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Is Your Home Page Holding Your Website Back?

copywriting | home pages
Woman in a yellow top holds both her arms up in a "heck yes" stance as she looks at her epic home page on her laptop.

My website has been through so many iterations over the last 12 years I’ve run my business. Honestly, I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s been re-written, re-designed and rebuilt. I can’t be the only one. For me, a website is a living, breathing thing. It’s always changing and always evolving as your business changes, grows and evolves. So it stands to reason that if you’ve got a DIY website, or you’re confident about your website’s platform, then you’re probably always tweaking it, adding things in and taking things out again. I say all this not as an attempt to shame you. I am ALWAYS doing this with my website (to the point where my husband rolls his eyes every time I say “I just need to tweak this one thing on my website”). The thing is (and the ultimate point I’m making here)… it’s all well and good making those changes but if your home page isn’t up to par, then it’s really all just a waste of time.

Your home page is the single most important page of your website. Yes, even more than your sales pages, work with me page or your contact page. If people don’t get past your home page, then what’s the point of all of the rest of your website?! So, I ask you this and I want you to answer it honestly. Is your home page holding your website back? If you think it could be, even just a little bit, then stick around because this mammoth blog post is going to show you everything you need to know.

Woman in a yellow top holds both her arms up in a "heck yes" stance as she looks at her epic home page on her laptop.

Here’s what I’m going to be covering: 

  1. What is a home page and why is it important?
  2. What’s the goal of your home page?
  3. Making a great first impression
  4. The 12 key elements of a home page
  5. The shop window analogy
  6. How to attract the right people to come into your website
  7. Your home page is a treasure map
  8. Start building trust on your home page
  9. A few words about SEO
  10. Continuing the relationship
  11. The Home Page Copy Review freebie

So, shall we get started?

What is a home page and why is it important?

Yes, I stated that your home page is the number one most important page on your website. And I mean that. All your other pages have their own levels of importance, don’t get me wrong. But if your home page isn’t doing what’s it meant to do, then none of those other pages matter because no one will ever see them. 

First up, let’s be clear about what a home page is. Because I often see a variety of different pages that call themselves a home page and—truth bomb—they’re really not. 

There are a whole bunch of definitions I found when doing a quick Google search on this question. But my favourite response, because of its absolute clarity, comes from the dictionary (and you can’t get much clearer than that, can you?). It states that a home page is: “the introductory page of a website, typically serving as a table of contents for the site.” 

That’s it. As simple as that. Here’s what a home page ISN’T: 

  • A sales page
  • A single image with no copy
  • A page that’s all about you

And why is it so important? 

Because it has to make an incredible first impression. For many of your visitors, it’ll be the first page of your website they’ll arrive on. And for those who land somewhere else, more than a third of them will navigate to your home page next to see who you are, what you do and how you do it.

A woman with majestic hair and wearing yellow dungarees gives a huge smile and waves brightly at someone on Zoom.

Your home page has one ultimate goal

And that’s to capture the attention of your visitors and help them decide, in record-fast time, whether this is the place they need to be and where they need to go next. 

Back in December 2022, I shared some eye-watering facts about how we use the internet and how quickly we make decisions based on what we see. To briefly recap: 

👉🏻 In the USA, the average person visits around 100 website pages DAILY. 

👉🏻 On average, people allow a website a gracious and leisurely 10 seconds to capture our attention. But we actually take just 50 milliseconds to form an opinion about a website based on appearance alone. That’s around half a blink, for context.

👉🏻 We’ve come to expect a website to load up in about three seconds before we give up and move on. 

👉🏻 And almost three-quarters of small business websites don’t have a single call to action on their home page (which is a fact I find truly horrifying). 

What these facts and figures show is that we are an impatient bunch and that means if your home page isn’t optimised to work with these stats, then you’re probably seeing a bounce rate that our favourite hyper, orange tiger would be super proud of (but that’s not a good thing). 

Now can you see why this page is so important? 

Is it “home page” or “homepage”?

