So your web designer just asked you a question that you weren’t prepared to answer—and looking back, you can’t believe you hadn’t thought it through before: “What do you want your website to say?”
Most of us don’t think about the words on our website before we consider design. After all, the digital world is first consumed visually, through images and videos. When we make Pinterest boards of “website inspo,” we’re typically curating based on the aesthetic, not what the sites are selling or explaining or informing.
But ultimately, the point of having a website is to say something. A beautiful website that says little or is written poorly is like a traditional place of business that has an Instagram-worthy interior, but no personnel or helpful signage. Walk-ins aren’t buying and everyone is confused. What does this business do? Why should I care? Who knows! *Admires the furniture, snaps a photo, leaves.*
In the world of online business, your website is your storefront, even if your business is info-based or service-based. The words on your home page are your first (and often only) opportunity to clearly state what you offer, why it’s valuable and different, and what visitors should do.
Confusing, vague, cookie-cutter, or simply not compelling messaging on your home page means that all that work you put into driving traffic to your site (via ads, social media, word of mouth, or SEO efforts) is going to waste. Yikes!
So, when your designer asks you, “What do you want your website to say?” it’s in your best interest to think carefully before you respond. Fortunately, there are some strategies for what to write on your home page that work for most types of businesses.
If you’re stuck on what to say, here are my tips for what to write on your home page
The must-haves (in typical order of arrangement on your site)
The first words on your website should say what you offer + why it’s good for the people who buy it. For example, Den Pope is a wedding speech writer (yup, read that right), and his headline leaves nothing to guess about what he offers and how it helps you: “Get a Killer Original Wedding Speech & Nail It Without Stress.”
Your subhead is your chance to elaborate on your headline, sharing more specifically what you offer or who you offer it for.
Here’s a good example from robyn young & co, a branding agency: After their headline, they include a longer subhead that reads “We’re a full-service branding agency for startups and businesses looking for a results-driven, lean approach to connect to new audiences, differentiate from those pesky competitors, and sell more products or services.” Their subhead clarifies who they serve and how.
Three big benefits your offering provides
Think big but specific. Your benefits should answer the question, “How do my customers’ lives get better after they buy my service or product?” Often, these three benefits are arranged horizontally for easy reading.
Why three? Just because it’s enough to make people think, “Wow that’s a lot of good stuff!” but not too many that readers start to get bored.
For example, CAUSEBOX lists the three big benefits customers receive on their home page.
A short introduction to you or your company
Don’t forget to tell people who you are or what your company is about, even if you already have an about page. This is the first time many people will be introduced to you, so give them a quick rundown of what you’re about.
For inspiration, check out Wild Side Design Co. The visual branding and web design company has a section on their home page that shares a brief version of the company’s origin and ethos, beginning with “Built from a spirit of adventure & entrepreneurship…”
Social proof is what you use to back up your claims. It lets people know that other people are trusting your company (and you’re not just talking out your arse).
- Logos of brands you’ve worked with
For a good example, check out the impressive “Clients I’ve worked with” logo section on the home page for a scientific illustrator.
Calls to action (CTA)
You must direct your reader to do something, whether it’s hire you, buy your product, or simply learn more. A good rule of thumb is to have one CTA after your subhead, and sprinkle in at least two more throughout the page.
The optional add-ons (depending on your business)
A “how it works” section if your service or product is somewhat complex
This section is great for service-based businesses or products that are somewhat complex. Marie Forleo’s B School website has a good example of this, a section titled “How does B-school work?”
Services or product features list
Do you offer multiple types of core services? If so, it’s a good idea to list them out on your home page (as long you don’t have over five—that’s too many to really comprehend right away).
Verdi Advising, a financial coaching service, lists their five types of services on their home page: Online courses, group coaching, individual coaching, and workshops.
Results you’ve gotten
Do you offer a service that’s measurable? If so, get your awesome results on your home page. For example, check out the results section on the homepage of a conversion copywriter for SaaS companies.
An introductory offer (such as, “Download my free eBook on…”)
Your home page is a great place to offer a “free something.” The goal is to either grab an email address for your list or just garner goodwill with a potential client or customer, and start driving new business to your door.
Sohuis (hey, that’s this website!) does this really well, offering two free resources right away on the home page.
Acknowledgement of your reader’s common pain points
If you have a place to write a small narrative, use it to mention your reader’s common pain points.
For an example, look at this lawyer’s website. On the home page, she writes, “Building your business is no small undertaking. You’re constantly learning and growing…not to mention all of the day-to-day tasks you’re handling – marketing, advertising, branding, insurance, accounting, planning, finances, customer service, hiring employees – you do it all! Do you really want to be your own business lawyer, too?”
Links to recent work (such as a blog or portfolio)
Do you offer a creative service like design or photography? If you do, your home page can direct people to view your best work. Make it easy for visitors to view what they’re probably looking for anyway. For example, this web designer showcases images of her latest work, with a directive to view more at her portfolio page.
Cost of your service or product
If you offer a product (even a digital one—like a course), you should include the cost on your home page. If you offer a service, you should include the cost upfront only if your clients are price-conscious OR if you want to weed out leads who can’t afford you.
A list of types of customers or clients who would most benefit from what you offer
Including a list of people who would benefit from your service or product is a way to reassure potential customers that they are in the right place. Or, you can include who you don’t work with/who shouldn’t buy your products. In a weird way, this also helps solidify the decision for the right people.
For instance, this SEO course lists the people whom the course is for: “For small business owners, solopreneurs, ecommerce store owners and bloggers.”
Aim for clarity and specificity every step of the way
When you’re DIY-ing your homepage copy, you should aim to be as clear and specific as possible to avoid the common pitfalls of bad website writing. Namely, clichés, vague statements, and confusion.
Once you’ve got your message super clear, you can start playing around with being creative and infusing your copy with your personality.
Content courtesy of Krista Walsh, creative copywriting for purpose-driven companies and passionate people
Contributing Author, Krista Walsh
Krista Walsh writes website copy, blog posts, and product descriptions for small eCommerce companies and service-based solopreneurs. Her writing and messaging strategies help her clients speak to their customers’ values and emotions, for meaningful sales.
In her free time, she writes about purpose-driven business and freelance life at kristawalshcopywriter.com. On the off chance she’s not writing, she’s volunteering to walk the big ole’ dogs over at the Dog Café LA or watching (pretty bad honestly) TV dramas on Netflix.
Connect with Krista through her website, Krista Walsh Copywriter