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by Michael P. Hill July 19, 2016

Shopify theme's homepage is, rightfully, the pride and joy of many store owners.

But how much impact does the homepage actually have? Does investing hours of fine tuning your homepage actually help sales that much or are there other areas where your time is better spent?

This blog post will cover these questions and more.

Don’t assume your homepage is the first page shoppers see

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that a good chunk of your traffic, especially from search engines, are likely to enter your site through a “side door” — that is, a page other than your homepage.

When you think about it, it makes a certain amount of sense. Search engines are in the business of helping users find the most relevant pages related to their search terms. In many cases, that won’t be a shop’s homepage, but rather a particular product page or collection.

Take a search for “handmade wool scarves” as an example.

Unless you sell nothing but handmade wool scarves, there’s not much value in sending a searcher to a homepage that will tell them about your store and show other products you carry.

Instead, the search engine is going to assume, rightfully so, that the user is likely looking to shop for handmade wool scarves and therefore send them to a relevant collection page, informational page, blog article or product page on your Shopify store.

In many cases, most users who enter at the homepage will be people following a link they’ve seen on marketing pieces that lists your domain name — or they’re arrived at your homepage by searching specifically for your business name.

Do think of many pages as ‘homepages’

Because of this, most store owners will need to think of more than one page as being a ‘homepage’. Depending on your product count and search volume, this could be a handful or it could be many.

As such, you should take advantage of your Shopify theme to employ these strategies:

  • On collection pages, use the description field to insert attention-grabbing images and relevant, keyword-rich text
  • On product pages, use detailed product description features, such as Out of the Sandbox’s “split” feature, to create engaging product pages with ample content and eye-catching layouts
  • Build or refine informational pages that bring substantial traffic into your site and make sure these have good visuals, strong text and interesting layouts.
  • For relevant blog posts, be sure to accent your text content with good imagery and work in calls to action and attention grabbing headlines as we discussed last week.

Do identify your ‘other’ homepages

One of the best ways to identify which pages you should think of as your “other” homepages is to use your analytics suite of choice to analyze what pages users enter your site. In other words, what is the first page users are seeing.

In many cases, this will be your homepage — but it’s often surprising how many other pages get traffic. When you add the visits together, these can represent a significant portion of “first touches” with your shoppers (and even surpass the homepage counts); this indicates that these pages are often the entry point to your shop so it’s important to ensure these pages look their best.

Don’t get carried away, though

All this said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your common entry pages need to be exactly like a homepage. In fact, in many cases, this might confuse users who are expecting, for example, to see a list of products to pick from or get more details about a specific product.

Remember that every type of page has a role to play — collection pages are meant to show a variety of items, product pages show a single item and other pages provide more detailed insights. It’s important to keep this in mind and remember to not create pages that stray too far from their purpose and expected format.

You can, however, still use small portions of these pages to give users a little more information about your company and products and introduce them to your brand.

  • A nice photo banner at the top of a collection page that features relevant products will help the user know he or she is in the right place while also serving as a sort of “homepage welcome” that’s just more specific and targeted than what you’d find on the “real” homepage.
  • A few lines of text can explain your product offerings, your business philosophy and unique selling propositions. Don’t get carried away, however, with too much information.
  • Consider linking users to other pages on your site from within the content you place at the top of your pages — such as links to your “about us” page or links to other relevant collections, pages, blog posts or even products.

Don’t worry about your homepage boxes and modules

Many Shopify themes let you use modules on your homepage to promote products or collections or tell users more about your store. These are great opportunities to get users to dive in deeper to your site, but it’s important not to worry too much if your theme doesn’t have as many or let you arrange them in the number of columns you’d like.

Adding these elements can often require some heavy lifting with a developer and also add both visual weight and load time to your homepage.

Do worry about having effective content

Instead of worrying about the quantity of content, work on creating defined, easy to read and effective content for these modules. If your theme only allows for three but you need four, try to combine two.

In many cases, the less modules you have the cleaner your site will look. Being forced to distill your points into succinct blocks can actually give you a new perspective on how you explain your business.

Don’t worry about your homepage slideshows too much

Want to add arrows or other navigational elements to your homepage slideshow? Or change out the slideshow in favor of a full width parallax banner (or vice-versa)? Additional animation or effects to features on the homepage are other common requests that fall under this category.

It’s also tempting to promote all of your most exciting news and updates to visitors through your slideshow, but adding more than a handful of slides is not only time consuming to produce and design, but also adds to page load time often goes unseen; most users are unlikely to be on the page long enough to see more than one or two slides before scrolling away from it anyway.

If your Shopify theme only supports a set number of items, adding more can be a complex process.

Do focus on optimizing the homepage features you do have

Spend time creating eye-catching graphics and sharp copy that draws users into your homepage and, subsequently, other locations on your site. You’ll most likely be able to still create great slides or homepage hero images no matter what the format is.

Likewise, work within the confines of your theme and make everything that’s on the homepage “earn” the right to be there. Items on the homepage typically should be broadly focused and the most compelling you have to offer. So try to put your most essential CTA or promotion in the first slide for example, and only non-essential or supporting info in any subsequent slides.

There are varying research studies that have indicated a variety of levels of engagement that homepage slideshow actually end up receiving, with most of the indicating that it’s not nearly as much as everyone thinks.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that many Shopify store users are highly focused and trying to be efficient — so they won’t always stick around to see everything on your homepage, no matter how clever the copy is or how stunning the images are At the end of the day, your users are there to shop, not admire your website — so your first focus should always be to ensure that visitors can find and purchase quality items in your shop, quickly and easily.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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