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Making Your Homepage Work for You

With the majority of site visits coming through social and search referrals, respectively, many digital publishers are beginning to wonder just how important the homepage actually is for their audience. After all, it is increasingly common for visitors to navigate directly to an article without landing on the homepage first — or at all. However, if you produce quality content, chances are your readers will eventually want to find more of it.

And that’s when a well-designed homepage comes into play.

The bigger your media brand, the more importance you should place on your homepage. Top-tier media outlets rely on their reputation for quality content to drive readers to their respective homepages, which quickly take these readers to the types of articles they are most interested in reading.

Here’s what you need to know about using your own homepage to delight customers.

The Homepage is Like a Core Marketing Asset

Marketers use social media for many different reasons: brand awareness, customer experience management, audience building, funnel management, and more. However, a core asset in any digital marketer’s playbook is a product website to collect key data, drive conversions, and build audiences.

Digital publishers should be thinking about their homepage in the same way that marketers think about their product’s website. As more platforms become available to host content, it would be a mistake for digital publishers to ignore one of their best assets in the homepage.

Instead, digital publishers need to get more sophisticated about the traffic patterns between platforms so that they may utilize this traffic to their advantage. In this way, there’s not much difference from how a modern marketer treats his audience and how a publisher treats its audience.

The Homepage Allows for Personalization

The homepage is the face of your media site; it showcases all of your publication’s recent content. Some is hosted in prominent locations, while other pieces are more difficult to find; some content includes beautiful images, while other pieces are simply presented in list format. Regardless, there is plenty of potential for digital publishers to use placement of articles on the homepage to increase readership.

Parse.ly’s overlay, for example, ranks the most recent popular articles on your homepage. This is a great way to engage new readers and those who don’t consistently visit the site. Additionally, the overlay enables position tracking, which can show homepage editors how the location of an article impacts performance; helping them to make quick and productive decisions based on performance — including promoting and demoting articles, changing the layout, and integrating new pieces.

Publishers can also personalize the homepage for each visitor, just like marketers do. Simply analyze activity on the news homepage and then create actionable insights based on that data, such as showing certain readers stories on the topics that are most interesting to them.

The Homepage Can Reinforce Your Brand

Good first impressions matter for boosting your organization’s bottom line, and that’s one of the main goals of your homepage. Remember: you have only seven seconds to make your mark, as that’s the average time it takes someone to form a first impression. Thus, your homepage can be the difference between getting a lifetime reader or losing one.

A good way to see how well your website is doing at building loyalty is by analyzing key metrics. Parse.ly recommends looking at a set of data (in the context of your site’s goals, of course!) that includes total visitors, number of unique visitors, number of return visitors, and the frequency of visits among return readers. This will give you a good gauge of reader loyalty, and show you where you need to improve.

Is the homepage dead? Not yet! Digital publishers are getting better than ever at using data to improve engagement and form good relationships with new visitors. And they are using homepages to collect key data, drive conversions, and build audiences — taking a cue from marketers, who rely on product websites as an important part of the sales lifecycle.

Despite a noticeable increase in referral traffic, digital publishers must not neglect the homepage, as it has many tangible — and intangible — benefits.