Your company’s website homepage is an entryway to all of your business offerings—a digital doorway to your company. How can you get the most out of it so you can meet or exceed your goals?
Too many businesses treat their websites like static pieces of art. They act like it’s a brochure that you browse and forget about. Not intentionally thinking through what they want users to actually do on their site and the experience they want them to have.
Your website should be an experience for customers—not just a compilation of information you hope they’ll see. It’s a user’s experience on the site that determines its effectiveness. A great website starts with a great homepage. The following are ten simple things you can do to optimize your strategic advising website and bring in more valuable clients.
1. Tell the story of your customers not your own
Who are you, and why do I care? This is often covered by a homepage headline and subheadings at the very top of the site (what we call the hero area). You literally have seconds to communicate this, and the overall design should support this. The issue is that most sites focus too much on themselves, their experience, and why they’re great. While you do want to convey authority and experience, that should be secondary to the needs of the user.
The user wants to know about your company, and how—very succinctly—you’re going to make the user’s life better. How is your company the best solution for whatever the user is looking for? You answer this in what’s known as your value proposition, a brief statement that covers the problem you solve and how you deliver value. This needs to be unique and desirable, honing in on how working with you will help a client get from point a to point b.
Be sure you are placing this information “above the fold,” or in other words, the viewable area of the screen when you land on the site. You might be surprised to learn that the majority of your users don’t scroll all the way to the bottom of the site. So, you need to get your most crucial messages at the very top.
Elaborate on your value statement
You can also expand on this statement throughout the rest of your site. In your ‘About Us’ page, for example, you can further outline the problems you solve and the benefits you provide. You can showcase certification badges or mention the number of years you’ve been in business. It also may be wise to showcase your team so that users know who they’ll be working with, especially if you can accompany it with an engaging origin story about your firm.
Remember, keep the focus on your customer as you put this material together. Consider what they need to know and what may push them to work with you.
2. Clean up your navigation bar
It’s all too easy to create an elaborate or misleading navigation bar. Broken links, excessive tabs, and no clear call to action are just some of the things that may turn away a prospective client. It can also hurt your ability to be displayed correctly in search engines, with an overly complex site setup making it more difficult to crawl and index your site.
Stick to a small number of items
To clean this up, start by limiting your top-level links to six or seven pages. If you need to add more, to outline specific services, for example, you can always add a drop-down menu to your services or other nav items. Additionally, be sure to remove the “Homepage” link from the top-level navigation. Instead, feature your logo on the left-hand side and have that redirect back to the home page.
Sticky and stick out
The navigation bar is meant to help users actually navigate your site and find what they’re looking for. They can’t do that if the nav bar is stuck at the top of the page, difficult to read, or not engaging. So, be sure to make your menu sticky so that it floats down the page as a user scrolls, making it easy for them to quickly select something anywhere on-page. Additionally, be sure that your navigation stands out and passes the squint test. You want it to be easy to read and showcase that it is interactive.
Focus on high-value calls-to-action
As you refine what pages you’ll link to in your navigation, it’s important to focus first and foremost on a high-value call-to-action. You want something at the top that stands out from the rest encouraging a user to contact you, schedule a consultation, etc. Typically, this will sit on the top right of the page directly opposite your branding.
Additionally, it might be worth exploring adding a welcome bar. This top-of-page item sits directly below the navigation and is perfect if you have additional calls-to-action you’d like to feature, but regularly need to switch out. Using a service like Typeform or Opt-In Monter are inexpensive but effective solutions for this sort of feature.
3. Use effective and clear calls to action
Besides your navigation, this is what it’s all about! You need to provide clear paths to the other pages on your site that drive the desired result. You do this via crisp copy and distinct calls to action on your homepage.
In marketing, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction to the audience designed to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as “call now,” “find out more,” or “download this case study today.”
Speak the customer’s language. This is not the place to be wishy-washy. Tell your reader where to go that ultimately supports their goals (and thus, yours). Typically, you want to do this “above the fold” as the further down the page you put something, the less likely it’ll be seen. The key here is striking the right balance of copy (words) and imagery upfront to simply get the user down the funnel to the next supporting page.
4. Maintain SEO basics
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your site to increase visibility when people search for a given term. For your site to effectively leverage SEO, you need to focus on the intent of your potential clients and providing a good experience. You want to signal to Google and other search engines that the content on your site is worthwhile and that users benefit from landing on your site.
That may sound broad and complex, which unfortunately SEO somewhat is. However, you can focus on the following efforts to improve your chances of appearing on the first page of search results.
Write rich content
The E-A-T principle is all about demonstrating expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. This means focusing on providing relevant content that people are searching for and providing them with the best answer possible. If someone searches for “what to look for when hiring an advisor” for example, you want a clear article, about us, or features page that addresses this.
You only have so much time to grab their attention. The more clearly you can answer their questions and lead them to the information they want, the better chance you have of ranking highly.
Interlinking between pages on your site is a great way to showcase the depth of the services or insights you have to offer. If someone is on your features page and sees the phrase “expert guidance” for example, you can link to your about page. Just be sure that the anchor text you use (ie. the text with the link) is relevant to the page you’re linking to. The last thing you want is for someone to click a link, only to immediately leave your site when it leads to something unexpected.
