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Currently, only one in three visitors to the The New York Times’s website, an American newspaper, land on the site’s homepage. That percentage is said to be falling as we speak. In 2011, half the site’s visitors still entered the site via its homepage.
This was revealed in an internal report drafted by the American newspaper, which was recently leaked to the press. According to that report, “those entering our website via the homepage spend increasingly less time there.”
The New York Times is no exception. Other sites witness the same drop in visits to their homepage. For quite a few websites, the trend is even markedly lower, with 5 to 15% landing on the homepage being the norm rather than an exception for your average website. To put it differently: the bulk of visitors to your website never even so much as see your homepage.
Explanations for your homepage’s waning importance are quite simple. First, there is the rising importance of search engines, like Google, which usually reference individual pages. “In a way, Google has become our new homepage,” states the famous web expert Gerry McGovern in the wake of the New York Times’s report. “Each page we post is likely to become somebody’s homepage,” he explains.
Then, there are social media, like Facebook and Twitter. They are frequently used to share webpages or articles located somewhere deep down a website’s hierarchical ladder. As a rule, visitors to such pages leave the site immediately afterwards.
Not quite what you think
Gerry McGovern believes most companies are as yet unaware of this trend. They still consider their homepage the main entrance to their internet offering, while any webstore currently has countless side- and backdoors.
McGovern therefore believes that linking to content on other websites and proper SEO are far more important than creating the content proper. Providing one’s website with a clear-cut structure may have been of prime importance in the past— nowadays a network of links to the various pages is what really counts.
More often than not, the creation of information and messages, on the one hand, and their dissemination (sharing and linking to such content), on the other, are handled by different departments. “These two activities need to converge and should ideally be handled by one and the same department.”
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