Homepage – How critical is it?

Recently I came across a customer, who wanted to make a cool looking homepage and putting all their promotions and one of the main lead generation links only on the homepage.

Since the beginning of the internet the homepage of the site has been considered the most important page of the site. Till recently, that truly was the case. Visitors entered the site mainly through the homepage; it was the main entry to the site. Cool looking homepage was considered the key to the success of the site.

Visitor’s behavior has changed; homepage is no longer the only entry page into the site. Visitors enter from all sort of different pages and not just the homepage. Homepage is still an important page but not as critical as you might think. Look into the data provided by your web analytics tool before you start changing the homepage in a hope that once the page looks cool everything will be fine. Pretty simple process but a lot of marketers ignore it.

This customer’s decision to redesign their site was made without looking into the data their web analytics tool was providing. A simple analysis showed them that only 14% of the visitors were entering the site from home page, and only 24% of the visitors actually saw the home during their visit. They were going to loose an opportunity to convert 76% of the visitors by putting the promotions and the main lead generation link just on the home page.

These days users don’t have time to look around. Days of web surfing are long over. Users are generally looking for some specific information/product and once they find it (via one of the factors listed below), they come to the site, get the content/product etc from the site and are gone from the site without checking the homepage.

Below are some of the factors that cause users to bypass the home page.

1. Search Engines – Visitors, now more than ever, rely on the search engines to find the sites or pages which are relevant to what they are looking for. Search engines link into internal pages not just home page, at least that’s the case for well search engine optimized sites.

2. Viral Marketing – Friends referring friends to internal page (pages other than homepage) of the site.

3. Bookmarks – Visitors are book marking the internal pages which have content/products which interest them and then use these bookmarks to visit the site.

4. Deep linking on the other sites – Other sites, blogs etc. are linking to the internal pages with content/products relevant to their content.

5. Online Advertising – Online Advertising (and offline too) drive users to landing pages which are generally internal pages.

I am not saying that you should not have a nice homepage (people do judge the book by the cover, if the see the cover) all I am saying is your redesign should be based on facts and not just gut feel. Focusing just on the homepage is not a smart idea. Your critical promotions and conversion processes should be easily accessible from the top traffic and entry pages, if not all the pages.

As always, I would like to hear your point of view and the stories that you might be willing to share.

4 Replies to “Homepage – How critical is it?”

  1. I agree with your statements that the homepage is no longer the main entry page it use to be. I also believe that it would become difficult to craft pages on a site that provide a complete narrative flow for the visitor (with the exception of a buying page). I tend to think of each page on a website as a chapter in a book. Yes, you can open the book at random and start reading, but if that chapter doesn’t interest you enough to read the rest of the book (or at least a good portion of it) then there’s either a problem with your book (the site), the chapter (the webpage) or the reader (visitor) isn’t the right visitor for you. One of my goals with clients is to brand their visitors and one of the ways to do that is to keep that visitor on the client site and interested enough to surf around for a minimum of three pages (some think two is enough, I’m not sure it is).
    I agree with your numerical analysis and I agree that focusing just on the homepage is not efficient. I do think making each page part of the whole is necessary to good site design. I’m not talking about redesigning an entire site just because changes were made to a page four levels deep, and I do think that changes to any page should help continue and expand the site’s “story”. Your thoughts?

  2. Joseph, I completely agree with your analogy. Each webpage or site section is a chapter of your book (site). Each page should be a part of the bigger story of your website else it should not be there.

  3. I like to view the homepage of an e-commerce site as the front-door of a BaM retail store. If customers are using multiple entry pages, the the store has multiple doors. Not only is the homepage important, but all pages are important as stores. There needs to be uniformity.


  4. This article remains relevant despite its publication age. Indeed, for many siteowners the tendency is for decreasing importance of the homepage over landing pages, driven in part by deeper linking tendencies, the dominance of search referrals and long tail publishers. My stats are showing homepage only entrants in the 12-20% range which is remarkably low, but understandable when their is low brand legacy and reliance on organic search traffic.

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