Writing the homepage text for a website is not the same as writing a report, a brochure, a memo, or anything else except the text for a home page.
First, you have to have the right information for the search engines, so they will offer you to the right visitors.
Most visitors will take a few moments to scan the page for the answer to a question — often, “Am I in the right place? Is it worth reading this page?”
Those who decide to stay will now usually scan to see whether your company offers what they want, and look for specific information, such as services, pricing, or the answer to a very specific question, such as, “Can I afford solar energy?”
At least, in the case of this example, it might be a question about solar energy. I’m using our forthcoming site for Rocky Grove Sun Company as an example, but what I’m saying here will apply to your site, as well.
First, you have to have the answer to, “What do you offer and how can I get it?” For Rocky Grove, we have that information in the upper right hand corner, as you see above. It’s clear, with short, scannable sentences, so people can tell immediately that they’re in the right place.
We have the contact information in the top right corner, where people now expect to find it. Most of us now use the internet as a phone book, so that should be in a predictable place for instant access.
That top section also contains the important keywords for our site. The top left corner has the name and logo of the company, and then a rotating gallery which will have our keywords in the meta text. This will help search engines to find us.
Now we’re found and our visitors have seen what we’re about, we can think about conversion. The three photos will draw our visitors’ eyes across the page, so the captions should make sense read left to right. However, they also have to stand alone for visitors who focus in on one picture.
Our first caption mentions the money saved by a large installation, pointing out also that it was a stop on a national solar power tour. This addresses a common concern visitors have, and shows the authority of the company. We’re using some major keywords here, too.
The central caption lists the benefits of using renewable energy in residential situations, and uses “renewable energy,” an important keyword.
The last caption points out the benefits of using renewable energy in commercial settings, reaching the second important audience for the company.
All three of these captions are directed toward the consumer who is thinking about solar energy, clarifying the benefits of going solar in terms of the concerns these early-stage shoppers are likely to have.
The photo panel also makes the point that Rocky Grove serves residential and commercial customers, and that they have the capacity to do very large installations as well as smaller ones.
You never want to leave your visitors wondering whether you serve their demographic or not. Rocky Grove wants commercial customers to know that they do commercial jobs, and they want people with big jobs to know that they can do big jobs.
You also want to make it clear what you don’t do. Rocky Grove doesn’t offer biofuels for cars, so we have nothing here about biofuels. If we had been vague and written a lot about alternative energy sources and used a stock photo of a field here, Rocky Grove might have ended up fielding calls for all sorts of things they don’t really do.
I think most readers would be surprised by how often site testers look at “before” sites and are unable to answer the question, “What does this company do?”
We finish up with quite a bit of text under the pictures. Many of our visitors won’t get this far; they will either have made up their minds to call the company or they’ll have gotten intrigued by something else and clicked on to another page.
Does that mean that we can put any old thing here as long as it has our keywords in it? Nope.
First, while hardly anyone will read every word, every word will be read by someone. It all has to be worth reading. We’ve listed things like the NABCEP certification of the installers at Rocky Grove, their experience, their focus on quality control — things that will help readers who’ve decided on solar energy feel confident about choosing this company.
Second, search engines make every effort to offer the best possible content to their customers — the people searching. Robots can’t make judgments about literary worth, but they can tell when there’s a spelling error, poor grammar, duplicate content, or random string of words.
The final point to consider when you’re deciding whether or not your home page makes its point is that humans, not algorithms, give valuable links to your website. You’re writing for the search engines, certainly, and you’re writing for the potential customers visiting your website, but you should also be writing for people who will like your site enough and read it closely enough to want to share it with other people.
Your home page has to have a point, and to make that point. That’s its job.
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