Is the website homepage dead?
How to optimize your homepage
Has the time come to forget about your homepage and focus your efforts elsewhere? Read on for the answer to this question, and more.
Pop quiz: What’s the most important page on your website?
If you answered “the homepage,” you’d be in very good company. Indeed, almost everyone who hosts a website considers their homepage to be the most important page of the site. I am here to suggest that perhaps they’re wrong.
To be clear, your homepage is important. Most likely, it’s the most visited page on your site; our stats for the Origin website clearly demonstrate that our homepage receives the most page views of any other page on our site, no matter what time frame we consider. So yes, your homepage does matter. But just because your homepage is the most popular page on your site does not mean it’s the most important.
To understand how this can be true, we need to ask ourselves a few key questions.
What is the purpose of the homepage?
Your homepage exists to serve exactly three purposes:
- To deliver the information most people are looking for in quick bites and easily digestible information. For a ski resort, this might be snowfall totals, weather conditions, or lift status, all delivered in a way that asks little of the end user, and allows them to navigate to and away from the site with ease.
- To guide people to the information they are looking for. Think of your homepage as being like a hotel lobby: It is critical in the functioning of the hotel but it's generally not somewhere anyone wants to spend considerable time. Its primary function is to help you seamlessly navigate to your end destination.
- To make a brand impression. Your website has less than a second to generate a positive impression on a user, instill trust and keep them engaged. And while your homepage is absolutely responsible for accomplishing all of these things, don’t forget that we’re in a new era of multiple entry points into your website, which means that ever single page on your site also shares this responsibility (more on this later).
The key takeaway is that when it comes to your homepage, less really is more. Many people try to make the homepage work way harder than it needs to or even should, by filling it with the latest offers or the top 300 things to do in your destination. The result is a page that’s so cluttered with content that users quickly become overwhelmed and run for the door.
Our job as marketers is three-fold: First, identify which users are making the voyage to your homepage, find out what they’re seeking, and finally, tailor the homepage content to their needs without overwhelming them with useless information.
What is changing?
To put it simply, the source and entry point of your traffic is changing. Not long ago, users would enter the homepage of a site, before navigating a linear path to a point of conversion. Not anymore. These days, users enter your site from multiple entry points. If the homepage was the front door, users are now getting into the house through the backdoor, side door, garage and maybe even your bedroom window. It is so incredibly important that we understand this and plan accordingly, because while it might sound a bit unsettling, it’s actually to our advantage.
If we look at our historical marketing mix, we had print, media, and out-of-home, and nine times out of 10, those mediums drove people to our primary domain and therefore our homepage. This meant that the homepage had a lot of work on its hands, speaking to multiple audiences and helping them find the information they needed.
In today's marketing mix, the channels have changed, and we are usually able to send people directly to the source of the information. Consider these three scenarios:
- Email Marketing — We send out an email to users about a product sale or offer. The page we are driving them to is likely a tailored landing page or the product page itself. Consumption and conversion can all be done in this one place, and there’s no need for these customers to even visit the homepage.
- SEO/ Search — Most companies with SEO campaigns have defined their target keywords and have developed personalized or custom landing pages to cater to that specific audience. Google does an incredible job of serving those users with precisely that page, because Google knows that the homepage is no longer the most important place to send people.
- Social Media — Social media has become the conversion page. People following you on social platforms are often doing all the things we want them to do within the app, be that developing brand affinity or completing an actual purchase. In this case, it’s not merely the homepage that loses relevance; it’s your entire website. (Don’t get too excited; you do still need a website).
How can we revive the homepage?
In an interview with the Washington Post circa 1998, Jeff Bezos made a statement that really hit home: “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.” Bezos was speaking very explicitly about personalization, which over the intervening quarter century has become nearly ubiquitous within the eCommerce sector, where we’ve seen incredibly detailed and targeted methods of crafting a highly personalized user experience.
As marketers, we spend hundreds of hours developing personas, target audiences and relevant messaging to resonate with specific audiences. This is incredibly valuable information that should inform both the content and the architecture of your website, yet many still take a “one size fits all” approach that risks alienating users no matter where they land.
Perhaps the best way to revive the homepage, then, is to take the time to learn more about the users who are still using it as a portal into your site, and craft it to meet their specific needs. With the increasing prevalence of inbound marketing initiatives (not to mention Google’s SEO-driven ability to direct visitors to specific pages) that drive your customers straight to the content they need, your homepage’s job description has evolved. In many ways, it’s a simpler job, but it’s also more important than ever to get it right.
What does all this mean?
First of all, the homepage is not dead, not by a long shot. It’s still an incredibly important tool for conveying essential information, delivering a brand impression, and offering an efficient, easy-to-use portal to other content.
Secondly, focus your efforts on driving people deeper into the site, rather than to your homepage. If you can tailor the experience of your guest at any level, you’re likely going to see a higher conversion or success rate towards your goals.
Finally, if you’re not sure whether or not your homepage (or any other aspect of your website, for that matter) is pulling its weight, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We love talking shop, especially when it comes to optimizing your audience’s user experience.