April 14, 2015 | Emily Winsauer

How to Write a Home Page Your Visitors Will Actually Read

So, you want to know how to write a home page that will overcome the attention deficit of the average Internet user.

According to many of my fellow content marketers, that’s no easy task—apparently, the modern digital world has made us all mental hummingbirds who can barely sit through a YouTube video.

But I disagree. People still read books for fun, enjoy lengthy cable dramas, and have hobbies take up hours and hours of their time, like running marathons and refinishing thrift-store furniture. I don’t think people have an attention problem; I think that marketers have flooded the public space, forcing people to make quick decisions to protect their time and sanity.

So, does that mean that both you and I have joined the Dark Side? Not at all. Businesses and marketers can easily create content designed not to steal attention, but to meet a need.

When you’re writing your website home page, or any page of your website, you’re attempting to meet your ideal customer’s needs with your content, product, or service.

How to Write a Home Page: 9 Strategies for Getting Results

So, how do you identify and meet those needs? Start with these 9 steps.

1. Know Your Buyer Persona

Your buyer persona is your ideal customer, and everything you do should be about him/her. Your persona should inform which benefits you highlight, the language you use, the design of your website, the pain points you address… all of it.

We've written a great deal about buyer personas. Here are a few of the most useful resources to get you started:

2. Write the Other Pages First

It can take a while to hit your stride with the tone and language of your website content. Start with the easiest page and work your way up, so you’ll have time to work out your company “voice” and identify any key phrases you’ll want to revisit on your home page.

3. Identify Your Unique Value Proposition

What sets your company and product/service apart from your competitors? Is it your approach to your industry, a feature of your product, or a form of customer service? Take your unique value and frame it in terms of the benefit to your customer.

You could probably list dozens of things that make you better, but when it’s time to write you need to resist the urge to grandstand—your audience doesn’t have to stick around to listen.

4. Plan the Visitor’s Journey

When new visitors arrive at your home page, the last thing you want to do is inundate them with information and choices. In fact, being faced with too many options will cause some visitors to turn right around and leave, a.k.a "bounce."

Essentially, they're thinking, “Whoa, what’s happening here? Never mind, I saw lots of other companies on Google. I’ll try one of them instead.” Focus on one conversion goal per page, and make it easy and natural for visitors to follow the pathway you lay out.

5. Think about the Website Design

Depending on the layout of your website, there may be copy above the main content of the page, such as a tagline that appears in the header or wording in the main image. Think about where the reader’s eye will travel and what they’ll read first. The body copy may need to support, explain, or expand on these other elements.

Also, the copy should complement the design aesthetic of your website. If the design is simple and streamlined, avoid rambling, baroque sentences that feel out of step with your site’s minimalism. If you’re rewriting your pages as a part of a website redesign, you or your designer may want to check out our post about website design that targets your buyer persona.

6. Write Copy That’s Natural, Engaging, and Concise

Now comes the hard part: sitting down to write your home page copy. At this point, you probably know who you’re speaking to, the tone and language you should use, and the conversion goal you’re guiding readers toward.

Make a list of the information that’s essential to include, such as your core services, unique value proposition, and location. Use your key branding phrases ("elevating big ideas" would be one of ours) to tie this information together, but do so in a direct, concise way. Finally, don’t be afraid to show personality; everyone hates “Marketese” and people largely ignore sales-y writing anyway.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wow, is she really forgetting SEO?” Nope. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about home page SEO, which you can read here: SEO Essentials for Writing Home Page Content.

For now, suffice it to say that while you need to choose a target keyword (which very well may be your business name, if you’re not ranking for it yet), you should use the keyword only in a natural way and put your reader first. Google’s algorithm changes are attempts to mimic human behavior more closely anyway.

7. The Headline Is the Most Important Part

Far more people will read a headline than the actual copy. Shocking, right? Both for human readers and search engines, the headline carries the most weight. It needs to be written to appeal to your buyer persona, demonstrate a key benefit, include your target keyword, and be about 6-12 words long. Yes, that’s asking a lot. Expect to spend as much time on the headline as you do on the body copy.

8. Edit.

I’ve edited the writing of scores of other people, and one of the most common issues is TOO MANY WORDS. I’ll let William Strunk, Jr. explain:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

I have this quote hanging above my desk. Fluff is the enemy. That said, we're not writing The Old Man and the Sea here. There are other considerations than style, SEO chief among them. Just keep things as concise as you're able.

One more editing pro tip: I find it helpful to read out loud after my preliminary edit. Not only can it help me catch things that sound awkward or unclear, but if I start getting bored, I know my readers will, too.

9. Pass the Blink Test

The “blink test” refers to whether a new visitor can understand who you are and what you offer in less than 5 seconds, or approximately the time between blinks. In almost every case, your company’s name and product need to be immediately clear.

Sure, some campaigns use an element of mystery. Unless you’re using guerrilla marketing to promote a summer blockbuster, you probably need to make sure visitors know what they’re getting.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry! You've got this.

Remember those buyer personas we were talking about?

If you don't know what your buyer persona is, it might be time to get on that.
Crafting Effective Buyer Personas-Click Here to Download

Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer was responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients for over 5 years. She recently moved to Seattle where she's still creating compelling content in her new role.

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