55 responses

  1. Jay Leishman
    April 14, 2014

    Marcus, nicely done. You missed the link…. “If you want to read an extremely popular post on this subject, go here, but I’ll give a quick example.”

    You got me curious man! Where were you going to send me? ha.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 14, 2014

      Hahaha, thanks Jay, just fixed it buddy!!! :)

  2. Ruth Zive
    April 14, 2014

    Great list Marcus. Not sure I entirely agree with your premise about Page 2 – I think conceptually I agree, I just would have put it differently. Your goal with your website homepage is to drive a desired behavior. That desired behavior might change over time, and it can be different things to different businesses. It might be to get visitors to page ‘2’, it might be to capture an email address, it might be to download a promotional code, it might be to get the visitor to make a phone call. Perhaps you were using the term ‘page 2′ as a catch all to these different goals?

    Interesting thoughts about sliders – I think you sold me there.

    While I would agree that you don’t want to disclose too much information about your company, I always feel strongly that a solid website home page clearly and meaningfully articulates your unique value proposition. In particular, what problems you solve, and how you do it differently/better than the competition.

    Solid post. Off to share…

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 14, 2014

      Hey Ruth, so great to hear from you. I always love your take on this stuff because I know you’re fooling with these types of topics and client conversations all the time.

      With respect to page 2, I get you. Sometimes, page 2 may be the phone call, the trip to the store, whatever. So your point is valid, and it does need to be an all-encompassing phrase meaning, like you said, “desired action.”

      Regarding the value prop, I firmly believe if it’s crafted the right way, it reads exactly like it’s for the customer, but innately gives the company’s value prop, if you know what I mean.

      Thanks again for all your support Ruth :)


  3. Jeremy Abel
    April 14, 2014

    Hi Marcus,

    Amazing- I’m literally in the process of making a video on this topic, with an opening that asks viewers, “What makes a great website?” Love your recommendations above- especially the “getting visitors to page 2.” A home page should be seen as a turnstile- get people through so they can get on with their journey (and, like a turnstile counter, we can measure the effectiveness of the home page by the percentage of visitors who click-through to a deeper page on the website).

    Consistent with your recommendations above, another issue I see is the excessive options presented to visitors, often leading to hyperchoice (or information overload). This typically happens when a business does not fully understand what they want visitors to do upon landing on the home page, and is too eager to show visitors every option imaginable (at the risk of visitors saying “they don’t have what I’m looking for”).

    Fortunately, businesses can amend this issue by understanding what stage of the buying process the visitor is in when landing on the website, and then aligning that phase with a prominently displayed call-to-action directing visitors to the appropriate content/webpage.

    And of course, easy-to-find contact information is a must (how many times have you had to scroll down to the footer of a website just to find a phone number?).

    Great post Marcus- I’m really grateful that you shared your insights with us. Keep changing lives my friend.


    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 14, 2014

      Jeremy, a couple of things I’m really digging about your comment.

      First, the “turnstile” metaphor is a great one. Haven’t heard it before but love it.

      Second, your point about information overload was one I should likely have discussed more in this post. I call it “The Law of Too Many Choices,” and boy are businesses suffering from this.

      Tell me, are you doing much with redesign with your clients yet? It seems like every company I work with is in the perpetual “We’re in the process of changing our website phase.”

      • Jeremy Abel
        April 14, 2014

        Thanks for the awesome feedback Marcus!

        Yes, we do quite a lot with website redesigns since we’re fortunate to have those capabilities in-house. For various reasons, many clients do work in “stages”- i.e. website design first, then SEO and blogging, then email marketing, etc. If the redesign is through another marketing agency, then the waiting game can be a nightmare as the start of other initiatives (e.g. blogging, SEO, etc.) often hinge on the completion of having the new website up and running.

        Do you offer redesigns through TSL?

  4. John Verba
    April 14, 2014

    :) This looks like stuff I would have written to you a couple years ago. Not because I’m so smart :P , but just because I’d already seen a couple decades of results on what people react to and what they don’t.

