Choosing Fonts: Foolproof Combos For Your Business

There certainly are a dizzying array of fonts available these days and it can be tough to know where to start looking!

choosing fonts guide choosing fonts guide

This infographic explains the fundamentals of typography and the classifications into which fonts are sorted. Running though these and cross-checking with your business can help define if you are a serif business, sans, script fan, or some combo of all three. A graphic designer will likely refer to your font options using these terms when choosing fonts for your business.

A designer’s eye

Someone who works with fonts is trained to be sensitive to the various styles, history, usage trends, paired with the concept behind your business when selecting typefaces for you. At any given time I’ve got a dozen or so fonts I’ve been crushing on that I look at first when picking fonts for a client. And because I work with a lot of branding, it’s important to be aware of what else is going on in the landscape to make sure I don’t repeat or copy anyone else’s font usage exactly. It’s mostly research, and scrolling through pages and pages of typefaces from various type foundries, but there’s also a whiff of gut reaction (like oooh yes this one is perfect) that comes into play too. It’s hard to explain exactly, but not everything can be totally systematic when working with visuals. Otherwise it wouldn’t be an art, it would be a science!

Font budget

Budget is also a factor. Most small businesses spend an average of $200 on their custom-picked package of fonts with desktop and web licenses. Though this varies depending on how grassroots or high-end a business is. There are quite a few free fonts available which helps too, but this is an area to be mindful of because often free fonts are buggy, overused, amateurish in design, or an awkward hybrid of styles. It’s better to stick to simple looks if selecting free fonts, and save your money for a rarer fine specimen later. Lost Type Co. offers a pay-what-you want model for their carefully crafted options. Google Fonts are reasonable too, but I stay away from services like Da Font or 1001 Free Fonts for reasons I mention above.

Choosing fonts

I start looking by picking out 3-4 adjectives that describe the client or their work and punch that into MyFonts.com (my most often used font service) to start the process. Are they upscale & glamorous? Or more no-frills and approachable? Friendly and sweet or refined and austere? Are their products handmade, or manufactured? Are they on the edge of the trends or prefer a more classic approach? If the business involves creative work like illustration or photography, a memorable display font for their name and a simple font for supporting information is typically enough – most of the “brand” comes from their work and whatever graphics I select or create need to highlight their work instead of compete with it.

Choosing font combinations

Once I have a couple options in mind, I pick 1-2 well-contrasting others for uniqueness, pizazz and that extra special something. More contrast is best, as using two similar typefaces won’t be dramatic enough. Almost all online font providers allow basic typesetting in words of your choice which helps get a better “real life” sense. Sometimes I screen shot this text and bring it into Photoshop to manipulate it even more to test it out, but this is a tedious way to typeset and means replicating this work with the real font once its been purchased so it’s not my first choice if I can avoid it.

choosing witty fonts choosing energetic fonts choosing dignified fonts

The images above are from this fantastic guideline for pairing fonts and what makes for good harmony.

choosing feminine fonts

Nesha shows us 5 best feminine Google Font combos here.

5 best elegant google fonts

And Web Designer’s Journey shows the 5 most elegant Google Font combos:

choosing beachy fonts

And because I’m itching for Spring (oooh we might crack 40ºF next week here in Chicago! Break out ya sunscreen!) here’s some free fonts inspired by California by June Letters Studio!

Brand consulting

These resources should get you cooking, but should you run into a jam or are looking for a more custom look, you know who to call (or, email, rather these days) to get you sorted! I’m happy to do a consulting session with you on your brand if you are looking for fresh eyes and some new ideas on where to take things next. Get in touch for rates and availability!

Do I Need a Blog For My Business?

I recently spoke at the Dream Rock retreat in Sedona about creating a website content strategy. I showed some example websites from our portfolio on Aeolidia that had very well-organized, goal-based navigation, and then during the Q&A time, someone asked me, “I noticed that all the sites you showed us had a blog. Do I need a blog for my business?” We talked about that briefly as a group, and when we chatted in person later, she thanked me for the insight and confessed to me that she didn’t have any idea that blogs drove traffic to a website, but instead thought that blogs were, “just something women liked to do.” This really surprised me, and I made a note to tackle this topic on our blog.

So, if you think that women business owners are blogging because they’re chatty and enjoy sharing their lives, think again. These women (and men, of course!), are strategically driving traffic to their websites, enjoying tons of love from Google, and making their other marketing efforts easier. Let me explain how.

