One of my favorite Google Analytics stats is the “Landing Pages” report which shows what pages visitors see first when they come to your site. It’s tucked in there under Behavior>Site Content. Go ahead and take a look.
Why is it my favorite? Because it tells an amazing story that too many association website managers don’t pay attention to....
The first page many website visitors will see is not your homepage!
In fact, a quick analytics review of several Vanguard Technology client sites finds that a visitor sees the homepage as their first visited page only 10% to 35% of the time (depending on the site). Here are a few of the top landing pages from some of our clients’ sites:
So what brings users to these deeper pages on your site? Why would they come here instead of the homepage?
- Google Search Queries – a public search query will return results for many pages of your site
- Social Sharing – When someone shares a page from your site, their social followers click on the link and go directly to that specific page which is typically not the homepage
- Email Marketing – Organizations send out email messages or other announcements that link to various pages in the site
The bottom line is that these sub-pages answer a specific question or address a business need that someone found directly through one of the above methods. And for each of these sites, it is the first impression that potential first time visitors will see.
Go ahead and experiment on your site. Do a Google some searches for information that someone may be looking for on your site. A good search test is always “what is” or “how do I” followed by industry specific terms. What pages come up first in your search results?
Treat every page of your website like a homepage
So for all of the kvetching and meetings about your homepage, it’s important to remember that if everything is done right it will be one of the least viewed pages of your association’s website. That’s why it is necessary to give every webpage the same level of attention as you do your homepage.
When a user lands on a page in your site, you have two goals (especially if they are a first time visitor):
1) Answer the question or solve the problem that brought them to your site in the first place
2) Convert them to other content and get them to navigate throughout your site
There are a few keys to accomplishing this.
Start by building pages for the modern user with proper visual hierarchy and web friendly content. Make sure your pages have a flow and layout that structures your content based on your visitor’s needs and engages them.
Then engage and convert your users by defining actions and giving them a path to keep exploring your site. Include other links and relevant information for them.
A good example of this is this subpage from the AACOM website which has information on how to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) (image to the right). You can see how this page has an engaging layout, clear headlines, defined content sections, and links to other resources to help users find more information. This is one of the most viewed pages on this site and answers a key question for many first time visitors – how to become a doctor.
The key is answering two questions:
- What do you want the user to do?
- Where do you want the user to go?
Once you do that you can create an engaging experience.
A few other details to consider include:
- Strategic use of images and photos – Usability studies show that good images improve engagement and users pay attention to photos with relevant information.
- Search Engine Optimization must be a consideration on every page as that not only helps people find your content in the first place but also provides your first opportunity to start to engage them from the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
The bottom line
Yes, the homepage is important. And many visitors will enter your site through the homepage... but not all.
So be sure to pay attention to your association website’s subpages. Because many of them will be your first chance to make a lasting impression with your website visitors.