Zach Wilson and Chris Bonney from Gulo discuss what a home page is today on the modern web. What does it include and not include? What is the true intent of a home page today? How does Google factor in. Give this episode a listen for some eye-opening insights into how best to represent your business on the Internet today.

Zach Wilson

Partner

Chris Bonney

VP of Strategy

Transcript

Chris Bonney:

Hey everybody! Thanks for joining us again for another Web Marketing Insights podcast here from Gulo with me Chris Bonney, is Zach Wilson as always.

Chris Bonney:

Hi, Zach. How are you doing today?

Zach Wilson:

Good afternoon. Great. Thank you.

Chris Bonney:

Good, good. We’ve got a really cool topic today, Zach. We’re calling it the anatomy of the homepage and it might not be what you think for those listening. So stick around to see what we have to say about it because there’s some really cool philosophical and sort of conceptual ideas that everybody’s homepage, regardless of what kind of business you’re in should probably follow or think about. And if you’re not thinking about these things, you really should be, and Zach, I’ll just jump right in to content here is that the question can be made or the argument could be made. That may be for some people, Google is actually your homepage, right?

Chris Bonney:

And so what do we mean by that? Well, if you’re familiar with the Google’s search results page on the right-hand side of the page, there can be what they call a knowledge panel, and that can sometimes draw information about who you are about your company, about your product, whatever it may be, and actually tell everybody everything they need to know about it. And then lead them to maybe not click through to your homepage from that. If it’s something that has to do with that might even be represented somewhere on Wikipedia, that’s likely to maybe answer somebody’s question that your homepage was hoping to answer for somebody. So what we need to do is think about not only what are we trying to convey on our homepage, but where is that information that we’re putting on our homepage? Where else is it represented to our future users or potential users or returning users that they might be finding elsewhere and then not getting to our homepage?

Chris Bonney:

So when we look at our analytics and we say, gosh, why is traffic to our homepage going down? It could very well be because they don’t have to click past their search results on Google, right? So that’s really a big thing to think about. And we can talk a little more about that as we go along, but that’s the one thing that as we were talking about this podcast and what we wanted to mention that really jumped out at me that’s something to really think about, how can we make sure that people are getting what they need right on that search results page, or making sure that they’re not getting what they need and click through to us. Right. So big, big thing to think about something else that comes to mind is that there isn’t just one homepage on your website anymore. Right. There’s multiple ones. So, do you want to just kinda jump in on that one, Zack, and just talk a little bit about what we mean when we, when we say that.

Zach Wilson:

Yeah. So as part your search and search presence some of the things that we’re trying to accomplish, and we’re trying to get people to appear as, are these either long tail content or top-level landing pages that are related to this long tail content. And so what’s happening now as we see it and you just alluded is the organic traffic is that you’re seeing that you’re likely seeing on your site is not as heavily tilted as it used to be towards the homepage. And this is a product of the evolution of Google and Google finding the valuable content and the valuable pages on your site that your visitors are engaging with and interacting with. And a part of that, which I thought you were going to say the holy grail that people are seeking for in search now are also snippets, keyword snippets, right?

Chris Bonney:

A featured snippet

Zach Wilson:

A featured snippet, sorry.

Zach Wilson:

And as you’re alluding people likely aren’t even coming to your site anymore. If you optimize something well enough they get their answer, they get their answer right there. And there’s no click-through, which is a sort of a catch 22 because we want to provide people with value and answers. But if we provide too good of an answer, there’s a possibility that they might not even click through to get more information. And then we can’t, you know, capitalize on that. So, back to the landing page part of it, and I think that to hand it back to you, we look at sites from a technical SEO perspective and we want it to be very, very flat now, right?

Zach Wilson:

So you’ve got your homepage and you’ve got your sort of first tier, which typically are your landing pages and a lot of your value proposition of who you are and what you do as an organization or our company. And then below that is your more long-tail content in your ancillary pages. And we treat the first level of the homepage and the second level as an agency, we treat these the same. These are equal weight. So, what’s happening now as an agency that focuses on conversions and results we want everything in the second tier to be as effective and well designed and well organized as things in the first tier. And what we’ve sort of devised and this is not brain surgery a lot of people do this, but it’s this formula of telling your story and the anatomy of the homepage, right?

