Homepages: not dead, just different

Even though the homepage is no longer the star of your digital show, it can still be a valuable supporting player if you use it right, says Martin Cox.

MARTIN COX HEngelhardt_DO_71_webThe homepage has undergone a bit of an identity crisis in the past few years – it’s no longer the star of your digital show, but more of a supporting player.

Homepages rely heavily on active searches for your brand, or brand-loyal customers typing your URL directly into their browser. This kind of traffic has been steadily declining, replaced by cold, non-brand-aware traffic directed by search engines and social media. In fact, of the approximately 3.5 billion searches occurring each day, 83% are unbranded.

Consumers are, for the most part, discovering your content through social media, direct links in emails and non-branded search queries, which take them directly to product pages or blog posts, and means that often your homepage is the last thing that they will visit, if they do at all. Mitigating the effects of a dying homepage means becoming aware of how
consumers are finding your content – and how to best optimise your site for them to find it.

This knowledge doesn’t mean that homepages are obsolete and we shouldn’t invest in them; they still represent a valuable conversion opportunity, but simply require a shift in their
configuration to respond to this evolution in consumer behaviour.

 

The homepage is no longer your front door

We must now assume that visitors to our site are coming in from multiple different entry points – your homepage is no longer the front door. Visitors won’t be making their way up the hallway and flicking the switch on in each room they pass. It’s time to let go of traditional structure, and embrace the non-linear ways your visitors are behaving on your site.

The key is to make sure your visitors are seeing and acting on your calls to action regardless of their entry point to your site. From short statements enticing visitors to sign up, to forms asking to subscribe to your email marketing campaigns, to pop ups providing incentive to like or follow you on social media or pop ups that ask if visitors want to learn more – it’s important to make your unique value proposition clear and guide your visitors through the buying journey using strategic call to action copy and design.

Think about the key objective of your site – whether it’s to sell physical products or persuade visitors to pick up the phone and call you, you need to be harnessing every opportunity to convert your visitor to a customer.

 

Keep it simple

Your homepage should be for directing traffic and giving a brief introduction to your brand. If by chance someone does land straight onto your homepage, you want to make sure that you’re able to convert that someone to a customer – which you won’t do by overwhelming them with too much information.

The Iconic is an example of a simple homepage that focuses on sending traffic in the right direction by providing simple options for visitors. For example, ‘Shop Women’, ‘Shop Men’ or ‘Shop New Arrivals’. Don’t try and tell your entire story and showcase too many products on your homepage – that’s what your ‘about us’ page, collection pages and product pages are for. Many businesses simplifying their homepages have seen an increase in their conversions since – take Highrise for example, it saw a 102.5% conversion increase when it simplified its homepage design.

 

Collection pages are your new best friend

We analysed several of our client’s websites, and found that their homepage traffic was down at least 7% from 2016 to 2017. However, ‘Collection’ pages made up the top ten landing pages on every Shopify store we audited.

Why?

Collection pages are naturally SEO friendly, with product information, juicy descriptions and images that search engines and consumers love.

It’s vital that your site appears on page one of search engines – particularly in one of the top three organic positions, as these see 58.4% of all clicks from users. Websites ranked number one receive an average click-through rate of 36.4%, number two with 12.5% and number three with 9.5% – with sites appearing on page two falling behind with a worrying click-through rate of just 1.5%.

To improve your SEO and give your site the best chance of visibility, focus your digital energy on your top collection pages – optimise them with stellar content, call-to-action copy
and relevant links.

 

Publish more content

As we’ve learned, people are finding websites through non-branded search engine queries. Posting more content means more ways for people to find you – and consequently more
opportunities to convert that visitor to a customer. Use blog posts to get people in, through any door. Post interesting, topical articles that are relevant your brand identity and unique customer base. If you’re short on time, outsource your content to agencies.

 

Look both ways

There is no one formula that will fit every site, so it’s vital to track and measure your individual site traffic and unique visitor pathways. Much attention is given to generating
traffic, however monitoring traffic gives you an important edge to target your unique customer profiles.

Using Google Analytics to determine your highest value landing pages can help you build a solid strategy for conversion, ensuring your online efforts are targeted and strategic.

It’s time to gain a deeper understanding of our audiences and organise our websites in strategic ways to promote and facilitate conversion. No, you don’t have to nix your
homepage, you just need to turn it into the homepage that your visitors want. This means keeping your homepage simple, investing in SEO and investigating why and how your traffic is entering your site – which won’t necessarily be through the front door.

 

Martin Cox is director and co-founder of Do Commerce.

 

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