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Using Your Homepage to Tell a Story

Aug 17, 2007
A website is more than a brochure; it is an opportunity to start building a relationship with your prospective client or customer. The best way to do this is tell a story.

Everyone loves a story. As small children, before we could read, our teachers and parents used to read us stories. But even after we've acquired the ability to read, a story captures our attention and imagination. The most successful professional speakers are also known for telling engaging stories to their audiences.

A good website tells a story and engages the reader. The homepage of a website is probably the most important place to tell a good story. What you want to do is grab the attention of your visitor and keep them reading through the content of your homepage.

When you tell a story on a website, you are presenting the information with a beginning, a middle, and an end, as if you were telling a story to group of people seated in front of you.

Here is a simple plan to follow that will help you write better content for the home page of your website:

(1) Decide What the Purpose is for Your Homepage

This is probably the biggest mistake people make when putting together a website. Instead of targeting the homepage for a specific purpose, it becomes convoluted and the visitor becomes confused by multiple ideas that are presented in a disorganized fashion.

The information on the homepage may be excellent, but if it is put in the wrong order, without the right emphasis; the message is not clear.

Right now I'm working with a client who has excellent information throughout the whole website. However, that is the problem. In order for a visitor to find all the information they need to make a decision, they need to click through page after page to gather information. The homepage only answers some of the questions a visitor might have. It forces the reader to click from page to page to get answers. This is a big problem because people don't want to take the time to click from page to page.

The first thing I did was ask the client what they wanted to accomplish as a result of having a website. The answer they gave me told me what was most important to emphasize on the homepage.

(2) Grab the Reader's Attention

When someone lands on your website's homepage, they need to immediately know that they have arrived at the right place. So make sure you have a headline that immediately captures the attention of your website visitor.

Create a headline that lets the visitor know you understand their pain or problem. You want a headline that in essence says to them, "Stop right here, you've arrived at the right place to get the answers to all your questions. We know what your problems are and we have the solutions."

One way to do this is to ask a question. "Are You Looking for Innovative Sales Training?" is the type of headline that engages the reader and causes them to think.

Another type of headline technique is to use startling statistics such as: "Did You Know that One Out of Three Women Will Have Heart Disease in their Lifetime?" Headlines such as this will pique the reader's interest and make them want to learn more.

(3) Decide on a Logical Order to Present Information

A homepage contains many ideas. It is an opportunity for a company to give an overview of who they are, what they do, and why you should do business with them.

Because you're going to be presenting multiple ideas, it becomes very important that you have a logical order to your information. Here's where you use the template or outline for creating a story to put the content together for your homepage.

The content of the homepage needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each of these three pieces needs to be tied together so that there is a smooth flow and logical progression. One idea needs to flow naturally into the next idea without awkward breaks or disturbances.

Imagine you were telling a story to someone about how you discovered a new grocery store that had all sorts of interesting food. Just as you were getting to a really funny part, your cell phone rings. You stop telling your story and begin talking into your cell phone. The person who had been listening to your story with great interest, is now bored and walks away.

The same thing happens on a website. If you stick information in the wrong place on the homepage, it becomes like a cell phone ringing; the visitor becomes bored and leaves the site.

Conclusion

Use the storytelling writing technique for your homepage as a way to shorten the sales cycle. Give your audience the information they need to make a decision by keeping them engaged and entertained. Gently guide them to the right sales path without interruptions.
About the Author
Michelle Howe, MBA, president of Internet Word Magic, specializes in writing irresistible copy for websites. Transform the way you do business. Visit her website at http://www.InternetWordMagic.com for a FR^EE chapter download of her new book "Turn Browsers into Buyers."
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