Important tips for adding content to your website

10 Rules for Writing Your Home Page

By Susan Greene

Because the home page is the first page most of your visitors will see, it’s also the most important page. Its purpose is to grab the readers’ attention and help them find information quickly and easily. If your home page lacks facts or is confusing, your visitors will click off before they ever gets a chance to know you. Here are some tips for ensuring your home page is effective:

1. Keep it concise.
Today’s web surfer has a short attention span. The home page needs to cut to the chase or risk losing the reader. Don’t waste a lot of time giving details and background.

Tell the visitor what your website is all about right off the top. Make it concise and focused. A good size is 200 to 250 words. That should give you enough space to tout your biggest benefits and also encompass those all-important keywords. Save lengthy, detailed copy for inner pages.

2. Use keywords.
Search engines use keywords to determine where to place you in their directories. Make sure you write your home page to include the words you most associate with your business and, more importantly, that your prospects likely associate with your business. You need words, the right words. That’s why flash sites and graphics-only sites do not perform as well on search engines as sites with keyword-rich copy.

Take some time to brainstorm what keyword phrases best describe your offerings. Don't know what search queries might be used to reach your site? Go to where you can actually test your keywords and get suggestions for related terms. Also, do keyword research through various search engines.

Get feedback from customers, suppliers, sales people and friends. And don’t forget to check your competitors’ websites. How do they describe their products or services? Now determine what will work best for you.

3. Write copy from the reader’s viewpoint.
First you must know your reader. What is most likely to interest him? Visitors are looking for the answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?” They don’t want to read company profiles or lengthy corporate histories. They may want to learn more later, but first they want to know that you’re offering something that they want.

Here’s a quick test you can do to see if your copy is reader-oriented. Count how many times you use the terms “I” and “we.” Next count how many times you use the terms “you” and “your.” If the “I’s” and “we’s” outnumber the “you’s” and “yours,” you’re likely to lose your reader.

4. Provide specifics, focusing on benefits, not features.
Rather than giving broad generalizations about features such as, “Our machine is fast,” it’s better to make strong, specific benefit statements like, “Our machine will increase your productivity by as much as 25%.”

5. Simplify navigation.
Your visitors should be able to instantly determine where to click on your site to locate the information they want. Hyperlinks should be easy to find. Use good descriptive phrases for labeling buttons.

6. Personalize your approach.
More people will buy from you when they feel you are talking directly to them about their individual needs. Make your copy friendly and conversational. Despite what you were taught in Freshmen English, it’s okay to write in second person. As mentioned earlier, sprinkling the words “you” and “your” throughout your copy will personalize your approach.

7. Use headlines and subheads.
Big blocks of copy turn readers off. Use catchy headlines and informative subheads to break up long-winded paragraphs and guide the reader. It’s a good idea to use keywords in your headlines and subheads whenever possible as their prominence can help boost your position on search engines.

8. Sound enthusiastic, but don’t go overboard.
Readers are pretty savvy these days. They’re also pretty skeptical. If your copy is filled with obvious exaggerations, you’ll lose their trust. For the same reason, don’t fill your copy with exclamation points, bolding, underlining and too many font styles and colors. Use these eye-catching techniques with discretion. A hyped-up home page will decrease believability. Instead, mix an equal portion of enthusiasm with believability, and you’ll see results.

9. Proofread your copy.
It’s easy to find errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation on the Internet. We’ve all seen them. But that doesn’t make them right. Nothing detracts more from your professionalism than misspelled words or sentences that don’t make sense. Proofread your work, and ask others to do it too. An extra set of eyes may catch mistakes you miss.

10. Make sure your design is professional.
First impressions count, even on the Internet. Be sure that your online image, particularly your home page, conveys professionalism or you’ll lose the visitor’s trust. Your site doesn’t need to have glitzy graphics and expensive flash screens, but it also shouldn’t look like it was designed by your 13-year-old nephew.

Reprinted with permission
Susan Greene is a freelance copywriter located in the Orlando, Central Florida area.

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