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Romancing the Homepage Copy
Romancing the Homepage Copy

Let’s say you’re at a party. It’s a little awkward, because you don’t know anyone, but you’re wearing your new hero image, and you’re really rocking that long, scrolling look. Those icons are great too. Someone’s checking you out—because, of course—and clearly, that person wants you to make a move. But be careful: What you say next may define your whole relationship.

For several years now, homepage copy has been evolving towards a more minimalist approach. It’s not uncommon to land on a website with no more than a sentence or two of introduction. The general consensus is our attention spans are getting shorter and we reflexively gag at large groupings of words.

While it seems there’s no disputing the attention deficit, the shift is more indicative of a culture that’s increasingly selective and cynical about consumer messages than anything. After decades of being marketed to, who wouldn’t be?

Shorter is good. Thoughtful is better.

As a result, gone are the keyword-stuffed paragraphs; homepages with brief, streamlined copy are in. In awkward-party terms, it means you need a good pick-up line. And by that I mean a witty, revealing, intriguing line, not one of those cheap, cheesy ones your visitors have heard a hundred times. Those only work if your goal is to attract cheap prospects.

As with anything, a strategic approach means starting with an end-goal in mind. Your homepage—perhaps more appropriately termed your “first impression page”—is your first move, the beginning of whatever story you want your website (and your entire brand) to tell. Hint: Usually, you want that story to end with your ideal customers or donors pledging their undying love to you.

For some organizations, their opening line is their mission. It says, “You can help us.” For others, it’s addressing pain points and questions they anticipate their visitors will have. That opening line says, “We can help you.” (There’s also a third option, brought about by cause marketing, which says, “We can help you help others.”) To begin the story, a homepage will have to say some version of one of these things.

We don’t always talk about ourselves, but when we do…

Recently, we’ve been wrestling with what content to include on our own, yet-to-be-unveiled homepage. We’ve realized it’s easy for us to distill the essence of brands from a third-party perspective, but it’s hard for us to introduce ourselves in a few words. I mean, where to start?

The thing is, unless we’re astronauts (we’re not) or worldly, elderly gentlemen (not all of us, anyway), the most interesting thing we can say is not even about us—it’s about the people we’re talking to. That’s not just step one of a content strategy, that’s a basic principle of effective human relationships.

No one likes the person at the party who won’t stop talking, uses clichéd pick-up lines, and is only interested in themselves. It’s only a matter of time before the charm of that person’s good looks wears off. And yes, ultimately, what’s left—the copy—will not determine whether you ride off into the sunset together or not. That’s up to your service, your product, your promise. It will, however, help determine whether you get the chance to try.