Did you know that you only have a matter of seconds to catch the attention of a visitor to your website before they make that all important decision: stay to read more or click the back button? Because of this, the words on your homepage need to work ridiculously hard.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get it wrong. Common mistakes include saying too much, making your homepage a sales pitch and focusing on you not the customer. So before you put fingers to keyboard, follow these steps to ensure you keep your readers engaged.
Step 1: Work out your audience and USP
Don’t even consider starting your homepage without a clear idea of who your readers are and what problem your business solves for them. Why? Because it’s easier to get someone to engage with what you’re saying if it speaks directly to their needs and experiences.
In addition, make sure you’ve pinpointed your unique selling point (USP) i.e. what is different about you and your product/service compared to your competitors. Perhaps you’re a family-run business or you offer great value – think about what you’re good at and what will make you stand out.
Step 2: Get out of sales pitch mode
Next, it’s time to take yourself out of cheesy sales pitch mode. Today’s web audiences aren’t silly, and they don’t like to be marketed to. Instead they’re looking to buy from businesses they can trust, and ones that offer them real value.
Because of this, the best way to approach your homepage copy is to write as if you’re explaining your business to a friend. Keep it honest, conversational and avoid false claims or overusing meaningless adjectives. In addition, don’t be afraid to add a little personality– as long as it’s on brand.
Step 3: Craft a clear, irresistible headline
Now it’s time to start writing. Let’s begin with the most critical sentence on your homepage – your headline. Not only is it the first thing people see – or at least it should be – if they don’t connect with it, it can also be the last. Many copywriters argue you should write this at the end, I disagree. For me this is the hook for developing the rest of the copy.
Forget being overly clever – this is not the place for puns or cryptic messaging. Instead, say it how it is while being benefit-focused. The best tip to getting it right is to imagine your homepage consists of only your headline. How would you sum up what you offer in one enticing sentence?
Airbnb’s headline ‘Live there’ is a good headline example. It’s short, sweet but also manages to convey the essence of their accommodation experience.
Another example is Intuit. Their homepage headline is very much tell it as it is – effectively communicating both its key benefit and who it’s for: ‘Seriously Easy online accounting software for small businesses in Australia.’
Step 4: Create a subhead to clarify
Next, it’s time to write your subhead. This sentence or caption should be used to expand on and clarify your headline message. For example, Hello Fresh use the headline ‘More than a meal’ followed by the subhead ‘Nutritionally balanced recipes based on seasonal farm fresh ingredients delivered every week to your front door’.
Social networking site Meetup is another example. After asking ‘What do you love?’ it follows up with ‘Do more of it with Meetup’.
Step 5: Write a compelling introduction
Now it’s on to your introductory copy. This should a short 1-4 lines on what you offer, framed in terms of benefits to the customer.
For example, on my KB Copywriting website I say ‘Whatever your content requirements – from website blurb to blogs, brochures or DM campaigns – let’s work together to engage your audience and reach your business goals.’ While I’m detailing what I do, I’m also letting the reader know how I can help them.
Step 6: Add some scannable feature-benefits
After your introductory paragraph, craft some bullets or subheads with 1-2 lines of supporting copy each to highlight your main additional feature-benefits. It’s a known fact that web users don’t read they scan, so this is one of the most effective ways to get your key messages across.
Kissmetrics homepage is a nice example of this approach in practice.
Step 7: Ask for a specific action
Right, that’s the bulk of your copy done, but there’s still one of the most important bits to write – your call to action (CTA). This is an instruction which provokes an immediate response, such as ‘Call now’, ‘Find out more’, ‘Request a free quote today’.
CTA copy should be short (2-4 words), urgent and use active verbs. In addition, you might also want to add a sentence which clarifies what a reader can expect when they click. Here are some great examples from Uber and HubSpot.
Step 8: Inject some social proof
Don’t let yours be the only words on the page. Add a testimonial or two on your homepage to boost the credibility of what you’re saying.
When you request one from a client, be sure to ask them to be as specific as possible. Details are more believable than something vague and generic. You can even use part of a testimonial as your headline if it’s particularly compelling.
Step 9: Edit your copy on screen
Once you’ve finished writing your homepage copy you should always read it in situ once it’s uploaded to your website. This will give you a much better idea of how it’s all working on the page. You can then make any necessary edits to ensure that it fits in the space and that all the important bits pop off the page.
A good tip is for your page layout is to keep the most critical elements e.g. your headline and CTA, above the fold i.e. visible before the reader has to scroll.
Step 10: Test and tweak
Once your homepage is live, don’t forget about the copy and see it as a job done. Ensure you’re keeping tabs on how it’s performing using an online tool such as Google Analytics. If people aren’t staying long or are clicking back – you’ll need to review your copy and consider where you can make improvements.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make your homepage work hard.
Need help writing your homepage – get in touch.