Zach Wilson:

So, this is something that we think about and talk about from organizationally and structure pages, again, home pages and landing pages in this fashion, so once your user gets there, you’re not beating them over the head with the wrong thing as they get there you’re giving your user the opportunity to slowly consume whether it’s visually or written these parts or panes of the page. And then, you know, finally, bam at the end, here’s actually what I want from you. Right. But as you said earlier offline, the page is not about you the company, it’s about your customers and talking about your customers.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah, let’s take that a step further. So, if we have to value pages on our site, I mean, it almost feels like to me, we used to really think about the homepage as the top of the hierarchy and then there’s this secondary level of pages. And what you’re saying is let’s go ahead and drop that homepage down into that role almost, right? And have that then if we’re just calling them landing pages, right? Topical whatever, you know, topic or concept or behind those pages, if your homepage is just one of seven, one of eight, one of 15, whatever it is. And you want to understand what the goal of that page is, why people are coming to that site page, how you’re optimizing that page and not put the idea that every single constituent on your staff or your customers or your membership or whatever it might be, has to be served by this home page. Cause that’s what we see, right. A very centrist approach to the homepage. And the reason is, is because we see it at the top of the hierarchy, right. If we drop that down and say, actually, it’s just one of seven pages, those other six are just as important because they’re about really important topics or concepts or areas of our organization, whatever it might be. I think that devaluing it actually gives it the opportunity to be more valuable because it’s more focused.

Zach Wilson:

Yeah. I agree. A hundred percent. Yeah.

Chris Bonney:

How many landing pages is too many? if we’re talking about them as other homepages. Cause that’s what I’m looking at it like, you can call your homepage a homepage, but if we’re going to drop it down and equalize it with the other seven, they’re all homepages, you know? Right. So is there a point where you go, okay, 45 is too many that’s a little much for the top tier. How do you, how does somebody know? Is there something that SEO would dictate or does it seem like maybe if you had $50 in pages you might have 50 landing pages.

Zach Wilson:

Yeah, no, that’s a good question. I haven’t really thought about that and from our perspective, from client to client it varies so dramatically on the customer. We’re working on something right now that they went from a 20-page site to a two-page site, right? There’s two landing pages, we’re now consolidating all this important information and organizing in a way where you don’t have to go, the visitor doesn’t have to go to four different pages anymore to consume all this information that’s just right there. And so, you know, classic answer is it totally depends. As we’ve worked on things, I’ve yet to see anything that indicates that there’s too many. I think the answer to too many is if you’re finding from a marketing perspective that you’re really diluting your message, or you’re not having a page that’s really succinct and talking to, map it back up to what’s the URL of this page, it’s, you know, services or whatever.

Zach Wilson:

But if you can’t have a handful of sections that are speaking to why a customer would be on this page and solving a problem or answering a question to be on that page, it probably shouldn’t be a landing page and you should probably rethink what, where that lives hierarchically and what that actually means to a visitor to answer their question.

Chris Bonney:

Fair enough! Yeah. Okay. Maybe the question is, can you have too few? And the answer is, yeah. If you’re putting all your eggs in the homepage basket, as people have done for so long and not just kind of said, well, wait a minute, why do we just have to focus everything on their homepage? Because to your point, SEO, if we look at our Google Analytics does a lot of organic traffic come through people’s homepage traditionally, sure. But only because we’re working from the old mindset in most cases, right? And the mindset needs to be that isn’t the only entry point to our site. In fact, that might be the least, you know, the one we want have people show up to the least because that means they’ve come to us for whatever reason that we weren’t necessarily maybe even optimizing for. We’d prefer that someone that wanted to do X search for X and got to the landing page that talks about X. Leading up on a homepage you’re one more click away from where you want to be. So direct correlation, like you said, to search engine optimization, for sure.

Zach Wilson:

Yeah, yeah. And you just sort of triggered something for me because in terms of thinking about customers and verticals I think that, you know, if you’re a, let’s just say a professional services b2b company, or if you’re a, I don’t know, a software company. How do you answer this question? And the answer to this question is if you’re a B2B or a software company or whatever you want to have a page that can map back to your audience. Right? We’re incidentally working in this internally, right? Like we’re trying to talk to our audiences more specifically on these landing pages so that, Hey, I can talk to, you know, a customer a and the entire vibe of the page from pictures to copy talks to them specifically, and then, Oh, we’ll take it a step further.

