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Does your home page answer these 5 questions ASAP?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – which is not a very comfy existence, so I doubt you have – you probably already know that you have, like, no time to get your first-time visitors’ attention once they land on your home page or other entry page (e.g., PPC, email).

Here’s some July 2011 data (from Google) on home page bounce rates*:

  • On average, 47% of visitors to a site will bounce
  • Bounce is higher for visitors arriving direct (i.e., they typed in your URL) and via organic search – at 47.2% and 47.9%, respectively – than for those arriving via PPC (41.4%)
  • Bounce is higher on iPhones than it is on desktop/laptop computers

More about bounce in this KISSmetrics infographic

Naturally, in the harsh presence of that icy reality-hit – OMG! Half my hard-won traffic leaves me! - your question as a copy hacker surely becomes this:

“How the Helsinki do I reduce bounce rates so more visitors stick around to give me a chance?”

A number of factors influence bounce: page load times, pop-ups, browser issues, and simply a poor match between some/lots of your traffic and your site.But we’re copy hackers.

So we’re going to focus on the copy issues that can affect bounce.

Because your copy can positively influence your bounce rate.

So here you go: there are 5 questions you need to answer quickly and clearly in your home / entry page copy to keep visitors on your page….

…and those questions are:

Question #1: “What is this?” / “Who are you?” 

True, most people arrive on your site with an understanding of who you are and/or what you do. (The keywords they use to get there are a huge indicator of this.)

But one of the biggest flubs you can make in copywriting is assumingthat your visitors “get” you.

They don’t.

Please, please, please don’t depend on your visitors to remember, guess, infer or generally figure you out. That’s hard work. Too hard.

Instead, recognize that, although your visitors arrive on your site with expectations & intentions, you NEED to reflect those expectations & intentions in your landing page copy. A-S-A-P.

Bidsketch.com does a fantastic job of this in both the headline and hero copy of their home page:

(DOWNLOAD THE SCREENSHOT OF BIDSKETCH'S HOME PAGE)

Question #2: “What’s different or unique about you/your product?”

(“BTW, I need to want it. It needs to be a desirable difference.”)

This question is at the core of your value proposition / USP – which is a statement of the 1 thing that’s unique + highly desirable about you or your product.

The answer to it doesn’t have to read like some sort of mission statement. ……In fact, it shouldn’t! Not at all!

(Nothing on your site should sound corporate. Not even your About Us page.)

The answer to Q2 doesn’t have to be a single statement, either. It can be several short lines, like in the following Kayak.com example:

(SEE THE VALUE PROP ON KAYAK.COM)

(BTW, the Kayak copy is to the right of their form, shown above.)

Now, when you’re talking about differentiating yourself, you may end up asking yourself the question, “What do we do that no one else does?”

Good! Put the answer to that on the page.

Although you don’t have to write that you are “the only ones that do X”, it sure doesn’t hurt to do so. When you’re explicit with what’s unique about your solution, you quite simply eliminate a question cluttering your visitors’ minds… and that’s critical to keeping them around.

Question #3: “What’s in it for me? Why should I care and stick around?”

Because we talk about benefits sooooo much when we talk about copywriting, this question is very likely one you’ve already answered — several times — on your home page.

All of your messages should, in some [very real] way, make it clear to visitors that there’s a LOT in it for them if they stick around.

That said, this question is not only about benefits. It’s also about your promise.

Yes, your promise.

…I know the word “promise” is scary… but a promise is critical to help people stay on your site longer and understand why they should, ultimately, give you their email address or credit card number.

Don’t worry! You don’t have to dream up some promise.

If you have a value prop, your promise is probably inherently tied to it or built-in as a part of it.

For example, the M&Ms value prop is “the milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands”… and that’s also its promise.

For EnergyMarketExchange.com, the promise is clear and positioned as the headline, where a value prop would normally live:

(DOWNLOAD THE HEADLINE FROM EMEXPOWER)

Pretty straightforward, right?

Remember: This question isn’t, “What’s in it for everyone?”

Your copy needs to showcase what’s in it for your target visitor. Not your Nana. Not your nanny.

Just the 20 to 35% of your traffic that is most likely to convert.

Question #4: “Is this product/service right for me, in particular?”

Most startups are targeting a subset of a market, a small market or a niche.

If you are, put it on the page!

Tell your niche that they’ve arrived on the right site by using an “ideal for” statement, like Freckle does:

(SEE FRECKLE'S IDEAL-FOR STATEMENT)

Or you can go a slightly indirect route, like Jobpuck does:

(DOWNLOAD THE JOBPUCK SCREENSHOT)

Question #5: “Who else is already using this?”

Ah, good ol’ social proof. Thank you, Mr. Cialdini.

Yes, the answer to Question #5 will likely appear on your page in the form of testimonials, logos, etc. – any clear indicator that tells your first-time visitor, “No, you’re not alone. Others are already doing this. You do not have to lead the pack on this one.”

The truth is that only the rare exceptions out there want to lead the pack; for the rest – the majority – there is comfort in the herd. (This is called “herd behavior”.)

So do as InspirePay does, and reassure your visitors – in multiple ways – that they’re 1 in a million:

There you have it! In answering those 5 questions – and doing so using appropriate levels of prominence - you help the right people stick around.

Please remember: your answers to these unspoken visitor questions need to be succinct and easy to digest.

You don’t have to get wordy. You don’t have to get clever. In fact, you shouldn’t do either.

You just have to message in a clear way that your target visitor will find compelling… and optimize the rest of your page (and site) from there.

Now, here’s your task: Go to your home page – just open it up in a new tab – put on your customer hat, and assess if your copy effectively answers:

  1. Who are you? / What is this?
  2. What’s desirably different about it?
  3. What’s in it for me?
  4. Is it right for me?
  5. Who else is using it?

If you fail to answer any of those questions, well, dear copy hacker, you’ve now got yourself a test or two!

Extra note: There’s a whole lot more you need to think of when writing your home page. This is just the beginning… but it’s a super-solid beginning.

*I’m defining “bounce rate” as the % of visitors that land on your home or other landing page without visiting another page on your site. If you define it as spending <5 seconds on the page, that’s cool, too. Works either way.

About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe is a copywriter, a CRO consultant and the author of the Copy Hackers ebook series, which breaks the messy world of web writing into manageable pieces that startups and small businesses can apply ASAP. Get more of her writing resources for free here.

Nelius - a couple of years ago

I am atually interested in your course. i want to know how much it will cost me to run the program in US dollars, the period and how do i get materials for study?

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    Hi Nelius. Here’s the pricing info. That gives you a year’s access, which can be extended, and all the materials are delivered electronically. There’s 38 hours of video, plus several ebooks.

Lee Shelton - a couple of years ago

Great article. I am re-doing my site so I plan to answer these hard questions up front.

I have just jotted down a summary of the article sections and it seems that these questions could have their titles:
WHAT (is this website?)
WHY (come here?)
WHY (stay on this site?)
WHO (is this site for?)
WHO (else comes here / uses this?)

Another couple popped up:
HOW (much will it cost?)
HOW (can I take the next step?)

Thanks again,
Lee Shelton
Memphis, USA

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