I’ve been focusing my attention on writing website copy lately, and I’ve noticed something: Home page copy represents some of the biggest lost opportunities on the web. Companies that are obsessed with SEO and attracting traffic drop the ball on their homepages, leaving customers confused, annoyed, or just plain unexcited.
I thought it might be useful to step into the shoes of those customers visiting your website and understand the questions they’re asking so that you can revisit your website to see where you might be leaving gaps.
1. Is this what I need? (What does this company do?)
The first thing a customer who lands on your website will try to determine is whether or not they’re in the right place – or, framed in a different way, whether or not you can solve the problem that they have. You’ve got nanoseconds to make it abundantly clear that you’ve got what they came for.
Answering this goes beyond just having your logo in the corner or your brand name prominently displayed – the messaging of your website needs to make it abundantly clear what you do.
Sometimes, I have to read that entire chunk of copy to figure out that this is, for instance,“growth management software”. And even then, I’m not sure what “growth management software”.
Now, a success:
While not perfect, Celoxis quickly establishes that this is project management software that can solve my need to manage, collaborate and share. They could seriously improve this copy (there’s not a lot here that tells me why I should choose them, other than that they are “feature rich”), but at very least I know that I’m headed in the right direction.
Here’s one more good example: Teamwork.com
Immediately, I’m aware that this is a solution for me if I want to manage my projects and team. Score!
2. Am I the target market? (Who is this for?)
One of the critical things a visitor is trying to determine in as short a time as possible is whether or not the product or service they’re looking at actually applies to people like them.
They’re actively trying to determine if they’ve arrived at a website with information that pertains specifically to their need. Without this confirmation (or if the question is left ambiguous) they’re likely to bounce.
There’s a few ways to handle answering this question: Implicitly (your headers and content make it obvious that your solution applies) or explicitly (naming your market in no uncertain terms). Let’s look at some examples of both:
First, the explicit: Kashflow.com calls out small business owners right in their headline, helping their audience to immediately self-select.
Now, the implicit: Freshbooks doesn’t come right out and say “Small businesses”, but they create descriptors that a reader can latch onto in seconds. “Non-Accountant” implies someone running a smaller operation who wants to manage their accounting, while the supporting claim of “5 million people using Freshbooks” makes it clear that the product applies to a broad demographic.
Did you notice what both sites have in common? In both cases, they use the page’s most coveted real-estate, the header, as the means of immediately telling people whether or not they belong where they’ve landed. And, as we’re about to see, the best home pages also use the header space to solve one more problem: communicating their unique value.
3. What makes them different? (What’s the unique value proposition?)
What is it that you’re promising your customers? Whatever it is, it needs to differentiate you from the competition. Customers are looking for a reason to make your offer the preference; they’re hunting for something that pops out and says, “here’s how we provide value in a way nobody else can”.
Lance Jones over at CopyHackers has some brilliant insights on how to tackle this, so I’m going to cherry pick him a little bit.
What the value proposition is NOT is a tagline or motto. “Quality by design” or “Working for you” are not valued propositions – they don’t adequately convey what it is that makes you different or better.
Value propositions are also not individual features of your product or the specs of whatever it is you have to offer. A value proposition needs to have a deeper, broader appeal to a customer value. In Lance’s words, a value proposition is:
“…an explicit promise of value to the reader about whatever you’re selling – a promise of something amazing, hopefully. It should quickly separate you from your competition.”
As I alluded to earlier, the headline becomes a critical touchpoint for communicating your UVP, because it’s the most looked at real-estate on the page. That makes conquering the headline all the more important.
According to the CopyHackers folks, a good UVP needs to be specific, promise something, have an element of uniqueness, be highly desirable to the customer and be believable.
Let’s look at CrazyEgg: There’s a ton at play here. The value proposition? It’s better than Google Analytics, perfect for appeasing C-level clients and ideal for when you’re considering a redesign. I also love how they go on to explicitly define who the tool is perfect for. This is a clear value proposition; when you read the copy, you get why it would make sense to use the tool.
4. Are they credible? (Why should I trust what they say?)
Trust is one of those invaluable things that you need to win from a client. There is a myriad of ways to prove you are trustworthy, but a few tips to getting this right:
- Use social proof. There’s nothing better than client-supplied testimonials and reviews to help establish trust – except for testimonials with headshots, names and titles. These little factors help determine that the reviews themselves are trustworthy and not doctored.
- Appeal to certifiable metrics and majorities. Got a massive userbase? Have some proven numbers from case studies? Sharing these figures with your visitors appeals to the rational parts of their brain, helping to justify what is typically an emotional purchase decision.
- Easily accessible contact information. How can someone get in touch? Even if they’ll never need to pick up a phone and call you, it puts customers at ease to see that you have a business address and phone number (and that you’re not some shell company).
- Design matters. If your website is dated and ugly, it reflects back on your business. Customers have developer heuristics that automatically assign the quality of untrustworthiness to poor design; don’t let your poor image hinder your chances.
- Support claims (and keep them believable). If you’re making bold claims, it helps to cite them – or link to where someone can verify what you’re talking about. Also, avoid hyperbole. If you’re not the “world’s best” or you won’t save them “millions”, it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose statements that are compelling, but true.
- Avoid stock photos of people. You can’t preach “personal touch” and “caring about the customer” in your copy and then show the faces of a bunch of people staring into a monitor from iStock. Use your own faces and photos to prove there’s a pulse inside the business.
Don’t leave your visitors in the dark.
There are a lot of things that keep sites from answering these questions, whether it’s getting too cute with a copy or even failing to have defined what your unique value proposition is.
Take a look at your own homepage and ask yourself – are we answering all of these questions in 5 seconds or less? If not, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
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