    The only thing I’d like to clarify is: You’ve stated that, “‘Offering cloud computer services globally. Fast. Reliable. Cost effective.’ are the types of statements web and branding companies work with their clients for months to develop and they’re awful. Why? It’s not about the customer.”

    Are you sure those aren’t, more, the types of statements that SMALL web and branding companies work with their clients for a couples weeks to develop, and it’s nothing like Proctor & Gamble would do, and so the statements and effort generate the kind of results that make perfect sense: They say nothing that the prospects find relevant, and they help keep small companies small?

    And your solution, “Keep your company’s records digitally backed up forever without experiencing downtime ever again. And save huge in the process.” is a vast improvement. But what if you’re one of the top five providers of that type of service and your creative director points out, “That’s fine but you could put any of the other four of our top competitors’ logos under hat statement and it would work just as well for them, too…” So… “keep peeling the onion.” (As they say.)

    Let’s say you have one of the five fastest download speeds or some other tangible and valuable benefit that’s been shown to sell, and you and your four competitors have been banging that same drum for years… That’s where good agencies try to be extra-creative/competitive and on-target — “You just downloaded Gone with the Wind in a breezy 10 seconds” — and it’s also where bad agencies lose their way and get creative just to be creative.

    It seems like 95/100 businesses have the option of seeing themselves as one of the crowd, and most take it. And 95/100 marketing and design firms are there to help them. And that’s how you end up with generic branding and even sales statements that fit any business of that particular type. And if you’re one of the few that are trying to do something different and compete to win more business, then you have something different to say, and you say it.

    Stating actual benefits to actual prospects is a good ways down the road from where “internet” (meaning, mostly, brand new) marketers started a couple years ago. It’s nice to see the more competitive ones sticking it out and conquering the learning curve.

    • Alex Rodriguez – Digital Marketer
      April 15, 2014

      John, you have a great point there. I think the key is to find a nice middle-ground between external clarity and uniqueness. Going too far in one of the extremes is probably too generic or too nebulous.

  5. InnkeeperVA
    April 14, 2014

    I am reading this with a fine toothed comb. I have shared it with an online forum of innkeepers as well.

    Inn websites are tricky, and many DO try to share everything at once in a whole-ball-of-wax fashion. Awards, associations, events, specials, etc. I see this especially prevalent in the UK lodging industry. They feel as if other pages are not necessary and want everything to be shown on the homepage/

    We have one thing other sites don’t have as most of our visitors to our websites are looking for photos, so we can have their attention a bit longer than other services or online selling web pages. So for that opportunity we need to be able to speak via photos more than words. Which, as you know, is not easy for most innkeepers. doh!

    I am thinking about our homepage now and besides the obv “slider” which you mentioned is more annoying than helpful, I am thinking what I can do to improve it. For SEO we do need to have those key words, and we should use long tails vs short.

    Great article, I will also pass it on to a forum on linkedin which I created for B&B Bloggers with 2000 members internationally. Thanks again!

  6. InnkeeperVA
    April 14, 2014

    We have been saying a lot lately about our online presence, our social media marketing, our website that you need to “bait the hook” but my theory, as well as what I am reading in this article, is you need to have the “RIGHT BAIT” ON THE HOOK!

    So our job is to choose the right bait, you can’t catch a Striped Marlin with cheez wiz!

  7. Corey Pemberton
    April 14, 2014

    Sweet post, Marcus! I’m actually in the market for a new WordPress theme for my website right now, and it’s been SUCH a pain trying to pick. So many of the themes look slick, but there are a lot of bells and whistles that won’t help me bring in more leads and clients.

    We only get a few seconds of someone’s attention, so we have to make the most of it. We have to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question from the get go.



