Which Copy is Best For Your Home Page?

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Home page Scribble

To convert, a home page needs to give its audience information. The more information they accept, the more likely they are to consider signing up, subscribing, or downloading. But if it’s not engaging and perfectly targeted, they’ll give up and fail to read anything.

Is shorter copy better? Concise copy is a must, but that doesn’t mean it should be short. In fact, the opposite is often true.

Here’s the case for long copy on a home page, and how to figure out the length that works best for you.

Google Likes Long Copy

In 2012, the top ten Google page results for any keyword had over 2,000 words of content each. Algorithm tweaks since have only confirmed that in-depth content is ranked higher.

Google’s famed algorithm is designed to offer the search results that users want. In its efforts to improve, priority has shifted from mere strings of keywords to actual human desires and needs. And humans need more information. Semantic relevance is the new king.

Plenty of sites have responded with content-heavy home pages, appealing to the audience and the Google algorithm alike. When the site Crazy Egg increased its home page copy by twenty times, their conversion rates jumped 30%. They were able to address audience concerns and establish their site as an authority through interesting and lengthy content, which won Google over.

Your Audience Likes Long Copy

A 2005 study swapped out the headlines of PowerPoint slides in a college course, offering short phrases to a control group, while giving “succinct sentence headlines” to others. Their thesis: that complete sentences would be more effective, sticking in students’ brains longer. At the end of the semester, they were proven correct. Students who had seen PowerPoints with complete sentences as headlines scored 10% higher on average than those who hadn’t.

A home page is like the headline of a website. You can’t be sure that a reader will do anything more than browse through the their landing page before clicking away. Because of this danger, keeping home page copy as short as possible seems like a natural decision.

But like PowerPoints, a home page needs to teach its reader something. Data proves that longer content drives backlinks. Just as longer headlines hook an audience better than short ones, longer home pages are often best.

In fact, in a report by John Doherty on the type of content that earns links, these two graphs illustrate the relation of long copy to linking root domains.

Word Count and Linking Domains in GoogleHere are the number of links visualized in the same order; showing the correlation between content and unique linking root domains.

Links by Content

Short Copy Still has a Place

That doesn’t mean you should entirely reject the option for shorter content. Less copy works well when audiences don’t need to be convinced to sign up. Take the Tinder or Groupon websites, for instance. In both cases, the product is free, and most people already know what it will accomplish for them.

Think about what you offer. Is it well-known or free? If so, short copy might be a quick, seamless way to present your home page offer. But many businesses are built to solve a specific, complex problem, and they hope to earn something for their efforts. Chances are strong that this approach won’t work for you.

Now that you know your perfect home page copy length, here are the five steps to create it.

Pick a Home Page Goal

To decide on the best home page copy length, you’ll first need to know your goal. Do you need email addresses? Paying subscribers? App downloads? eCommerce sales? Your home page should be focused on converting. Once you have your goal, it will inform the content and direction of the copy you’ll need in order to convert.

Find Out the Customers’ Motivation

Customer motivation informs home page copy’s persuasion. You need to be convincing enough to push a reader from interest to commitment. That all starts with the customer. You know your goal, and you need to know your customers’ goals as well.

While your goal should remain behind the scenes, customer motivation should be a visible guide for the copy on a home page. The readers don’t care about what you want, but they certainly care about what they want.

Address Problem Points

The potential customer for any product will have concerns, criticisms, and even fears about the inner workings of what they’re about to buy. You need to study these problem points, learn how to alleviate them, and deliver the answers in clean copy on your website.

You might not know it, but you see preempted problems all the time. Think of the last time you saw a comforting disclaimer like “your personal information will remain private” or an “emails are never used for advertising”. When you answer objections smoothly, readers won’t even realize why they feel at ease.

In order to address problem areas, your home page copy should run long, but always be to the point. Your readers want your product to help them. You just need to explain how it will.

Know Your Customer Awareness

To reach your goal, the home page has to be an authority on your product. But more importantly, it needs to be an authority on how much the reader already knows about the product. No one wants to read something they don’t understand, but they’ll also hate something they already know.

There are a series of established guidelines through which you can measure demographics’ awareness. As Copyblogger’s Brian Clarke summarizes it, the terms are: Completely Unaware, referring to those who don’t even know they have a problem; Problem-Aware, referring to those who have a problem, but don’t realize what the answer could be; Solution-Aware, referring to those who want a specific answer, but don’t know you have it; Product-Aware, referring to those who know what is being sold, but don’t know if they need it; Most Aware, referring to those who know what your product accomplishes and only need to hear the details of their commitment.

If you can narrow your prospective customer’s awareness to one of these, you’ll know the exact information necessary to take them from their current state to knowing they need to have your product.

Incorporate Customer Feedback

Startup consultant Sujan Patel increased his site conversions by over 30% after spending just two weeks as a customer support agent. He asked authentic questions regarding what they needed and disliked about the service, remained open to their honest criticism, and then targeted their problems with Facebook ads addressing each one. In other words, he let his customers write his copy.

When you listen to your users’ comments and criticism, you find out their motivations and awareness, and that’s crucial data. You should always work to improve your home page copy.

Properly built, a home page will boost brand awareness, customer acquisition, and overall growth of a website. Does yours?