Zach Wilson:

Are my customers, consumer packaged goods? Are they, you know, direct to consumers? Well, you know, take it a step further and whether where that lives hierarchically, but we can map that from an SEO perspective to you know consumer packaged goods companies looking for marketing optimization software, what marketing automation software, whatever. And that helps you from a search perspective, create that sort of like that pillar content and that landing page. And then you can start to spider off and, you know, build up that content. But, you know, strategically, that’s a lot of what we do and how we, how we structure those things. Again, this is just audiences, but it can be audiences, services, whatever offerings if you’re an organization it can be advocacy and campaigns and things like that, but whatever, whatever you’re doing as a company or an entity, you want those landing pages to map back to, you know, let’s just call it your mission or your sort of statement and your goals as a business.

Chris Bonney:

Right. That’s a great point. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. So we’ve talked about, just briefly about how we want to think about the actual Google search results page is in some ways your new homepage and people have sort of thought about this and talked about this a little over time, but I think now more than ever, if you’re not thinking about how people are taking in your content on the search results page, and therefore not clicking through examine that because you want to be represented well there, secondly, we said your homepage maybe should be dropped down hierarchically to be level with your landing pages, because it really is just one of several landing pages. You might not be able to have too many, but you can definitely have too few, one or two. It’s probably too few. If you just have a homepage and that’s the only page you’re really focusing on and trying to please everybody with, that’s not where you want to be.

Chris Bonney:

And search allows people to enter your site across all optimized landing pages, which is way better than just coming through your homepage now. So those are two great points. Now here’s the third thing I thought we might talk about today too, let’s go to the homepage, let’s go to your actual homepage. And while we might not want to say, you gotta have a hero that’s these many pixels high, and you know, let’s not do that, but let’s talk about what the elements of a successful homepage are. And, you know, outside of copy and visuals, the philosophies we need to sort of be thinking about, for the homepage. One is that we’re talking about ourselves is trying to make that connection and this, and let’s put a caveat in here that this is actually relates, not just to your homepage… homepage, but to all those landing pages this should be things you’re considering across all of them.

Chris Bonney:

And one of them is, and you brought it up for a split second already. Your homepage shouldn’t be telling the world what you do. Your landing page doesn’t have to tell the world what you do. You can convey that through talking to the customer or the member or your constituents, whatever they may be in their own words, in their language, talking about how you will solve their problems. Right? So, do you want to expand on that just a little bit, Zach, it’s so easy to talk about, it’s a little harder to pull off.

Zach Wilson:

To expand the customer’s problems?

Chris Bonney:

Yeah. Just to talk about them and not talk about yourself. Right? I mean, that’s easy for me to sit here and say it it’s a little harder to pull off. What are some of your thoughts about how best to maybe do that?

Zach Wilson:

I think one of the compositions that we’d look at and you’ve said is, focusing on the awareness interest desire action, right? That’s one way to give yourself a framework, if you will, that’s a little broader. Something that we’ve been working on, as well is, we can put up a graphic for this too. For both of these I think is, to tell the story and to solve those customer problems, like you said, is talk about your customer, not yourself, right? And talk about the need of that customer. Talk about the problem of that customer. Talk about and guide that customer through the solution, give them a clear plan to how they can solve that problem and solve the question, answer that solution. And then give them an opportunity to do something, right.

Zach Wilson:

Some sort of engagement. And furthermore, lastly, justify that like, Hey, we’re great at doing this. We’ve won awards. We’ve got customers testimonials, whatever you’re talking about, your successes list, your clients, very typical brand bar, the power. And more and more specifically, if this a landing page for a services company, if I’m going back to my example, direct to consumer. And I’m a director of consumer of some company, and I see that, Oh, you’ve worked with, you’ve worked with Gillette, you’ve worked with P&G. You’ve worked with Colgate. You’ve worked. Oh, wow. Okay. Well, these are like-minded brands that are in my category that I can trust and know, even if you’re not a tier-one CPG, but you’re maybe some sort of startup or whatever, but that’s super powerful. Right?

Zach Wilson:

I think that you know, that composition in terms of how you can solve that problem and there’s a zillion ways to do this. Like you said, there’s copy, there’s empathy, there’s design, and there’s their storytelling through the visuals and the actual lens, whether that’s photography or something like that. So, there’s a lot of ways to build this case and really solve those problems that are in addition to the framework, the copy, you know, there’s a lot of things that really bring this whole thing together. Not just one. So hopefully that answers your question.