Without getting all word-nerdy about it, both forms are entirely acceptable. The dictionary still lists it as “home page” (and that’s my personal preference) but whatever. Language is fluid and evolving—much like your first page on your website—so “homepage” is entirely acceptable too. Just don’t get me started on Oxford commas! 

How much copy does a home page need?

Not nearly as much as you might think. 

What’s truly beautiful about a home page is that it’s a starting place, a jumping-off point, to help guide visitors to the areas of your website that they need to be in. So while there are a lot of sections needed, copy can be kept relatively low here. Remember what I said earlier… your home page isn’t a sales page! You’re not trying to make a sale here or to use all your persuasive tactics. Ultimately, your aim is to show people what you offer, who you serve, how you solve their problems and, if you’re a location-based business (i.e. you see clients in person so they need to be relatively close by), where in the world you are.

So, it’s not about lots of copy, but it is about the RIGHT copy and how that supports people through the journey that is your website. 

Making a first impression above the fold

A laptop sits on a desk in a beautiful office full of plants with a lovely website on show.

So, as I said, you’ve got just three seconds to make a great first impression and help people decide if your website is the place for them or not. That’s not a lot of time at all (grab a watch or your phone’s timer and see it in action!) and yet something really important has to happen at that moment. What can you realistically do in just three seconds? Again, the interwebz helped me out with this. You could: 

  • Take a deep breath
  • Blink a few times
  • Jot down a quick note

In terms of your home page though, in those three seconds, you need to catch the attention of your visitors, reassure them that they’re in the right place and intrigue them enough to stick around for a little bit longer and learn more. It’s a big ask. Huge. But it is possible.

It all relies on you using the “above the fold” section of your website very strategically. And you have to quickly understand one thing… all the work and effort is on you right now. You have to make that great first impression, capture the attention of your visitors and entice them to stay without expecting them to lift a finger.

That means don’t expect them to scroll in those first few seconds for them to find out what they want to know. Don’t expect them to click on anything (those of you with websites that begin with a splash page and a button that says “enter here” a la early 2000s, listen up and ditch that page pronto!). And whatever you do… DON’T confuse them. All those things will only result in one outcome… them clicking off your website, likely never to be seen again.

So yes, all the hard work needs to start here, above the fold. By which I mean that single screen size section that sits at the very top of your home page and is the first thing that loads up for them to see. 

The Hero Statement

The main header, welcome message, home page statement and a whole bunch of other names besides, the hero statement is categorically some of the most important copy on your entire website. 

I like the name “hero statement”. It kind of has multiple meanings for me and I’m all for a double or triple entendre even if it’s not naughty. For me, it represents both my audience as the hero and then myself and what I offer. It’s no wonder it has a level of importance on the page. It has a heck of a job to do!

A typical hero statement has several parts. 

1. The headline

The largest piece of text you’ll see at the top of the page. This is the piece of copy that needs to be the catchiest but also the clearest so that people aren’t wondering what it means. 

2. The subheading

A short paragraph or statement that supports the main headline. You can fill this out with a little more detail so there’s absolutely no doubt about the meaning you want to get across. 

3. A call-to-action button

The first of many CTAs on the home page, this one is all about capturing those people who: 

  1. Have visited your website before and know they’re ready to get straight to the matter at hand
  2. Are the kinds of people who make quick decisions and don’t need to scroll down the page before deciding whether to reach out to you or not

Make it absolutely clear and easy for people to find a way to work with you from the get-go with a clear, specific call to action.

4. Strong branding and visuals

Yes, I’m a copywriter and what I write about is mainly the words on your website. But I’m not too proud to admit it takes more than words to capture your audience’s attention! In fact, it’s often said that human beings are largely visual and it’s graphics, photos and visual elements that will capture our attention first before we focus on what’s being said. 

So, incorporating photographs, whether they’re of you or a product or service you offer, or something else entirely, along with your logo and your brand colours and fonts, will go a long way to helping create a strong sense of cohesiveness and consistency in your brand, long before people are even aware of it.

