Back in the day (I’m talking 2002-ish), our sales team was keen on promoting a “home page takeover” or other home-page-based advertising executions to really give clients that WOW factor. After all, everyone comes to the home page!
Today (10 years later, if you can believe it), I still hear salespeople get all worked up about pitching a home page takeover. But no one goes there any more.
Obviously, I exaggerate to make a point. Where I work now, at Budget Travel, some folks certainly do come in through the home page. But many, many more come in “sideways” or to “atomic content;” they come via direct links in our newsletter, on social media, on content posted on partner sites, or via search. Most land on our article or gallery pages, and continue through links within that content rather than through the navigation bar. And we’re not alone — more and more websites report fewer and fewer users coming in through the home page and proceeding to navigate through the site.
Remember the days of navigating through the site? No one does that either. You know what gets less traffic than a home page? A channel page. You know, the landing page that fronts the sections highlighted on the nav bar. Of the users that do come through the home page, most click directly on the content promoted on that page, with a smaller percentage going to specific site sections.
Now these are gross generalizations, and if you work on a website you should certainly familiarize yourself with your own traffic patterns. To paraphrase the finance guys, “Previous traffic patterns may not indicate your site traffic.” But there are general trends across a broad swath of consumer-facing websites. (One notable exception: news-based sites, which some users tend to bookmark and visit regularly through the homepage or their preferred channels, such as Business or Politics.)
This trend is not terribly new. Several years ago, at another site, our traffic pattern analysis showed we’d easily get a bigger bang for our buck by redesigning the article pages ahead of the home page, but for some reason it’s taken a while to gain traction. Now I’m not saying the home page is not important: it’s still the entryway to the brand, should reflect the sensibilities, content, and breadth of the site, and should be engaging for the users who do come to it. But to realize larger gains in traffic and engagement, say goodbye to the old wisdom about homepages and focus your efforts — whether for sales executions or product development — on the pages with the most traction.