  8. A.K.Andrew
    April 15, 2014

    Excellent advice, particularly point 1. i.e getting to page 2. Less is more can be translated to most things frankly, but in design it’s essential. Thanks for a great post.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 18, 2014

      Very welcome! Hope it helps with your site!! :)


  9. marknoo@am I an alcoholic
    April 15, 2014

    Less is more is perfect for information sites. I want to show people that I know what I am talking about but not enough for them to go do-it-youself on me. If they want to know how to fix it themselves the need to pay me.
    All I need to do is establish credibility and let them know that I have an answer that will resolve their problem but it will cost them a little bit in order to save a lot.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 18, 2014

      I agree and disagree with what you’re saying Mark. For example, my ebook explains *exactly* what potential clients should do to experience success. (It’s 240 pages btw)

      Notwithstanding, all my clients have read that ebook, and they still asked me to hold their hand and walk them through the process.

      My point is, I think “secret sauce” is grossly overrated, and “trust” is the new secret sauce.

      Just my opinion though.



  10. Steve M
    April 15, 2014

    1. As a website designer I hate sliders too, just wish all my clients felt the same way.
    2. This is the headline to my website:
    ARE YOU READY TO MAKE THE LEAP TO LOCAL INTERNET MARKETING BUT DON’T HAVE THE FOGGIEST CLUE WHAT YOU NEED OR EVEN WHAT’S AVAILABLE? Are you confused by all the technical lingo surrounding internet marketing? You have, Adwords, keywords, meta tags, citations, backlinks, authorship, SEO, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, Google this and Google that. Are you confused yet? You’re not alone, most people are. The concept of search engine optimization and internet marketing is relatively simple, but the actual process of search engine optimization for high page rankings can be complex and requires considerable skill and expertise. Search Marketing by Design is a full service internet marketing agency whose ultimate focus is to get your business to the top of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages. Studies show that only 5% of Google users click past the first page of results. Would you like to be on page one of Google? To receive a hassle free internet marketing report on your business and your competition contact me today. Steve Machado 916-802-2587

    3. I put company new in a small section on the home page because it works wonders for SEO.
    4. Less is better but use what ever content it takes to interrupt and engage.
    5. Agreed

    I’m putting your article up on the wall in my office Thank you

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 18, 2014

      Good stuff Steve. Appreciate your thoughts!

  11. Troy S.
    April 15, 2014

    Good stuff. If we can take just one thing from this post I think it should be – Get them to page 2. That would be followed by getting all the extra stuff off the home page.
    Thank you for this. Certainly it has inspired me to clean up my home pages as I am sure it will for others.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 18, 2014

      Awesome Troy, glad it helped :)

  12. Roger
    April 15, 2014

    Great post and thank you for the insights. However, I don’t quite get all the bashing on sliders. Yes, there are some awful uses of sliders out there, but I think one needs to really evaluate their customer and the services that they offer before writing sliders off all together.

    If you offer one product to a one-off customer, then yes, you have a very specific goal to fulfill their immediate need and a slider just detracts from that goal. But if you offer multiple products, and your customer isn’t quite sure what their looking for, then displaying information and options in a slider is a great way to show your customer how you can solver their problems, add value to their lives, and build rapport and authority.

    Our business is a good example. We operate a language school and are a very unique business in the community (the most common response is “A language school? So you guys teach languages?”). A lot of our customers are interesting in our services, but don’t really know how we can help them or how it works. We offer several different class options for 7 different languages. Many people come to our website just to see what languages we offer, what the classes are like, who we are, etc. Additionally, about 40% of our traffic are returning customers checking on schedules and offerings. In our scenario, 3 or 4 slides showing pictures of students/classes/instructors (faces instantly build relationships) and a headline (5-6 words) tells visitors exactly who we are and what we offer. Mind you most of are customers are in their investigative phase when visiting our site. Additionally, the product that we sell is also unique. Our students commit to a 4-month class, which is never an ‘impulse’ buy.

    The point is, there has been a lot of chatter about sliders going the way of the dodo recently, and I don’t quite agree. Executed correctly and for the right audience, I think they can be very effective.

    Thanks again for the post.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 18, 2014

      Roger, I really appreciate this thoughtful comment. And I understand your points.

      Let me also say, though, that every business thinks their unique.

      And the truth is, they are.

      And they’re not.