A woman in a retro green top with vintage styled hair points at and holds a laptop.

The 12 key elements of a home page

Yes, I said 12. Which sounds like an awful lot, but I swear it really isn’t. Here’s a quick rundown of them: 

#1: No-Fuss Navigation

Simple terms and words so people can find exactly where they need to be.

#2: Your Hero Statement

Making the most of above the fold with a powerful statement that gets the message across in seconds.

#3: A Supportive Subheading

To make it clear you know what they need and how to help them. 

#4: Your Value Proposition

Where you tell them why you’re the best solution to their problems, over anyone else. This is all about making a big promise to them. 

#5: Beautiful Benefits

Show them why you’re the best solution to their problems, with examples of what they can expect to experience and FEEL after working with you.

#6: Social Proof

A previous client testimonial that supports those benefits above.

#7: The Dream Process

How it’ll all work from start to finish – taking them on the journey of working with you and finishing up with where they want to be.

#8: Quickie Bio

A brief introduction to you and why you’re the ONLY ONE who can help them with their problem.

#9: Share Your Services

A little intro to each of the services you provide, or products you sell. (If there are a lot, pick your top three!)

#10: Social Proof #2

1-3 more testimonials that tell people things about you that you couldn’t possibly say yourself *blush*

#11: Lead Magnet Linkage

If you don’t have a lead magnet and a mailing list, WHY NOT?! Time to remedy this friend.

#12: Footer of Joy

Include any other important links and information here that you couldn’t put anywhere else on the page.

Don’t panic… It’s not as much copy as you think!

I know it looks like a lot. 12 whole sections! But some of those areas are pieces you would automatically include in your website anyway (the footer and menu, for example). And when it comes to social proof and testimonials, you don’t need to write those. Your awesome clients and customers should have already done them for you! 

So breathe, it’s not nearly as scary as you might think. All in all, you’ll be lucky to have about 350-500 words for your home page and that’s more than enough. This is about introductions and moving people to the areas where they’ll get more information later. 

The shop window analogy

Two women stand looking in a shop window. They're holding neon coloured shopping bags and they look like they're deciding whether to go inside or not.

I feel like I need to come up with a new analogy when I talk about your website’s home page (you know, how I talk about a home page as kind of being like a shop window). I’m starting to wonder if it’s making me sound like some street urchin out of the Victorian era, staring through “Ye Olde Worlde Sweet Shoppe” at all the colourful penny treats inside.

For the record, I’m getting on, but I’m not THAT old. 😉 

The thing is, in my head, the analogy works really well.

Imagine it… you walk up to a shop (or store for my North American friends) that you’ve never visited before and you need to decide whether it’s worth going inside to take a look around. That works, right? Unless it’s a bookshop because then there’s never any question about whether you’re going in or not. #booknerdsunite

Anyway, you decide to peek through the window to see what’s on offer. Most people would have a quick peek and see if anything immediately jumps out at them as being something interesting or sparks their curiosity. This isn’t a full-on push your face up against the glass, letting it steam up with your breath as you look around. It’s a post-Covid world after all. 

The point being, if something catches your eye and makes think “Ooh, what’s that?” Then you’ll probably give it a whirl and take a look around, at least for a few minutes. 

And so it is with your home page

It’s a page that needs to give a hint of what’s going on beyond its digital facade (steamy breath and all) so that people can decide whether it’s worth a little look around. 

It’s kinda like when you stand in the doorway of a clothes store and are tempted in because of the funky little number hanging on the rail nearest the entrance. (Yes, I am that person who won’t bother going in to shop for clothes if nothing looks interesting from the doorway.)

Or when you glance at the menu hanging up outside a restaurant to see if any of the food looks good enough to tempt you inside. 

Orrrrr (getting into this analogy thing now…) checking out the trailer of a movie before you decide whether you want to book a ticket to see it at the cinema. 