Do I need a blog for my business?

What is a blog?

A blog is part of a website that displays articles. Your articles (or blog posts) are usually updated on an ongoing basis, listed in chronological order on your blog, and show dates of posts and an area for people to comment. Some websites are blogs (you go to the main page and see the posts), and some websites contain many pages, with a blog being one of the pages on the site. This article is mostly about ecommerce websites also including a blog, though I’m also talking about service providers, who want to supplement their portfolio with a blog.

Do I need a blog for my business?

No, you don’t. There are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your site without a blog, and if you don’t have the time or the talent (or the money to hire someone) to start a blog now, it is fine to concentrate on other ways to bring people to your website and keep them engaged. But the blog is such low-hanging fruit, if you’re able to do it that I would recommend it.

I resisted starting a blog for a long time. Then I did it a couple of years ago, and now that’s how we get most of our traffic.

A blog will bring traffic to your site

Um, heck yeah it will! If you write useful, interesting, or inspiring articles, your readers will share those with their network and bring new people to your site. For an ecommerce site, it can be easier to promote a post about a product than to try to promote just a product itself. Blogs can be used for giveaways and contests, or to announce sales, all of which will keep people reading and will bring new people in as people share the good news.

A blog is good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Yes, absolutely! Think of it this way: an ecommerce site without a blog has a handful of informational pages (about, contact, FAQ), then all the products. If you add in a blog, that adds to the number of pages on your site which have content that others are linking to (Google likes that), with as many juicy keywords about your business as you’d like. If you decide to blog once a week, at the end of the year you’ll have 52 new pages on the site that Google will be returning to people who are searching for exactly that type of content.

A blog can establish you as an authority

Regularly writing posts for your blog (and guest posts for other peoples’ blogs) will showcase you as an authority on your subject, whatever it is. If your competitors don’t have a blog, and you’re continuously showing up with timely articles about trends, techniques, and news about your industry, you will have the edge and appear to be a leader in your niche.

A blog can make your other marketing efforts easier

What? It’s true! If you’ve gone to the trouble of writing a blog post for this week, you can now use that post to promote your site without having to come up with any new content. Grab a photo and paragraph from the post and put them on Instagram. Pin the most compelling photo from the post to Pinterest with a blurb interesting people in heading back to the blog. Tweet about your post with a link, and let everyone know about it on Facebook. Ask your colleagues to share your great new article. Include a blurb and a link to your blog post in your newsletter. You don’t want to only be recycling content on these social media outlets, but remember that people want to hear about your blog post – go let them know about it where they’re hanging out!

A blog humanizes your brand

As creatives, handcrafters, and makers, people come to us because they enjoy being part of our world, rather than hitting the big box stores. That means they’d love to hear a bit about your personal life. Of course you need a balance, and your blog can’t be all baby pictures, but taking the time to share a bit about your life, your process, your team, or your opinions can draw people in. Even sticking to business, but infusing your posts with your own voice, sense of humor, or outlook on life can serve to make you more real and compelling to your customers.

A blog drives sales

Above all, a blog can drive sales or be used to steer your readers to help you with your business goals. You aren’t writing these posts selflessly, entirely to entertain people. You want something from them, and each of your posts should have a call to action: something you’re asking your readers to do. For ecommerce stores, this will usually be to purchase a product, so make sure after you talk about the product, you give people a link to go take a look at it. You can also use a blog post to ask people to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media, share info in the comments, vote for you in a contest, share your site with their friends, attend an event you’ll be at, go read another great blog post you wrote, look at your portfolio etc.

You want the time you spend on each blog post to have value, and the best way to do this is to have a business goal for each post, then write it in a way that will help you with that goal.

More help with your blog

Take a moment now to subscribe to my newsletter, so you won’t miss the next posts (you’ll also get all the free guides and workbooks I’ve been working on for my readers!):

Do you have a blog? Are you thinking of starting a blog? What questions do you have about blogs for business, or blogs on ecommerce sites? Please share in the comments. I’d love to offer some personalized tips.

How to Bring Quality, Targeted Traffic to Your Online Shop

I’ve discussed conversion rate on on the Aeolidia blog before, and this is a useful companion piece, about how to get serious buyers to your website in the first place. It can be very puzzling figuring out how to get people to visit your site, especially if you’ve been relying on a service such as Etsy to drive traffic to you. Once you have a website of your own to promote, you need a plan to reach out to all the right people.

