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.
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.
Social media is changing the way consumers interact with information and products…and it’s likely going to change your business.
One person specializing in social media for business is Sacha Cohen, CEO of Grassfed Media, an integrated communications company that serves green and socially responsible companies.
Her clients have included National Geographic, The Washington Post, and AARP.
Sacha was kind enough to answer some questions regarding social media and business.
Q: Here’s a lob-ball question to start us off with: would you define social media for us?
Ah, the million-dollar question. Generally, it refers to user-generated content (blogs, video, social networking sites, etc) that enables people to interact, share information, and communicate online.
Here’s a cool little video that illustrates the concept of social media better than I could ever explain in a few words: Social Media in Plain English.
Q: Would you give us a little “Social Media 101” on the top few social media tools (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) — and how a business should participate in each?
I’m going to point you to Mashble’s Social Media 101 Guides which has, for example, these how-to tutorials and many more:
What I will say is that no matter what forum you are participating in or what tool you are using, becoming familiar with the etiquette and conventions of each is critical.
Chris Brogan, who is something of a social media god, offers this excellent Twitter Etiquette Guide.
Q: Your firm provides social media marketing services for socially conscious businesses — would you elaborate on challenges a business might face that you can help them with?
The social media universe is constantly changing and evolving. I’ve found that many businesses are overwhelmed by this new world; I help them navigate through it.
The other challenge is having enough bandwidth to successfully engage through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. They can all be huge time-sucks if you’re not careful.
On the other hand, they can be extremely useful for connecting to customers, product development, and marketing-it’s a matter of focusing on goals and staying on message.
Q: Whose job within a business is it to set social media strategy?
There’s no one-size-fits-all, but it’s usually a collaboration between marketing, PR, and customer service.
Q: What do you think are important new social media trends happening right now?
Here are three:
Q: Would you list examples of businesses using social media most effectively?
Love this one. Here are my top picks: Zappos, Virgin America, and Starbucks. As for non-profits, I’d have to say the Nature Conservancy and Share Our Strength.
Q: You mentioned that you used social networking to increase conversion 17% for one of your clients — what can you tell us about how that worked?
Actually, it wasn’t a client. It was a company I worked for full time. We were able to increase conversion by introducing product reviews and rating with help from a company called Bazaarvoice.
Customers want to know what other customers think; they want real, unbiased opinions. That’s what we delivered and it was a huge success.
Senior management was very resistant at first, but by showing them the research and best practices from other companies, they eventually saw the light.
Q: How do you see social media and public relations working together to grow a business?
Honestly, these days, you really can’t have one without the other. People are talking about your product and company, whether you know it or not.
The questions is: Are you going to ignore the conversation or join it?
Q: What are Top Essential Tools You Recommend for Twitter? (this was added after the original Q&A)
Q: Thanks, Sacha! If someone wanted to get in touch with you, how should they do so?
They can email me at [email protected] or call me at 202-234-0104.