How to Write a Website Homepage
The following is an edited version of the “How to Write a Website Homepage” chapter from my upcoming ebook. To make sure you don’t miss out on its release, subscribe to the 603 Copywriting newsletter. It comes out once a month, and you get free content that I don’t publish anywhere else. Isn’t that nice?
Chapter Four: How to Write a Website Homepage
Your website’s homepage is probably the most important thing you’ll write.
It serves as the main point of entry for a whole host of potential customers, and it needs to grab attention at a crucial part of your sales process.
Your homepage has to look inwards to explain who you are, what you do, and how you do it. It needs to look outwards to tell your readers you understand their problems and how to solve them. And as the most authoritative and important page as far as the search engines are concerned, it needs to make an impact if you’re to have any SEO success.
No pressure then.
So then, let’s look at how to write a website homepage.
You just do it like this.
What Your Homepage Needs to Do
There’s a lot going on with a good homepage. You know that, because you read that chunky paragraph up there. So let’s unpack it and see exactly what you need to do.
Explain Who You Are
Unless they’ve landed on an internal page they found through a search engine query, your visitors are usually going to see your homepage first. But they probably won’t know who you are, or if they’re in the right place.
Making it clear who your visitor is dealing with is your homepage’s first key task.
Explain What You Do
Knowing who you are isn’t enough. After all, this reader isn’t here to make friends. They’re here for a product, or a service, and they need that extra bit of reassurance that you’re in the right place.
So the next thing on your checklist is explaining what it is that you do.
Explain How You Do It
If selling online was as simple as stating what you do, you’d have no reason to read this book. Your reader’s going to need to know how you do what you do. You sell novelty hats? Do you sell them online, or do they need a supplier? You provide maths tuition? Is that at your office, at their home, or in a school?
Be clear about how they can get their hands on the products you sell, or how they can take you up on the services you offer.
So far we’ve been looking inward at your business. Next on the checklist is looking outwards at your customer. If you’re going to make that connection – and you need to make that connection – it’s time to show you understand them.
Think about why someone will need your product or service. The problems they face. We’ll weave that into the copy when we get to writing the page in full.
Demonstrate a Solution
It’s all well and good understanding a problem, but that client’s not here for a shoulder to cry on. They’re here for solutions. Luckily, you’re in the solutions business. Take that problem you’ve identified, and work out how your problem or solution solves it.
Connecting with a client’s not rocket science. They’ve got a problem, you’ve got the solution and suddenly they have every reason to start listening to what you say.
Have an SEO Impact
In this blog post on how to plan a website, I pointed you towards resources to help you work out the best SEO key phrases to target on your website. Well, now it’s time to put those key phrases to work.
As far as Google (or Bing, or Ask Jeeves) is concerned, your homepage is the most important, most authoritative page on your website. So this is where your most important, most lucrative keyword will go. It’ll give you the best chance of winning that ranking.
That all seems straightforward. Your homepage has a couple of jobs to do, and your copy needs to make sure it addresses each of the points raised above.
Time to start writing, right?
Right. Sort of. Writing a web page isn’t like writing a free-form letter. You’re going to need to structure it in a specific way to make sure all of these points are covered in a way that hooks your reader and attracts attention from the search engines.
If you want to write a winning homepage, it’s time to go back to that word structure.
The Anatomy of Your Website Homepage
Let’s get something clear. Going through those points above one-by-one won’t result in a great website homepage. That’s because a significant percentage of your audience won’t ever read the whole thing. So we need to make sure we’re giving the most impatient people everything they need up front, and those who want more information a bit more meat further along.
Oh, and then there’s a section of your homepage that’s just for the search engines.
Over the past decade, I’ve come up with a solid structure that makes writing a homepage pretty simple. If you follow along, you should find it simple too:
1: The Headline, Where You Shout About Your Problem Solving Ability
2: The sub-headline, where you add some important information about your business along with your SEO key phrase
If you’re worried about your ability to write compelling headlines, you’re not alone. Copyblogger.com has some great resources on headlines, and they’re still as useful today as when I relied on them as a junior copywriter!
3: The opening hook, where you go straight for the reader’s attention by demonstrating that you understand the problem that they’re experiencing and that you have a solution. A a little bit about how that solution works, and then explain that you can be trusted because of who you are and what you do. You might even sweeten the pot with information about a free trial or a discount. Make sure that before you end this section, you’ve mentioned your SEO key phrase.