It’s all about giving a little hint of what’s to come. Enough information that:

👉🏻 Shows them they’re in the right place
👉🏻 Gives them a sense that you might be the answer to their problem
👉🏻 And highlights why it ought to be YOU they choose over the other half a dozen similar services they’ve found

Here’s the key thing to remember, though. You’re not trying to entice EVERYONE inside. Only the people that really think you might be what they need. No one needs a shop or store that’s so jam-packed with visitors that there isn’t enough space for them to look around and get to know you better, right?

So if they do face-smoosh the glass and take a peek and then turn around and walk away… that’s totally ok. 

With that in mind…

How do you attract the right people to come into your website?

A punchy hero statement and above the fold section will only get you so far. So what else does your home page need to include if you want to get people beyond it and looking at all the other beautiful pages you’ve created inside? 

Start with one big promise

An arm in a blue jacket and with a large blue ring has been punched through a pink backdrop. The hand is pointing up one finger.

It’s a component I often see missing on many home pages I peek at. Or it’s there, but it’s buried away in way too much other copy and so it gets lost.

I’m talking about a value proposition, of course. That’s a technical name that gets interpreted in many different ways but I like to take it literally and define it as the one big promise of value that you’re offering to everyone who comes to your website, regardless of which of your services or products they buy.

This is the one key reason people choose to work with you over every other copywriter/photographer/florist/dog walker/therapist/coach out there. Because you’re not the only one, but what you’re promising them here is what differentiates you from all the others. 

This isn’t so much a copy thing, although that’s part of it when it has to be written in a way that’s easy to understand. But it’s mainly a messaging thing and it needs you to be super clear on what you do and offer and what transformation you’re promising your clients and customers as part of that. If you don’t yet know this… figure it out! 

Embrace a scannable home page

It’s a sad fact of life, for this prolific reader who does indeed read all the small print, that most people won’t read all the copy on your home page. I know, GASP, right? How is that possible? Surely everyone wants to know every word of wisdom that graces my home page and website?

I get it though. People want key information and they want it quickly. Who has time to read every word, no matter how delightful it might be, on your home page? 

Ok, I’m being blatantly sarcastic here. And yes, there are going to be people who will read it all (bless you lovely folk for making my job worthwhile). But we’re not all the same and I must accept that fact. 

You see… there are different types of buyers out there. And some of them are logical thinkers who want all the information and so will read everything you care to share. And others are more impulsive and make decisions based on gut feelings and emotions. Those people are more likely to be your page scanners so every page of your website (not just your home page) needs to cater for these people. 

That’s why you’ll need headlines dotted throughout the page and that’s why more thought has to go into these pieces of copy than anything else. 

Your headlines, subheadings and crossheads need to be: 

  • Compelling and attention-grabbing, not yawn-worthy and ignorable
  • Quick and concise, not long and rambling
  • Clear and easy to understand, not clever and confusing
  • Focused on the benefits of your offers, not the specific features (save those for the sales page)

And the general rule of thumb is this… If you only read the headlines all through the page, you should be able to understand what’s going on without reading any of the other copy. If you can’t, then those headlines need more work. 

Audience-centric copy

Yes, you’re going to tell your visitors who you are, what you do and how you do it. And yes, you’re going to include a short bio about yourself, briefly showcasing a little of your expertise and inviting people to learn more by heading to your About page. 

BUT…

Your home page needs to be more about THEM than it does about you.

A woman points with both hands towards the camera. She's smiling.

After all, if you met someone at a party for the first time, and they launched into a lengthy story about themselves without even asking your name or what you do… you’d probably find a way to quickly move on, wouldn’t you? 

Same thing for your home page.

Here’s where you’ll mainly be showing them that you understand what brought them here today, that you know what they’re struggling with or what their dream scenario is and… DRUMROLL… you’ll give them a taste of how to deal with that problem or reach those lofty heights. 

So, keep your home page focused on them. Save the life story that you’ve refined and rehearsed in great detail for your About page, ok?

