Ad and marketing creatives

Grab Your Visitors: Home Pages That Work

As an SEO copywriter and marketing consultant, I look at a lot of Websites. When I'm asked to assess a company's site, the first question that often crosses my mind when I review it is, "Hmmm... what exactly do you do?"

That's because many companies present convoluted, jargon-laden copy that makes no sense whatsoever. Or worse yet, the site's home page is filled with lovely white space and design elements but no text. I sometimes find myself clicking through the site in order to determine the company's reason for existence.

Because you have about three to ten seconds to get site visitors' attention before they click back out, you want to tell them what your company can offer them in clear, plain language on your Home page. Not your Services page or your About Us page -- but your Home page.

What follows are my five tips for developing a home page that clearly -- and quickly -- communicates your message.

  1. Don't annoy visitors with Flash intros.
  2. According to search engine optimization expert Shari Thurow in her new book, Search Engine Visibility, Second Edition, "Many Web sites use Flash intros as their home page. Generally speaking, both site visitors and the search engines do not like splash pages because they contain little useful, high-quality content, even though the page design might be outstanding."

    Flash intros are especially annoying for B2B sites where site visitors are business people who don't want to waste time watching animated intros.

  3. Use descriptive headlines and subheads.
  4. When it comes to articles and ads, professional copywriters know to write powerful headlines that capture people's attention, yet for some reason Website headlines don't get any attention at all.

    I'll often see Web page headlines that read, "Overview" or "Our Products." Even worse are pages that lack a headline whatsoever.

    A well-written headline and/or sub-head for a Home page should explain what your company does in easy-to-read language your target audience will understand. Some examples of actual Website headlines include:

    • Boston Print Buyers -- Catering to those who purchase or influence the purchase of print & other media
    • Focus Test, Inc. -- Integrated automated testing equipment systems for MEMs & device testing applications
    • LinkedIn -- LinkedIn brings together your professional network
    • Helaine Smith, DMD -- Transform your life with a beautiful new smile

  5. Explain what problems or challenges your company solves.
  6. When doing searches, prospective clients will often type a search phrase into Google and then click through the various listings on the search engine results page.

    As a result, searchers end up looking at a number of sites - which means your company needs to stand out if you're to capture people's attention.

    For example, I just ran a search for architectural design firms for a client. After a half hour of looking at gorgeous sites and photographs of beautifully designed interiors, I could not tell you which firm stood out or how they differed from one another. All the sites looked and sounded the same.

    To position your company, ask: What makes our company different from our competitors? What problems or challenges do we solve for our clients? What are the benefits of working with us?

    Use the information you gather to write copy that differentiates your company from the hundreds of other companies out there.

  7. Don't talk about yourself or your company.
  8. Just last week I ran across a Website written by a consultant whose target audience included high-level executives. In addition to not really communicating what exactly this consultant offered -- except for the vague sounding "management consulting" -- the Home page copy was full of "I, I, I," as in "I do this, I do that, I was educated here, I've worked for these companies," blah, blah, blah.

    Here's the plain truth: no one cares about you or your company.

    In their book, The Elements of Copywriting, Gary Blake and Bob Bly advise:

    Don't talk about yourself. Don't tell the readers what you did, what you achieved, what you like or don't like. That's not important to them.

    What's important to them is what they like, what they need, what they want. Make sure your copy discusses facts that are relevant to the reader's self-interest.

    If you find your copy is full of "I" or "we" change it to "you." If you need a moving company, for example, Allied tells you why you should use their services (I bolded each mention of the word "you"):

    With everything you have to think about during your upcoming relocation, you shouldn't have to worry about the actual move itself. You'll be glad to know that Allied not only has the largest moving network in the world, we also have more than 75 years experience that make us exceptionally qualified to help you get through your move smoothly.

  9. Include an offer.
  10. It's a fact, people love free stuff -- and also, offering something for free helps increase conversions and keeps your company top of mind even when the searcher is no longer at your site. Many companies offer free e-books, reports, white papers, e-newsletters, audio casts, Webinars, guides, and other freebies designed to help prospective customers make purchasing decisions.

    Developing a Home page that communicates your message isn't difficult. Use descriptive headlines, explain the problems or challenges your company helps clients solve, and write "your-oriented" copy. You'll find that site visitors will navigate deeper into your site to learn more about your company and its services.

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Dianna Huff is a B2B marketing communications consultant and copywriting expert. You can subscribe to her e-newsletter, The MarCom Writer, at the DH Communications website. To download her latest free e-book, "Five B2B MarCom Strategies to Increase Sales Now," visit MarCom Writer Blog. Click here to read more articles by Dianna Huff.

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