Entering through the side entrance
While reading an article about the future of journalism, an interesting topic indeed, I found this gem of an insight:
What is the nature and purpose of a website when most of the inbound traffic comes from search and social? Four years ago, many news sites saw half their traffic come to the home page. By traffic I mean inbound uniques, not page views, not the returning visits of loyal users. Today, due to continued growth in traffic from search and social, home page traffic is typically 25 percent of inbound audience. That means 75 percent of inbound traffic is going to story pages.
The person who said that is Richard Gingras, director of news and social products at Google.
Following my own and customer site stats closely I know that a lot of web visitors bypass the start page, but that in some cases as much as 75% head straight for a specific page is mindboggling.
Have you checked the statistics on your website to see which pages people actually see first? Is the majority of visitors really arriving at your start page, or do they jump from Twitter, Facebook and search engines straight to a sub page on a specific topic or about a certain popular product? Do they from there ever go to your start page at all?
Perhaps you’ll even find that one or a few specific blog posts attract almost all of the traffic from search engines, and if the visitor land directly on that page and then immediately leave… …did you really leave a lasting impression on that visitor? Did they even realise what you sell?
In physical terms, this is a little bit like people entering a super market through the side entrance, picking up what they need and then cleverly bypassing the tempting aisles and displays next to the cash registers as they leave, again using the side door. This is not what the supermarket wants, they want you to get a good look at the displays they so carefully designed to make you spend a few extra pounds on candy, magazines, offers and bargains!
Obviously, the learning from this is to spend a good deal of time designing your website sub pages in such a way that wherever a visitor enters, links to your top products, your email marketing signup form or booking form are readily visible. Don’t just focus all your attention on the home page.
As an example, take a look at the website me and David Knight from Euged built for Jessica’s Recipe Bag. The main purpose of the first version of the site was to act as an informative website explaining the concept, and collect email addresses from interested people while we were working towards launching the “real” website with the online ordering functionality.
With social media and shared links to blog posts written with search engine traffic in mind being the main sources of visitors it is incredibly important that every single page in the website clearly shows the key benefits of joining Jessica’s Recipe Bag, and has the ability to collect the visitor’s contact details.
To ensure this we put the email sign up form right at the top in the sidebar of every page, where it is hard to miss, allowing people to leave their contact details on every page of the site:
So here’s an exercise for you: Go take a look at your website. Click through the start page and go a few pages away. Is it instantly obvious who you are and what you can do for the visitor? Every single blog post you write should make this clear, it needs to be a part of the basic page template. If you sell something online, a strong call to action to learn more about your product or service is a no brainer.
Before you start spending time and money changing your website though, check the data. Take a look at your website statistics and see where people actually enter your site. Are they using the front door, or entering through the side entrance?
Tip: If you use Google Analytics, the easiest way to review this is the “Landing Pages” report under the tab “Content” in the left hand navigation:
The above screenshot shows the stats from my food blog Tummyrumble. As you can see, the sub page about benefits from following a Low Carb High Fat diet gets more than 5 times as much traffic as the blog start page!
I would venture that this isn’t uncommon for blogs in general. When it comes to a business website the picture may be entirely different. Do go take a look!