The home page of any website should be a sign post. It should be built to move your audience on.
You don’t want your audience on the home page, there is nothing of depth there.
The quest for quick targeted knowledge means the more focused, more relevant, faster loading pages will start ranking higher in the search engines.
If your home page is the only page your construction company is being found for in Google then you have a big problem…
This post is about how to leverage the popularity of your home page to get visitors to where they need to get to quickly and with minimum effort.
At Pauley Creative we have been designing and building construction industry websites for over 15 years and the trends for best practice in terms of design, build and traffic driving strategy have changed over time.
However, the basics for success remain the same. Within this piece I want to give you a better understanding of what you should be expecting of your home page as well as the customer experience your users should expect too.
Please don’t let your home page be the road-block
This means we should continually audit it’s current state and ask ourselves whether it’s doing a hard enough job of directing users… and before you start to concentrate on the landing pages. Your construction firm’s home page needs to be prepared to teach, to signpost, to deliver.
It needs to feed quickly, directly and efficiently. It must deliver relevant information to your users. It should be built knowing that it is not going to be as highly targeted as a landing page, not as detailed as a product or services page but arguably still one of the most important pages to your site.
You have less than 5 seconds to make an impression
Purely from a digital marketing, branding, and of course user experience point of view, your home page is your opportunity to make a good first impression. Statisticians will tell you that you have between 6 and 10 seconds to make that impression count before the prospect moves on to your competitors’ sites.
You only need check the long tail of your visitor analytics for reassurance that this is probably the case. Any visits of 10s are when a visitor has come and gone before the site has had a chance to load your analytics software. This handy tool will get you thinking about that impression – fivesecondtest.com – It’s free – just upload your homepage image and then ask a few people to take the test.
The things you want people to see might not be what they actually see or remember. So, how helpful are you actually being?
There are some big questions for you to grapple with going forward:
- How do you make your home page more helpful?
- How can I help my customers more?
- What benefits do my customers want?
Those kind of questions would be a great start. Does your home page answer these basic questions?
Here’s a check-list of 14 ‘must haves’ on your construction website home page:
1. Tell your customers what you do in the simplest possible terms
Tell us, tell us again and then tell us once more in as simple and plain English terms as possible.
‘Integrity, Passion and People’ tells me nothing, ‘Building the Future’ tells me even less!
There’s little use having a home page that spends its time naval gazing and blowing smoke up its own backside. Using vague terminology that frankly any company could use is just fluff. Work harder at articulating your unique value.
Your customers are interested in what you can do for them, not creative or technical mumbo-jumbo. So tell your customers what it is you do, who you do it for and how they will benefit in the simplest possible terms and go into detail later on in the site.
There should be no room for confusion.
“It becomes apparent very early in a project if a brand positioning exercise is necessary. A simple test is to ask a complete stranger to look at your home page and get them to tell you, after no more than 5 seconds, what they think your company does. If they can’t, you probably have an issue.”
2. Visitors to your site leave tracks for you to follow
If you care at all who visits your site and where that traffic comes from, at the very least, you should have Google Analytics installed in your website. Your analytics package and your digital marketing manager (or Digital Agency) should be feeding you frequent and relevant web traffic information for your sales people.
Look at how many of your total visitors enter via the homepage. If the difference between total visitors to your site and home page is very small, then obviously your homepage is very important.
You can also use Google Analytics to find out where they go after they viewed your homepage and to find out what buttons or links are the most popular use the Site Overlay facility.
Using Google Analytics (or other applications like real time stats from GetClicky.com) you can refine your website for optimum performance.
“At the very least Google Analytics is embedded in all the pages of all the sites we develop. It is free and intuitive. There is no good reason why you shouldn’t have analytics for your site. Evaluating the performance of your site without Google Analytics is like playing guitar with your teeth.”
3. Is ‘news’ on your current website old or irrelevant?
Whether main contractor, product manufacturer or specialist contractor your audience is interested to know what you know and if you have something of value. The chances are they’ll be willing to share something with you in return i.e. their contact details.
Treat each visitor like a prospect, offer them insight and regular contact and in time you’ll be rewarded with referrals, engagement and possibly sales.
Don’t bury your e-Newsletter sign-up forms deep in the site and if you are not planning on updating regularly or worried about stuff being out of date, maybe don’t put dates on your posts, perhaps use issue numbers instead. Whatever works…
“The functionality should be one of the first things to consider when planning your site – the diagnostics and needs assessment stage will help you. Defining your data capture criteria requires early attention and integrating with your customer relationship marketing is possibly one of the smartest things you can do.”
4. You are only as good as your last job
Don’t underestimate the power of case study links on your home page. Case studies build trust, erode doubt and show experience. Within the construction industry this information speaks volumes.
There is nothing more powerful than a referral from a good customer, one who both looks & sounds like the majority of your key target audience. Make sure you show images – use a professional photographer – quote size of the contract, the architect and main contractors (if necessary), show scale, timings and so.
Why was your contribution to the contract so important? What distinguishes you from your competition? What benefits did you bring to the project? And most importantly tell the story of how you added value. Create a culture of referral within your customer base and you will be justly rewarded.
