5 Reasons Why Homepage Copywriting is so Expensive

September 18, 2009 •

By Karri Flatla, snap! virtual associates inc.

If you’ve ever shopped for a web copywriter (I cringe to use the word “shop” but that’s what it is), you’ve no doubt come across an apparent oddity in the fee structures. That is, homepage copy costs a great deal more than other types of website copy (services page, about page, etc.). Why is this?

In copywriting land it’s a given that the homepage has a big job to do, and thus the higher copywriting fees. To the layperson who just wants his site to convert more traffic, the reasons aren’t so obvious. The key lies in understanding how people use and explore websites. So, here are 5 reasons why homepage copy commands a high price:

1) Traffic hogging. To some extent, your off-page marketing strategy should segment web traffic so people land on the page that most closely matches the information they’re looking for. The web isn’t a very tidy place, however. As long as people are linking to websites—usually willy-nilly—homepage URLs will rule the web.

For example, look at the twitter profiles of people you follow. How many of them are linking to a URL other than their homepage? Relatively few. Unless they’re serious bloggers, in which case, they link to the homepage of their blog. Homepages have become a traffic “catch-all,” frustrating as that may be.

Pricing point: A copywriter’s job is to make sure the right traffic segments stay on the homepage long enough to realize they’ve come upon the solution they were looking for.

2) Everyone’s a stranger. It follows from the above that most of the people landing on your homepage don’t know you or your website. As such, these folks are at the top of the sales funnel. They’re checking you out from an emotional distance. Yet you have mere seconds to make a compelling first impression. And words, much more so than pretty graphics, are what count most in click-thrus.

Pricing point: A copywriter knows which words will encourage visitors to stay and explore beyond meaningless flirtation.

3) Less is more. Your homepage needs to sum up your unique value proposition or “UVP” in about 30 words or less. It’s what Steve Krug calls the “welcome blurb.” Beyond that blurb, you don’t want to say much more, save telling visitors what’s on the site and what to do next. As human beings—not just as business people—it’s in our nature to be expressive. Put it to writing and things can get downright gratuitous.

Pricing point: You’re paying your copywriter for brevity, accuracy, and candor.

4) The F-factor. Usability experts like Jakob Neilsen have studied how people read web pages using a technique called heat mapping. What emerged from these studies is a distinct “F” pattern. This means that opening headlines and words down the left side of the page can be critical in attracting and retaining visitor attention. But to achieve this on the homepage, where traffic is fickle at best, isn’t easy.

Pricing point: A skilled copywriter can leverage the F-factor without making your copy sound forced or look downright silly.

5) Hit them where it hurts. There are 2 questions I ask (in addition to many others) when working with copywriting clients, and I’ll ask the same client again and again until I get the answers I need. These are:

i) What pains your target market most (relevant to the offering)?
ii) What does your target buyer desire most (relevant to the offering)?

Because the homepage is such a traffic catch-all, and because visitor attention spans are so short at this stage in the buying process, the copy must hit the emotional bull’s eye to generate respectable conversion rates. The most effective way to achieve this is by simultaneously soothing pain and quenching desire.

Pricing point: Effective homepage copy will focus the reader on seemingly dichotomous emotions of desire and pain so they can make no other choice but to stay and seek resolution.

Need I say more?

Author Bio: Karri Flatla is the principal of snap! virtual associates inc., a coaching-consulting firm specializing in web marketing and copywriting for entrepreneurs. Well known across the web for her take-no-prisoners writing style, Karri’s articles and tips have been featured at Search Engine Guide, the VAnetworking Blog, Fuel Net, TwiTip and Smart Company Magazine. You can read and subscribe to her Outsmart business blog at http://snap-va.com.

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Louise Desmarais wrote on September 18th, 2009

Well said Kerri. I have a tiered pricing structure for writing websites and yes, the home page costs more - and your article is clear justification. Another point to add is that prime messaging needs to appear above the fold, and often home pages are more than 30 words - particularly if SEO plays a factor. (You may need more words to work keyphrases in smoothly.) Depending on masthead etc., it can be challenging to fit the right words into this real estate. Thanks for writing this article and to Glenn for posting it!

comment avatar
Karri Flatla wrote on September 18th, 2009

@louisedemaris Absolutely agreed re homepage copy length. The homepage has to be short and sweet yet say a great deal ... all above the fold if humanly possible. And for some sites, a 2-3 sentence welcome blurb will simply not be enough information for the user.

comment avatar
Benedict wrote on September 24th, 2009

I take 2-3 times the amount of time to build a Home or "key" page and of course need to charge accordingly. It's funny how business peple seem to know that a Home page is more important than other pages yet balk at paying more to have it done well. Thanks for the article. :-)

comment avatar
Mark wrote on December 27th, 2009

Thanks for this post! I've always found it very hard when discussing quotes with potential clients to explain why the cost for homepage copywrite is spiked. I know the reasons why myself , but have often failed to communicate this with the client - leaving them feeling that I'm trying to pull a fast one. I'll definitely use the points you've raised here to help put together a sound response in the future. Thanks again for posting.

comment avatar
Matt Pattinson (copywriter) wrote on March 26th, 2010

Interesting post on the importance of homepage copy and subsequent costs. Enjoyed the read, Thanks Matt

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