I have a lot of great email chats with creative business owners who receive my newsletter, and I was recently asked:

Another thing we are currently working on right now is probably something a lot of new e-commerce site owners are trying to figure out – good quality traffic. We are working through our marketing plan/checklist now, but I know it’s just going to take time to get the traffic flow we want. I think all the pieces are there – good quality site, good products, and good social media interaction. We just need to grow our trickle of customers to a steady flow!

This question shows a lot of insight, because the biz owner knows she should be looking for good quality traffic, not just traffic. “Traffic” is how we refer to the flow of people onto and through our websites. Your traffic is how many visitors  you get. If you have low quality traffic, you may get hundreds of thousands of people on your site, with only a few remaining there to purchase. High quality traffic will give you a lot of sales with less people visiting (and less marketing effort on your part).

Learn more on the Create & Thrive blog »

Shopify Design Before & After: From Theme to Custom Site

Tickled Teal before and after

A new custom Shopify design for a gift shop

Tickled Teal is an ecommerce business specializing in custom gifts such as custom coffee mugs, cell phone cases, personalized pet tags, license plates, and more.

Renee contacted us last fall about redesigning her logo and website. She wanted to create a cohesive, professional look that would make her feel more comfortable driving traffic to her own website. Tickled Teal began with a pre-made design from the Shopify theme store, which is a great way to get started for a new business. You can test out what works and doesn’t work for your customers, hone in on your brand’s identity and style, and then when you’re feeling confident about your business, move on to hire a designer to create a custom Shopify design for your website.

Renee explained why she was ready for a custom design:

Currently the site is pretty plain and we feel it could use more personality. We love to make it feel more fun and whimsical to go along with our products. We don’t feel that our site, as it is now, is a good representation of what we have to offer. As a graphic designer, I am too close to the project and feel like I need some outside help to help break through to what I know it can become.

Here is Renee’s original website:

Tickled Teal before

The website worked, but lacked personality and showed little of the whimsy that is such a big part of Tickled Teal’s line of products. You can see that the item page, below, was rather plain. Important information, such as the price and social sharing buttons were easily lost on the page.

Tickled Teal before

Sarah on our team began by creating a new logo and identity for Tickled Teal, which is a huge improvement over the bland “before” look. We posted this one on Instagram recently, and got more “likes” and comments than we ever have!

Tickled Teal Brand Identity

Sarah then carried the new brand over to the website design. When presenting the new look, Sarah explained to Renee:

I tried to keep things simple, light and friendly while scattering lots of nice little details throughout the design. Your colours are so lovely and bright! There is a lot of white space to keep things looking un-cluttered and while I have used colour to grab attention, each section of the design stands out in its own subtle way so that nothing is annoying or distracting.

Tickled Teal after the website redesign

Custom Shopify design for a gift store

The new Tickled Teal site is full of personality. The design (those feathers!) carries the customer’s eye down the page, and important information is now easy to find. One feature that Renee needed on her new site was a way to easily sell her customizable products. For this project, we used an app which will allow Renee to change all of the fields and drop down options for an item, as well as add new fields in the future. This makes it easy for Renee to set up customizable products, and the design of the page makes it easy for customers to understand how to order them.

Custom Shopify design for a gift store

We asked Renee for feedback about her project with us and she shared:

I went into the project not really knowing what to expect, but I am definitely thrilled with the finished product for our logo & website re-branding project! Throughout the project you were incredibly easy and great to communicate with.

I really enjoyed the way we could bounce ideas off of each other and work through design challenges to create awesome solutions. It was awesome to always feel like the designer and I were on the same page. I would describe something for her and what she would come back with was like she had read my mind.

I really appreciated how organized you were and that you were quick to answer all of my questions. I would definitely recommend Aeolidia to anyone looking to re-vamp or start a new web design project.

Ready for a before & after of your own?

We would love to talk with you about a website redesign, get you started with a marketing plan, or get your logo and packaging ready for the big time. Contact us at Aeolidia!

Ethical Guidelines for Blogging

Blogging seems simple enough! But did you know that you could get in legal trouble for blogging, or at least risk angering someone you admire? Consider some basic blogging ethics and understand the legal issues with blogging. Not only do you want to keep things legal, but you want your readers to trust and respect you. Here are some ethical guidelines for blogging.