      But “uniqueness” of business doesn’t hold up to sound principles of psychology and design in most cases.

      Here is my question for you: Is it possible for you to make your point (have great messaging) without the sliders?

      I think that is a question that your company MUST answer before you adamantly take a stand.

      Furthermore, if you look at the greatest websites in the world that teach about online conversion and messaging, almost none use sliders.

      This is not a coincidence. There are clear reasons.

      Keep in mind, I’ve personally had sliders myself before on my different websites. Eventually, I realized I was flawed, as my opinions don’t hold up to sound principles.

      That being said, you may be absolutely right in your desire to keep them on your homepage.



  13. John Verba
    April 15, 2014

    Roger. One thing you said here that seems like very sophisticated marketing thinking is, “Faces build relationships.” Big agencies that work for Fortune 500 clients know: People like to see people. But I know from experience that there are plenty of graphic designers who don’t like “showing people” and will in fact go out of their way to “prove” they don’t “have to” show people. It comes across like they issued themselves the challenge and plan to meet it, regardless of what may or may not work.

    The thing is, such a graphic designer may not, for whatever reason, like seeing people in corporate communications. But how does that matter? From top to bottom in your comment, you’re focused not on what you like, but on what has proven itself to work for you.

    I wonder, though, what you’d find if you tested one other kind of design against the sliders. And that is… perhaps something similar to a conventional internet retailer design, like you’d find at Amazon, Best Buy, or Staples. And I wonder this only because quite a variety of people show up at those sites looking for quite a variety of products, and are steered and guided to the available selections in the appropriate categories.

    Your current mindset seems to be that you’re different from most companies, because you have prospects showing up looking for a variety of solutions, and you need to sort them out and guide them where to go… but isn’t that the same situation every online retailer handles who has more than a handful of products? Lots of companies have to say, in one way or another, “Tell us why you’re here” to their customers, first thing. I can think of several ways that various companies handle that. And in fact, I can think of even more companies that should be asking that, and don’t. :)

    • Roger
      April 16, 2014

      Hello John,

      You make a good point. I’m sure that there are other ways to go about this. In fact, I’m in the middle of redesigning our company’s website, so I’ll rethink the homepage a bit.

      I think the big disconnect is the assumption that the homepage is where all new customers are arriving. In reality, a good web design should have pages set up for specific customers. On our new design, we’ll have our homepage, but we’ll have separate landing pages for Spanish classes, and another for French, etc. Any one searching for those things will land directly on that page, not the homepage.

      Assuming that other pages in your site are now the landing page for clients, tailored to what their looking for, the homepage takes on a new role as a ‘home base’ rather than a catchall.

      Thanks again for the feedback, post, and comments, very useful.

  14. Ken Steven
    April 16, 2014

    Marcus, I totally agree that the purpose of the home page is to quickly funnel visitors to an internal page that is most relevant to their current pain point. So, I understand the reasoning behind your “less is more” comment above in the example for River Pools. The “Get started with Pool 101″ button is just begging to be clicked because there are no distractions.

    However, what impact have you noticed on SEO rankings by virtually eliminating all home page copy? Don’t we need to include at least some “keyword-/search-relevant content” on that home page for search engines to take serious notice of us (i.e. we have to make sure the home page can be found before we worry about getting visitors to page 2)?

    I’m currently struggling to find the right balance between “less” and “more”, so your views on this would be most appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  15. Tiffany Cavegn
    April 16, 2014

    Sliders are my absolute pet peeve! So glad we got rid of ours last year based on your advice. These 5 points make total sense. It’s giving me some good food for thought about our own home page. We only have one call-to-action, but I’m pondering it’s effectiveness.

    Thanks for the great thought-provoking message!

    Cheers, Tif

    • InnkeeperVA
      April 16, 2014

      I would like to know what it is about them, are they too fast, are they not pertinent, why is it your absolute pet peeve?

      I ask on behalf of a few dozen innkeepers who would like to know, thanks Tiffany… And Marcus if you see this.

