Why should I visit your website?

One thing we often recommend in our site analyses, is the use of introductory content on a homepage. We get quite a lot response on that, with people being unclear how to do that. “Where should I put that content?” or “How long should that content be?” or the one I dislike the most: “I don’t need that”.

The main goal of introductory content

I can not emphasize this enough. Introductory content is meant for your most valued visitors: us people and Google. Introductory content helps those visitors to grasp the leitmotif of your website. It also tells the visitor why you are the source to turn to, whether or not in combination with the title of your website.

There are two main ways to list that introductory content:

The right slogan or tagline as introductory content

Chicago Tribune logo: notice the captionIf only things where always this simple. Chicago Tribune has a small caption below the logo that tells all: We are a Chicago based news provider bringing you all the latest news and we are doing this for such a long time you can consider us a trustworthy source.

The Chicago Tribune can do that this way and get away with it. But if you are a local news agency that brings mainly local news, you might need a different approach. Just the tagline might not be enough.

Suppose you are running the website of that more local newsletter, for instance the Stowe Today. I really love these kind of websites, since they seem to be made with more care and passion than most websites. But it totally lacks introductory content. You have to know Stowe Today to know what the website is about.

A huge number of inbound links is telling Google what the Chicago Tribune is about, but I can’t imagine Stowe Today benefitting from such a number of in-links. The website will have to tell Google itself what it is about. It’s not.

The website starts off with a lot of (local) banner ads and some featured articles, but nowhere on that page it tells me ‘bringing you local news from Stowe, including human interest stories, upcoming events and more’. If I would not have known better, it might also have been a blog from a very enthusiastic local student, earning an extra buck this way. I also checked the About. page of the website, but that only refers to other publications.

Adding a few paragraphs as an introduction

Most news websites or webshops think they have no space for a few extra paragraphs of introductory content. The website should start with either news or products. I call bullsh*t on that.

I’m not a big fan of the somewhat sneaky way the online sneakershop Hypedc.com did this:

Hypedc.com source code
As you can see, the introduction is there, but is not shown on the page itself. You are serving that intro to Google, but not to your customers. Why not!?

But that is just one way. I’m a much bigger fan of the way WP-Types.com is doing this, for instance:

WP-Types

“But they just have a couple of products”. I hear you, that’s right. But how about the way SurfStitch is doing this? That’s actually quite common for (Magento) webshops. List the products first, than the introduction.

I think that is a pretty good practice, since your products tell a global story and you are able to refine that with the additional introduction below.

Your two cents

I’d like to make a bold statement on introductory content for webshops and am looking forward to your opinion on that, as a webdesigner, SEO or customer:

A webshop’s homepage does not need any overview of products. A great textual introduction works much better.

Looking forward to your thoughts!

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27 Responses

  1. DaveBy Dave on 28 May, 2012

    Agreed, a homepage need to give clear directions on how to get to somewhere. Selling your products there is not a very helpfull hand towards your visitors. And that rule doesn’t only apply to webshops if you ask me :)

    • ChuckBy Chuck on 6 June, 2012

      I agree with you about clear direction and having a proper slogan to let viewers know what your site is all about. However I’m having trouble getting my slogan to show up on web searches. I’m have the slogan in the head using description meta, but google and other search engines don’t pick it up. Any suggestions?

  2. PaulBy Paul on 28 May, 2012

    What about video? We’ve been using a video intro for a few weeks now, with some supporting text, mainly because we noticed that we always like it when a website has a well-produced, short video describing just what they do.

    • Michiel HeijmansBy Michiel Heijmans on 28 May, 2012

      Hm, difficult one, I can see a video working for usability, but I think it should be an extra to an textual intro (that also helps Google), not a substitution?

      • PaulBy Paul on 28 May, 2012

        Yes, definitely. I may have shorted text in that comment. What I like is a video, with very concise text that explains what the site does.

        • LucasBy Lucas on 5 June, 2012

          I think video is great, but it does require an additional action by the user – either clicking on the video or dedicating the 30 seconds plus to watch it. Text is there instantly and users can scan it and tell within seconds if they are in the right place.

  3. JonahBy Jonah on 28 May, 2012

    I recently designed a presence for a manufacturer of women’s lingerie, and that industry seemed to lead the rest of the web in utilizing large, attractive images up top with a minimum of front page text. For an online store specializing in fashion, this design practice is great for engaging humans and drawing them into your catalog.

    I would recommend analyzing one’s market and determining how your target customers like to get their product information. In designing an engaging online presence, as anywhere else in business, pay attention to what your competition is doing to be successful and do it better!

