11 Words Or Less

Here’s the plan. We are going to rewrite your web site. (This works best for sites that sell stuff.)

And we are going to start by writing a headline for your web site in 11 words or less.

First, imagine your web site is a direct response ad. (I know it’s absurd to reduce your site to one ad…but humor me.) Now, in 11 words or less, write a headline for that ad. Not a description, not a mission statement, but a headline to drive sales.

Once we have this line, we have a tool with which we can take a fresh look at your entire site.

To show you how this works, we’ll work through an example. We’ll create an imaginary site called FamilyAlbum.com.

What we do at FamilyAlbum.com is sell digital cameras and accessories. That’s where the dollars come from. But there’s a reason why we chose the name FamilyAlbum and not DigitalCamera. The power behind this site lies in emotions, not technology.

Central to our business is our virtual photo album. It’s like a global, private “family intranet.” It’s a shared, virtual family album in which family and friends post digital photographs, from wherever they are in the world.

Do you have to have purchased a camera from us to access the software? I don’t know. We’ll have to think about that.

Anyway, we’ll have photo contests and other good stuff. You get the idea. So now we have to write our headline, in 11 words or less.

Here’s our first effort:

“Bring family photos to life with the latest in digital technology.”

On a bad day, we might try and live with that. But today’s a good day, so we can do better.

Here’s our second effort:

“Gather all your family together in one place at FamilyAlbum.com.”

For now, that will do. How it differs from the first headline is that it touches on some feelings many of us share about family. Many people will likely feel a connection here. This headline sells the solution to a broadly based emotional need, not just a technological “wannahave.”

Now we have the headline, what shall we do with it?

Well, it’s our benchmark. If that line expresses the promise of our web site, let’s carry that through to every level of the site.

On the home page, we will need some navigation buttons.

To get people to view the cameras we’re selling, we can say:

“Choose your family camera.”

To get people to sign up for the virtual album service, we’ll say:

“Start your own family album.”

To encourage them to invite other family members to get involved, we’ll say:

“Get together for a family meeting!”

There’s more we’ll have to do on the home page. But for now, we’ll move on to the product page. We’re not going to have a lineup of digital cameras based on features, price, or manufacturers’ names. We’re going to make groupings of cameras based on family needs.

“Cameras for outdoor families.”
“Cameras for families on a budget.”
“Cameras for families who have to have the best.”

To get a little extra buying happening, we can have a “Family Gifts” page. Buy Granny a scanner so she can scan and post photos from when she was a little girl.

Everything flows from a simple headline of 11 words or less.

What I’m suggesting is that a site will likely work better if it carries a strong, unifying message. Is this just a theme? No, it’s much more than that. You can add a theme to any site. That’s just an add-on, a virtual paint job.

But if you create every line and every heading from a central idea that expresses the core selling position of your entire business, you have something much more powerful. Suddenly everything makes sense, one page naturally follows from and builds on the page before.

Your next move? Write that headline. In 11 words or less.

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