How effective is your home page copy?

What you say on your website counts for rather a lot.

It has the potential to make your visitors hit the back button.  If you sound like a geek who can’t talk without acroymns, or a waffler who can’t clearly convey what your business exists to do, don’t be surprised if people are not knocking your door down asking for your services.

Assessing your website copy

Here are 3 steps you can take to assess how effective your web copy is:

1: Who is your audience and does your copy match?

Before you do anything, work out or remind yourself of who your audience is.  Your copy needs to be written at a level appropriate for your intended audience.  It sounds terribly un-PC, but some people are good at reading and some are not.  If your audience is made up of both, then you need to write your content so it will be understood by all.  Don’t assume everyone out there has the same ability to read as you.

2: How does your copy score for readability?

Work out how well your copy scores for readability.  This was a trick I learnt from a recent post Sitepoint post by Georgina Laidlaw.  You can either use an online tool such as www.readability-score.com, or if you have Microsoft Word, you can use that instead.  First, go to Word -> Preferences -> Spelling and Grammar -> Show readability statistics.  Then copy your home page text into a Word document, run a spell-check on it, and once the spell check has finished, Word will give you a dialog box including the readability statistics:

Readability stats in Word

The Flesch Reading Ease score is a number between 0 and 100 – the higher the number, the more people that should be able to read your copy.  Two of the simplest ways to increase the score are a) write using shorter sentences and b) avoid unnecessary long words.

[Aside: I have to say, this does feel awfully like ‘dumbing’ down, and although my vocabulary is not huge, I do love the ocassional long word.]

3. How does it read from the outside?

Get an ‘outsider’ to read your copy.  The less they know you/your business, the better.  Ask them to be brutally honest.  Ask them to imagine they’ve already looked at 20 other websites and need to leave to fetch the children from school in five minutes – would your copy still engage them?  Ask them to tell you, based on reading your web copy alone and forgetting what they know otherwise:

  • what you do
  • what you are like to work with, what sort of person you are
  • what happens when someone phones to enquire/how your service works
  • who your ideal client is

(you will probably want to vary these questions slightly, depending on your business/website).

And an extra tip… Is your copy genuine?

I can’t help adding this one, it’s something that I bang on about a lot.  Is your copy genuine?  I’m not sure exactly what the measure of this is, perhaps it’s just something that you pick up subconciously.  For me, it has a lot to do about being open and honest about who you are and what you do.

It’s linked to one of the questions in point 3. above – from your web copy alone, would people be able to tell what sort of a person you are, what you’re like to work with?  I don’t mean fully of course, but to the extent that they start to get the right (or wrong!) vibes.  This is more important in some businesses (mine for example) than others.  But even if you are a huge corporate – do your words match up with your service?  Does your copy match how people perceive you?

Once you’ve done the above, don’t forget to go away and tweak your copy based on your findings.  And don’t be afraid to completely rewrite it if necessary!

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