Additionally, be sure to fix any broken links on your site. You can check to see if you have any through Google Search Console. Check the index tab and select coverage to see if any errors pop up.
Add meta information
Meta information helps Google more easily read the content of your page and determine what to display for a search result. This is broken into two parts. Your meta title, which should be unique, specific and use keywords (search terms) you want to rank for. And your meta description, a 160 character description of a page that should provide a call to action or a value proposition.
Your meta title can actually have an influence on your rankings, so you want to focus on including specific keywords. Your meta description, on the other hand, can influence the click-through rate, or how often someone decides to click on a link to your site. You want to focus on authenticity and enticement in your titles and descriptions, with the goal of convincing more users to visit your site.
For example, you may have a page dedicated to “What to look for in a strategic advisor” so you change the meta title to say “10 key things to look for when hiring a strategic advisor in 2021.” Your description would then maybe mention one or two reasons and tease to check out the others.
5. Optimize for local search engine optimization
More than likely the majority of your clients will be local. That means that you want to be visible in search engines when someone searches for something like “accountant near me” or “local business advisor.” To do that you need to optimize your site to take advantage of local SEO.
Generally, local SEO functions like normal Google search, where Google scans through its index to provide the best results. This will pull in results to what’s known as a Local Map Pack, which features a Google Maps listing, name, address, and phone (NAP) results, and standard organic results. The only difference is that it leverages a separate set of ranking factors, including:
- The location that the person is searching from
- NAP citations (Name, Address, Phone Number)
- Presence of Google My Business listing
- Keywords used in Google My Business profile
- Sentiment of online reviews
- Keywords used in online reviews
- Number of “check-ins” at that location
- Shares on social media
- Google Maps star rating for that business
How to optimize for local SEO
Actually optimizing your site and online presence for local SEO isn’t as complex as it might seem. And while it may seem like local SEO is only relevant for advising businesses with a physical location. However, the majority of these tips are relevant for remote businesses as well, since it has more to do with accurate information. Here’s what you can do to optimize your site for local SEO.
Google My Business profile
To start, be sure to fill out everything in your Google My Business profile. This includes adding categories, services and products, actual photos, and linking to your website as well as any social profiles. Make sure the information listed here matches what’s on your site and any other 3rd party site. This helps Google determine if your business is legit or not, so be sure to make adjustments to hours, contact info, and other info everywhere it’s listed if something changes.
Next, look for opportunities to get more reviews. One simple method is to ask clients to leave a review which you can even follow up with an email after the fact. Now here’s the key, don’t leave any reviews unanswered. Show that you are engaged and take the time to leave a thoughtful reply. For positive reviews, thank them for their patronage, for negative focus on the problem they had, and mention that you appreciate the feedback. It may even be valuable to leave customer service info in the comment. If someone leaves a blank review, just respond by saying thank you.
Build links on local sites
Getting links from other sites is a vital component of growing your visibility. This potentially increases your traffic from different sources, shows Google that those other sites find you trustworthy, and helps increase your Domain Authority. Start local and focus on people, directories, customers, and partners in your area that you know or have access to.
Tips for your website
There are a few things you can do to optimize your site. Again, make sure your business information is the same as Google My Business. Add images of your business and location, and ensure that they are under 500kb in size, are responsive, and have alt names like “accounting-business.jpg.”
Embedding a Google Maps listing is also a great thing for consistency and ease of use for your clients. To add it, just visit your Google Maps listing, hit the share drop-down, and click embed map. Another best practice is to create separate pages for all locations and products. This allows you to cater your keyword choices in titles, headers, and in the copy itself around those locations or product types, rather than having to generalize your offerings.
Lastly, be sure that your site functions well on mobile. Use Google’s page speed tool to see how you perform. If your page speed ratings are low, a few easy fixes include:
- Minimizing assets like images, images, or site styling
- Use a legible font that is easy to read across multiple screens
- Ensuring your navbar is responsive and easy to access
This is a complicated element, so if you’re using a do-it-yourself website service, you’re likely ok. If you built your site, it may be worth connecting with a developer after you gauge performance to see about bringing it up to date.
6. Build trust
When someone is looking for a solution online, they start at a place of exploration. They don’t trust any options just yet, and that includes you. Here’s how you can build trust just with the design and content of your website.
First impressions matter and your site design carries a lot of weight when someone first visits your site. You want your site to accurately reflect your business and the quality of service you provide. Having a clean, well-spaced, and easy to view site is a must, and once again relates back to helping users find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
You’ll also want to consider the colors you use, the font and how legible it is, how your logo is presented, and even the type of imagery you use. Oh, and be sure your site is correctly encrypted with HTTPS, otherwise, your site can present a major security concern for users. There’s a lot that goes into web design, so start with your branding and even work with a developer to refine the look of your site.
Display social proof
Customer proof is what we’re talking about here: testimonials and social proof. Close to 88 percent of customers say they read 10 or more reviews about a local business before engaging services. I had already mentioned how gaining more reviews can help improve your local SEO, but it also helps convince a potential customer that you’re trustworthy.
