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What Should You Do With Your Blog Homepage?

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Chances are, YOU are completely dropping the ball with your blog homepage.

Now, don’t take this personally or anything. It is just an odds thing. In my line of work, I happen to look at a lot of blogs and a great number of them have very ineffective homepages.

Does your homepage sport the following things?

  • A long list of the latest posts, perhaps even with the content of the posts displayed, so that your homepage is this LOOONNGGGG super-scrolling thing?
  • On those latest posts, you’ve got your social media links, categories, tags – all that crap – listed for every single post. So, essentially, it is the land of a thousand buttons.
  • You have a sidebar.
  • Your sidebar is loaded with widgets, while showing up on the homepage.

If your blog’s homepage has any of these things, you’re dropping the ball.

And, let’s look at what is probably MISSING on your homepage…

  • A big opt-in form
  • A clear unique selling proposition and “hook”, to answer the question “WHY” for a brand new arrival.
  • A clear pathway to getting started with your content.

Missing those things? Yeah, then you’re definitely doing it wrong. Its OK. Don’t feel bad. But, you do want to fix it. 🙂

The Purpose Of Your Home Page

One of the most important skills you can develop is that of jumping into the head of a person while they surf your site. What are they thinking?

Well, what’s happening when somebody arrives on your homepage?

More than likely, this is a person who has not been to your site before. They don’t know who you are yet. They’re not part of your “tribe”. So, the absolute most important things you need to accomplish are:

  1. Clearly communicate what you’re all about and why they should care about you and your blog.
  2. Get them to take action, almost always in the form of subscribing to your email list.
  3. Guide them into beginning to consume your awesome content. But, the keyword here is “guide”.

Essentially, they are a prospect. And you need to “sell” them on the idea of becoming a regular reader. You’re not going to accomplish that by throwing them, unprepared, into the land of a thousand buttons and showing off your latest few posts like your site is some kind of journal.

But, you may ask, “What about people who want to see what my latest posts are?”

Ahhh, good question, grasshopper!

But, your regular readers aren’t probably going to visit your blog’s homepage manually in order to see your latest stuff. First, you can send them to a specialized “blog” page – similar to what I do here on the Academy. Secondly, if you put them on your email list, you can EMAIL them when you post something new and then send them DIRECT into that blog post. Bypasses the homepage.

And, even most of your NEW arrivals aren’t going to hit your homepage. They’re going to come in directly from Google – right into one of your blog posts. And, if they click your homepage, are they then doing it to see your latest posts? Very likely not. They’re trying to find out what you’re all about and why they should care!

OK, so now we’ve hopefully established what your homepage should be all about here.

Why So Many People Do The Opposite

If you look at most blogs – even many of the guys who know what they’re doing – you’ll see the traditional blog homepage. You know, latest posts, big honker sidebar, yada yada.

I think some people do it because… well, everybody does it.

I think, too, that bloggers get a little bit self-centric sometimes. Because you’re in there working on your blog all the time, you jump to the conclusion that everybody sees it the same way you do.

For many, however, the explanation is a lot simpler.

You simply don’t know how.

Most themes show the traditional layout for a homepage and a lot of blog owners simply don’t have the skills to change it.

The Technical Aspect Of Changing Your Homepage

Now, I’m not going to go all “programmer” on you here. That will probably just bore the snot out of you. But, I am going to see what I can bring to your attention to maybe point you in the right direction.

The truth is, there IS some technical stuff needed in order to create the high-converting homepage that I’m talking about – the kind which accomplishes the purpose of your homepage.

If you want to get geeky, I’ve got an old tutorial – still perfectly relevant – on how to create a custom homepage with WordPress. Also a little on the geeky side, I’ve got a post on how I created a video opt-in form on my old homepage (no longer active).

But, you can do this even if you’re not a coder.

One option is to simply use a regular page with WordPress. Create the page, put the elements you want on the page, then make that page your homepage. You can make any page of your blog your homepage with WordPress from the admin panel Settings->Reading.

Wordpress Reading Settings

So, on that page, you can do whatever it is you want to do right inside the page editor. And, while I know you’re going to have a hard time placing your opt-in form code right inside the editor, you can use the Global Content Blocks plug-in to get it into your page without the editor screwing up the HTML.

Another option for opt-in form placement is the OptinSkin plug-in. This plug-in will make it a LOT easier to place your opt-in form in various places on your site – and allow you to use better looking ones instead of the crumby default forms of your email list provider.

When you set up a “skin” in OptinSkin, you have a lot of placement options. But, one of them is to insert the form in a widget or using a shortcode.

optinskin-placement

If you’re setting up a custom homepage using the built-in page function, you’ll want to use a shortcode to place the opt-in form. That way you can have the form show up right inside the page rather than making people hunt for it.

In terms of getting rid of your sidebar – because having your sidebar on the homepage is a distraction – this is just one of many reasons why it is worth it to not use a freebie WordPress theme. The premium themes provide a lot more flexibility, including often the ability to simply select an option for any page and remove the sidebar – no coding required.

Personally, I think you’d be a LOT better off basing your blog on StudioPress, which is powered by the Genesis framework. You can pick one of their child themes as a starting point for your blog. And, when using Genesis, it is REALLY easy to remove the sidebar from any page of your site. Look at this…

genesis-page-options

But, even better, with StudioPress/Genesis, their child themes make creating actual custom homepages really easy through the use of widgets. There is a lot of flexibility built right in. Genesis also makes it EXTREMELY simple to have a “blog” page on your site which is distinct from your homepage, so you’ll still have a place to send people who might want the traditional long list of latest posts.

Of course, even with Genesis, if you want to get TRULY ninja, you’ll still need to get a little geeky. But, trust me, after spending a few days working with Genesis in order to move this site over to it – and my tech site – I can attest that it is a LOT easier doing these things with the framework than without it.

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OK, hopefully that gives you some stuff to chomp on.

This stuff is easier with some of the tools I recommend above. If you want to get really custom, though, you’ll still need to get geeky. There’s really no getting around that part. But, you can get pretty damn close without any geeky stuff.

And, truly, what you can do without getting into code is a FAR cry better than what I see most people doing with their homepage.

So, don’t let lack of tech skills be an excuse for doing it wrong.

Remember the true purpose of your homepage. And, do what you’ve gotta do to make it right.