Very recently I had a professor of a web design class tell me that "no one looks at the about page". Firstly, as you've probably guessed, he was very wrong. The 'About' page is actually one of the most viewed pages of any website, and is one of the most consistently viewed. He did, however hit on something very important in his tirade against the 'About' page. Not very many people go to an About page because they want to read about you. True! Although personal details are a great way to build up your brand and to humanize your company with your customers and clients, they are not necessarily the most effective way to open a communication with a new reader. In this post as part of my December series on Creative Business, I'm going to be talking all about why you need a 'start here' page, not an 'about' page.
So, what is a 'Start Here' page? The 'Start Here' page varies quite a bit across all different blogs— some folks use it as a way to introduce themselves and their blog, others as more of a back catalog of all their previous posts. The type of page we're encouraging and discussing today is going to be a bit of both, but most importantly, it's going to be reader-centric in a way that 'about' pages typically aren't.
1. A 'START HERE' page gives your readers direction.
And we can see why this is. It literally says START HERE. This is great for incoming readers who might not know exactly what your blog is about, or what you have to offer— and you can pepper this throughout your blog (for example, you can find our start page in the secondary navigation bar, by clicking on my face, and also by clicking just below my face where it says 'NEW? START HERE!' (Oh, and if you're new, start here!) You can use an Start Here page to direct your readers to exactly what is most important. Have you just written an ebook which you really want your new readers to know about? Start Here page. Have you put together a snazzy new course which you want to sell? Start Here page. Are you the owner of a creative business which you want all of your new readers to visit?
You guessed it.
Start here page.
2. It shifts the focus to your readers.
I know I talk a lot about sharing your story with your readers— and that is a very important thing to do. HOWEVER. Most of the reason you are sharing your story with your readers is not really about you. It's about why you're doing what you're doing, and what you can do for your readers. It's about your values and your services. Putting a Start Here page in place instead of an About page shifts the focus to your readers. Rather than only talking about your personal progress, you're talking about what your website is all about, what kind of people it's for, what problems they might be facing, and HOW your product or service is going to improve their lives.
We gotta face it, folks don't usually come to a website for you. They go there for them. They want something— information, advice, distraction, inspiration.
3. You can share your best content.
The Start Here page is a giant spoon. A GIANT spoon. A really wonderful one, like those spoons which are dipped in chocolate which you then melt into your coffee, or something. Which you can then use to feed your readers your best content. Whether this is the focus of your Start Here page or not is entirely up to you, but don't waste the opportunity to share some of your best content with your readers (it's really great to be able to say: these are some of our most popular posts!). Sometimes old posts can get lost in the archives of your blog, but the Start Here page is an excellent place for you to be able to feature some of the excellent content— and increase the length of time in which your new readers hang out on your website.
4. You can share your story with your readers to build your brand.
We've written on this before, so I highly recommend checking out that post. The Start Here page is a fantastic place where you get to inspire your readers with your story. You can share a bit about your wife, your cat, your pancake obsession, your desire to knit the world's largest pair of socks, which has then inspired you to start a hand-dyed yarn company, or your severe allergy to maple syrup, which inspired you to create Gourmet Canadian Pine Syrup, which quickly outstripped Buckley's as the world's best cough syrup.
By sharing your story, your readers and future clients and customers can come to understand your path, your struggles, your successes, and most importantly, your values. It also helps humanize you. With just a little personal touch, you can make your experience and your business a whole lot more relatable to your peeps.
These personal experience are the foundation of your brand, and will be built upon throughout your entire website, so it's great to be able to expose your reader to them on their very first encounter.
5. It tells your readers what your blog will do for them.
This is the most important part of your Start Here page. One more time.
This is the most important part of your Start Here page.
When someone is coming to your website for the first time, they may not know what it's all about. There is a chance someone told them: "Hey, Sarah, this is a wonderful website that is just for creative people like you who are looking to grow their creative blogs and business, gain job-related independence and super-life happiness."
But then again, there might not be. They might come to your blog and read one of your slightly less on-topic posts which someone shared on Facebook, and have little to no idea that your blog is all about creative entrepreneurs and motivation. That's where the Start Here page comes in. There is quite a good chance that if they liked that first blog post, they will want to know more. Now, your website navigation should be clear, simple, and obvious, so that it is easy for them to find that they would like to read about, but even so, the Start Here page performs an important role.
It lets you connect with your reader. It allows you to make damn sure your reader knows you're writing FOR THEM. It lets them know you understand their problems and frustrations, because you've been there, and show them that by reading your blog, they'll come to improve their life an business (or, sewing and baking, public speaking and fashion sense, tarot reading skills and bicycle maintenance, political spectrums and guerrilla gardening.) And that's a really important part of a blog or website. Readers don't particularly want to feel as though you're writing to everyone (see: if you try to captivate everyone, you'll captivate no one)— they want to feel as if you are writing for them, and people like them.
What will they gain by sticking around and reading your blog? What will they get from buying your product or service? How will their life change? Don't waste this opportunity to get really direct with your readers.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
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