These can be in-depth testimonials, the number of clients you’ve served, andy press mentions, case studies, or just a stream of links to third-party review sites. Consider who your current clients are, how they’ve found you, and what convinced them to work with you. That should give you a great starting point for what type of reviews or insights to present.
7. Give prospects something useful
You want your firm to be top of mind for potential prospects. This can be difficult to do when they’re researching a handful of potential advisors at once and bouncing between websites. So, you need to be sure that something from your site leaves with them.
Create a lead generator that offers up a piece of valuable content in exchange for an email address. This can be a PDF, checklist, spreadsheet, tool, resource list, and even a brochure. This doesn’t have to be overly complex or lengthy, just something that showcases your expertise and helps solve part of your potential client’s problem. In this case, you’re helping answer questions, narrow down their search, or providing a manual version of a solution.
Here are a few tips to help you generate your own lead generation asset:
- If you work in an industry vertical, go deeper (prove you know it)
- Help show how to save money or reduce taxes
- Help people reduce mistakes that waste time or resources
- Answer the questions one doesn’t yet know to ask
8. Publish content that serves your audience
Companies with a blog produce an average of 67% more leads each month. They also can result in a 434% increase in indexed pages on search engines. In short, having a blog or some other type of content leads to greater visibility of your business’s website and a greater likelihood of closing leads.
This also ties into your ability to build trust, gain external links and improve your SEO. You can create pieces of content that can focus on specific questions, best practices, or other relevant info without interfering with other pages on your site. In fact, it can even help bolster your ability to convert a user, by providing relevant information that connects directly to a solution that you provide.
On top of that, it also gives you consistent content to send to your clients. So, if you’re regularly emailing clients or those that sign up through a lead-gen form, you have the makings of a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter. You don’t even have to write all that much, just shoot for 1-2 pieces a month and look to your employees, partners, and even clients to help produce articles.
How to decide what to write about
To get started, conduct basic keyword research around your core service offerings. You can use free tools like Ubersuggest, Wordtracker, or Keyword Discovery to streamline this process, or even just conduct simple Google searches. Look at what variations pop up and hone in on questions or topics you think you can cover. Also, don’t be afraid to look at who currently ranks for inspiration.
You can also use common customer questions you receive, cover news and trends in the industries you serve, or even highlight a customer success story. Find what works for you and just start writing. IT may be difficult at first, but the long-term value is worth the time investment.
9. Make it easy to reach you
We’ve all had that experience where it can be impossible to find a phone number on a website. So frustrating. Don’t do this. Contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and physical location are a must to display.
If possible, include a click to contact button at the top right of your navigation. Ideally, this would lead to an online scheduling form or some sort of lead generation unit that captures a user’s contact information. Then, be sure to contact whoever submits a form as quickly as humanly possible to increase your chances of them actually doing business with you.
10. Install Google Analytics and Search Console
Part of understanding what works and what doesn’t on your website requires you to collect data. You can only do that if you have the right analytics platforms connected to your site, with the most important being Google Analytics and Search Console.
These are completely free integrations that allow you to analyze web traffic, keep tabs on content or campaigns and avoid any critical errors. It helps you get to know your customers, their habits, and what mediums (email, blog, social) are connecting with them. We’re barely touching the full functionality in this article, but just know you need these to get the most out of your site.
Checklist for analyzing your current homepage
Before you dive into making changes to your site, you’ll want to gauge what needs to be adjusted. The following is a two-step process to help you analyze your current website, or design a new experience for your customers. This step-by-step process will help you determine what you want your users to do on your site, and how your design and user interface can support that.
Step 1: Prioritize what you want your users to do
One of the most overlooked exercises is sitting down and listing the most beneficial (desired) actions a user can take on your website, and then ranking them in descending priority. When someone arrives on your homepage, what do you what them to do?
Here is an example for a fictional firm’s website:
- Read about our service offerings
- Call us for an appointment (new client engagement)
- Submit a lead (form) through the site for more info about our services
- Ask a question (form)
- Download our case study on how we helped X client
- Sign up for our monthly newsletter
- Follow our social media profiles
Your exercise is to sit down with your partners and come up with your own list. Think of the perfect visitor to your site. What are the ideal things she would do there? Rank them—all the way down to the smallest of actions. That’s your list.
Step 2: Examine and audit
- With your list in place, audit your site’s homepage and calls to action to see if they mirror your list. Look for inconsistencies. For example, you may say the number one thing you want users to do is to read about your service offerings, but the entire top section of your website’s homepage is a picture of your team devoid of any text or links.
- Have someone who is familiar with search engine optimization audit your website and blog to ensure best practices are being met and rankings are being tracked on a regular basis.
- Make the needed changes and employ a process to watch the user data to iterate more. I recommend reviewing Google Analytics data for your site at least monthly.
It sounds simple, and it is a very straightforward exercise, but it produces profound results. Think about the best paths a user can take and then look at your site through that lens. Make changes as needed. Lastly, watch the user data via Google Analytics. Rinse, repeat.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018. It has been updated for 2021 based on John’s insights from our most recent Strategic Advisor Bootcamp.