Home pages can be tricky things to write. There seems to be so much riding on your home page, and you want to make sure you get it 'right'.
Yet often you are often not even sure what right is.
I've written a lot of home pages in my time, and the one thing I can tell you for certain is that there is no set formula for success.
They are all different, and there is no step-by-step guide that you can follow for the perfect home page.
There are certain factors that you should consider when you create your home page … IF they make sense to your business and goals.
So rather than creating a list of features that you must include in your home page, here is a list of considerations and recommendations to keep in mind.
Get to the Point
The home page is no place to ramble, so don't waste space with a long but pointless welcome.
Not only does it waste prime real estate, but you'll do nothing to distinguish your site from the millions of others if you start with a big bold 'Welcome'.
Cut out the fluff, and get straight down to business.
That usually means a headline that clearly communicates your main value proposition.
My headline is: "Win more business with copy that pulls all the right emotional levers".
I feel that this not only says clearly what I do (copywriting), but that it also communicates my primary benefit: you will get more business by using my service.
That's what I want people to know as soon as they arrive on my site. Then they will either be attracted by the prospect of getting more business, or they will realise they are in the wrong place and promptly leave.
You'll notice too that this is all above the fold (visible as soon as you arrive on the page without any need to scroll further down).
I'm a big believer in putting your key benefit or value proposition right up there as the first thing visitors see.
The reason is that when people land on your site, they are inevitably looking for something. Whether they've found your page in the search engines or by clicking a link, they want something – and you should make it abundantly clear to them whether they are in the right place at first glance.
If you can clearly communicate what your site is all about, and why it is better than the other similar sites, and get it all in above the fold … you'll be off to a cracking start.
Go into More Detail with a Subheading
So you've got their attention. Great. That's what a good headline should do.
This is something I recommend for all home pages, no matter what you do, what you sell or who you sell it to.
But now you'll have to use your judgement as to what comes next.
Because some home pages contain nothing more than a headline and a link to another page (e.g. a key service page, the contact page, or a CTA to try out their product for free – more on this later).
Just look at the CrazyEgg home page:
How's that for minimalism?
In my experience, unless you are going for this minimal look, it never hurts to have a further explanatory subheading and intro.
After all, value propositions are not always easy – or even possible – to communicate in a few words.
Place the subheading directly below the headline so it follows on from it, and use it to add further information about what you do and, crucially, how your prospects will benefit from it.
Include a CTA (or Two)
The role of the home page is not typically to convert. The standard home page is not a landing page, but a hub page that leads visitors into your site.
It's the gateway to your website.
But there are exceptions to this rule (as seen above with the CrazyEgg example).
Even if your home page is a more standard hub page, a CTA is still a good idea.
I have a button saying "Get a Free Quote" right at the top of my page under the headline. This is because some people arrive on my site knowing that they want a quote, so I make it easy for them.
Other people won't want a quote straight away. They want to read about what I provide, maybe check out the blog and find out whether I'm up to their high standards.
I then provide another CTA at the bottom of the page for them – again to get a free quote.
As for lead capture, you have to decide if this is a goal of your home page. I include lead-capture forms throughout my website because I want to get as many visitors as possible signing up to my email list.
Once on my list, subscribers receive regular emails with useful tips that they can put into practice, showing my skills as a writer and keeping me top-of-mind.
This is a way for me to remind them that I exist and to start building a relationship with them so that in a few months, or even years, when they are looking for a copywriter, they know who to go to.
Depending on the type of business you run, a lot of visitors will not be ready to hire or buy from you the first time they land on your site.
Seeing as for many visitors the home page is the first encounter they will have with your business, it can make sense to add a lead-capture form.
Get the Tone Right
What exactly is the 'right' tone?
There is no answer to that, and it depends entirely on your business. What is your brand image? Fun and funky? Serious and professional?
Make this clear in everything you say, right from the first word on your home page.
Do you say 'We Create Rocking Websites' or 'Choose us for Modern, Fast-Loading Websites'?
Whatever your branding, the human touch is crucial in your copy. This is always the case, but it's even more important on your home page.
Write to real people. If you're self-employed, write in your own voice. If it's a company site, include a message from the CEO along with an image. Perhaps add a photo of the team.
A personal tone builds trust. Don't worry about trying to sound 'professional'. That often ends up bland and sounding just the same as all the other 'professional' websites.
But you don't have to go the other way and throw in lots of 'hey there's' and 'howdy's'.
Remember that most people arriving on your home page will not know you, or anything about you. You are a stranger to them. The way you speak to them through your copy will build trust.
And they want to know that they can trust you to deliver.
Visitors will take in everything when they arrive on your site, and they will make snap judgements based on what they see and read, whether consciously or not.
Make sure they make the right judgement by getting your tone right from the first word.
Avoid Generic Language
Following on from that, do everything possible to avoid generic language and clichéd phrases in your home page. In fact, try to avoid this with any of your copy, but especially on the home page.
You know the sort. Those well-worn words and phrases like:
Hubspot's got a fantastic post on this topic that's well worth reading.
People use these phrases because they feel comfortable using them. After all, these are phrases that so many other companies use that they sound 'right'.
Whenever you spot one of these cropping up in your home page, strike it out immediately. Instead of generalisations that mean nothing, be specific.
Tell your visitor exactly how you will help them. What makes your service better. What they can expect.
Don't fill up space with words that mean nothing. Make your copy – and your home page – stand out from the rest and clearly state what makes you different and better.
Add in Some Social Proof
Talking about trust and making your prospect feel comfortable, it never hurts to add in some social proof to your home page.
I've talked about how this is essential on landing pages, but it's just as useful on your home page.
Nothing builds trust faster than a few stunning testimonials, or perhaps some trust symbols.
You could even mention your 10,000 email subscribers or show off the associations you are a member of.
All of this forms part of that snap judgement I just talked about. So make use of it where you can.
Make It Easy to Scan
This is an age-old internet copywriting rule, but it deserves a quick mention.
If someone arrives on your home page and sees a wall of text, the chances are that they won't want to read it all.
Copy is good, even lengthy copy. But split it up and make it easy on the eye. Break it up with subheadings, throw in some images, add links and buttons.
Make it easy for anyone to see exactly what is going on rather than just a block of text.
Draw the Visitor In
The home page has a unique role to play on your website because it is the hub of your site. It is the entry point, and its role is to draw visitors in and point them in the right direction.
Part of this comes down to good design. A clear navigation will enable visitors to find exactly what they are looking for with a couple of clicks.
But it also comes down to the copy you write.
As well as linking to the main pages of your site in the navigation, you can add links throughout the home page where it makes sense.
I link to my contact page to get a quote, as well as my main service pages along with a paragraph of copy explaining the benefits of those services. I also provide links to a few blogs in case visitors are not yet ready to get a quote.
So think over the main actions that visitors to your site would want to take, whether that is searching for a product, reading up on a service or contacting you.
Them make it easy for them to take those actions as soon as they land on your home page.
Focus on the Prospect
Finally, remember at all times when creating your home page that it's all about your prospect.
It's not about you or your company. And while there is room to talk about your company, what you do and why you do it, the focus should always be on how it helps your customer.
How what you do makes their life better.
Write to "you", your customer, as if they were the only one. And while it's fine to mention "We" and "I" in your copy, be sparing with it and put most of the focus on how your products and services benefit your customers.
Plan the Perfect Home Page
Home pages can be tricky things to get right. And like I said, there is no formula for the perfect page.
But keep all the above in mind when creating your home page, and you'll be doing better than the vast majority of other websites – including your competitors.