Your Homepage Is Not As Important As You Think

Dan Blank

Today’s guest post is from Dan Blank of We Grow Media.


Author platform is about more than your homepage. Perhaps you hope your homepage embodies the essence of your writing, that it is the gateway into the world you are creating.

But oftentimes, it isn’t.

A website homepage is not like the cover of a book. Especially if you are an author who blogs, or who frequently updates various parts of your site, the homepage is often completely unseen by those who stop by.

For many sites I have worked with, fewer than 20% of visitors even see the homepage. Instead, they spend their time on blog pages, the About page, events pages, or other “interior pages” of the website.

Why? Because most people find your site via search engines, social media, links from other websites, or newsletter. This is an example of the ways people may find your website:

How people find your website

Let’s explore this:

  • Search Engines: It’s common for search engines to comprise of 25-40% of your website traffic. That someone typed something into Google, your website came up, and that’s how they found their way to you.
  • Newsletters or E-mail: When you have a direct connection to your audience via an e-mail list, it can become a primary way to drive traffic.
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and a wide range of other search engines focus on finding great content and sharing it across these networks. Much of it is filled with links that points back to websites such as yours.
  • Referring Links: Perhaps other websites or blogs have mentioned you or your website. These links are often active for a long period of time, and help refer people to you.
  • Direct Traffic: Some of your traffic is people typing your website address into a web browser. But not many.

What all of these elements have in common is CONTEXT. People are likely coming not directly to your homepage, but to individual blog pages, your About page, or other interior pages on your site. They simply have more context. People don’t search for “fiction author” and find your site. They search for very specific things.

This is why search engine optimization, social media, and related topics are so powerful and commonly discussed when trying to develop your audience. They provide context by which to engage people.

A homepage should not be the kitchen sink of everything you are about. It should help to brand what you are about, and provide some key direction. Many homepages I see have dozens of links, which often serve to confuse instead of direct people. You have just a few seconds to engage someone—use that time wisely.

Jane has shared wonderful advice on key elements you should include on your website.

With sites I’ve worked with, I have seen 80% of the incoming traffic landing on pages other than the homepage. And of the 20% that did land on the homepage, only a small percentage of those people actually clicked anything to dig further into the website.

A website is not like a book or magazine, where there is a cover and a linear process through it. People jump into your website—into your story—at random places. This is partially why every page needs to tell your story, why you need to reiterate who you are, and provide context at every opportunity.

I always look at this data when I am in a web analytics package such as Google Analytics. I will see things such as this:

Google Analytics page visits

During this time period, the website had 56,079 page views, but only 4,610 were on the homepage. Was the homepage important? Yes, critically so. You can see that it is the most popular individual page on that website. But the sum of the other pages added up to so much more in terms of attention.

My overall point is this:

Before you waste your time obsessing about your homepage design for six months, or spend hundreds or thousands of dollars paying a designer to get your homepage just the right “feel,” take time to experiment. See what works, and what doesn’t. Measure. Determine where it makes sense to put your resources of both time and money.

When I work with authors, we focus on the issues above, but also on the idea of how to build and engage their audience via sharing content. That you are engaging people with your VOICE and with STORY, not just with design.

I went through this process myself recently as well, and shared the process of redesigning my website in three blog posts:

So much of this is about understanding your goals as a writer, and understanding the needs and behaviors of the audience you hope to engage. Then, it is about thinking strategically about how to connect the two, and measuring and iterating to constantly get the most out of your limited resources.


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Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia.com, which provides writers and publishers the strategy and tactics they need to impact their communities and build their legacies. He has worked with more than 500 writers, a wide range of publishers, and regularly speaks at conferences about branding, content strategy, social media, and marketing. He teaches an 8-week online course for writers called Build Your Author Platform. Read his blog at WeGrowMedia.com

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32 Comments on "Your Homepage Is Not As Important As You Think"

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Bonnee

Wow, that’s a bit eye-opening. The tab for my blog was automatically titled ‘home’ after I added other tabs, but I don’t know how to check separate page statistics on blogger. Either way, my website/blog/author platform isn’t all that popular yet. I spent a few minutes tonight trying to make it look a bit more appealing instead of tacky; give it a bit of personality and whatnot, but I think that was more because I was bored than thought it would make me more popular. Thank you for this post, very insightful 🙂 

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Linda Austin

Very interesting! My home page is a blog so that it changes often and attracts the spider (I hope), with tabs for my book’s info, services, about. So now we know that every page is important as it might be the one stop shop.

Josh Hogg

I split up my blog and my homepage from one another, because I wanted them to exist as separate entities from one another. I’ve often wondered if this was the right approach. I wanted the homepage to be more of a quick resume, and my blog to be its own community. Anyone care to comment on this?

Jane Friedman

I second Dan—depends on your audience.
But I wonder why you need a website to serve as a quick resume? Why not use LinkedIn? You’re far more likely to get views there that would be appropriate to that goal. Save your website/blog for the direct relationship with your community, which can be expanded alongside your career.

Josh Hogg

Hey Jane,

I may have misled my intentions a bit in my first comment. As I mentioned to Dan below, my personal website was more for people to come across if they Googled my name. I imagined that my blog could be its own ‘brand’ (I hate to use that word, but I can’t come up with a better way to describe it).

Thanks for the reply,
Josh

Judith van Praag
In 2005 my main concern was to show a gallery window with my different (pre-) occupations. Not unlike the artwork on display at street level, my hope was to lure people into my “shop”. The blog I created alongside —that is, at the same time I launched my Website— didn’t show up in the menu until last year. And I kind of underplayed the importance of my book, because back in 1999 my adviser said I should never say I published that baby myself. My website wasn’t supposed to be as static as it is, but since I can’t upload… Read more »
Linda Woods
Hi Dan, I’m still writing my first work of fiction hoping to get published sometime this year or next. I did start a WordPress website just to get it up and running, but since I don’t have anything published yet, I feel like it’s just “sitting there.” I wanted to start it up though so that when I get closer to finishing my novel and publishing I would already have it established. What do you think is important to put into the website in the meantime? I have the about page, and some other short blogs in there, but nothing… Read more »
Linda Woods

Hi Dan,

If you want to take a look, here is my website. lindawoodsrph.wordpress.com. Thanks! Linda

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[…] Ideas: Your Homepage Is Not As Important As You Think, by Dan Blank – “Author platform is about more than your homepage. Perhaps you hope […]

Jennifer Fulford

Thanks for this post. I have seen both my blog and my website evolve, despite the fact I’m unpublished. I’ve worked on them as I’ve revised and queried. I now cross promote each, although both seem to have different audiences. I don’t know if it’s the best way to go about platform building, but it seems to work for now. I would encourage any unpublished writer to jump in and get going. The more time you have to experiment with your online identity, the better. Your direction will get clearer with time. Mine has. 

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Kemberlee Shortland

I’ve been using a blog for my homepage for years because my homepage never really had great numbers of visitors. But my blog is hit regularly, and from there I have links into the interior of my real site. My blog has been tweeked to look like my regular site so unless someone is looking at the URL bar, no one would know they were different. Plus, since I use Blogger, Google(who owns Blogger) lists their own sites first on rankings!

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