The 7 Second Test: How to Convert Your Homepage
You had your game plan.
They wanted to put together a homepage that turned visitors into customers. These customers would become avid fans of your business. They would tell all of their friends, family, and co-workers about you. You would tell your grandchildren about your business success and ride a horse called ROAS into the sunset.
It was beautiful, unless … it never was.
Your homepage may still be under construction or live, but it won't bring you the results you were hoping for. They know there is a little (read: A LOT) wrong with that. You can see that the page views are coming in – where are the conversions?
Ryan Deiss, Traffic and Conversion Master and CEO of DigitalMarketer, knows.
In his DM Lab workshop on building a high-converting homepage, Ryan describes exactly what a homepage needs to do to generate conversions. It turns out you don't need GIFs or a 5 digit graphic designer per month.
All you have to do is pass the 7-second test.
The 7-second test
Yes, this test takes 7 seconds.
There is one goal in this test: to see what people think of your company. Even if these people are not your customer avatar, you will get the information you need to create a high-converting homepage.
Here's how to do your own 7 second test to see how you can improve your homepage.
Step 1: Find volunteers (friends, family members, all with opposite thumbs) to help you review your homepage
The people who review your homepage don't have to be your customer avatar. If you know customer avatars who can help, this is ideal. BUT there is no need at all to create a successful 7-second test. Ask more than 5 people if they can take a quick look at your homepage so you can see how you can improve it.
Step 2: Tell Them Who Your Company Serves
Next, explain what hat the person checking your home page is wearing. Since you only care about a specific customer avatar's opinion about your homepage, you want that person to know who they are channeling. The key here is to make sure you aren't telling them what problem your company is solving, just who it is helping.
Step 3: Let them check your homepage for 7 seconds
The moment is here. Make sure some of your volunteers check your desktop homepage and others check your mobile homepage. Give them 7 seconds to review and just give them the context of who it helps. When the 7 seconds are up, ask them for feedback.
Step 4: Ask 3 feedback questions
If your homepage stays in their head, ask your volunteers the following three questions:
- What do we do?
- What problem are we solving?
- What action should you take?
Write down their answers. It is desirable to imagine that you remember everything they say, and that feedback is far too close to gold to be forgotten. You want every adjective used, point of confusion, and even the most painful of feedback so that you can improve.
Step 5: brainstorm key insights and action elements
Time to act on your feedback. Take a look at the answers to your three questions and see what patterns you can find. Did your respondents easily figure out what you were doing, but no one knew what action to take? Or have some of your respondents found out which problem you are solving and others not?
Finding out where you're wrong on your homepage can help you avoid looking like Rachel's Thanksgiving trifle (unless your customer avatar is Joey, in which case your homepage will look "Goooood").
3 critical questions Every homepage must be answered within 7 seconds (or less).
In 2011, the Nielsen Norman Group found that "users often exit web pages in 10 to 20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can grab people's attention for much longer."
This data is almost a decade old, which tells us 10 seconds is a luxury. People's attention span has not gotten longer – at best, you have 7 seconds to create your "clear value proposition".
That's why every homepage has to answer three important questions … quickly.
- What is it?
- Why should I care?
- What now?
Here's the thing about homepages. They are difficult to build. They are not landing pages or sales pages that have a clear goal. Your landing page is asking someone to take action. Your sell page only offers options to buy.
Homepages do not serve a purpose or a person. Sometimes they serve a range of different people – and you need to figure out how to make them ALL happy.
To name just a few: Your homepage serves:
- Existing customers
- A prospect recommended by a customer
- A hot lead ready to buy and researched quickly
This is why homepages are so difficult to create and why you have tried hard to "get it right". As Ryan explains in his workshop when he made his first online sale in 1999, all you needed was a header and a copy. Homepages didn't even need a logo or branding to complete the sale.
Today it is very different. For decades, Google has been researching what makes a good homepage and has narrowed it down to the zero moment of truth.
The role of a homepage
The first moment of truth in retail is when the consumer sees your product on a store shelf. In the digital world, it happens when someone sees it on an ecommerce page or a sales page. The reason there is a zero moment of truth is because people go backwards from that point.
If a consumer is on your ecommerce or sales page and intentionally goes to your home page, they have just entered the Zero Moment of Truth. They went back to researching your business before buying your product. After they visit your homepage, they decide whether it is worth going back to your product or sales page.
As Ryan explains, "A great homepage isn't going to close a sale, but it can absolutely lose the sale."
If people see something inconsistent on your homepage, they're gone. Because of this, it's important to have an up-converting page.