5: The second sub-headline where you speak to your reader about their problem
6: The part where you get deep into it with your reader. If they’re still here, they want to know more. Start by outlining their problem in detail. Don’t just say “you’re overpaying” or “you’re underperforming.” Use detail. Facts, Evidence.
Don’t be afraid of using a few paragraphs here to really make your point clear.
- Bullet points also help
- They’re easy to read
- They break up blocks of text
- They force you to get to the point
Once that problem is firmly in the client’s mind, deconstruct it step-by-step by applying your product or service’s solution. You can also work in an internal link to one of your cornerstone pages. Maybe add something similar to your SEO phrase at about this point, just for Google, but don’t let it distract from your message. You are the solution to their problem.
7: The third sub-headline where you turn the conversation to your business
8: Now it’s time to build some trust. In this section, we’re going to gently steer the conversation towards your business. Focus on the main reasons people should trust you. Your experience. Your expertise, especially if you have any qualifications, and of course some reassurance that you’ve helped people just like them before. Plus let them know that they can learn all about you on your about us page.
Wondering how to segue? Tried and tested lines like “Sounds too easy to be true? It’s only easy if you know, and we know because we’ve done this for over a decade” disarm your readers and start them thinking about who you are. It’s simple, it’s verging on the cliché, but it works. And let’s face it, you want to know how to write a website homepage that works, not one that will have jaded marketing hacks like me gushing over how fresh it is.
9: Speaking of people you’ve helped, here’s a great place for some social proof. A testimonial (although I like to work those into website footers too), a review widget with five lovely stars – anything you’ve got that demonstrates your value.
10: And now the end is near. Sign off with another repetition of your SEO key phrase, along with an explanation of how exactly they can buy your products or make use of your services. A list of stockists, a few contact options, all capped off by…
11: That final call, email or buy call-to-action.
Keep an eye out for this structure. Once you start seeing versions of it on website index pages, you’ll be able to smile to yourself and think “I know how that works.” Because you’ll know how to write a website homepage.
WAIT! WHAT ABOUT THE BIT FOR GOOGLE?!
Almost forgot. As you’ve seen with the mentions of your key phrase in the sections above, we’ve worked in some SEO into the body copy. But there are three more things you need to add.
In the head section, you should add:
<title>A 50-60 Character Page Title With Your SEO Key Phrase</title> <meta name="description" content="A short description of up to 160(ish) characters which includes your key phrase and a call to action.">
And then on any pictures, add the following “alt” tag as shown here:
<img src="yourpicture.jpg" alt="A short description with your SEO key phrase if possible" height="X" width="Y">
The developer using your website should be able to help. If you’re using WordPress, then the picture uploader lets you set your alt tags whenever you add a new image to the site, and the Yoast SEO plugin lets you change the page title and description.
It’s all simple, when you know how!
Speaking of which, there’s something else you should now know how to do…
How to Actually Write a Website Homepage
You know how to write a website homepage. You know what you need to work out first, you know what your clients are looking for, and you know what information needs to go where. All that you need to do is write it up. Be compelling, be convincing, and always be honest.
If you’re still stuck, remember that just because your clients will see this page first doesn’t mean you need to write it first. If you’re stuck, follow one of the wonderful Sue Keogh’s tips for better homepage copy and write it last. That way, you’ll have already honed your messages on the inner pages first!
If you’re wondering where you could start, the next chapter of the ebook is all about something all business owners like to do after a beer or two. Tell our stories. So pour yourself a drink. It’s time to see how to write an about us page!
Chapter Four in Summary
Your homepage is probably going to be the first thing any client sees, so it’s got some heavy lifting to do.
When considering how to write a website homepage, you need to explain:
Who you are
What you do
How you do it
The issues your clients have
How you solve them
And then it needs to do a little bit extra for Google to keep that traffic flowing.
By frontloading your page with hooks and compelling information, you’ll entice busy people who won’t read the whole thing, while the rest of the page is used to reassure those who are looking for information.
Many effective homepages follow a similar structure, which you’ll when you download my ebook. By using the cheat sheet after the chapter on how to write a website homepage, you’ll be able to write a page that simply and quickly gets all that important information across.
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