Do you know which page on your website is the homepage? A simple enough question, right? Well, maybe not.
Most companies believe that their website does a half decent job of introducing themselves to their customers. However, their conclusion is often based upon the assumption that every visitor is entering the website from the front door: the home page. However, the reality is that visitors enter your site from any number of entry-points.
What You’re Saying vs. What They’re Searching
Many business websites – consciously or otherwise – are designed to lead a visitor down a determined path or paths. Marketing geeks call this the user journey.
There a “Home page”, where the company assumes the web visitor will land. From there, the visitor is taken to “Our Products”, “Solutions” or whatever. The visitor is encouraged to visit such-and-such-a-page, followed by some other page. Their route is optimized, or guided, by textual and visual content to lead them in a particular direction.
The ultimate destination for most non-eCommerce sites is usually the “Contact Us” page. The thinking goes that the visitor has been convinced enough by what they’ve seen on preceding pages that they’ll email you, call you, or submit their contact details. Your sales rep then gets in touch with them, does the deal, and all’s right with the world. The End.
Except that’s not usually how it happens.
If we exclude any advertising campaigns you’re running, visitors who come to your site arrive there thanks to search engines. They’re not arriving there thanks to you. And search engines aren’t generally too fussed about home pages.
“We’re Ranked #1 On Google!”
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this from business owners (or even marketing people, who really ought to know better). We’ll enter into a conversation about the optimization of their online content to better present the site to search engines, and I’m told in no uncertain terms that there’s nothing to worry about from that side. “We consistently appear as the top search result on Google, Bing, and the rest,” they say.
But when I ask what search terms they’re using to bring that result, I’m invariably told that it’s the name of their business! Once again (in case you didn’t catch it the first time): The name of their business. I’m sorry people, but if your business is called XYZ Accounting and you don’t come up in at least the top three results when someone does a search for “XYZ Accounting”, then you may as well go home right now.
Most people don’t type in the name of a business when they’re looking for something in a search engine. Supposing I’m in Chicago and looking for someone to teach me to play the piano. I’m going to search “piano tuition Chicago”, or something along similar lines. I’m not going to be searching for “The Better Note Music Academy.”
Visitors enter keywords or phrases about the information they’re looking for, or the problem they’re trying to solve. When the results page pops-up, what they click on is based upon the title and description of the particular web page that the search engine has decided to display.
And – more often than not – the page the search engine is showing isn’t your homepage. This highlights a number of problems.
Firstly, if your business value messaging is solely built around what your company does, rather than around the customer issues it addresses, your page may not even appear on those search engine results. Secondly, if your website is structured on the basis of leading the visitor from one page to another, what happens when their starting-point is not where you imagined it was going to be?
Take a look a one of the sub-pages of your website. How does it look? Imagine it’s the first page that a visitor sees when they come to your website. Does the content stand on its own two feet, or does its reason for being depend on the visitor having already seen other pages? Are there important links or content on your “real” homepage that are not immediately accessible from this page? Can the visitor easily get to your “About” page and “Contact” page (probably the two most-visited pages on your website) in one click?
Which Page Is Your Homepage? All Of Them.
You don’t get to decide on which page your visitors enter your website. That control has been passed to the search engines. Google, and the rest, are effectively deciding which page on your website is the “homepage” for the visitor, based upon the search terms they’ve entered. Every page on your website needs to be strong enough to stand on its own, as much as being part of a wider, integrated brand experience.
There’s no place like Home. Wherever that may be.