Your Homepage Is Not As Important As You Think

Dan Blank

Today’s guest post is from Dan Blank of We Grow Media.

Author platform is about more than your homepage. Perhaps you hope your homepage embodies the essence of your writing, that it is the gateway into the world you are creating.

But oftentimes, it isn’t.

A website homepage is not like the cover of a book. Especially if you are an author who blogs, or who frequently updates various parts of your site, the homepage is often completely unseen by those who stop by.

For many sites I have worked with, fewer than 20% of visitors even see the homepage. Instead, they spend their time on blog pages, the About page, events pages, or other “interior pages” of the website.

Why? Because most people find your site via search engines, social media, links from other websites, or newsletter. This is an example of the ways people may find your website:

How people find your website

Let’s explore this:

  • Search Engines: It’s common for search engines to comprise of 25-40% of your website traffic. That someone typed something into Google, your website came up, and that’s how they found their way to you.
  • Newsletters or E-mail: When you have a direct connection to your audience via an e-mail list, it can become a primary way to drive traffic.
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and a wide range of other search engines focus on finding great content and sharing it across these networks. Much of it is filled with links that points back to websites such as yours.
  • Referring Links: Perhaps other websites or blogs have mentioned you or your website. These links are often active for a long period of time, and help refer people to you.
  • Direct Traffic: Some of your traffic is people typing your website address into a web browser. But not many.

What all of these elements have in common is CONTEXT. People are likely coming not directly to your homepage, but to individual blog pages, your About page, or other interior pages on your site. They simply have more context. People don’t search for “fiction author” and find your site. They search for very specific things.

This is why search engine optimization, social media, and related topics are so powerful and commonly discussed when trying to develop your audience. They provide context by which to engage people.

A homepage should not be the kitchen sink of everything you are about. It should help to brand what you are about, and provide some key direction. Many homepages I see have dozens of links, which often serve to confuse instead of direct people. You have just a few seconds to engage someone—use that time wisely.

Jane has shared wonderful advice on key elements you should include on your website.

With sites I’ve worked with, I have seen 80% of the incoming traffic landing on pages other than the homepage. And of the 20% that did land on the homepage, only a small percentage of those people actually clicked anything to dig further into the website.

A website is not like a book or magazine, where there is a cover and a linear process through it. People jump into your website—into your story—at random places. This is partially why every page needs to tell your story, why you need to reiterate who you are, and provide context at every opportunity.

I always look at this data when I am in a web analytics package such as Google Analytics. I will see things such as this:

Google Analytics page visits

During this time period, the website had 56,079 page views, but only 4,610 were on the homepage. Was the homepage important? Yes, critically so. You can see that it is the most popular individual page on that website. But the sum of the other pages added up to so much more in terms of attention.

My overall point is this:

Before you waste your time obsessing about your homepage design for six months, or spend hundreds or thousands of dollars paying a designer to get your homepage just the right “feel,” take time to experiment. See what works, and what doesn’t. Measure. Determine where it makes sense to put your resources of both time and money.

When I work with authors, we focus on the issues above, but also on the idea of how to build and engage their audience via sharing content. That you are engaging people with your VOICE and with STORY, not just with design.

I went through this process myself recently as well, and shared the process of redesigning my website in three blog posts:

So much of this is about understanding your goals as a writer, and understanding the needs and behaviors of the audience you hope to engage. Then, it is about thinking strategically about how to connect the two, and measuring and iterating to constantly get the most out of your limited resources.

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