How welcoming is your website homepage? What does it say to your prospective clients? Is it easy to find the key information? Does it lead your website visitor through to further information in a logical way?

Your website homepage is your shop window. To get more business, it needs to tick all the right boxes, without being too overpowering.

Sadly, you don’t have very long. People will make a decision – to stay, or to go – within seconds. Let’s face it, with so much competition readily available, it’s easy to find someone else offering similar services but making it so much easier to do business with.

There are 3 main types of website homepages. Well I’m sure there’s more than that, but I think it’s possible to pretty much group them in to these 3 categories:

1. Nice to look at, but not offering what was expected.

This is always the first one to attract attention. But when you delve in deeper you discover that it’s not what you were expecting. Everything is perhaps a little over-the-top with a price tag to match.

2. Heavy on information, but lacking personality and warmth.

More often than not, this is the one that lets many small business owners down. In a bid to win over potential clients they cram as much information as possible on to the homepage, forgetting that people like to do business with people. Not faceless, cold, dull machines.

3. Not too pretty, not too dull – clear, informative and inviting.

Just right. The design isn’t over the top. It’s not suggesting it’s about one thing, when it’s actually about something else. The key information is laid out easily. It’s inviting. There’s personality behind it so you get a feel for the type of business it is straight away. It guides you through in a way that you want to stay and find out more.

Which one is yours?

Take a look at your own website right now and rate it against our 5 shop window tips below:

1. Design: Is it clean, clear, compatible?

A clean, well laid out website structure is the Number 1 thing to check. Is the menu simplistic? Are the menu headings short and descriptive? Do you have a main menu, then sub-menus, then sub-menus of sub-menus…?

Or what about the design of the main content section. Do you have multiple images? Is the font easy to read? Is the text overlaid on images? If so, does the font colour stand out enough?

Your website may win creativity awards, but it must be functional too.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a little quirkiness. I’m not suggesting you create the same old website as everyone else. In fact if your website is quirky it’s likely to have stemmed from your own personality, which is a good thing.

Just make sure it doesn’t over-power your business offering. Make sure it’s still easy for your website visitors to take out the key information without having to fight with the design.

2. Copy: Is it concise, to the point and formatted?

By all means provide as much information as will make the ‘sale’, but provide the right information.

Don’t go on and on about all your experience, expertise, awards and whatever else. Instead talk to your prospect. Tell them what you can do for them.

Remember why they’re on your website in the first place. To find a VA – let’s hope, otherwise they’re certainly way off the mark! So use it as an opportunity to talk to them. Let them know you understand their problem. Then offer them your solution.

Use short, sharp, punchy sentences. Short paragraphs. Make the text easy to scan. Make it easy for your potential client to grab the key information without squinting.

3. Navigation: Are there links in place to help guide your visitors?

The internal navigation acts as a prompt. It gives you the opportunity to guide your visitors through your site as you see fit.

Don’t leave it up to them to decide where to go and when. Of course some will choose to go it alone. But if you give them a gentle logical push from within your homepage copy, you remain in control.

Your homepage is about giving your prospect a good overview. Sympathising with their problem. Offering them understanding and support. Tease them with a few nuggets of your brilliance. But not overwhelming them.

Then, at strategic points, you link from one piece of content to more on that subject.

For example, you may want to state you recently won a fabulous VA award. Rather than shout about it on the homepage, you could be more subtle.

Display the award badge on the homepage, of course. Also mention you are an “award winning VA”, but then have that text link through to a dedicated awards page, where you can shout as much as you like about your win. The benefit? Not only are you providing proof, you have created some intrigue first.

4. Contact: Are you easy to reach?

To which there’s probably an obvious answer. But I still find websites where the contact info isn’t obvious. And by contact info, I also mean social media profiles. It’s so important to provide all the ways potential clients can get in touch.

Some people may prefer good old fashioned telephone, whilst others may prefer contact via LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’ve got a profile, add it to your website.

It is your sales page.

Don’t hide it away within page text. Display it clearly on every page of your website. After all, you want business to come to you as much as possible. Don’t make it harder on yourself!

5. Proof: Where are your testimonials?

A website is massively important, there’s no disputing that. But it’s all a little one-sided. You can pretty much write whatever you want on it. For instance, you could say you used to be a rocket scientist and no-one would be any the wiser.

So let’s imagine your potential client has found your website. They’ve read the homepage and are interested.

But wait.

How do they know that you’re real? How do they know that you can actually do everything you say you can? How can they trust you?

By providing them with proof.

Proof can be in the form of awards, as I mentioned earlier. But for those of us not lucky enough to have won any, the simplest way is by including testimonials.

Add them to your homepage (but don’t overdo it!) and of course have a dedicated testimonials or ‘praise’ page.

Now that potential client I mentioned earlier has started to trust you.

But what if you don’t have any testimonials yet?

Of course you do. It doesn’t have to be specific to your VA work. If you’re just starting out, ask for character references from past colleagues and employers to get the ball rolling.

For old-hands, don’t forget to ask your clients for references after a few months. Even if you’ve had the same clients for the past 10 years, ask them to update their testimonial. The work you’re doing is likely to have changed, so will their feedback.

So, how effective is your shop window?