Dude, Where’s My Home Page?

July 30th, 2010 by Daniel DiRico

There was once a time when the home page of your web site was regarded as the front door to your business. It was the one page that demanded constant attention and resources. Above all other pages, it consistently delivered the highest amount of web traffic to your site.

Unfortunately, things aren’t quite that easy in web land anymore.

Nowadays most web professionals know that the all important home page has lost some of its luster, but an explanation of what happened to this once jewel of digital real estate can be elusive.

And there are still many who remain unaware that a shift in strategy is necessary.

Often many businesses and clients, not realizing how outdated a home-page-centric approach can be, still insist that precious time and money be spent towards this perceived portal to the business, often to the detriment of the rest of the site.

So what happened to the home page? And what should your web strategy be in this shifting online landscape?

Well it turns out there are three primary game changers to blame. These are not new, but from the perspective of your home page, each has found a way to wedge themselves between your customers and the content of your web site.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in most circumstances these players can help you immensely, provided you know how to leverage them. Let’s take a look.

Search Engines

Unless someone is searching specifically for your company or business name, it is likely that some other page of your web site will show up in natural search results, not your home page.

And quite often the page that appears in these search results is one that you never anticipated being the first thing a customer would see on your site. It all depends on what they searched for. Yet there it is, some random page in your site that becomes the first impression of your business to many potential customers as well as their primary point of navigation to explore the rest of what you have to offer.

Social Media

There are now countless ways for individuals to share the content of your site. And although there are no hard stats to provide, it is more than likely that the content being shared is not your home page – at least not as often as you might expect.

Similar to search, it all depends on what the individual finds worthy of sharing. Purpose built landing pages aside, where a potential customer lands on your site is often unpredictable. And the impact of social media in this regard continues to grow at a rapid pace, with some predicting it will (or already has) surpassed the impact of search engines (excluding paid search).

Mobile apps

The world of mobile apps is a fascinating and growing source of potential eyeballs to your business. The app revolution that Apple and the iPhone kick-started just three years ago has effectively created a whole new, self-contained internet. Not only does this affect the relevancy of your web site’s home page, but potentially (someday) the entire site itself.

Many mobile apps will still leverage your web site efforts as a source of data and/or as an engine that drives app functionality. Whether it is a basic RSS feed or a more advanced, middle-tier API that powers both the web site and the mobile app, all sorts of new web strategy scenarios arise.

Right now the web browser still dominates the way in which we reach content online. Give mobile apps, tablets and smart phones another three years and we could be looking at a vastly different story. As part of your web strategy, it would be wise to consider the possibility (no matter how crazy it sounds today) of browser diminished future.

The take away

Having considered the web landscape from the home page point of view, it should be clear that your entire site needs equal attention in terms of design, layout, and engaging content. In other words, every page should be as compelling as the home page.

When you don’t know where visitors will land, every page has the potential to be a point of conversion, a first impression, and a lasting influence. And yes (aside from deftly crafted SEO footer content) it is not necessary for the home page to link to every page within the site.

We can worry a little less about the legend of the home page and ensure that no matter where our visitors may land, there is always a welcome mat.

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