It happens over and over again. I’m sitting with new clients and they are showing me a website they love. The page is all photos, or one large photo, or may even be a splash page with music and moving images. The imagery is powerful. The photographs are evocative. My husband calls this the “cinematic effect.”
But this is not an effective homepage.
There are two reasons why image-intensive homepages aren’t effective:
• A page that has only images is invisible to search engines. The search engines read words not images. You may have heard a search engine described as a spider trolling around indexing new and revised homepages. Based on the words these search engine “spiders” find, and the agreement between the words, the search engine matches the page to people who are searching for those “keywords.”
• Words separate you from your competition. You may only get one chance to tell visitors how your business is unique, or how you can solve their problem. Even if they stay on your site, you have no control over where they click next…so make your opening message strong and compelling!
The solution, of course, to the gorgeous-but-invisible homepage, is a design that uses both images and words. Write the words first, and fit the images to the message to create a homepage that is harmonious and visually appealing…but above all, persuasive. State your unique competitive advantage loud and clear.
Two other important tips:
If search engines are very important in your marketing plan, then you’ll want to hire an internet marketing company that does keyword research to work with you. Ideally, your keywords will be placed in your marketing copy, page titles, and other key placements to help search engines “recognize” you.
When alloting your website budget, dedicate funds for great content, keyword research and optimization and professional design. You’ll also want to dedicate part of your marketing budget for ongoing website promotion.
Marketing research shows that a plain site with hot copy will outsell a gorgeous site with weak or mediocre copy–hands down. Take a copywriting class or hire a copywriter – great content will more-than-pay for itself. Then get a simple site with a clean and polished look rather than a full-blown bells and whistles custom site.
The exception to my recommendation is for design-oriented businesses; if you are a photographer, contractor, architect, photographer or other design professional you’ll want to show both strong design and words. People are judging you on your design skills so you’ll want to make a stand out impression.