We will cover:

  1. Copyright & credit
  2. Truth & opinion
  3. Giveaways & contests
  4. Marketing & spam
  5. Privacy & Policies

Read more on Oh My! Handmade »

How to Create Content that Connects: Your About Page

One of the hardest pages for a lot of us indieprenuers to create content for is our about page! It’s hard to write about ourselves, and there’s so much we could say, and could share – how do we pare it down? What’s essential? What do we include that will actually help us draw in and connect with customers?

You may think your about page isn’t all that important, but statistically speaking, it’s the second most viewed page on a website, after your main shop/services page. Why do you think that is? Because people want to know who they’re doing business with online before they buy!

So, your about page really is an important one to put some time and consideration into. It’s a powerful spot to reach out to your customers in a way that helps create reassurance and trust in what you have to offer them, and the place to start building a relationship that will lead to sales!

Here are some tips on how to write an about page that does just that:

Remember, it’s not really about you

I have something to tell you that might offer some relief if you freeze up at the thought of having to write about yourself (as so many of us do) – your about page isn’t really all about you, it’s about your customers!

It’s the perfect opportunity to talk directly to them, show them you understand what they need, and share the reasons why you’re the right person to give that to them. Place your focus on connecting what you have to offer with what you know your customers are looking for.

Share the pieces of your story and background that relate to their story. Focus less on trying to describe what you do, and more on communicating why you do it. Less on how you do what you do, and more on the value and benefits your customers will receive through your work.

In short, your about page is the perfect place to start to connect. Keep that goal in the back of your mind as you’re writing, make it your mantra: connect, connect, connect. 

This is between you & I

I suggest dropping the third person formality. You’ll find it’s pretty standard on about pages, but it creates a sort of barrier between you and your customers, a distance. Go on and refer to yourself as me, myself and I (and please don’t use “we” unless there really are multiple people at the helm!). It makes your page much more personable, relatable and it’s much easier to write that way – bonus!

Your greatest asset is your YOUness, and especially if you’re a small, solo-prenuer brand, you want people to know that! This is something that will appeal to your dream customer. It’s not more “professional” or impressive to do the third person thing, and you don’t need to try to sound like a larger business than you actually are. This is about being real, honest and showing yourself in order to engage trust in your potential customers.

That can only happen when it’s between YOU + I. Those are two words that should show up a lot on your about page!

Have a conversation

Think about meeting a potential customer in real life. How would you introduce yourself and talk about what you do? How would you engage someone to see if they might be interested in what you offer, if you were face to face?

Would you lead with your education, years of experience and recognition you’ve received? Or would you start by finding a point of familiarity, of shared experience, something you have in common? Would you start by expressing interest in them?

That’s the exact sort of conversation you want to have on your about page.That’s right, it’s a conversation. Your website is your online home, so imagine your customer sitting at your kitchen table, cup of coffee in hand, and just talk to them. Be curious and considerate of their needs and desires and what may have brought them to you. 

If you make an effort to show an interest in who they are and what they need, they’ll be much more engaged and more likely to consider you the right person to give them what they’re looking for.

Show yourself

I mean this both literally and figuratively!

First off, we gotta see a photo of your face. I’m amazed at how many sites I still come across that don’t have a photo on their about page! This is an immediate connection killer. It creates another barrier, an air of mystery, a “Who is this person? Can I really trust them?” vibe.

What’s the first rule in connecting to someone during a conversation? Eye contact! Same rule applies online. Your customers want to look you in the eyes and see who they’re dealing with. It will only aid their familiarity and trust in you, which is what leads to sales!

Secondly, in the text, you want to show who you are. Share your story, share your struggles, share your passion. Get a little personal and share the human stuff so your customers can see there’s a real person behind this business, one they can relate to.

Think about what fears and obstacles you’ve had to overcome to create the business you have now…

This could be that at 45 you were finally ready to quit your soul-sucking job and take the leap into self-employment and follow your true dreams. It could be that you never could find simple jewelry that worked with any outfit, that matched your aesthetic, so you decided to create your own line. It could be that you’ve personally struggled with creating healthy habits in your life for years and once you found what worked for you, you created your health-coaching biz to share your techniques and knowledge with others.

No matter what business you’re in, there’s a story in there and it stems from a struggle you overcame, a problem you found a solution for, or a personal desire you fulfilled. Think not just about what you do and what you have to offer, but WHY. Why is it important to you? How did you get there? Those are the details that will give your customers insight into who you are and help them create a personal connection with you.

