5 4
  Article # 4
  Is Your Home Page Hurting Your Business?
  by: Rick Costello, The Web Site Profit Doctor.


Did you ever meet someone you didn't like? Maybe at first impression he or she rubbed you the wrong way or said something so distasteful you immediately formed a negative opinion. Did you ever tell anyone about your experience?

OK, maybe you're very forgiving. But what about this�

Did you ever leave a Web site before the home page finished loading or because its content was unclear? Did you form a negative opinion about the business?

The Internet makes it extremely easy for visitors (a.k.a. potential customers) to dance in and out of competing Web sites. In order to succeed online, your home page must pull visitors deeper into the site. If it doesn't, your online business endeavors will suffer.

This article ties together the importance of home page design, first impressions and how to measure its effectiveness.

Before I show you the measurement formulas, let's start with the goals of a home page.

Goals of a commercial Web site's home page

  1. First and foremost, a home page (or splash page) must load quickly. If it doesn't, visitors leave. It's really that simple. Keep load time under 10 seconds (for all modem speeds.)
  2. Your home page must communicate the purpose of your business and how your products or services help (potential) customers. It's also important to communicate your unique selling proposition and differentiate your business from the competition.
  3. Your home page must guide visitors down a path towards a (favorable) task. Hopefully that "task" supports a business objective defined in your strategic plan. For example, encourage online newsletter subscriptions or capture sales leads.

With that in mind, let's take a look at how to measure home page effectiveness. I recommend using at least one of these two methods. (However, you really should do both).

  1. Solicit Feedback
    Ask business associates, friends and relatives -- specifically those known for their candor -- to comment on your home page's load time. Then without biasing, solicit feedback. Ask what your business does, how you do it, and why anyone should choose you over a competitor. If all goes well, move on to play "potential customer." If she was interested or already "in the market" to buy what you sell, where's the first place she would click? Is it obvious? Is it where you want her to click? Remember not to bias her actions or feedback. When all is said and done, you will learn a lot about your home page's effectiveness.
  2. Data Analysis
    If skeptical using feedback as your metric, look to the Web server's log files for the truth. Your objective is to compare the number of visitors that viewed your home page against the number that clicked beyond it.

    Some traffic analysis software (i.e. WebTrends Log Analyzer) makes this extremely easy. With WebTrends, look for the line item that reads, "Single Access Pages." It's located inside the "Resources Accessed" section. Find the number next to your home page. (It's most likely the first listed.) That number represents the number of visitors who left your Web site after viewing the home page.

    Now locate the number of visitors who entered your Web site on the home page. It's listed in the same section under "Top Entry Pages." Divide the number above (home page single access) by the number who entered on your home page and multiply by 100 to calculate home page "ineffectiveness."

    You should have something like (105/813) * (100) = 12.9%. Finally, subtract 12.9 from 100 to calculate home page effectiveness.

    100% - 12.9% = 87.7% effective.

    But, what if you don't have WebTrends Log Analyzer? How do you calculate home page effectiveness with a less-capable program? It's more difficult, but possible.

    First, determine which pages are accessible from your home page. Next, use your log file report to determine the number of unique visits (or unique page impression) those pages received and subtract the number of visits from those who entered on that page respectively. Add those "differences" together to calculate total visitors who viewed pages accessible from the home page but did not enter on them.

    Still with me?

    If your Web site has 5 pages accessible from the home page, you should have something like (600-50) + (400-25) + (300-33) + (200-41) + (100-43) = 1,408.

    For the grand finale, take two aspirin and determine the number of visitors who entered your Web site on the home page. Then divide the number above (1,408) by the number who entered on your home page (let's say 6,000) and multiply by 100 to calculate home page "ineffectiveness."

    You should have something like (1,408/6,000) * 100 = 23.4%. Finally, subtract 23.4 from 100 to calculate home page effectiveness.

    100% - 23.4% = 76.6% effective.

    Ok, the math lesson is over. If you take anything away from this article, let it be this�

    Your home page is by far the most important and critical part of your Web site. Its first impression alone determines whether a visitor clicks-through to an interior page or leaves forever. And unfortunately, negative experiences propagate faster than positive.