I have written at length about the need to anticipate your visitors' needs. I have talked about how the first screen of the homepage needs to connect immediately and directly with the task each visitor has on his or her mind. I have talked about finding the search words and phrases people use to find your site, so you can use these same words on your homepage. And so on and so on.
And I think it is all good advice. When visitors arrive at your site for the first time, the best outcome you can hope for is that they think, "Excellent, I'm in exactly the right place. I can find what I'm looking for right here."
The problem is, the more you write the page to suit the needs of the reader, the less character it has.
There is a danger that you will become like that person at a party who roams from group to group, agreeing with everyone and simply reflecting back everyone's opinions and views. People like that are boring and ultimately very irritating. They never risk expressing opinions of their own.
The same thing can happen with a website. The more you try to please people, the thinner the character of your company or organization becomes.
The web has always been a place where strong views and opinions are highly valued. Think about the newsletters you subscribe to and the discussion lists you take part in. The most valuable contributions are those that express real character, where people take a strong position and are not afraid to express it and stand by it.
So there is a balance here. Yes, write your homepage to appeal to the reader, but also let some of the character of your organization shine through. This doesn't mean adding the mission statement, or shoveling the latest corporate sound bites onto your site. Heaven forbid.
But you can express some character. You can say what you believe. You can take a position and let people know what you stand for, and what you stand against.
The benefit? You'll differentiate your site from others in the same space. You'll stand out from the crowd. You'll be recognized. You'll earn respect for taking a position. You'll catch people's attention. You'll make them want to tell their friends and colleagues about your site.
You don't have to take it to extremes. You simply need to write in a recognizable voice.
Enough to set you apart from the ordinary.
Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.