Share your skills

Towards the end of the conversation is where you can share your skills, schooling, experience, recognition received, etc. – the “proof” you have of your talent and expertise. If you share these things after you’ve worked to establish a personal connection, it will serve more as validation of your knowledge, commitment and integrity, and can become a further aid in establishing that oh so important trust factor.

If you lead with this stuff though, or if that’s all you include, like I see on many about pages, it can feel cold and empty. It’s good information to share, certainly, but it’s not engaging or personal.

People buy because of how you can help them, because of how your work makes them feel about themselves - not because you have a certain title or degree or notoriety. Establish connections first and let your reputation follow.

Some good examples from Aeolidia designed sites:

  • Aeolidia – the A-team has a great about page, of course! It speaks directly to our dream customers, asking questions that address the concerns, struggles, hopes and fears you may have and sharing how we can help. It talks right to you, and you even get to see the faces of the entire team and learn a bit about who we are.
  • Indie Untangled – Lisa does really well at connecting her interests with her customer’s interests. You can tell she knows who they are. She tells the story of the struggles she had, which her customers share, and then explains why her business is the solution to overcoming those. Her passion for what she does shines through.
  • Queen Bee Creations – Rebecca does well at speaking directly to her customers, sharing what she hopes they get out of her line, as well as sharing her story about how her business came to be. There’s even a video where you get to see and hear her and check out her store. Her page is personable and really connects with those who value shopping local & supporting handmade goods.
  • Emily Ley – Emily does great at showing her approachable, friendly personality through her about page. She directly addresses her customer’s concerns and how her products can help their everyday lives. The why behind what she does comes through well, sharing the commonalities she has with her customers, and connecting on an emotional level.

Hope that helps give you some ideas on how to craft your own about page that truly connects with customers! Just talk to them, keep them in the forefront of your mind, and let it flow.

Have questions? Comments? We’d love to hear them below!

psst: this is part of a series on how to create content that connects with your customers. Be sure to check out the first post on creating your homepage content, if you missed it!

Simplicity Series: Arianne Foulks of Aeolidia

I’m featured over on Emily Ley’s blog today, as part of her Simplicity Series.

The Simplicity Series features busy gals, in different stages of life, making what matters happen and tips and tricks they’ve found to be helpful. Simplicity is about building margin into your life and spending time on and with that which fuels your heart. While we love to share products and services that help us day to day, but simplicity is about HEART and intentionally choosing the thing that matters most (your TREASURE) more than anything money can buy.

I share how I take care of myself, my family, and my house, and I pick six things I can’t do without.

Read the full interview here.

Permission to Not Worry About SEO

When you’re researching ways to increase traffic to your site, you will be told to work on your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When people ask me about this, I give them the following answer.

Do I need to think about SEO?

Yes, but in a more sideways manner than you might think.

is-seo-important

In the early days of the internet, there were only two real ways for your site to be found online. Through an old timey search engine (Altavista, anyone?) or from someone else’s site (remember when every site used to have a page called “links?” Some blogs still hold onto this tradition with a list of their faves in the sidebar).

To be listed in the search engines, you had to do a lot of the work – submitting your site by hand, and packing your site full of the words you wanted to be found by. Webmasters (boy, this post is feeling old-timey) used to cram these words at the bottom of every page on their site, sometimes hiding them (by using white text on a white background, for example). This was a low point in the history of the internet! The need for a way to categorize your site became obvious. Search engines began relying on “meta tags” hidden in the code of websites, to determine which keywords a site should be listed for.

The internet got crowded and became commercial instead of academic, and people started marketing themselves as search engine experts, who could do something special to get you to the top of the list for your target keywords. They started “keyword stuffing,” where they would enter all kinds of crazy keywords to the code of sites, causing search engine results to suffer. This bad behavior forced search engines to change and improve their methods, bringing us up to the current (ever-changing) state of searching the internet.

The web has evolved quite a bit, certain things seem vastly more reasonable, and there are some pretty simple things you can do that will increase your traffic naturally and have the side effect of improving your ranking in Google. Google now completely ignores the meta keyword tag, and instead looks for real content that people are reading.

What an improvement! Much like natural selection, Google’s selection pressure to reward good content has lead to websites that create a lot of good content. With all the competitors out there, though, how can you get ranked higher on Google?

How to improve your Google ranking organically

By “organically,” I mean by producing great content and getting it out in the world, rather than feverishly listing keywords.

1) Get mentioned on high profile sites.

