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copywriting tipsCopywriting tips series: 1
A more effective home page.

At the risk of stating the obvious, your website is the hub of your marketing. My next uber obvious observation is your home page will be its most visited page.

I like to say your home page is the lobby of your business. (<< Link provides a website homepage content infographic.)

So before I lay a series of copywriting tips on you for improving your home page, let’s look at the home page experience from your visitor’s point of view.

They are new guests in your virtual home. Nothing’s all that familiar. They will take in every little thing—consciously or subconsciously, subtle or not— and make judgements. To get a vibe. To make a decision. What exactly is this decision? I can’t help but quote a favorite rock band, The Clash:

Should I stay or should I go?

You need to remind yourself of this when making decisions about the composition of your home page, in particular, the copy presented there.

Comfort is the key

This decision, stay or go, boils down to comfort. When the visitor feels it, they invest their time—just like you do. When something doesn’t feel right, when a tinge of discomfort emerges, they flee—just you like you do.

So what do YOU do to address this newcomer situation (which hopefully happens very often) to achieve the desired result: getting visitors to stick around and click around?

As a veteran website copywriter, here’s my advice, my top copywriting tips for creating a more effective home page.

Big bold assurance.

Your homepage is going to have a big dominant element, probably a main graphic, which you might refer to as a header. It might be what website creators now refer to as a slider—a series of headers that rotate. More often than not, your headline will be placed in this space, above it or below it. In any case, we’re talking about the first passage the visitor will read.

This passage has the all-important job of assuring the visitor they have arrived at the right place. You can do this a number of ways. The best ways are to have clear headlines expressly created to communicate you understand the challenge they face.

It’s a good idea to reiterate the product category. It’s a bad idea to say something dreadfully generic such as the popular favorite, “Welcome to our website.”

One way or another, the copy you present first should quickly suggest “you will be rewarded for coming here.”

Do the you.

An introduction of some sort should follow. It might be a sentence or two or a paragraph or two. This is not the place to boast, recite a boring company mission, or cram in the elevator pitch you labored over for your press release’s boilerplate.

In fact, to the extent you can avoid it, this isn’t even the place to talk about your company. Your company is secondary. First, by a long shot, is your prospect—his or her pains and pleasures. When I wrote “Do the you,” I meant use the word “you.”

Use it often. Avoid “we,” your company name, and “us.” (Read: “The Most Effective Online Marketers Focus on One Thing”)

I suggest counting the “you’s” and the “we’s” (or variations there of) and making the ratio largely favor “you.” You is the subject. You is how you greet someone. You is how the persuasion process begins.

Think search.

Don’t think SEO. Think search. What I mean here is however much you’ve studied your optimization tactics, your application of them should be invisible to the reader. Yes, you’ll want to have done meticulous keyword research and deliberation. And yes, you’ll want to use the keywords in your home page copy.

Still, do not overuse or overemphasize keywords. Doing so makes for clunky copy. Even if you’ve abided by the current day’s best practices for SEO, you are now addressing a human being.

Snuff fluff.

Effective home page copy gets to the point. It does so with flair, but not fluff. Throw-away lines, such as “In today’s highly competitive marketplace… blah, blah, blah,” are to be thrown away. Never lose sight of the notion that your visitor has a short attention span. To increase you chances of engaging the reader, edit your copy ruthlessly to make every word count.

Be a bud.

Your home page copy needs to be personal and conversational, (dare I say, casual)? Don’t go techno. Don’t take chances with industry buzzword babble. Don’t show off your vocabulary or insider speak. Imagine you’re out to make a new friend (because you are).

Here you go.

Easy navigation is all-important. Never make visitors hunt for what they need or begin to suspect the content’s not available.

Make your navigation bar or sidebar simple and easy to understand. Feature prominent pods, windows, or sections with subheads that showcase the parts of the website you deem to be the most practical next steps for the visitor. Communicate the content you’re offering with dummy proof directions or calls to action.

Planning for scanning.

Every key point and subsection you mean to showcase should work with or without lengthy explanations. Remind yourself of how quickly you scan a home page in search of something worth fixing on or looking into. Though it may feel counter-intuitive, your prose should be sparse and your white space should be ample.

Make your blog easy to find.

Your blog is the section of the site where you flex your know-how. It’s also where you engage readers and build relationships. Don’t hide it in the footer. If you’re emphasizing your blog the way you should, you should emphatically invite visitors to read it, share the posts, and subscribe. Featuring recent or popular stories on the home page is a highly effective tactic.

Feature freebies

Understand most visitors are “just looking” or doing research during this first visit. Lead nurturing is likely to be a critical part of the sales cycle going forward, so your collection of free resources such as your blog, newsletter, eBooks, reports, archived webinars and other content should be featured.

Be specific with these types of offers making sure to provide compelling reasons for the visitor to submit his or her email address. Don’t use generic pleas such as “free ebook” or “subscribe to our newsletter.” Provide practical reasons why doing so is a must.

Be a crowd pleaser.

This final tip traces to the well known principle of persuasion called social proof. Your visitors crave evidence your company is legit. Give it to them on your home page in the form of testimonials, client logos, reviews, accreditations, accolades, and the like.

If you’re active on social media or have a large subscriber base for your blog or newsletter, mention this. Something like “Join our 10,000+ subscribers” helps establish the credibility visitors value.

21 pointers to sharpen your website
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