Almost every business has a website these days and the most important part of your website is your homepage. It's the online front door to your business and for most of us, it gets the lion's share of visitors. And your homepage may be the hardest working page you've got because, like a hostess with the mostest, your homepage has to work it with every visitor that drops by.

So how can you make the most of your homepage? I've got tips from the trenches honed from over 12 years running my online marketing company, VerticalResponse.

Gather Your Data

I work closely with our director of marketing communications, Alf, and other members of our marketing team to keep close tabs on the performance of our homepage. Having an optimized homepage experience is critical to our business because we have to get folks to sign up for a free trial of our e-mail and social media marketing services.

We use a variety of tools to assist us, with the most indispensable being Google Analytics. We look at the reporting on a daily and weekly basis to see where we have spikes and where we see people dropping off. By looking at our performance over time we can also see trends. And, by having this data, we are able to make informed choices about what elements we want to optimize and test to improve the conversion rate on our homepage.

Ready, Set, Test!

If you've never conducted a test, or an A/B test as it's called for those in the biz, it simply means to compare two versions of the same element for an equal amount of time, to check which of the two versions performs better.

Some basic rules of the A/B testing road?

1) Remember to test one element at a time so you don't muddy your results.

2) Ensure you run your test for a long enough period of time to get enough traffic to your website so your data will be relevant.

If you test too many things at once, you won't know what is having an impact and, if only 10 people see your test, you need to keep running it until you can get some statistically relevant data.

Lucky for all of us marketers, there are some simple and user-friendly tools out there that make testing less of a chore. Two that we use include Google Content Experiments and Optimizely.

With Optimizely, you just enter the URL for your website, then they'll hold your hand and take you on a "guided tour" to start what they call your "experiment." It's basically a testing wizard and really walks you through the paces. Perfect for both beginners and those of us who've run more tests than we care to share.

Never Stop Testing

In San Francisco, we live in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Many people don't know it, but there is a crew constantly painting the bridge to maintain that famous International Orange color.

That's a pretty good metaphor for how you should approach tests on your homepage. If you want it to be awesome, you'll never be done testing and that's a good thing. You have to constantly maintain it. Once you've nailed one element, move on to the next and then the next. In order to maximize conversions during this process, you'll want to prioritize the elements from the most impactful to the least so you get the most bang for your testing time and bucks.

You can also get more ideas around testing from one of our favorite sites called Which Test Won by Anne Holland. Each week Holland and her team feature a "Test of the Week" highlighting reader-submitted tests of lots of different online elements, from sign-up form length to page layout. They've got a library of over 350 A/B tests to help you get ideas, and see which tests improve conversions the most. Cool stuff!

How do you keep your homepage humming? I'd love to hear testing perspectives in the comments!

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