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Why The Home Page Is Dying & What To Do About It

The homepage used to represent the online focus of a brand, establishing the point of first contact for the consumer and allowing the company to establish a digital presence.

This is no longer the case.

With increased fragmentation among traditional media channels and even within the content itself, companies must adapt new strategies to best suit the ever-evolving online world.

Given the number of web properties available to consumers, they are now more likely to land on a company web page from another web destination.

Thesis Author Daniel Neukomm

Thesis Author Daniel Neukomm

In fact, as of 2008 75% or more of corporate web traffic originates from a source other then their own homepage (Schmitt, 2008).

This is largely due to the emergence of Blogs, Social Sites, Search and RSS feeds as primary feeder points for almost all information on the web (Schmitt, 2008).

One important implication of this is the decline in premium pay sites, such as Times Select.  This was dismantled in 2007 as a result of the overwhelming traffic it was generated stemming from large numbers of links from blogs referencing articles.

According to paidcontent.org, they walked away from nearly $10 million in annual revenue to refocus their revenue generation strategy around advertisements rather then subscription service.

While this trend is affecting all brands none are as adversely impacted as major TV networks that are desperately trying to lock in content distribution deals with video portal sites such as You Tube and Yahoo! Videos.

While TV networks are leading the charge away from homepages, largely due to the increasing demand for more instant and relative info, companies will most likely not see the return of the homepage in the near future if ever.

Digital marketing agency Razorfish reported at the end of 2008 that more then 70% of consumers originate their web experience from a search portal, while 60% start form customized start pages and 56% from RSS feeds.

Given the decline of the homepage, there are four important implications for marketers which must be considered:

1) Traffic Distribution Metric

This key metric should be established to measure all traffic in (via search, referrals, or direct) and out of the homepage in light of the various points of origin prior to, and destinations after landing on the homepage.

Razorfish suggests that a key benchmark is 65% of all traffic ending up on pages other then the homepage itself should originate from places other then the home landing page.  This standard has been adopted as the norm for socially savvy websites and will quickly become the standard in which to compete for traffic.  (Schmitt, 2008)

2. Every page is the homepage

Due to increased access to all pages on a site stemming from fragmented points of origin, each page must be treated as if it is the primary landing page.

More specifically, there is an increased chance that consumers will land on any page within the site due to referrals, blogs and search, so greater attention is needed to ensure that the consumers first point of contact with the brand is clean and well presented.

The clarity of content and access to other aspects of the site should be accessible on all pages. (Schmitt, 2008)

3. Web 2.0 Toolbar

Given the need for content distribution, all pages should incorporate a toolbar that facilitates viral distribution.

Applications that enable such mechanisms include Digg and Reddit and should also be used to distribute video content if available to sites such as You Tube and Facebook, broadening the scope of reach as much as possible.

Linked content appears higher on Google powered search results then non-linked content further justifying this web 2.0 integration.(Schmitt, 2008)

4. Performance Tracking

Measurements of success are now dictated by so many different syndicated content locations that it is important to measure the success of websites from all angles. Emails, Applications, downloads, blog links and search results all occur off site but are still valuable in determining and segmenting ROI. (Schmitt, 2008)

As online media becomes more inherently dynamic and new channels emerge, the strength of the homepage will be continually diluted.  As such, markets must adapt to newer, more disruptive consumer behaviors and expectations.

Increased media channel fragmentation driving the decline of the homepage can be attributed to the rise in search and social media.

The combination and power of these two channels is driven by the rise in user-generated content flooding the web – this will only continue as consumers develop increased comfort with technology as it becomes cheaper, faster and more accessible.

How will your company adapt to the new digital landscape?

Note: The above is an exercpt from a thesis written by Daniel Neukomm.  A source for the excerpt was Schmitt, G. (2008). “White Paper: Does the home page still matter? Why distribution trumps destination for publishers and advertisers.” San Francisco: Avenue A Razorfish.

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