“Your reputation should be what keeps you awake at night. Reward your customers with fantastic service and you will never be short of great referrals in your business.”
5. Don’t rely only on reputation and word of mouth
A well-optimised home page and website using best practice for both meta data and descriptive content is vital. Search and content marketing is becoming the very backbone of a great digital strategy for your company.
And although guarantees are futile in ‘Search’, search marketing and good practice in terms of page build can get you well on the way to your goal. As we’ve discussed in previous Pauley Creative blog posts, the system can be abused but to what end?
Be prolific, be relevant and be honest. It is undoubtedly the best policy.
If you have recently rebuilt your site you may find your old search ranking drops for between 3 – 6 months while the Google-bots or web spiders re-rank your site. A good short term fix is to run a ‘pay per click’ campaign to keep your brand and value proposition on the first page of any search.
6. Make it easy to find information
Clear sign posting from your home page, as we’ve discussed, is what is needed when you have a lot of services and products. So break your products and services down into categories.
Make life easy for your prospects and customers to find what they’re looking for. ‘Don’t make me think’ is a book by Steve Krug and is a great place to start to get into this mind set.
Your home page layout can be exploited to get people to go where you want them to go and better still where they want to go. Make sure your home page is in sync with any other (off or online) marketing activities you are doing.
“Your online value proposition should work in tandem with your offline – ideally they should be the same for service lead businesses. Alongside positioning i.e. what you do and who you do it for, your proposition should explicitly define what benefits your business brings to the customer.”
7. Help your customers to sell you up the line
You know that sometimes your customers have to sell your services internally. Do you provide a link on your home page for advocacy packs for them to download?
Is it easy for your prospects to draw down essential credentials information like accreditations, service detail, product specification, company trading history, etc., from your website?
Have you thought about how they might have to present your services internally? You could ask your customers what they need to know in order to hire your firm, and then provide it for them in an editable format to include in their .ppt presentation or word doc.
“Your tender or bidding documents will contain much of this information already but you know as well as I do that if you need to do this for the first time at the tender stage then you most probably haven’t won the work. Qualify yourselves early – preferably before the project has even been discussed.”
8. Make sure your home page is keeping pace
Are you still employing Flash and other needless whizz-bang fluff. Animation is great when it’s needed but on the home page we say less is best. A fast download speed really helps search rankings and usability.
If your site is clunky and slow to load and full of unnecessary bells and whistles you’ll not only be penalized by the user who will be off to your competitors’ sites but now you will also now be penalized by the search engines.
“The speed of your home page is dependent on two things – the connection speed and specification of your hosts’ webserver and the build quality of your site. So make sure you test your site on different connection speeds and while you’re at it make sure it works in all the major browsers. A website should be given considerable time for testing.”
9. I really, really want to get hold of you
Do you have a central contact number on your home page or each page on your website? Can I pick the phone up and get directed swiftly through to your organisations technical or sales department?
They help not only clarify your legal position they also work to give your prospects confidence that you’re not some sort of fly-by-night-cowboy. Which of course you’re not.
We hear; “we’re not a salesy sort of firm” a lot. Well, I’m sorry but you are. How you sell may be different from the door-to-door salesman approach of old but everyone in business is in sales. Get over it and make life easy for your customers to buy from you – a phone number on your home page is a good start.”
10. Show me the money you’re saving me
I’ve little doubt that your company can provide efficiency savings; whether time, money or labour-related. Benefit calculators and other efficiency-proving web applications are fantastic for interactivity and driving traffic and lead generation.
With the addition of simple calculators and product selectors you not only add functionality but you start to engage and create pull/push interactivity. The sort of engaging content that will get your site referred and linked to.
Top marks for this kind of content – put it on your home page and do not bury it in the deepest cavern of your site.
“Remember that your site is about qualifying the prospect, about telling them exactly what you do, and then providing the value benefit to them. Simple calculators are particularly effective at proving benefit.”
11. You wouldn’t start a build project without consulting the working drawings would you?
If you don’t have a plan – a digital marketing strategy – for your entire digital marketing mix you will never get the best out of your online investment. If you want to engage your users, extend your reach and grow your referral system further-a-field, then be prepared to work for it.
We advise you always start at the beginning by examining your business need. However for the purposes of this exercise feel free to start by taking a look at your website’s home page and make sure it answers some very basic questions:
- what does your company do?
- what are your goals?
- who are your audiences?
- what are their needs?
- what are the benefits you provide?
- what real value can you show them, immediately, online?
and so on…
Basic planning and a digital marketing strategy are essential to drive new business and raise awareness. A few simple tests of your home page will tell you whether your messages are helping or hindering your customers.
The construction world is more ‘digital’ now than ever before… and thus more competitive as a result. You have to ask yourself whether you really know what your construction firm is doing with its digital marketing because that’s what you’re competitors are doing. And they will be gaining good ground.
Again, feel free to comment on what you’ve read here. If you’d like to discuss anything within this article in more detail, be sure to drop us a line.
For further information on our digital marketing services please call us on 01908 671707.