At one time your homepage was considered the most important part of your website. But research now suggests that a phenomenon known as sideways surfing can bring you just as much traffic as your homepage.
In recent years there has been a shift in user behavior involving how they find websites. Instead of entering websites from home pages, people finding websites by clicking on links in social media posts, emails, and Google searches. It is becoming common for people to find out about news stories by reading posts in Facebook, rather than going to the original sources. Homepage traffic appears to be on the decline according to the National Law Review. NYTimes.com, Wall Street Journal and Yahoo each reported declines in the number of visits that start on the homepage.
So what is going on?
While many firms are seeing a heavy decline in the number of visits to their homepage, they are still getting plenty of page views. But these views are coming in through sideways surfing, which means that people are finding their site via other pages on the web and visiting the site. These two factors are increasing the sideways surfing for all professional services involving social media and content marketing.
Sideways surfing is expanding due to social media, but it doesn’t mean that it outdates homepages. You should still construct your homepage the same way and not worry about the effects of sideways surfing, which is simply an extra way to get traffic beyond your content marketing skills.
What is the value of a homepage?
A homepage is still important for your website and your brand. It doesn’t matter if visitors enter your site through the homepage or any other page as long as they develop a familiarity with the consistency of your web pages. Your homepage should still load quickly and provide sensible navigation so that it has instant appeal. The homepage still works best as an index to your site.
People who sideways surf eventually make their way to your homepage, so you still need to put some effort into an attractive homepage that reflects your niche. The homepage is also the most tracked page on your website, so do not ignore it. Regardless of how visitors enter your website you will want to study the links and the keywords that brought people to your site.
It’s all about the blog
Blogs can attract loyal followings if they are written with authority and stay up to date. The reason each blog is important is that it provides opportunities for more people to find your site. A blog can be strengthened by thinking of it as a landing page. While you do not want your blog to have an obvious sales slant, you can still treat it as part of a sales funnel. People are looking for information and as a blogger you provide it.
One thing a blog should not be is an archive of similar pages trying to promote the website in a shallow way. If you try to expand your blog with fluff such as duplicate content it may backfire since search engines seek to penalize sites with weak content. Each blog should uncover unique information that cannot be found on other sites.
The key to creating a successful blog is to choose a niche in which you can be a leader. You may not be the number one most popular blogger in your field, but you can be the only blogger in your field with a specific perspective about the future of your industry. Make sure that each blog contains valuable information. You will want to write hundreds of blogs, but none of them should be composed of fluff. The more quality blogs you write, the more chances you will have to attract new traffic to your site.
Create a style and tone consistent with your business
Your blog content ultimately determines the personality you portray to your readers. If you are a professional service provider, you need to present a serious image. At the same time, you do not need to be overly technical. It always helps to speak to readers as friends or family members. This technique makes it easier to write in a conversational style.
The style and tone of the blog should reflect the target audience, which can be defined in many ways, including age, gender and income. Think about how you want your audience to perceive you. It’s important to maintain a consistent tone and style, which helps build credibility.
Ultimately, you want to create a narrative that is memorable and reflects the theme of your business. By playing the role of storyteller you will be able to captivate people using creative imagery. Putting your ideas into stories helps give them purpose.
Ideally, you will have over 200 blog posts eventually because you have many important things to say about your niche. But it’s not something you should try to make happen in one day since every post needs to comprise quality content. Then you need to set up a content schedule that lays out the topics you’ll cover, how you will cover them and most importantly, when you will write them. The number of posts you make is up to you, as it can be anything from one post per month to daily posts. Just remember that the more often you post, the better.
Okay, so how often do I post?
The key isn’t how many blogs per week or month — it is just keeping it consistent. If you are going to post a blog every single day, then keep doing so. You don’t want your readers to come back only to realize you aren’t keeping up with the schedule. You need to be consistent and predictable when it comes to your blogging schedule. So, sit down and really think about how often you want to post and what you want to commit to before you start doing it. If you can’t keep up with daily posting, but want to keep offering daily tidbits, you might want to look into outsourcing to keep it moving.
Be engaging, playful and keep readers interested
No matter how often you blog, it can be hard to keep your readers engaged. But engagement is crucial if you want people to stick around on your blog and website long enough to see what else you have to offer. Some ways to engage your readers could include:
- Use catchy, sometimes controversial headlines
- Use visuals such as videos, infographics and colorful images
- Add a poll or open up a debate
- Market your blog and drive more traffic
Now that you know what to do with your blog to increase your website’s traffic, it is time to get more traffic to your blog. Yes, the more posts you have the more likely search engines will find and recommend your site, but that doesn’t mean you need to skip marketing those blogs. Mashable has some great, Google-friendly tips for increasing traffic to your website the right way.
Use realistic, long tail keywords – long tail keywords are the things people are searching for.
Stick with it – the longer you stick with it and continue to deliver excellent content, the more traffic you will get to your website.
Optimise – use keywords and optimize the headers and body of your blogs.
Use links – link to high-quality vendors and other blogs in your niche.
Offer value – your blog is a place people are going free advice, so give it to them.
Use social media – promote every single blog post that you have on social media like LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.
Emphasise quality – Take the time to correct typos, grammatical errors or spelling issues and how your sentences flow.
Google will reward you when you make high quality posts. If you are sharing unique content that competitors are ignoring, then your site will likely rank higher. Another technique that can strengthen your credibility is to encourage experts to post on your blog. Yes, you are an expert in your field, but there are other experts out there too. If you have a law blog, for example, why not have a featured guest post from a former attorney, judge or someone in the same industry that can offer insight and give your readers something else to take away?
Making sideways surfing count
Sideways surfing should be thought of as a gift from social media. It should not be thought of as something that hurts your homepage stats. Think about how social media is the best way to promote blogs. When you design your blog pages think of how they will look as posts on social media. Adding colorful images to your blogs will increase the chances of your followers wanting to share your content.
How your blog and website work together
A blog and a website work well together if thought and energy is put into both projects. Both need to be creative and informative at the same time. The purpose of your website is to have a hub where customers can find you. The blog exists as a feature to promote the site, brand and products in informative ways.
Having a great blog is a start for increasing your site’s traffic. It can help make your website viral, promote brand awareness and most importantly, help your organization grow. Harness the power of your blog and get posting — once a week can get a following going, but a daily blog will likely bring much more traffic.
By Aaron Enright