U Before I

And another thing… Despite the fact this goes against everything I know as a word geek and grammar nerd, in the case of your home page, U definitely and always comes before I. 

What I mean by that is this. If there are more instances of “I” on your home page than there are the word “you”, then you’ve got a problem. Go ahead and count them now. And if there’s more “I” than “you”… FIX IT. 

Visual appeal

Already discussed as part of your hero statement, the use of visuals, graphics, photos, branding colours, fonts and logos is a key part in attracting the right people into your website from your home page. 

I’m no branding expert, so I won’t go into this too deeply, but being consistent with your branding and visuals throughout your website as well as your home page goes a long way towards building strong connections with your audience. It allows them to get a better sense of who you are without explicitly having to say it. It gives a sense of the personality of you and your business. And it’s a memorable part of your brand that people will immediately recognise and connect with when they see you and your work pop up in other places too. 

Don’t overlook it. Get serious about the visuals on your home page. 

Maybe it’s more like a treasure map

A flat lay of a world map with a US passport and a vintage camera laying on it.

Bear with me for a second… I’m trying out a new analogy for the first time. 

Maaaaybeee your home page is a sort of treasure map for the people who have come to your website and you’ve dropped directions and clues to various spots that they can go and explore until they find the gold (or the thing they came for). 

Hmm, I kinda like that. What do you think?

More importantly, it ties into the idea of guiding your visitors through your website and taking them on a journey. And there are two key ways to do that. 

Your menu bar

It’s a staple feature of all websites, even if its form has been tweaked and played around with on some websites in more recent times. I’m talking about your menu or navigation bar. 

Typically, it lives at the top or to one side of your home page and contains anchored links that direct people to other pages on your website. Some websites might hide it until you click on the “hamburger” (three lines) to open it. 

Now while this might seem like a simple element on your home page, it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. Confusing headers for pages is a common mistake, such as “My Story” instead of “About” or “Scribbles & Thoughts” instead of “Blog”. I’m all for a bit of personality but your menu isn’t the place to showcase it. Remember… confusion = people leaving your website. Keep your menu headings simple and obvious for absolute clarity. 

Signposting the way

Or, in other words, calls to action. 

The general consensus when it comes to CTAs and your website is that you focus on only one call-to-action per page. And I absolutely 100% endorse that… EXCEPT when it comes to your home page. 

If there’s one thing your home page needs, it’s a LOT of calls to action. It’s the starting point of the journey, remember, so you’re guiding people towards the next step through your website so they can get to know you and what you’re offering better. 

For each section on your home page (your bio, your services etc), have clear and compelling buttons that direct people to the relevant page that’ll tell them all they need to know. 

Start building trust even on your home page

While your home page is all about creating that first impression and getting people to dig deeper into your website, it’s also a great place to start the process of building trust. And there are a few ways you can do that.

A view of a person sitting at a desk using a laptop and holding an Apple pencil

Let them see you

It’s the whole “people buy from people” thing. If they can see who you are, it immediately creates a sense of trust in what you do. You’re that nice human being who knows a thing or two about what they need! A clear, well-lit photo of you in your mini bio section is a great place to do this. Some service providers also have an image of themselves in the above the fold section, although that’s not compulsory. Do give your visitors the opportunity to “meet” you though by seeing the face behind the words. 

Reviews & Testimonials

You can say all you want about what you do or offer, but most people will take that with a pinch of salt if there are no credentials to back it up. Reviews and testimonials from your clients and customers are a great place to start. Sharing their experiences and transformations, in their own words, is super powerful and will connect well with anyone considering working with or buying from you. 

Examples of your work

Photographers, I’m looking at you here because photographers do this especially well by showcasing some of their work throughout their websites. The hard part is deciding how much to share. If you make or sell products, photos of them can also work really well. 

This becomes a little more challenging for service-based business owners who don’t have something tangible to photograph. But you can showcase your work through screenshots (website designers, graphic designers, copywriters and so on) or through case studies that show the before and after experiences of some of your clients. 