Google wants to show relevant results to people searching, and they want the authorities to show up on top. If you can get a bunch of blogging bigwigs to mention and link to your site, that will be huge in and of itself, and also lead to Google having more “respect” for you. So my top advice is to spend more time pitching than fiddling around with keywords.

2) Have interesting, relevant content that people read on your site.

This is why people recommend you have a blog, though there are certainly other ways to do this. Google loves to see a constant stream of new info on  your site. If there is a keyword you want to be a top Google result for, make sure that keyword is part of  your product descriptions. Don’t go overboard with this and make your descriptions a list of keywords – Google can tell when you’re sucking up to it and may penalize you. The information that is the most interesting and helpful to customers will now help you with Google, so keep it natural. Also, remember to write on your site from your customers’ point of view. You want the wording on your site to match their searches.

3) Paid advertising.

You can always pay Google to show your site at the top (or side) of the search results, with the “ad” designation. You can also use their “retargeting” ad service to show your ad to people who have visited your site before. Remind them of what they were looking at on Facebook, and they may just wander back to buy it.

Learn other ways to promote your website

If you’d like to take the focus off of Google and get some real exposure for your business (to all the right people), check out our Pitch Kit PDF. If you’re at all confused about how to get blogs to write about what you do, this will be the best $44 you’ve spent on your business!

Also, let’s talk blogs! I’ve been putting together a detailed series of posts about blogging for your business. If you sign up for my newsletter now, you won’t miss any of this information about how to create all this great content that Google will love!

6 Tips for Doing Social Media Right: Erica Weiner on Instagram

How do you feel about social media? Love it? Confused by it? Feel like it’s a necessary evil? Are you like me,  just one person amid so many social media outlets that you don’t feel like you can do great on more than one at a time? I got fed up with Facebook long ago, could never maintain much interest in Twitter, and for the last year have been focusing my efforts on Instagram.

Instagram is fun! And it can be a challenge, particularly if photography is not your forte. I love finding a client of Aeolidia’s on Instagram who’s doing social media right. Erica Weiner, a jeweler in New York City, is a shining example. Erica and her team know how to tell a story!

Take a look at some example Instagram posts from their feed, and see how they’re doing social media right.

Telling a story

Instead of just showing you a pretty picture, they tell a story about the jewelry that makes people want it more and imbues it with a special value to the wearer.

Sharing behind the scenes

By showing what they’re doing behind the scenes, customers feel a personal connection to Erica Weiner when they buy a piece.

Setting rubies into these little scarabs' eyes today.

A photo posted by Erica Weiner (@ericaweiner) on

Not afraid to be unusual

The Erica Weiner team is not afraid to be weird and possibly turn away people who don’t get it. From dirty song lyrics to taxidermied bats, Erica’s personality shines strongly.

Showing their values

Not only do they tell a story about their jewelry, they also find ways to work in stories about their brand and what they stand for.

One of a kind content

They will put together photos that combine their products and their interests in a way that hasn’t been done before, creating new content that holds peoples’ interest.

Herkimer Diamond earrings + antique picture frame + typewriter + early 1900's jewelry ad.

A photo posted by Erica Weiner (@ericaweiner) on

Keeping things consistent

The Erica Weiner feed as a whole works together as a cohesive marketing piece. Everything sticks to the jewelry theme (including posts about love and style and history). Elements repeat, such as their handwriting backgrounds. It’s easy to tell when you click over to their profile what they do and who they are.

Erica Weiner on Instagram

See how it’s done

Go follow Erica Weiner on Instagram! And while you’re over there, please see us, too: Aeolidia.

How to Create Content that Connects: Your Homepage

This is the first post in a series to help you create website content that connects with your dream customer!

Every little bit of your website, from the copy to the navigation to the photos and your products, is considered “content” and is a highly valuable opportunity to grab your potential customer’s attention and draw them into your world. We’re going explore how to use all that content in a way that creates an immediate connection with them so you can start to build relationships, create trust, and make more sales!

We’ll start in the most likely first place your customers will come to your site through – your homepage.

creating content that connects

Connecting at the moment your customers land on your site: homepage content

The most important thing to consider when you’re creating your homepage content is your customer’s perspective and what their experience will be.

Take yourself out of your own head for a moment, and all the ideas exploding around the potential of what you could do with your homepage, or what you’ve heard you should do with your homepage, and instead put yourself into your ideal customer’s shoes.

