When a would-be client calls and says: “We just want the Home page writing,” I always give the kind of introspective nod that would send shivers down the spine of the suicide squad. Of course, I’m on the phone, so no-one has an inkling.
Visible or not, however, upon hearing those immortal words that will haunt me into the copywriters’ graveyard, I know right away that I should’ve written the definitive, all-knowing article on website copywriting LONG AGO – the one that explains, very patiently, that you can’t, don’t, won’t, shouldn’t write the Home page of a website first. Not in a month of Sundays.
Yes, I know the Home page is allegedly the most important page on any website, that it usually has the most visits, links and everything else. That’s exactly why this prime piece of online real estate is deserving of a little more respect!
Website owners: take responsibility!
Think about this very carefully. For a micro-second if you will… If you’re fortunate enough to have lots of website traffic, it’s likely – as we’ve said – that much of it will arrive at your Home page.
Conventional wisdom has it that online visitors coming to your site have to be grabbed by the eyeballs in a matter of seconds. If not, they’ll click off and head for the competition.
Simple logic suggests, therefore, that the expectant surfer who’s arrived on your Home page will need to like what they see. More to the point, they will need to see that the web page before them matches whatever it was they were looking for.
So we’re back to the scenario where you, as a website owner, have to take responsibility for your actions – or die, commercially-speaking. You have to make sure that your Home page delivers – and pretty sharp-ish too!
The copywriter’s perspective
Put yourself in the position of a website copywriter who’s been given an impossible brief to write a magnetic Home page based on little more than a gut feel for what the business is all about – plus a few references if you’re lucky. Even worse, imagine that the page design has already been done and you have a couple of inches to play with, ‘above the fold’ naturally.
How much will this type of client think this type of work is worth? Surely it will only take a couple of hours, at the outside? All you have to do is drop in a few persuasive words and the design will do the rest!
Well, let’s look at it another way. A website nowadays is usually the centre of any company’s online marketing strategy, with the Home page – as we’ve observed – being everyone’s first port of call.
More important, however, is to realise that the Home page is the do-or-die online gate-keeper for a business that probably took years to develop. The livelihood and lifestyles of thousands of families may depend upon the success of that website – and the subsequent success of that business.
Get it right!
The message is surely crystal clear. It’s because the Home page is so important in the grand scheme of things, because so much DOES depend on getting it right, that it’s vital to make sure the content and internal page-linking encourage the visitor to stick around, click around and do whatever the call to action happens to be.
This is impossible to achieve by simply diving into the Home page armed with a flimsy verbal brief of what the business would like to say. It may sound counter-intuitive, but well-established copywriting logic says a copywriter must read, read, read before he write, write, writes. This applies a million per cent before starting any website copy.
By finding out about a company’s products and services, about its business culture and people, a copywriter is collecting all the essential information necessary to understanding that business. Even then, the next step (in an ideal world) would be for the copywriter to advise a client directly on initial sitemap suggestions for the website.
The sitemap matters…
Long before any talk about what details should appear on a Home page, the copywriter, designer and client should make sure all the bases of the business are covered by the sitemap. This should provide a strategic overview of the business where all of its components follow on logically in the mind’s eye of the site visitor.
The next step is to research every aspect of that business – without even thinking about the Home page. The content for each of those pages should also be researched and written very methodically, with no stone left unturned when it comes to persuading the reader to act positively.
With all this in place, it is finally time to address the Home page. Reaching this stage may have taken several weeks (depending on the size of the website). Only now will it be possible to condense every aspect of the business and to direct the reader through simple page-linking to the page that will best fulfil their search requirements.
Bearing all this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that most website copywriters are going to be incredulous when asked to “Just write the Home page”. For a page this valuable, it’s running the risk of robbing a business of the success it deserves, or even destroying the business completely.
For more details of Mike Beeson’s copywriting skills, visit Buzzwords’ Home page!