The Continuing Demise of the Home Page

I’m a homeowner, but don’t have a key to my own house. Well, I’m sure I could dig around and come up with one, but I don’t ever carry one.  To get inside, I open the automatic garage door and enter through an inside door.  I’ve done so every day in my nearly four years of living here. (Yes, a power outage is my kryptonite.)

My front door is the equivalent of your organization’s home page. It exists and it’s pretty, but fewer and fewer people are using it as the entranceway to your organization. We can thank search traffic, email marketing, social media and campaign specific landing pages for the rapid decline in home page traffic and growth of ‘inside’ or ‘article’ pages.

This concept has been fodder for numerous articles over the last several years. Zach Seward, a senior editor at digitally native news outlet Quartz, shared his thoughts in a 2013 Columbia Journalism Review titled, “Is the homepage dead?”:

“We tell our writers at Quartz to assume every post stands on its own and starts with an audience of zero. It has to earn its own audience out on the social web. That’s a challenge but a fun one, and it produces really strong material that readers like.”

“We’re thrilled if people visit us through the front door, by typing in qz.com, but we know that most everyone will come through the back door. The site design also reflects that: the ‘homepage’ drops you right into our top story and looks just like any article page.”

The topic resurfaced again last week when The New York Times’ Innovation Report 2014 was leaked to BuzzFeed and directly addressed their home page traffic:

“Traffic to the home page has been declining, month after month, for years. Traffic to section fronts is negligible. Traffic on our mobile apps, which are mostly downstream replicas of our home page and section fronts, has declined, as well.”

The New York Times report also included this powerful chart:

Homepage Visitors - AudienceView chart example

If you’re not seeing a decline in home page traffic, you may want to re-examine your website strategy. It likely means that your inside pages are not being shared or, worse yet, you aren’t using inside pages effectively (or at all). Campaign landing pages are critical to measuring marketing programs and reducing the number of clicks to a completed transaction.  This has a direct impact on your sales and business success.

If you are expending too much energy on your organization’s home page, consider shifting those resources to developing highly targeted inside pages. Then, analyze the trends monthly or quarterly to see if it’s having a positive impact and adjust accordingly.