For a long time, when you visited a blog, you likely saw a few of the same pages – home, about, blog and contact – on every one you visited.
Lately, I’ve recognized a new page popping up increasingly fast, and that’s the “Start Here” page.
A “Start Here” page is a website’s starting point. Its purpose is to guide new visitors in a clear (and correct) direction.
When I first took notice of the trend, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that? It makes total sense in retrospect.” But in the here and now, “Start Here” pages are still completely underutilized.
This is unfortunate for you and your site visitors. Think about it.
Blogs are messy beasts with typically poor search rates. I honestly cannot describe it better than Pat Flynn, who says that blogs are simply a group of ordered posts in an unordered web of chaos.
“To us, the blog owners, our blogs make total sense,” Flynn, writes. “We’re so involved with our blogs, and we know exactly what’s going on, but to the reader, and especially the new reader, it’s like trying to read a book that was written on loose-leaf paper, un-numbered and thrown into the air and having the pages randomly land on the ground.”
Flynn brings up a fantastic question: How does a new visitor know where to even begin?
The answer? They don’t.
They have no idea where to begin, and they don’t care about you because they’re new to your blog – remember? They’ve never heard of you before. Google or Facebook just recommended this post, which they may not have even loved, and now, they’re onto the next one.
See how this whole no-start-here page is unfortunate for you too?
Maybe this new visitor is researching a topic you consistently discuss. Wouldn’t you want them as a return visitor? I think so. Creating a compelling “Start Here” page and making it easy to find is a surefire way to convert new visitors into returning visitors.
It’s your job as a blog owner and/or manager to create a pleasant experience for the user – that means giving visitors what they want, when they want it.
What’s the difference between a “Start Here” page and your “About” page?
Glad you asked.
While “About” pages are wildly important (seriously just Google it), an about page is simply not a good starting point for new visitors.
People visit your about page when they want to learn about who you are, what you do and why you do what you do. A start page is different because it’s a landing page that acts as a starting point for new visitors, who need and want clear direction from you – the expert.
I highly recommend creating and maintaining both – an “About” and a “Start Here” – page.
Where should you promote your “Start Here” page?
There’s no hard and fast rules on where and how to promote your “Start Here” page, so I will tell you what I recommend.
If it were my blog, I’d add this page to the main navigation, on the far left, like Flynn does.
I’d also add a link to it in my footer, like Gary Vaynerchuk does.
Lastly, I’d sprinkle the link somewhere on my homepage, wherever it made the most sense, and I’d also add it to my about page, in case a visitor expected more of a “Start Here” page than an “About” page. Flynn does this as well.
Which elements do the best “Start Here” pages include?
Again, there’s no fast and hard rules here, so what I’ll do is provide you with a list of possible elements to include, and you can use your good judgement to decide which ones are relevant – or doable – for your blog.
Keep in mind that this page is a starting point for new visitors. (If you don’t know who your ideal new visitor(s) is yet then I highly suggest you save this article, and start Googling about buyer personas.)
Take a step back for a moment, and logically ask yourself: If I was a new visitor on my blog, what would I find most useful? What would make me come back for more?
With that in mind, here’s six elements to consider including on your “Start Here” page.
Pre-PS: These aren’t in any particular order. Make sure your page uses these elements in a way that naturally weaves together a story for your new visitor so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
1. A Glossary
Quickly and simply define a few key words and phrases.
Do you use words or phrases newbies might not be familiar with on your blog? You know – like niche terms and uncommon, jargon-y acronyms?
If you do, fine. But don’t expect a new visitor to stick around to decipher what your unfamiliar acronyms stand for. They won’t because they don’t know if they should even care about that acronym yet.
For example, Pat Flynn defines “passive income” on his “Start Here” page.
Another example is from Content Marketing Institute.
And last but certainly not least, while it’s not exactly a “Start Here” page, I am a huge fan of HubSpot’s “Inbound Marketing” page, which you could most definitely gain inspiration from for your “Start Here” page.
2. Content offers
What content do you have (or should you consider creating) that you could repurpose on your “Start Here” page? Remember, the sole purpose of this page is to guide new visitors in the right direction.
In order to do this effectively, you must have created your buyer personas, as I mentioned earlier.
What is the biggest pain for each persona aka new blog visitor? Segment those pains, and offer a resource to help them begin solving that pain straight away.
Here’s a beautiful example from Elle & Company.
First, with her big headline text, she generally addresses how she can help new visitors.
Next, she offers one resource – or call-to-action (CTA) – for each specific type of new visitor. This ensures she converts all the new visitors she wants to convert into returning visitors.
Here’s a few more examples.
This one is from Michael Hyatt’s popular “Start Here” page.
3. More links in the right direction
This is the epitome of the perfect page to list your most popular content pieces – in order, if applicable.
Gary Vaynerchuk bypasses element No. 2 and opts instead for must-see content. In this example, Vaynerchuk links to, what he considers, his must-watch / must-read content.
Zenhabits offers a much simpler, but possibly overwhelming example as well.
Refrain from just dumping a bunch of links on this page. Try to create easy-to-understand themes around a group of links. Be creative.
For instance, you could create a learning path, which is an ordered, curated group of links that teach people how to do something. You could also consider listing a few of your most popular blog posts as well.
If you’ve been blogging for a while then you probably already have loads of valuable content to choose from. Don’t underestimate the value of a well-curated and organized list of links.
4. A different sort-of contact information
Have you ever noticed how most “Contact Us” pages just dump stuff, like its phone number(s), email address(es) and occasionally, a few links to social media profiles?
Again, this is one of those retrospective, common sense moments, when you realize that “Contact” pages would be wildly more helpful if they just told you the best way to contact them for each specific reason.
Gary Vaynerchuk does this well. It’s super concise and helpful for new visitors, who want to reach out to him. Each network also provides a clear benefit, answering the common question of: What do I get out of this relationship?
5. Social Share buttons
Include social share buttons. If this page is as valuable as it should be then people will share it! Just make it easy for them to do so.
I personally like AddThis, but I’ve also heard good things about the Digg Social Share Bar. Another popular tool seems to be SumoMe as well.
6. A newsletter subscribe form
This should go without saying, but just in case you had any doubts, include a newsletter opt-in form.
If you’re asking for new visitors’ emails above the fold, or anywhere on the beginning of your page, then I recommend providing a fast and clear reason as to why anyone should give you their email before they know anything about you and your content.
Paul Jarvis’ opt-in form is a phenomenal example of a subscribe form done right. Check this out.
Please help us craft our “Start Here” page!
Got advice? We want it!
If you haven’t already noticed, Vandelay Design is totally lacking a “Start Here” page. The good news is our “Start Here” page is in the works.
With that being said, it’d be amazingly helpful (and we’d love your forever) if you shared any ideas and recommendations for our “Start Here” page.
Is there an element I haven’t thought of including? Have a suggestion on how we should group our links?
Please help us fill this void on our site. We’d more than appreciate your tips. You can either drop us a comment below or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with suggestions.