  4. DeaneBy Deane on 29 May, 2012

    Excellent points! I’m amazed at the number of sites that see where I honestly can’t figure out what they are about. If your visitors can’t figure out what you are about within seconds, most of them will say “I’m outta here”.

  5. GavinBy Gavin on 29 May, 2012

    Great post and I agree, who wants to be Sherlock Holmes trying to decipher if the site has what I need. I always encourage my clients to observe their sites from the or customers perspective.

    What I would add is that in that Introduction it can also be very useful to phrase it in terms your customers will relate to. The customer will not always be able to link their problem or need with the service or solution that you provide. So remove the guess work for them.

    I.E. you could say – “are you wanting to improve…” “do you need more…”

    cheers.

  6. EwanBy Ewan on 29 May, 2012

    Excellent points made here. It’s amazing how often you land on a site and have to figure out what it’s about because the owners take it for granted. It has to be immediately apparent – especially with attention spans seemingly reducing to nanoseconds.

    One way of experimenting with what works best is to use Google’s Website Optimiser (just google that phrase).

    This allows testing of many different variables for free.

  7. Andrew RondeauBy Andrew Rondeau on 29 May, 2012

    Michiel,

    One word: Test

    Test different home pages.

    I have 3 different ones at the moment that rotate and you can measure the ‘conversion’ – i.e. does the visitor stay and view other pages.

    After a period of testing you can see which one is working best.

    If using WordPress, there are a number of plugins that can do a/b split testing for you.

    Andrew

    • Michiel HeijmansBy Michiel Heijmans on 29 May, 2012

      Hi Andrew ;)

      What kind of setups are you testing and when would you be able to share the outcome as a comment on this page? Looking forward to that.

      Thanks in advance

      • Andrew RondeauBy Andrew Rondeau on 29 May, 2012

        Michiel

        I have two different versions of text profiles that show my services.

        One set talks about the ‘positive’ side of using the services and one set describes the customer’s pains points and how the services can help.

        The third option is a list of my products via images.

        So far, but still early days, the images are winning by 2 to 1.

        Andrew

  8. SketcharBy Sketchar on 29 May, 2012

    Hmm this makes more of a point than I wish it did, just still not sure what to consider to have your site as the alternative to another website.

    • EwanBy Ewan on 29 May, 2012

      Thanks Andrew, I’ll check it out.

      Sorely overdue.

  9. david suarezBy david suarez on 30 May, 2012

    hey yoast, what about a banner that explains what the website is about

    • Michiel HeijmansBy Michiel Heijmans on 30 May, 2012

      When the banner looks like a banner: NO. People will consider it a banner and will skip it in most cases. When the banner is an image, Google will also not get the needed textual part of it.

      An image slider with textual content on it, containing not too many slides, that might be something that works…

  10. Santa Barbara Website DesignerBy Santa Barbara Website Designer on 30 May, 2012

    I agree, I think a lot of people get to excited about the possibilities and want everything on their site and then the content and purpose of the page is second fiddle to the bells and whistles.

  11. AndrewBy Andrew on 31 May, 2012

    I could see this as being beneficial on every page – not just a home page. If a customer comes in to a product or category page, it’d be nice to give them some introduction as well. Any ideas on how to accomplish this?

    • Michiel HeijmansBy Michiel Heijmans on 2 June, 2012

      +1 on that. Especially category pages. In the post I refer to this on the homepage, but what different is the category page anyway in most cases: intro + products. Just add some lines at the top of the page as Google seems to like this more than below the products, at the bottom.

      Basically any page that is a collection of stuff, like linking all parts of your website at the homepage (not sure that’s the best practice but it’s done a lot) and all kinds of products on that category page needs that explanation of what the common ground of that collection is.

      On product pages, I think you should focus on writing a great product description, not an intro text, don’t you think?

      • MarkBy Mark on 5 June, 2012

        We have most users land on specific post pages and since we cover so much about Italy we are thinking of adding a simple pop up describing what other content we offer.

        Please take a look and let us know what you would like to see once you land on our posts.

  12. Tsahi Levent-LeviBy Tsahi Levent-Levi on 4 June, 2012

    Sites that require login for better engagement (think Facebook or something using BuddyPress can have 2 “separate” home pages – one for new users and one for logged in ones.

  13. Gab GoldenbergBy Gab Goldenberg on 5 June, 2012

    Steve Krug makes this point in Don’t Make Me Think – do people get what your site is about in 5 seconds or less? (hence the 5 second test and 5 second test.com)

  14. aranzamendez designBy aranzamendez design on 5 June, 2012

    Well, good content or catchy to the visitors really works. Like your post, it is very interesting to read because your are informing on right direction, which gives your interest to your readers like me.. :-)