We don’t call it a “homepage” for no reason. Your website is the digital home for your business. It’s the place you own online.

Your profiles on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and on any online directory you’re a part of (even the ones you pay for), are just rented rooms. Mark Zuckerberg could pull the plug on Facebook tomorrow, and you wouldn’t get a vote. It’s his business—not yours. Same goes for any other platform out there, regardless of size, scope, and user base. As a business merely “renting a room” on somebody else’s site, you’re at their whim. Things change without notice. Costs to be found or, heck, even just seen by the people who opted to follow you are suddenly imposed without warning. That’s the reality when someone other than you owns the property.

However, your website is your domain (pun intended). You build it to suit what your business—and, most importantly, your customers—want and need. You design the experience. You craft the messaging. You maintain the voice and brand image. You rule the roost—no fretting over anybody else’s requirements or flighty changing of terms. It’s where you can best deepen relationships with your customers, make them feel part of your mission, and inspire them to take action or make decisions about your products and services.

Yes, I’m telling you this as someone whose business is rooted in a full range of social media and digital marketing strategies. I’m a digital marketer who appreciates the importance of social media—no doubt. But the top reason I find social platforms important is because they are extremely helpful in directing customers to my clients’ websites, where the focus is clear and the most meaningful connections can happen.

Want your website to be the place online for your customers to “sit down and stay a while”? Here are four ways you can be sure your website—the house you own—is ready to welcome guests for a good visit.

1. Make the Homepage Welcoming—Not Overwhelming.

Any good piece of marketing material should have a simple message that’s quick to read and easy for the recipient to take action upon, and it should be presented attractively within brand guidelines. These principles apply to your website’s homepage.

While the first page of your site will likely have more than just one message to share, it should not be treated as your chance to plaster salesy information everywhere. Through thoughtful design, the page should say “We’re glad you’ve come; here’s how to find what you’re looking for”. Think of your site as a beautiful house with a well-designed foyer. The entrance sets the stage for a lovely visit, but you’re there to guide guests on options of where to go next.

Fashionistas are familiar with the Coco Chanel quote “before leaving the house, a lady should look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” This idea can be helpful for homepage design. Is there anything that can be removed to make the experience more appealing?

2. Integrate Lead Capture Throughout.

When customers come to visit your house, aka your website, it’s the perfect chance to encourage them to become regulars and feel like part of the family. That’s done by integrating lead capture throughout your website.

The Contact Us page is a given; every website should have one, as site visitors absolutely expect that to exist as an option for getting in touch. It’s also important to offer opt-ins to your email list throughout your site, as well. I recommend including super-simple opt-in forms (for retailers, I typically suggest asking only for name, email address, and zip code) in various places on your site. Common spots include the homepage above the scroll, at the end of blog posts (“Join our list to get all our news”), and product category pages (“Sign up for a discount on your next tile purchase”). Another great place for lead capture is your website header. Some studies show that including a basic opt-in form alongside the site’s main navigation is very effective.

It’s a must to integrate your lead captures with your marketing service (i.e. MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc). This automates the process so that new additions are immediately placed in the email database and receive automated messaging to confirm subscriptions and be welcomed to your list.

Do not disregard the importance of your email list. A healthy, growing, and well-maintained email list is an immensely valuable business asset—essential today for growing sales, potentially worthwhile tomorrow should you want to sell your company (investors love companies with good databases and automated systems).

3. Prioritize the Pretty.

Your customers are inundated with great imagery everywhere they click. Be sure your website is visually inviting to capture attention! After all, yours is a fashion-oriented business, and you know that pretty sells!

There are some important best practices you should adhere to regarding photography on your website. First, be sure you have rights to use any images, and offer proper attribution in all occurrences (include photographer info, as well as interior designer/specifier for project photos). Next, use web-friendly versions of your photos so that page load time is not negatively affected. Photos that are too heavy—meaning unnecessarily large for online use—can make pages load slowly and site visitors scram quickly. Also, be sure to use alt text for every photo. Alternative text is metadata describing what the photo is showing, and that info helps Google’s crawlers identify what’s on the page, which can help you in web search results.

From real life experience, I can report that people respond more to actual project photos than marketing photos. While those marketing photos are essential to show range of sizes, colors, and details for products, actual project images tell the best stories. Add professional photography to your marketing budget and keep up your concerted efforts to get pics of finished installations from out in the field, as the payoff is worth it.

4. Think Mobile First Because Google and Your Customers Are!

It’s official: more people search online via their smartphones than they do on traditional computers. That’s why Google has rolled out mobile first search results. That means that websites that are not optimized for smartphone viewing are going to rank lower in search results, regardless of how long those sites have been live or how search-friendly they are structured. Your website has to be completely consumable via smartphone devices or you’re set to lose out in search results and in your customers’ perceptions, as well.

You’ve got to be optimized for mobile, not just mobile-friendly. That means your site’s layout should responsively morph based on the type of device upon which it’s being viewed. Also, page load times have got to be fast, so work with your web developer to keep the site lean and loading smoothly. It is wise to presume most people will first experience your site on their smartphones and offer them the most seamless, attractive, and simple-to-navigate viewing as possible.

Pay attention to little things that can be big deals on mobile. Make sure your phone number is click-to-call anywhere it’s stated on your site. Format any pop-ups so that they don’t swallow smaller screens and make it impossible to click back to the original page view. Avoid long text blocks that require too much scrolling. Opt for simple page designs that translate well across all screens without compromising experience.

Need a fresh set of eyes to give your site a review? Feel free to reach out to me anytime at msg2mkt.com. I’d be happy to “come over”, take a look around your home on the web, and share insights on how you might need to renovate!