Keeping each of the above components in mind will result in streamlined copy targeted at your readers’ needs and concerns. Write long, but stay interesting, actionable, and concise, and both your customers and Google’s algorithm will love you.

 

Featured Image Attributed to Flickr User Yandle.
Images provided by John Doherty’s report on The Kind of Content That Earns Links.

Shane Jones

Shane Jones

Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX
Shane Jones is the Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX, a Pennsylvania marketing agency. Additionally, Shane is a Reporter at Econsultancy US, where he covers Conversion Marketing and UX Design. Shane loves making friends and wants you to connect with him on Twitter, Google+ or if you reach out via his blog.
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  • http://www.webreachtech.com Abhishek YAdav

    Hello Shane,

    Awesome post thank you for sharing with us. Can you please tell me what is the minimum amount of words we should use in Home page and inner pages or other services pages.

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      Hey Abhishek,

      I can’t give you any exacat numbers, but it seems that Google works off of thresholds, so that if you produce enough words, you’ll see big appreciation in your rankings for them. I would estimate around 1500 words a page and you’ll start to see the benefits. Good luck!

  • http://mastermindseo.org Steve Twomey

    I tend to find myself breezing over extremely long copy if I am just looking for quick information like a how to article. If I am really going to research something to learn it, then I will want copy that is longer. If i see copy that is too short, I assume it does not have enough value in it. However, if we think of what Winston Church Hill said about long speeches, he said if you wanted a 20 minute speech he would need two months, but if you wanted a 2 hour speech he could start right away. Well… same could be said for posts and copy. If you can say all you need to in a 20 minute version vs 2 hours, more power to you and to your reader who will benefit.

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      This is a great point! You definitely want to be thinking of user experience and purpose at all times, so that way you don’t actually lower conversion due to long copy. But if you can find a way to incorporate read more’s and lower the copy below the important user functions, the SEO copy will serve to grow your business much better than a little user experience!

      And great quote from Winston Churchill, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.forevermetals.com/all-tungsten-rings/ Christine

    Really great information – In the 10 years being a website owner the biggest changes have come in the past 3 years. We have been trying to receiver since the original Panda update and I plan to implement these ideas to see if that further helps….

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      Great! Good luck!!

  • http://c-c.com.au/website-copy-length/#more-4856 Lawrie Jordan

    Your figures are a tad dated. Do they still stand up? And what about the other landing pages, do they need to be long as well?

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      Hey Lawrie!

      Thanks for commenting, the stat’s may be just a bit dated, but I can definitely assure you the approach is not! I work with hundreds of clients and this is one of my go to’s when we need some growth!

  • http://www.creative-bioarray.com/ Steven Rios

    Hi Shane,
    Quite agree with your Know Your Customer Awareness part. It’s quite helpful, thanks. And You have an excellent view: “No one wants to read something they don’t understand, but they’ll also hate something they already know.”

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      Thanks Steven!

  • http://www.mobile-app-development-india.com/ Kinjal Patel

    Nicely point out the smallest content related information. I completely agree with Shane. I have re-developed my company website in mid of 2014 with genuine and informative content for my audience. Within one year I observed 21.5% improvement in the traffic/conversion. It is really worth to apply this concept. Large Home page content with targeted keywords and effective audience punch lines are definitely helpful to boost the conversion ratio.

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      Glad to hear you had such great success! I agree its definitely worth the investment!

  • http://www.scalatica.com ashish

    What do you think about average size of homepage ?
    Rampant page bloat may not be useful strategy for website traffic.

  • http://www.toursnhotels.com/ Tom Miller

    Nice Post. Quality of content matters not length of the content.

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      Thanks Tom! You’re absolutely correct, quality should not be dropped for length, but length is definitely a way to achieve better rankings!

  • http://bankofferscoupons.com/ Sam

    Really only long content can be ranked? is it because we get more keywords stuffed in long content? What if we write smaller content but build more links, will it help ?

  • http://firstsiteguide.com Connor Rickett

    This is sort of counter to what you’d really expect, isn’t it? Everyone in such a rush these days, it’s hard to imagine they want their information in chunks larger than a smartphone screen. Maybe only those looking for deeper understanding are motivated enough to search for answers at all? I mean, Angry Birds and Candy Crush are in front of Google Search on the app list, so you’ve got to beat distractions just to get there.

    Thanks for putting together the graphs. “People like long content,” is a bit more helpful when there are actual data points and ranges to interpret.
    Connor

    • http://www.shanepatrickjones.com Shane

      No problem Connor! Agreed with your assessment on personal preference! It seems Google is almost looking for those people who go the extra mile (in some ways) as a differentiator!

  • http://www.docmeet.in Anna

    Do you also have to write correct English? Does Google recognize correct English. If I write a paragraph which is unique and it does not make that much sense in English does that help?

    • http://boxing-kingdom.blogspot.com Andrew Fila

      Anna, Google doesn’t pick up on correct English. In my experience if the site becomes massive and it has poor content and grammar it could be penalized. But given how many sites exist, it’s virtually impossible to take into account.

  • http://staseo.com/ Stas

    2000 words affiliate landing pages still making sense – SE rankings but most important- answering reader’s questions “on the fly”. Great post.