Credibility markers

When you’re an expert in your field (which you are!), you need to show that! Share credibility markers like logos of businesses you’ve worked with, websites you’ve been featured on, podcasts you’ve guested on and so on. You can also share awards you’ve won, certificates or other educational awards you’ve received etc. All these will help to highlight that you know what you’re talking about and what you’re doing. 

Key stats

A great way to share some of your experience and expertise is to highlight some key numbers with your audience. Examples include: 

👉🏻 How many years you’ve been in business
👉🏻 How many clients you’ve had
👉🏻 Hours you’ve saved your clients
👉🏻 Number of photos you’ve taken or words you’ve written

You can even have a little fun with this. Share how many cups of coffee you’ve drunk or podcasts you’ve listened to while you’ve worked, for example. 

A few words about SEO

No mega blog post about home pages would be complete without talking even a little bit about search engine optimisation. To my mind, SEO for your home page has a high level of importance as being able to get people to your well-crafted home page guarantees getting them on the first rung of the ladder towards working with you, right? 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m not an SEO expert (but I know some fab people who I can gladly refer you to!) but here’s what I do know. 

When you’re thinking about keywords to use for your home page, think about what people are most likely to be searching for when they’re looking for someone like you and your services or products. And try to use the keywords that you would most associate with your business for your home page.

I got my awesome friend and SEO expert, Tanja over at Chunky Squirrel to weigh in. Here’s what she has to say: 

Home page SEO: 3 hot tips

1. Choose a main keyword 

The most important thing for your home page’s SEO is to make it clear right away WHAT it is you do and WHERE. This should be your home page’s main keyword. When a person enters that keyword while searching on Google (or other search engines), you want your page to show up.

 

A free tool to check if you chose an interesting keyword is the Ahref’s keyword generator. While it might seem tempting to skip this step, you want to make sure this is actually how people search for it! For example, you’re a photographer in Vancouver. Does your audience search more for “Vancouver photographer”, “photographer in Vancouver”, “Vancouver photography” etc. Without checking, you wouldn’t know! So try some variations.

 

Another free tool to give you ideas about keywords and their search volume is the Google Keyword Planner in the Google Ads centre. Keep in mind that the information this tool shares about competition is all about paid ads, not about ranking organically.

 

2. Optimize your home page’s meta description and title tag

Your meta description and title tag (sometimes called SEO title) are purely for search engines. Your readers can’t see them, but search engines do. They’re also often used by Google to show on the search engine results page. Ideally you use your main keyword in both the title tag and the meta description.

 

3. Use your main keyword in your H1 title and in the copy 

Your H1 title is the main title on your page. It’s visible to your website’s visitors and search engines also read it, so it’s important to add your keyword there. You can have multiple H2 titles on your page (one of which could also contain the keyword!) but only one H1.

 

Next up there’s your home page’s copy. Ideally you’d use the keyword about once per hundred words (or a little bit less if it feels unnatural). Here’s where the copywriting genius of people like Sarah come into play! Using a keyword a couple of times without sounding like a robot can be a work of art.

Thanks so much for that epic advice, Tanja!

Continuing the relationship

A view of the back of a woman with a shaved head and lots of colourful tattoos. She has her arms raised and crossed behind her head.

Not everyone who comes to your website is going to be ready to move through the journey you’ve prepared or reach out and start working with you. So, how do you continue the relationship? You get them on your mailing list, of course!

If you don’t yet have an email opt-in (lead magnet), now is the time to start thinking about this. Having an email opt-in on your home page is a great way to keep people interested. That way, when they are ready to buy from you, they’ll be able to find their way back to your website easily. 

Speaking of which… have you heard about my email opt-in?

The Home Page Copy Review

In exchange for your lovely email address and a little space in your inbox, I’d love to gift you with a quick 10-minute video reviewing your home page copy and giving you some helpful pointers to sharpen up your home page. Yes, this is completely personalised to you and your home page. No generic one-size-fits-all advice here! If you’d like to grab your review, fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch soon!