Copy Love: holding out for a hero
Good homepage hero copy and how to write it.
Yodel-hey copy lover,
Did you miss me? I’m delighted to be back in your inbox. I took a longer break than expected and now I’m refreshed and raring to go. Before we get stuck in, a few housekeeping items:
Copy Love will now arrive in your inbox every second Monday.
I’m mixing up the format this time around. Some weeks I’ll look at specific copy elements, like this week—homepage heroes. And others, I’ll go back to the old format of picking out my favourite bits from one website.
Righty ho, let’s skip to the good bit.
What makes good homepage hero copy?
Good homepage hero copy does what you need it to do—it provides a hook to tempt someone to scroll down or click through rather than bounce away from your website. Sounds simple enough, right?
The tricky bit is that there are no hard and fast rules for exactly how to achieve this, despite what the cookie-cutter “best practice” articles tell you. The real secret is knowing your audience inside out and what will work best for them. It’s time-consuming, hard, messy work. But that’s copywriting for you.
The good news is that while there are no rules, there are some different approaches you can try out for size that might help you on your way. This week I’m going to look at three of my favourite methods and why I think they work.
Frame the problem you solve
Online dreamboat, real-life shipwreck. If you’ve dipped your toe into internet dating you’ll have likely faced a scenario where your date didn’t quite live up to their curated virtual image.
That’s the problem video dating app Filter Off aims to solve, so they’ve featured it front and centre in their homepage hero. It’s accompanied by a subheader that spells out exactly what Filter Off is—remember, while benefits are important they are meaningless without context.
I think this technique works well for products with a very clear and singular point of differentiation that’s easy to articulate. It wouldn’t work for a service-based business with a range of offerings, for example, where a more nuanced approach is needed to demonstrate the “right fit” with a client.
Show the before and after
Here, the format is flipped from my last example, with a straightforward explanatory headline followed by a subheader that paints a before and after picture of using Basecamp (BC). It works like a condensed pain-agitation-solution setup, which BC expands on in the meat of their homepage copy.
I feel this method is best suited to businesses with more complex offerings. BC is a platform of tools that combine together to take you from Scenario A to Scenario B. It’s easier and more effective to go for the big picture rather than get bogged down in details on the homepage—save this for a features page (or in BC’s case “How it works”) that someone can explore once they’re hooked in.
It’s also worth noting the star-rating testimonials help to build trust and the microcopy under the sign-up button sprinkles in a little FOMO.
If the Basecamp example is a little crowded for your liking, Zenkit To Do applies the same theory with a more minimal approach.
Shout about the results
Disclaimer—the approach we’re about to explore has the potential to be problematic but I think it’s still worth considering. To illustrate what I mean, let’s look at this old version of Quuu Promote’s homepage.
45 million is an impressive number of social shares and certainly works to pique interest. Where the execution falls down is that Quuu Promote is talking about themselves. And without the context of how many customers they serve, 45 million shares doesn’t mean an awful lot.
If you have a proven result that past customers have achieved I think this is a solid approach. Particularly if it’s backed up by a number—quantified claims are always the strongest. Quu Promote’s current hero does a better job of this.
It’s important to be clear you’re talking about potential, not guaranteed results though. Otherwise, you’re straying into over-promise, under-deliver territory which is never a good look.
I hesitated to include this one because you need to tread very carefully, but for certain use cases like an app or SaaS that’s designed to achieve something specific (like boosting newsletter sign-ups, to pluck an example out of the air) it’s worth bearing in mind.
The final verdict
So there you have it, three approaches to play about with next time you’re faced with writing homepage hero copy.
A parting tip—always write the homepage hero last.
At this stage, you’ll have a complete overview of the business, the website, and the audience so you’re in the strongest position to judge what will work best. And if you’re stuck between a few options, you can always run user tests or A/B tests to see what’s most effective. Because, ultimately, that’s what matters most.
Up next (09/08/2021): Habito 💸