Based on the Zero Moment of Truth, your homepage has three roles:
- Clarify the benefits
- build up trust
- Show the way
You accomplish these tasks by figuring out what kind of homepage you need. There are three types of home pages that we will talk about in the next section. Each is designed for specific purposes.
3 types of homepages
As with clothing, there are no standardized templates for homepages that actually fit every company. These uniform templates will suit some of you. Make sure you create the homepage that fits your business by narrowing it down to three categories.
# 1: Transaction homepages
There is a call to action on a transaction homepage to trigger action. As the name suggests, look for a transaction (even if you're just signing up for a free trial). Your homepage is most likely a transactional homepage, but we'll show you the other options just in case.
An example of a transaction homepage is the Recess.io homepage:
# 2: Categorical homepages
Categorical homepages identify users based on the avatars of their customers. These homepages are ideal for marketplaces and companies that serve different avatars. On a categorical homepage, ask the user to tell you which of your customer avatars it is. For example, Uber serves drivers and drivers with the same platform.
Here is an example of a categorical homepage from Beepi, a platform for selling and buying a car:
# 3: Consumption Homepages
The goal of a consumer website is to maximize on-page time and readership. In general, you can think of media companies that have consumer websites. There are no more calls to action on these homepages and they are no longer viewed as up-converting. Do you remember the day when your blog was your homepage, was all the rage? Yeah … don't do that anymore.
Here is an example consumer home page from the Wall Street Journal:
For the most part, you can focus on transactional homepages. Even if you serve two different customer avatars, your categorical homepage functions as a homepage for 2 transaction homepages (one for each of your customer avatars).
Quick review here. So far you have learned:
- How to do a 7 second test
- The 3 critical questions your homepage needs to answer (in 7 seconds)
- The role of your homepage
- The 3 types of homepages
Now is the time to create the core message of your homepage.
Creating the core message of your homepage
Grab your meditation pillow, get yourself incense, play this Tibetan bowl playlist, and meditate on your company's core message. Perhaps you can use this time to focus on the purpose of your life instead. Wayne Oates said so gracefully, "Everything you need is there." Little did we know he knew so much about homepages when he shared that enlightenment with the world.
This is true. In fact, you already have everything you need to write a high-converting homepage – just like you have everything you need to achieve your goals.
Thanks to your 7-second test feedback, you will know whether you have missed the mark in your core message. If you didn't pass the test with flying colors, then you probably need to go through your core news quickly.
The core message of your homepage is simply to make three things clear:
- Clarify your audience
- Determine the level of awareness of your audience
- Choosing your primary CTA
# 1: clarify your audience
You can use the customer avatar worksheet to get to know your customers better than ever. From their goals and values to their challenges and weaknesses, this worksheet created by DigitalMarketer has helped (yes, we brag) thousands of business owners figure out who they are selling to.
# 2: Determine Awareness Of Your Audience
When someone visits your homepage, they either know they have a problem or they are evaluating which solution is best for them (sorry to remind you of the competition).
Your audience is looking for hope and clarity, whether it's the first time they contact your website or whether it's the zero moment of truth. They look you up and down and decide if you are the person they trust to help them solve their problem.
They want you to give them the hope that their problem can be resolved and the clarity that shows that you are the people for the job.
# 3: Choosing Your Primary CTA
There is no transaction homepage without a call to action. Your call to action is the part of your home page where you point visitors in the right direction. You went through the basics to show them "What is this?" and "Why should I care?" and your CTA is promoting "What Now?"
Your call to action doesn't have to lead directly to a sale. This could be a lead magnet, a free trial, signing up for a free product, etc. Your call to action should be pretty obvious based on your business goals.
It's time to say something you can't forget. Can't, can't, can't. Your homepage must have a primary CTA. Pick the one amazing thing that you want someone to do when they visit your website and avoid giving them a bunch of different options for action.
Your homepage is set up and ready to go live – right? Not quite.
Would we even be marketers if we didn't tell you to test it again? Run your 7-second test again to see what the feedback is. This time around, you'll see * big * improvements over the last time, and possibly even get the perfect feedback.
- If you do, go live and do business.
- If you don't, go live and fix your homepage in the meantime (build the plane in the sky!).
And like the great marketer you are, keep testing this site. Test your copy, your images, your colors, your buttons …
Up-converting homepages aren't created overnight, but neither are your business dreams. It takes work and doesn't it make it that much more satisfying in the end?
(We're not sure of that, but since we haven't found the steroids of the marketing world yet, we still do things the old-fashioned way.)
Use the 7 Second Test to create the up-converting homepage you always knew you could do.