homeReprinted from Huff Post Small Business at http://www.huffingtonpost.com, July 16, 2014.  Written by Don Dodds, Managing Partner and Chief Strategist, M16 Marketing.

Visiting your homepage is likely to be the first experience that one has with your business, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to see why it is one of the most important pages of your website. Your homepage will usually receive the vast majority of your traffic, and since first impressions are always very important, it is essential that you get it just right. The goal of your homepage and any landing pages is to turn as many of your first-time visitors into paying customers. The following takes a look at some of the key elements that your homepage should have in order to increase its conversion rate.

1 – Your Company Logo

Your company logo is an important symbol by which your visitors will be most likely to remember you. A well-designed logo can go a long way in establishing your brand and making it widely recognizable. People will see this logo not only on your website; but also on your Twitter page, your Facebook fan page and in many other social media pages and other websites. Place the logo near the top of your homepage so that it is one of the first things that your visitors will see.

2 – Engaging Headings

Your visitors are not likely to stick around for long if they can’t see immediately what the website is about. The headline on your homepage will be the very first piece of text that they actually read, and if the headline doesn’t inspire them to want to read more, they will be gone in a matter of seconds. Keep your headlines short and to the point so that they clearly define what the page is about. Avoid fluff by keeping things simple.

3 – An Introduction

Following your headline, you will need to provide a bit of information about your main product or service, or if you are selling a wide range of different products and services, your business. Keep this description short and simple as well. One or two paragraphs of no more than three sentences each should be ideal. Following the introduction, list some reasons why people should choose your company and its products.

4 – Calls to Action

Following your introduction, place a call to action. Ensure that this is clearly defined by large buttons which stand out on the page. If you are offering a free trial of a product or service or any other special promotion, make this clear from the button label. In addition to this primary all to action, place some secondary options nearer the bottom of the page. You can use these to advertise additional products and other services.

5 – List of Features

If your homepage is only marketing a single product or service, you should list its main features as well. This adds to the introduction by providing further information in the form of a list of features and specifications. Make a bulleted list that is easy for people to skim through. This way, they will be able to garner a better understanding of what your product can do for them. Try not to mention too much, however – only stick to the most important features at this point.

6 – Testimonials

Customer testimonials are important and effective when it comes to building up trust among your potential customers. Include some of your best short testimonials – no more than one or two short sentences for each one. You should also include a small thumbnail image of the customer as well as a name. This will make your testimonials look far more believable. If using someone’s real name and image, however, be sure to ask for their permission first.

7 – Awards

If your company or any of its products and services have ever received any awards, you should always advertise this fact on your homepage. Do not try to fake awards, however – many people will see through this. If your product has earned a glowing review, for example, be sure to make this known. If people can see that your company has earned something for it to be proud of, they will be far more likely to trust you. If you can, provide proof of the award’s authenticity as well.

8 – Navigation

Make sure that your homepage’s navigational features are clear and easy to find. Also, be sure not to neglect mobile users. Your website should be easy to view and navigate on smartphones and tablet computers as well using responsive web design. In case you were unaware, mobile Internet usage is already overtaking desktops and laptops. The best location for your navigation links and menus is generally at the top of the page, beside your company logo. Make them obvious, but not distracting. Making your navigation bar stay at the top of the page when people scroll down is also a good idea.

9 – Images and/or Videos

Any decent website uses visual material as well as text. A supporting image is an absolute must on any homepage. A high-quality image helps to bring what you are advertising to life. Avoid using stock photos, however, since they often make a site look completely fake. They tend to be beloved of scam sites and rogue online shops. Instead of having a supporting image, you may also want to consider having a short video introduction.

10 – Provide Something for Free

One of the biggest mistakes that many Internet marketers make is being too greedy. If, on the other hand, you are prepared to offer something for free, you will have the opportunity to create a lot more conversions. This could be a free ebook, a demonstration or trial version of your product or another informational resource which your customers may find useful. Providing something for free can help enormously to build up trust and rapport. Give your visitors a sense that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Don Dodds, Managing Partner and Chief Strategist of M16 Marketing, is a responsive web design and SEO marketing consultant. He is passionate about building brands, enhancing the user experience and helping small businesses generate more traffic, leads and conversions.