What makes a home page convert your visitors into buyers? Is it the copy, the design, layout, the navigation, the perceived value of your product or service?

The answer is all of the above. But effective copy is a key element that propels a visitor to click for answers to his or her decision points and then take action on your site.

A before and after home page copy makeover offers some great lessons on how small changes in wording and design can yield significant business results. In this case, the number of solid leads generated by this small business site tripled from five to seven a month, to 15 – 20 for the same time period. Here's how they did it:

Max-Effect (www.max-effect.com) a company that designs display ads for yellow pages, had a frustrating problem: they were getting good traffic to their site through pay-per-click advertising with Yahoo but visitors were not turning into leads. In other words, their home page wasn't “converting” clicks into customers.

They consulted FutureNow (www.futurenowinc.com) “conversion rate” consultants who eliminate barriers preventing a visitor from taking the desired action on a Web site to convert to a customer, a subscriber or a qualified lead.

The "Before" Home Page Copy

Max-Effect's old site <https://www.max-effect.com/oldsite> was "not that bad," according to FutureNow's CIO Bryan Eisenberg. The 800-number (i.e. the call to action) is displayed prominently. Still, the home page, in particular, had some obvious problems. Light-colored text on a dark background was hard to read. A bright red logo was hard to decipher. It was not clear where to start and it wasn't clear where to go next (hence few conversions to sale).

Key copy points were buried in italics below a non-inspiring headline. The most prominent bit of copy was a purple scrawl that expressed a negative spin on what MaxEffect offers: "eliminate yellow page advertising hassles forever."

Max-Effect agreed that FutureNow would re-write three key pages (home page, ad samples page, and contact us) to make them friendlier, and to encourage visitors to pick up the phone and call to place an order.

Simple Design on a White Background

The design was changed from a dark to a white background and kept deliberately simple. Colors were modified from the rather jarring purple and red to a warmer blue and orange. A new logo is more up-to-date looking. The overall effect is to make the home page more cheerful and inviting.

Re-Organized Copy Elements

The somewhat randomly placed blocks of copy on the old home page were re-organized so that your eye is immediately drawn to the central headline: "Maximize your investment." It's short, positive and plays off the company name.

Precise, Specific Language Replaces Generic Phrases

Underneath it, the central copy points are listed again as a series of bullets but they've been completely re-written. Generic phrases like "save you money, save you time, eliminate frustration" have been replaced with more precise examples of MaxEffect's value proposition: "Your customers will… be drawn to your yellow page ad more strongly than anything else on the page…Recognize that you are the solution to what they've been looking for."

Good Copy Propels A Visitor to Click for More Information

A formula for call-to-action copy on a Web page:

• Make the text scannable by bolding key phrases (this may not be appropriate for every site; it seems to work on the new Max-Effect home page.)

• Use interesting, informational headlines and sub-heads

• Follow the AIDA principle (engage attention and interest, stir desire, stimulate action)

• Give the reader immediate satisfaction by anticipating and then answering his or her question

How to Write an Effective Text Link

Use hypertext links strategically. A visitor looking to buy (or compare) always has questions. Make each text link "an imperative with an implied benefit," advises Eisenberg.

In plain English, tell 'em what to do. ("Find out more" is an imperative.) At the same time, imply that visitors will find the answer to their question as soon as they click on the text link.

In this way, well-crafted copy can convert a reader into a buyer by anticipating and satisfying questions, and by filling in the missing gaps at each step of the conversion process. The take home lesson: Good copy is integral to successful conversion. In addition, flaws or inefficiencies in design or navigation – or too many steps – can hamper conversion to sale.

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Debbie Weil is an online marketing and corporate blogging consultant based in Washington, DC. She blogs at www.DebbieWeil.com and www.BlogWriteForCEOs.com. Visit her main site at www.WordBiz.com.