31 Jan How to write a basic homepage
Writing a good basic homepage isn’t hard. But it is important. Maybe you’re writing a homepage for your own business, or your boss has tasked you with revising your company’s digital front door or perhaps you’re already a copywriter and looking for a refresher – whoever you are, this article will give you a simple how-to guide that makes things easier. The template and explanation you’re about to get outlines the fundamental writing formula we tailor and build from. Using this approach, we ensure the homepages we write achieve what they must:
- SEO – being findable on search engines
- Qualify – letting visitors know they’ve found what they wanted
- Convert – encourage visitors to do what you need them to.
So read on to find out how we do it.
How much SEO does your homepage need?
SEO boils down to the art and science of setting up a web presence to perform well in search engines. The question of whether, what and how much SEO your site needs depends on your business model. In this case, specifically what role the homepage plays in your sales funnel.
The higher your website is in your sales funnel, the more important SEO is for your homepage. An industry that runs by online ads and ecommerce would place SEO concerns high. An industry that relies on consultant-client relationships would put SEO concerns much lower.
If your field isn’t hyper-competitive online, then an appropriately built and written homepage will perform well enough on SEO by default.
NB: SEO is an entire specialist field of digital marketing unto itself. While it overlaps with copywriting, they are not the same thing. When we write SEO-forward webpages, our SEO partners set the pace for our work. Here are some SEO experts we work with regularly: Lead Laundry, Netopia and Mash Media.
How does your homepage qualify visitors?
There are well over a billion websites on the net and users have become very practiced at identifying and avoiding irrelevant websites. However they come to your homepage – maybe via Google, social media, an emailed link or even literally through typing the URL into the address bar – they need to near-instantly see that it’s what they were looking for.
When planning what information to present to users, we use the CANEDIT technique (thanks to Luke Hanson for the acronym) as a typology of consumer intentions. Simply, meet those intentions, give them what they expect and you will establish relevance. The seven types of shoppers in CANEDIT are:
- Comparison – want the nitty-gritty
- Advisory – want edutainment
- Newcomer – want trustworthy guidance
- Emergency – want an immediate solution
- Dissatisfied – want validation
- Infrequent – want to feel in charge
- Transient – want an easy transaction.
That’s a basic overview (stay tuned for future articles on CANEDIT). How it works is most easily seen in an example. If you run an emergency vet clinic, your site visitors are not Newcomers who’ll respond well to a feel-good homepage with a 30-second welcome video. No, they are Emergency shoppers frantic for the contact details of a vet who can IMMEDIATELY treat golden retriever that’s eaten poison.
Also note that the most relevant thing to most visitors is a solution to their problem. Often, the identity of the solutions provider is not a controlling factor in establishing relevance. It is a controlling factor in establishing trust, but that is what your About Us page is for. Anyway, what this means is there are many homepages for which logo, branding and business name are secondary concerns to the relevance messaging.
How should homepages convert visitors?
Once your visitor has found your homepage and found it to be relevant to their needs, you’ll want them to do a certain thing. What this thing is depends on your business model and digital marketing strategy. Some common actions include:
- Calling you
- Emailing you
- Visiting your premises
- Filling out an online form
- Requesting a quote
- Downloading something
- Using your ecommerce functions.
The crucial part of this is you are only encouraging one action. Just one. And you’re going to hit it hard. This action should be strategically chosen as the specific thing your visitors can do that most suits your sales funnel.
Straight up telling visitors to do this action is quite effective, especially if your instruction is a natural extension of the relevance you have previously established. Make your conversion action easy, non-threatening, natural and the obvious thing for the right kind of visitor to do.
How long should a homepage be?
Your homepage should be as short as possible. You have just read the factors governing the scope of this possibility. You must give enough space to SEO, identity, positioning, value prop and conversion.
A simple way we cover all these bases is an extension of the classic Attention-Interest-Desire-Action approach. AIDA still works, but it’s better for interpersonal sales and pure advertising. So, for most of our copywriting, we use the PPPOA model:
If you’re wondering where identity fits into that, the answer is in how large a role your business identity plays in your value prop. For brand-forward businesses – such as fashion labels or a keynote speaker for hire – identity is woven into the Problem or the Promise. For solutions-forward businesses – such as local cafes and most retail – identity sits more comfortably as part of the Proof or the Offer.
How to format your homepage content
Yes, your homepage is the shopfront of your digital presence, but it is more effective to regard it as a stage of the buyer journey. Specifically, it is the stage at which visitors leave the public web and enter your digital territory. As such, there are few guidelines to follow to make sure the message they receive in the lobby of your digital territory is in good order:
- Include a meta description. This short statement says what your homepage is about. It is very important for SEO. It must include your keywords, key topics and a call to action – and all within 156 characters or less (including spaces)
- Your headline is now called an H1. For SEO reasons it should be no longer than 70 characters (again including the spaces)
- Paragraphs should only be 2 or 3 lines. This often means a single lengthy sentence will comprise a whole paragraph
- Every few paragraphs you should insert an H2, aka a subheading
- Use bulleted or numbered lists wherever possible
- Good links are good! Link out to reputable research sources and to other pages on your own site wherever relevant
- End your article with an instruction for the reader to do something, such as “Click through to our Contact page”.
Basic homepages wrapped up
This article has addressed the context around writing an effective homepage – the lobby of your digital presence and the entryway to a corner of the internet you control. If you’re ready to start writing, then click here for our basic homepage template.
Don’t worry, it’s just a link to a Google Doc that sets out the overall format and gives pointers in what you should talk about at each step of PPPOA. Click it now – this template really does work.