In the days that we used to get most of our information from a newspaper, there was a term that reporters used called ‘above the fold’. This was the top half of the front page of the paper that would catch your eye when you saw the paper on the newsstand. There were a critical 10 seconds where you would make a decision to pick up the paper and buy it, or simply walk on past.
This precious real estate was often the make or break for a newspaper and the design of the paper was irrelevant to that purchasing decision as it was the content that sold the paper, not the font. With the digital age, when people dial up your website to learn about your business they are still making a decision about you, and whether to carry on reading. Though now we have even less time (three seconds if you’re lucky) for them to decide when they see the top part of your home page. We even still call this digital real estate above the fold! However, along with the significantly less time that you have to win over your potential customer, it’s also important to note that the decisions that the viewer is making are also different to the printed paper age.
Instead of deciding if the headline is worth paying to read more, the customer is deciding if that above the fold data will solve their problem.
Once you understand what problem they need solving (the need to buy, solve an issue, or be entertained) then you can better understand how much you’re losing if you don’t make the most of that above the fold homepage space.
State the purpose, not the obvious
One of the first things we change (or encourage our customers to change) is the way they think about their homepage statement. There is still a large number of websites that open with “welcome to our website”. While it’s friendly enough, it’s also an easy way out, because it eliminates the need for the business to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and state what they do. Because, as easy as this sounds, when it’s time to put it into words, sometimes the right words elude us.
While we’re on the subject, make sure that you are writing more about ’them’ and less about ‘you’. If your site is full of ‘we’s’ and ‘us’s’ then rewrite the content from a ‘what does this mean for me’ consumer perspective. For example, instead of saying “we have a lot of space for functions at our restaurant” you might write something like “your clients will be blown away by your next soiree”. See the tone change and intention, like their problem of finding an avenue, is already solved!
A homepage statement versus a tagline
The other temptation when writing a homepage statement is to use your tagline. After all, isn’t that what you paid your designer to write? However, while a tagline is designed to support your logo, the homepage statement offers something more. A tagline is designed to communicate either what you do (if not conveyed by the logo), or how you do it. A homepage statement assumes that the viewer already knows what you do, and offers the chance to lay down the values, tone or difference that your business will make in their lives.
Write the homepage last
Just as with the dreaded business plan, where we are encouraged to write the executive summary last, we should do so with the homepage. Why? Because for the reason above – once we’ve gathered our thoughts and written the rest of the content around pre-determined website pages such as products and services, about us (which most people dread writing) then the homepage simply becomes a summary of the most important pages you want people to read on your site. By the time you’ve gotten to the end of the content, you’ve had a chance to look at your business from your customers perspective and figured out what it is that you do for them, and so have a better understanding of what that homepage needs to say.
Write for humans first
When we write a webpage it’s easy to try to be to ‘digitally savvy’ and include an abundance of keywords and phrases right in the headline. However, while the SEO is designed to get people to your site, the headline is designed to persuade the user that they should do business with you. It’s almost impossible to write persuasively while still maintaining the correct keywords.
Write your headline as if you are actually talking to a human.
You’ll find that it might be very similar to your 60-second ‘elevator pitch’ that you’ve honed over time.
A picture says a thousand words
Often when writing a website we forget that the text is going to be supported by images. It’s important to have that imagery in mind when you write your homepage statement as the imagery will also set the tone for what you do. Hospitality, for example, should take the opportunity to display beautifully presented food that you offer, or show the decor of the venue – both images set the level of expectation that the customer will have when they enter your venue. Alternatively, if you are a store, then the homepage offers a great chance to match your products with a value statement that tells the story of those products.
It’s not all about the homepage
OK, what? Believe it or not, most search engines won’t direct your viewer to the homepage. Most people are searching to find a solution to a problem or to learn how to solve a problem, so Google will direct them to the page that best does this. Because you’ve tailored each page to fit a product, service or blog then that page will very likely be the one someone arrives at. Always write every page as if it’s the first interaction that someone has with your website. So, while your homepage headline needs to be generic enough to envelop how you can help, individual pages give you the opportunity to tailor a headline above the fold for each product.
Make sure that each page says more than ‘about us’ for example, for the about us page try something along the lines of (and this page you actually are allowed to use the word ‘we’) “We get a kick out of providing you with the best night out”.
Now, with all the information we’ve just thrown at you, don’t get overwhelmed as it takes practice to get your website just right. In fact, a website is there to be tinkered with. By using a great CMS like WordPress we encourage all our clients to tweak text and try out different headlines (and SEO headings for that matter) and as an added bonus, Google loves pages that are updated! If you’re not sure how to get started with your editor, or it’s been a while contact Norman or Casey to make an appointment for a refresh.