Content without goals is like a fish on a bicycle
You can’t write good content on a website without having a content strategy. Creating a strategy may seem like a whole bunch of ‘mehhhh can we do this later?’ but without clear goals for the content on your website, no one will know what’s going on. So before we get into specific content strategy tips, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to the point of any homepage.
Your website homepage has two main goals:
Goal A: to catch a user’s attention so they don’t immediately click that dreaded ‘back’ arrow.
Goal B: to effortlessly direct people to other pages of your website. Here’s one of our favourite tweets that sums up Goal B quite nicely:
User think of your home page as the hotel lobby. What they really want is to get to the bar or their room #confab12
— John Mohr (@johntmohr) May 14, 2012
With these goals emblazoned in our minds, we can now proceed to how a good content strategy for your homepage is like preparing yourself for a first date. So tuck your shirt in, and we can begin.
1. First impressions are really important
We’ve all seen the statistic: it takes only 10 seconds for a user on your website to decide if they want to stick around. How do you capture their attention with content? Let’s go back to our running analogy: If you were picking someone up for a first date (which doesn’t happen nearly enough anymore with Tinder and all that, but that’s a conversation for another time) what’s the first thing you would do after they answered the door? You’d smile and say ‘hi’. You wouldn’t, however, start screaming your entire life story at them, from your earliest memory to what you had for lunch that day. They haven’t even put on their coat yet, for goodness sake.
Same goes for your homepage content. In other words, slow your roll. Start with a clear sentence or tagline; whether it explains what your company does or highlights your growth potential. Include a button underneath your ‘hi’ sentence encouraging site visitors to ‘Learn More’ about you.
2. Don’t suck all the air out of the room
If you have caught a user’s attention on your homepage, the next part is super important: what information do you put right on the homepage vs. information you include on the inner pages? Prune what’s not essential. Our friends at RocketFuel put it most vividly when they wrote “a boring website contains overly long paragraphs that threaten to make your eyes bleed (especially on the homepage)”. Be skimmable, and don’t be afraid of some white space on your homepage (or a break in conversation with our running dating analogy). Lead the reader, but gently.
3. Make sure they know the important stuff
Though skimming is important, there should definitely be more content on the homepage than crazy images and animations. **Engineer speak moment:** this is especially important for SEO website rankings, because Google likes to see words on your site and doesn’t care about how many flashy visuals you’ve got. When it comes to homepage content strategy, the best question to ask yourself is this: what do they absolutely have to know right now? Think concise company vision statements, killer testimonials, a product statement to get people excited, or blurbs about some awards you’ve won. Make sure people can at least grasp the who, what, when, where, and why.
4. Watch your tone
Unless you’re a vacuum salesman, the tone of your writing should not be boring. Scratch that, even if you are a vacuum salesman. A common misconception is that corporate websites have to sound, well, corporate-y. That’s just not true. Although you should probably steer clear from quoting Snoop Dogg in your mission statement, your readers know that you’re human and you should speak to them as such. Use informal, more personable writing that people can relate to. And it’s okay to include a little humour! (It should be noted, however, that good humour comes with good discretion. The investor page where you get down to the numbers is not a good place for knock-knock jokes. Know what works best for you).
5. Confidence is sexy…
If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, website users won’t either. Strong call-to-actions are the best form of confidence on a homepage. Use them as buttons under main headers, in banner sliders, or when encouraging people to sign up for an email newsletter. Also make sure when planning content strategy to include strong action verbs, just like you were taught when writing a resume or cover letter. (Grammar 101: an action verb is a verb that expresses a physical or mental action). Your company should be ‘inventing’ ‘creating’ or ‘leading’ the pack.
6. …but don’t be over-the-top
If you’ve won a bunch of awards, that’s awesome and you should be showing them off. If it’s the only thing users can see on your homepage, however, followed by a paragraph as to why you definitely deserved them, it might not be the best use of space. Be proud, but remember to also stay humble and recognize partners or others who may have helped you along the way. Homepage content strategy is about balance. Pat yourself on the back, but also be sure to inform your audience as to where you’re looking to grow next.
7. Don’t be sloppy, stupid
A website is out there for the world to see. When it comes to your content, formatting is key, as is proper spelling and grammar. Headers should all be capitalized the same way, periods need to be at the end of sentences, and hyperlinks cannot be broken. Though it may not seem like a big deal, it greatly contributes to the look and feel of your website, and lets users know that you’re professional and serious. (Now, time for us to go proofread this blog post to avoid embarrassment and irony).
8. Leave them wanting more
A little mystery never hurt anybody. Remember: the main goal of your homepage is to act as a portal to the other, meatier pages of your website. Have a clear content strategy to address at what point the content ends and the links begin. Your homepage is doing its job if people are enticed and want to click around to learn more about you.