To Turn Fly-By Traffic Into Subscribers, Don’t Overlook the Homepage
How do people find your content?
You’re part of the majority if social media was the first thing that popped into your mind.
Today, publishers continue to invest more time and money into their social media strategies to increase the visibility of their content, for good reason. According to Cxense’s internal user data from more than 350 publishers, social media drives 90% to 95% of all traffic to a brand’s website.
Before Twitter and Facebook became household names, the homepage was the only way to find and enter a website. Yet today, most publishers say the homepage is old hat. Some will even go so far as to say the homepage is dead. Does the homepage matter when you have thousands of Twitter followers pushing and pulling your content?
Yes, it does matter, and here’s why. Consider that digital publishers share three common goals:
- Develop an audience.
- Acquire new users.
- Engage existing users.
Publishers employ a variety of strategies and tools to achieve these goals, including gated content, video, push to social, content syndication, and more. While social media is a proven driver of traffic, turning those fly-by visitors into loyal subscribers requires a highly personalized content experience.
This begs the question: did social media kill the homepage?
Social Media: Broader Reach, Short-term Impact
We live in a society driven by social media. According to a 2015 Pew survey, the majority of Twitter and Facebook users use the social platforms to consume news. Between trending topics and new content channels, such as Facebook Instant Articles and Facebook Live, there are a number of ways for publishers to push their content to readers’ news feeds.
The same Pew Research report found the rise of social media users consuming news on different social platforms is growing across different age demographics. It’s no longer just a Gen Y or Z thing. Social can help publishers reach more diverse audiences than marketing or a simple Google search could have ever done.
You don’t need me to tell you just how important social media is for business today. However, for publishers battling ad-blockers and looking to increase paying subscribers, social media alone isn’t enough.
The Homepage: Smaller Reach, Big Impact
Social may make it simple for readers to find your content, but it doesn’t necessarily turn them into loyal customers. These fly-by visitors follow a link to a story, read it and immediately click away from your site. On the other hand, while only 5% to 10% of users enter your website through the homepage, they represent nearly 50% of page views.
Visitors entering a website through the homepage view more pages per session than visitors entering through any other domain. For example, readers visiting your website from social channels typically view an average of 1.8 pages per session, compared to homepage visitors, who view anywhere from 10 to 30 pages.
However, getting a visitor to enter your site from the homepage is a small step in a complex process to convert him or her into a loyal subscriber. Publishers, like Winnipeg Free Press, can pull readers in by personalizing the home page to their unique interests. To increase click-throughs, use first- and third-party data to create a personalization strategy that is flexible -- a strategy that makes it simple to provide readers with the most relevant articles customized to their own personal interests. This approach has been effective for publishers like Winnipeg Free Press, which launched the first fully personalized news web site in 2015 and saw time spent on the website increase by 60% and the number of articles viewed per week double.
That’s not to say social media visitors can’t be as valuable. When readers enter your website via a link on social media that leads them to personalized content, they are more likely to become engaged with the rest of your website and return through the homepage next time. Those homepage visitors are more likely to click on more of your content because they are interested in your brand, not just one article or video.
In the evolving media landscape, publishers must understand the benefits and drawbacks of every strategy they employ. Both homepage and social traffic are extremely valuable to a publisher and the livelihood of its publication. However, as social media consumption continues to soar, it’s important to remember the homepage still has a place in the customer journey. At the end of the day, it’s about creating customized, compelling content that your users will find, love, and come back for -- whether they do so via social media or the homepage.