questions are welcome!