Never judge a book by its cover… unless that book is a website, and the cover is the home page.
Remember the Tootsie Roll Pop commercial from the 1980s: How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?
Now, ask this question about your website: How many clicks does it take to know what your website is all about? If the visitor starts at your home page, the answer better be zero clicks. It’s safe to assume that your home page is your most popular landing page. Sure, there are other landing pages that are tied to specific marketing campaigns. And there are best practices for those landing pages, as well. But when you look at the Landing Pages report in Google Analytics, I’d bet that your home page is your most popular landing page.
Having established that your home page is the most important page of your website for new (and returning) visitors, there are some questions visitors have that you must answer without them having to click any further:
Who are you?
The answer to this question has everything to do with your brand and purpose, not necessarily your company profile. Do you sell accessories for mobile devices? Better make sure visitors don’t think that you sell the actual iPhones and Androids. By clearly establishing your brand and purpose, you also allow the visitor to begin discovering whether or not they are in your target audience. (Note: I say, “begin discovering,” because you can always refine the audience profile on later pages with criteria such as price point.)
Are you good at what you do?
It’s important for you to introduce your value propositions on the home page. What unique values are a part of your company’s offering that makes it worth doing business with you? You don’t have to lay out all of the value prop details on the home page, which has limited real estate. Subsequent pages along the funnel are great real estate for expanding on and reinforcing your value propositions.
Where do I go from here?
Now that visitors know who you are and why you’re good, they want to know what to do next. This is all about your main conversion goal. If you have a range of products/services, use your home page to segment your audience so that you can have targeted, specific offerings on the following page. Having your visitors self-select their segment removes guesswork and allows you to see the difference in traffic and funnel stats for each segment.
The Irony of the About Us page
The About Us page should supplement the home page message of who you are, not replace it. By answering the above questions on the home page and reinforcing them throughout the funnel, you reduce the need for someone to visit the About Us page. Remember that the About Us page is typically not along a website’s conversion path.
Take the Work out of the Visitor’s Hands
Put yourself in the visitor’s position. They do not want to have to work to find answers to the above questions. Once it begins to feel like work, you run the risk of losing brand appeal and having visitors exit. Do the work of having a succinct, well-stated home page. The easier it is for a visitor to know important facts about your business, the quicker they can make a purchase decision.