The Importance of a Starting Point Page
We’ve all got to start somewhere, but most of us who are creating our own blogs, making money, and digging out our niche in the internet have already passed the initial stages of beginning and are well underway to becoming experts. However, it’s always important to remember that’s not the case for everyone, especially those who are reading your articles.
Most likely, they’re only just starting to take those first steps, because why would they be looking to you for answers unless they think you can help put them on the right path? Obviously, it’s crucial to keep all of your writing in as simple of terms as possible, even when you’re explaining the most complicated concepts.
This ensures that no matter who’s reading your stuff, you’ve got them covered so they’ll be sure to be able to understand you accurately. But what about for the people who are entirely new to this game? Although they’ll certainly be able to understand what you’re saying, they won’t find anything helpful unless they start off reading your posts in the right order. This is what a starting page is all about.
An effective starting page lays out all the information contained in your site, highlighting what might be useful for people researching different sets of information, especially those who don’t even know what information they’re looking for yet. It’s vital to include at least a section (if not making the whole page focused on it) for complete beginners. Something that cries out “Are you new? Start here!”
What Not to Do
There are tons of blogs out there that don’t address this issue at all, and if they do, most often it’s by a tiny little widget in the sidebar, something that would be hardly noticeable to anyone who’s completely fresh. This is how my starting point page looks like.
They would simply be overwhelmed with all the information you have to offer, and if they don’t just leave right away, they might start clicking on things randomly, getting frustrated and giving up.
That’s no good for anyone. As a blogger, our main goal is to help people find the information they’re looking for, and if we can’t do that, they’ve lost a chance to possibly reinvent their lives for the better, and we’ve lost a dedicated follower.
Alright, after mentioning the worst, let’s talk about how to achieve the best. Pat Flynn has an excellent example on his site of a proper starting page: Passive Income 101
On that page the first thing you see is his big smiling mug. This creates immediate relate-ability.
The reader identifies that he’s a real person trying to offer advice from his real experiences. Scrolling on we see that he has made the page just about as interactive as possible.
There are buttons to click if you already have an idea on what you’re looking for so you can skip the easy stuff. There are small blocks of text to sum up different sections of his site, all accompanied and broken up by graphics, videos, and links to further reading material.
All of this secures the reader in the sense that they can find absolutely whatever they’re looking for in this single golden shrine of a blog. Not only does this give new readers to his site the perfect place to find everything they’re looking for, it also maximizes the chance that they’ll return to find out more. I know I did 🙂
How to Shine
So what can you do to emulate Pat’s achievement? The best thing is to start making some videos if you haven’t already. Besides embedding these on your site and giving visitors an extra way to process the information you’re giving them, having videos on YouTube will also allow you to build more backlinks from a high PR site, and you might get more visits from people following those links.
And as an added bonus, if your uploads become popular enough, you can gain YouTube Partnership, providing you with one more source of income.
Now you might argue at first that you don’t have the equipment necessary to record yourself speaking or demonstrating. That’s OK. Anyone can make videos using screen recording programs.
Just create a simple image of a blackboard or something in a paint program and draw on it. Or you can create a PowerPoint presentation and record all the slides. However, you’ll need something to record your voice with, but picking up a decent microphone for this purpose at your local electronics store doesn’t cost that much, and it will pay for itself in time.
While you’re at it with the microphone, why not record some podcasts? This gives interested people on the go a chance to learn more. You can even take parts of the recording you’re already doing for your videos and use those in the podcasts. You don’t have to stop there though. There are plenty of sites like SoundCloud that people frequent which you can use an one more method of advertising and educating.
As you probably already know, graphics too are an integral part of blogging. They will become forever useful to you in your posts and videos. But where are some good places to find them? Well, as long as you don’t plan on using them as your logo or some other identifier for your brand, you can pick up some great free to use pictures at sites like Flickr, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, and SXC.hu.
KISS: Keep It Simple …
Just keep in mind that you don’t want to overload your starting page with graphics, videos, and audio. After all, people have essentially come to your site to learn through reading.
It’s all good to emphasize your strongest points with extra eye and ear candy, but if people really wanted to watch a bunch of videos on something, they would have just gone to YouTube in the first place.
The final and most important part of your starting page needs to be the call to action. You don’t just want your readers to find what they’re looking for and move on. You want to offer them as much as possible.
Ask them to download your free eBook, grab up some podcasts, subscribe to you on YouTube, or sign up for your newsletter. That way the chances that they’ll come back to visit you in the future are much greater.
Remember, the starting page is not the same thing as the about page. That is equally important, but it is a drastically different animal. The about page is meant to provide people with a brief summary about yourself, the site, and what you have to offer.
The starting page is meant to do all that, but more importantly it is supposed to be a table of contents. Blogs are messy beasts of information. If you don’t give people the chance to be directed in where they want to go and what they want to know, chances are they won’t find much of anything useful on your site.
“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.” –Seth Godin
A lot of us think that there are certain elements of our sites that we have to implement at just the time. Some may think that they need to wait until they have just a bit more content on their blog before it warrants having a starting page or something else. That is simply not true. The only things about your site that can wait are things you haven’t thought of yet.
Make your best effort to do everything as soon as possible (without driving yourself to complete and utter exhaustion of course) and you’ll be guaranteed to see the benefits.
How do you currently guide new visitors to your site? Do you have any methods that you’ve found work well?