Think about how you feel when you land on a new site you’ve never visited before – it’s like landing on a foreign planet. If you don’t understand what’s going on, where to go and how to get to whatever you’re interested in, if your attention isn’t immediately captured, well you can just hop back in your virtual rocket ship and be outta there in t-minus 5 seconds via the back button on your browser.

If, instead, you land in a place that captures your aesthetic interest right away, where you see familiar markers and are handed an easy map to get around with, then you’ll feel more comfortable sticking around to explore this new world for a bit.

You only have a few seconds to capture your potential customer’s interest and to help them orient themselves to your little piece of the internet world. To do this, you need to have clarity, clarity, clarity in every morsel of your content. And you want to think about the path you’d like people to take from your homepage – once they land there, where do you want them to go next? What do you want to draw their attention to most?

Let’s break these ideas down in all the different elements of your homepage…

Header 

At the very top of your homepage is generally where you’ll want your business name and logo to go, and is the very first spot to grab your visitors’ attention. Greet them with a well designed logo that is representative of your brand as a whole, and it will help draw your right people in aesthetically as well as give them immediate visual clues about what your site is all about. What does your business name and logo communicate about your brand? If it doesn’t seem to be saying what you want it to, that might be the first place to start with a homepage makeover.

The header is also the place to consider adding a tagline. A tagline can help give definition and context to your business name, and help immediately orient a new visitor by summarizing exactly what you have to offer and who you’re offering it to, in just a few simple words. This is especially important if your business name is more creative and not necessarily descriptive of what you sell – take Aeolidia, for example!

Helping your little business become a “big little” business” is Aeolidia’s tagline, and it lets you know in a millisecond that we provide services for small, indie businesses to help them grow. Bang. Clarity. Think about whether a tagline could help you better clarify your brand so those potential customers understand exactly what you have to offer from the moment they land on your site.

This is also a good spot to mention any permanent incentives you might have, like “Free shipping on orders over $100,” or “Free returns, always,” “$5 to ship anywhere in the US,” etc. You don’t have to offer such incentives, but if you do, this right at the top placement is a prime place to put it and can encourage someone to explore your site further.

Navigation

Your site’s navigation bar and/or menu are the map you hand to visitors upon arrival. You want them to be as clear and understandable as possible, which means sticking with tried and true, expected titles like, “About,” “Contact,” “Shop,” “Blog,” “Portfolio,” “Wholesale,” etc.

As creatives, we can have a tendency to want to get a little creative with everything we do, including navigation titles, but this isn’t the place to be imaginative or branded, cutesy or clever, as the goal with your navigation is to help your customer understand immediately what kind of information is hiding under that link.

For example, I call the marketing consultations I do for clients “mojo sessions,” but if I were to put “mojo sessions” as the main navigation title on my site, a visitor might be like, “Huh? What’s that? Where’s the info about the marketing consults?” because they’re not seeing the words they expect to find. Any small point where a customer might feel confused, even for an instant, is the point where they’ll potentially lose interest and click off. So, instead I have “work with me” as a navigation title, which is clear and obvious, and on that page I describe my mojo session options.

Also beware of vague titles that can be taken in multiple ways, such as “Gallery”- does that mean you have art for sale? Is it like a portfolio page? A gallery of sold items? A photo gallery of some sort? Gravitate towards what’s clear, cut & dry and easy as pie.

Main space

The main shebang of your homepage, beneath the navigation, is your place to hang a virtual welcome sign to your internet world, grab your visitors’ attention and show them where to go. This is your highest priority spot. So, if you’re a product seller, you want to get people into that shop, right? How will you grab their attention immediately and direct them there?

This is the place for big, beautiful product images, slideshows, lookbooks, portfolios, etc that show off what you have to offer in the most eye-catching way, and link directly to specific sections or items in your shop so that customers can potentially BUY them. You’re selling something, remember? Don’t shy away from that!

If you’re a service provider, this is the place to lead them to your best content, get them looking around your portfolio or the services you provide. People don’t usually buy services on a whim or as quickly as they might buy a product, more trust usually has to be built up first, so this could also be the best spot to lead visitors to sign up for your mailing list so you can stay in touch with them and start to build the relationship that will help you make sales down the road.

Whatever your main goal is with your website, use this main space to direct people right to it!

Secondary space  

Beneath your main content area is the spot to direct visitors toward your next priority goals. This could be further entrances to your shop via featured, favorite or new items. It could be a good place to direct them to your mailing list so they can stay in touch, or to lead them to your blog if you have awesome content to share or want them to learn more about the you behind the brand.

