3 tips for writing homepage content that engages your audience
If a marketing message doesn’t engage readers, is it really a message? Yes, this is a play on the “If a tree falls in the forest” quip. My adaptation might be a stretch, but the question still gets to the heart of what's vital in creating effective website content: Writing to engage our audiences is important because it's that engagement that allows our key messages to sink in. Simply including the information an audience might be seeking isn't enough.
I recently took a closer look at the Urban Planning homepage and found some great examples of content that was clearly written for the site’s primary audience: prospective students. A follow up call with Andy Blacker, FFA’s CCO, confirmed that his team was consciously thinking about students as they wrote each headline and bite of copy.
Let’s take a look at a few examples and the lessons they teach.
Don’t assume too much of your audience.
There’s nothing more off-putting to an audience than feeling dumb, or like they don’t belong on a site because they “don’t get it.”
Andy said the main goal for the Urban Planning homepage was to be welcoming by being clear and relevant. "Our target audience for this site is prospective students, and many high school students are unaware of what urban planners do, or what their career paths can be with a degree in urban planning.”
I also love how straightforward this copy is (above). It doesn’t assume, but it also doesn’t talk down to the audience. It simply informs in a clear, relatable way.
Connect your key messages to tangible stories and people.
The structure of the site's banner content is pretty genius. The header (Planning for justice) adds another layer to what urban planning is about, while the corresponding quote from an alumna puts the program in context with a real person’s interests and passions. If you visit the site you can see four additional slides. Each header begins with the word “planning” and highlights another area of urban planning impact. The accompanying quotes each link to a brief story about the person.
"The quotes from alumni and faculty explain how the study of urban planning can be used to explore and solve real challenges students care about,” Andy said.
Speak to your audience directly by using personal pronouns.
"You” feels more personal and tailored, which draws in the individual. If you try to write with personal pronouns and it doesn’t quite feel right, it could be that you haven’t truly narrowed in on the key audience for your website (or a given page). When we try to write for everyone we run the risk of reaching no one.
Finally, Andy shared another great tip when it comes to creating website content for specific audiences: "Avoid acronyms or technical information if your main audience is prospective students, but if you’re working on a section of the site designed for peers or professionals in your field, use the language that they would expect.”