  16. Leah Rattray
    April 17, 2014

    Thanks so much for such a clear, concise, and insightful article, Marcus! I do have a question that I wanted to pick your brain about. We have been told before that the purpose of having copy on the home page is more for the search engines than the customers, that a homepage without much copy at all won’t be ranked as well in a search. Can you enlighten us on that statement? Thank you so much!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 18, 2014

      GREAT question Leah. This is what I have found:

      Google doesn’t want to rank homepages anymore based on simply text.

      The reason for this is simple: They are obsessed with search/user experience.

      So although I do think page titles are important on home pages, I don’t think the rest of the text hold any weight at this point in the SEO game, as there are simply too many examples of sites that rank that do not have many words at all on their homepage.

      Great hearing from you Leah!!!


  17. Adam
    April 20, 2014

    This is a great post, thanks. I’ve undoubtedly done each of these at different points. Getting users to a second page is probably the key step I’ve been missing.

  18. Sagar
    April 21, 2014

    Nice and informative post
    The home page or the index page is the most important page in website. The above posts explains us about the major mistakes done by businesses on their home page designs mistakes.
    The home page should be very clear and should not be complex. I agree totally with all the 5 points mentioned above. They really make sense.I have got some great new ideas which i am gonna imply on my website.

    Great posts and I hope this post would help many other people.

    Thank you for sharing

  19. Christian Newman
    April 26, 2014

    I’ve made some of these mistakes and learned from them, but I have more work to do. I find The Sales Lion home page a bit “busy” but you more than make up for it with your “who we’re NOT” page – love it and can’t wait to swipe this idea since I know Marcus would be cool with that :)

    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 28, 2014

      I agree actually Christian with your thoughts on the home page here at TSL. It’s also going through another iteration very soon.

  20. Chris Marr
    April 26, 2014

    Thanks for another great article Marcus.

    Now it’s time to stop messing about and put all these lessons into practice!

    I’m very excited about a new website and I’ve already started sketching out my ideas based on what you’ve taught me.

    Stay awesome!


    • Marcus Sheridan
      April 28, 2014

      Good for you Chris, let me know when it is done bud!!


  21. Dawn Mentzer
    April 29, 2014

    Helpful post, Marcus – as always! Thank you for mentioning the sliders. I find them extremely distracting and worthless in terms of content. My site has one, but I disabled it and have a static image/text there instead.

    Hope all is well with you!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      May 1, 2014

      It is Dawn, and great to hear from you…hope you’re well also!!


  22. Peter
    April 29, 2014

    So glad I read this article, as I was in the process of adding a slider to my site.

    I have a question – if the homepage is very minimal with little distraction (and few words) won’t this make it difficult to rank for a specific keyword?

    Thanks for a great article.


    • Marcus Sheridan
      May 1, 2014

      This used to be the case Peter, but because of Google’s desire to provide the best “experience,” they’ve made quite a shift away from worrying about “words” on a homepage, as the rest of the site is going to be the biggest indicator of what ranks on your home page and what does not.

  23. T. Brooks Web Design, LLC
    August 9, 2014

    I utilize sliders on my websites often because my clients love them, and their clients rave about them. I don’t usually put text in sliders, only images. And I make sure I provide a way for users to pause the slider or go to a particular image.

    Another reason I like sliders is that it keeps the user on the page longer. And the longer users stay on a page, the lower the website’s bounce rate will be. And a lower bounce rate is one of the many things that search engines use in determining where to rank a website.

    I know users are supposed to “go to page 2″, but people want a quick fix. They want to know what product or service you provide, what region/state/area they cover (if local), and why they should hire you instead of the other guys. I think there should be “just” enough information on the home page to pique a user’s interest so that they pick up the phone and call. But then again I work with mostly contractors, construction and landscaping related companies, so perhaps these industries work a bit differently from others?

    I’ve been building websites and providing online marketing and SEO since 1999, and my clients’ websites are consistently in the top 3 spots on Google. Even with sliders!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      August 13, 2014

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but the truth is, our brains don’t like them. :-)

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