It could be a good spot for some welcome text, if you feel a greeting about what you do and why it’s unique would be helpful to orient your customers. It’s also a great place to incorporate some testimonial quotes which can often speak much louder to potential customers about your work than your own words can (we’ll talk more in depth about these later in this series!)

If you have some great press, like blog or magazine mentions, maybe you’ll want to highlight them with some graphics here. If you offer a freebie, are running a contest, or have an event coming up, put info/a graphic about it here to give it some attention!

The sky is really the limit when it comes to how you can use this area, so really consider your particular goals and your particular customer - not what you see other sites doing – and use this space to further direct your visitors’ attention where you’d most like it to go. If you can create this area to have changeable/editable elements, so it can shift as your goals shift, that’d be ideal!

Stay-in-touch system 

Of course, the main goal for your site is most likely to sell things, but it can take time to build up the relationship and trust necessary to lead to sales. That’s why it’s so important to have a stay-in-touch system to capture those potentially interested folks before they click off, never to return again. If they don’t buy right away, what’s the next best thing they can do? Give you their email address so you can contact them, stay on their brains, and start to build that relationship!

I mentioned a mailing list a couple times above, and if you don’t have one yet, it’s time to start one, as it’s really the most effective stay-in-touch system around, far beyond social media, and can help you form a familiar, intimate connection with potential customers.

The key with getting people to sign up for your mailing list through your homepage often lies in the verbiage itself. “Sign up for my newsletter” is a surefire death march to getting very few sign ups. People don’t willingly sign up for more mail to clog their already overflowing inboxes, but they will hand their email over if they feel they’ll gain something valuable in exchange. So, you want to incentivize your sign-up text, emphasize the value they’ll receive from it.

What will people get out of your newsletter? Will you offer freebies, discounts, coupons, specials? Will they be first to know what’s new, or on sale, or get behind the scenes sneak peeks? Will you offer free advice, tips, how-tos, tutorials? Will it get people inspired, or motivated?

These are the kind of specific things you want to pull out for your sign up text, so instead of “Join our mailing list,” you can try something like…

  • “Get the scoop on what’s new & on sale:”
  • “For new arrivals and subscriber only specials:”
  • “Get exclusive first peeks & discounts:”
  • “Sign up for free printables, inspiration & special sales:”
  • “Free tutorials & tips straight to your inbox:”

Be specific! Be incentivizing! And you really can leave the words “newsletter” or “mailing list” out of it entirely.

Footer 

Last but not least, the bottom of your site is for your lesser priority goals, for things that are important but not important enough to have in your main navigation or main body of the site.

Contrary to popular belief, this is where I’d recommend putting links to your social media accounts. Why? When a potential customer lands on your homepage, you have them right where you want them, right at that moment – the goal then becomes to keep them there, engage their interest, get them looking around, and hey maybe even buy something! The last thing you want to do is send them right back off to the MOST DISTRACTING SITES ON THE INTERNET where they may start following you but then forget all about what they were just looking at and spend the next hour pinning and tweeting, never to return again.

In general, you want to use social media to drive people to your site, not vice versa. Consider what your most important goals are – if, at the moment, it’s to build your pinterest following, then maybe you’ll want to draw attention to your account higher up on the page. But if your goal for right now is to sell more, then stick to social links in the footer and on your contact page. Don’t get suckered into the feeds and funnels, widgets and whatsits you see many other sites using that are eye catching, sure, but effectively sending their site traffic bye-bye.

The footer is also the place to reiterate your navigation from the top – if you have a long page, that can be helpful so your customer doesn’t have to scroll back up to navigate to the next spot. You can also include links to lesser priority info pages here that maybe aren’t in your main navigation, such as policies, shipping/returns, FAQs, etc.

This is also a great spot to include a link to your contact page, or if you’re a brick and mortar store, your shop’s address, hours and phone number would be helpful here. You can have a search bar down here (or potentially in the header if you think it’s a tool that’ll be used often on your particular site.) And of course, copyright info.

There’s always room for creativity and diversity within this general context, of course, but I hope this can help you better prioritize your goals for your homepage and really consider what path you want to lead your potential customers down and how to get them there.

Next up in the series, we’ll tackle your about page! I’ll help make it easier for you to figure out how to write about yourself and your work, and how to use your about page to connect better with the kind of customers you most want to attract, and start to build trust.

Until then, let us know in the comments if this post got you thinking differently about your homepage content, or if you have any questions!