Chris Bonney:

No, that’s great. Yeah. And we talked, again, the point is, if your landing pages, your homepage if they’re just self-serving, right. If you’re just talking about yourself and saying, well, people want to know what we do, that’s why they’re at our homepage. Okay, that’s true. That checks like the most basic rudimentary box and that’s things we’ve talked about too. Number one is when people come to your homepage, they shouldn’t be confused landing page. They can’t be confused as to what you’re trying to tell them or what you do. If you’re confusing them, by saying, we craft, you know, digital experiences for the new age of whatever. Like how about, you know, we’ll help you with your digital marketing, you know, like, keep it a little simple. Don’t let people get confused by what you actually do.

Chris Bonney:

So you want to have that be a part of it. What are you trying to tell me? This page is about telling you X. Okay, great! But the minute they know they’re on the right page, that emotional draw, that emotional connection needs to happen. Right? So if you offer a social media marketing services, right, you might not say, well, we do this and we do social marketing. We’ll send the posts for you. We’ll write the posts for you. We do this for 50 other clients. That might sound great. But what if you just said, do you ever wonder if you’re reaching the right people on social media? Do you ever look at your social media metrics and wonder how you should be changing what you do around your campaigns to make them better? Those are just two wildly different approaches and you can see, it seems intuitive to me that by saying, yeah, those are the two things that kind of keep me up at night.

Chris Bonney:

And maybe you could name 10 more, but the minute you pull them in and you go, Oh, you get me, right. It’s like starting any kind of relationship. You get me. It’s not just about you. It’s about how you get me. That’s how you pull people in. And it’s also a differentiator because as you look at your competitor’s site, every section of their landing pages or homepages that all they’re doing is talking about themselves. That’s your opportunity to go. We’re going to have that section. We’re going to talk about our customers, right. So I feel like that’s, that’s huge. I mean, again, easy to sit here and talk about it, but it is it’s harder to do. And if you need to hire people out to help you with that that’s a good idea too, because sometimes you can be too close to your own business to make the calls on what those things are.

Chris Bonney:

And if you haven’t done your audience research, right. If you haven’t done your audience research and you haven’t heard from, you know, voice of the customer kind of stuff, and using their own words back to them, then you’re missing an opportunity too, but, I think that those are some huge takeaways for your homepage. I want to go back to one more thing you said, there’s a four-piece sort of formula, that’s pretty basic, but we use it when we talk about the sales funnel. We use it when we talk about building pages, I just want to go back to it real quick. Is awareness right first? Then we build interest in what we’re doing. The customer gets a desire to work with us. And the last part is action. A I D A. And if you’re thinking about everything you do in pulling someone through that process, you’re going to have a winner as well.

Chris Bonney:

A lot of times when we’re writing, copy, we say each sentence we’re writing is just getting the person, reading it to read the next sentence, same thing with your homepage, right? We’re trying to pull people through the page with a story to get them where we want them to go or landing page, especially that might have a call to action in it somewhere, a lead gen page supply all of it. So, I think those are sort of the three big things we wanted to cover today in the anatomy, a homepage, and actually not talk about the real estate on your own page, because let’s face it. There isn’t really one, right? There’s your landing pages and your homepage is one of them there’s Google, and then there’s how you approach it. So, maybe this is a topic we could even discuss it in a second part podcast at some point, cause there’s probably plenty to talk about, but, those are some really big points today to cover Zach, did you, is there anything else you wanted to close on as we wrap up?

Zach Wilson:

Next time I want to talk about left and right ventricles of the heart, anatomy.

Chris Bonney:

There you go. Nice. Nice. Nice.

Zach Wilson:

I’m just kidding. No, I think that’s great. That should sum it up and hopefully as part of this I think we can provide we should provide people a link to a couple of those resources in the comments below and on the podcast page for that, that would be great just so that they have those. And we look forward to if anyone has anything that they want us to actually just opine on and just say, is it matching up to the sort of formula and feel the flow of it please reach out to myself or Chris. We’d love to just take a look at it. We love asserting our opinions and years of experience. So, let us know. We’d love to hear about it.

Chris Bonney:

Yeah. Yeah. I agree. That’s great. Yeah. So, with that, we’ll close out this episode of the Web Marketing Insights podcast. This is Chris Bonney signing off with Zach Wilson from Gulo. We hope to see you guys again real soon and thanks for tuning in take care.


Written by

Zachary Wilson

I enjoy reading & writing about the web and digital marketing. My day-to-day focuses on ensuring our clients have big wins. That begins with extraordinary website design and UX. The real exciting stuff is helping develop strategies to drive traffic (on-site page optimization) and help conversion rate optimization (getting new sales and / or customers). With all my “other” time, I enjoy exploring new adventures with my 3 daughters and wife.