Apparently not. At least not according to this article by Gerry McGovern on the CMS Wire.
As a web designer and consultant I (intuitively) already knew this, but still, like most people, often think of a website’s “homepage” as the most important page. Indeed, all of the rhetoric one reads about SEO and the importance of tweaking one’s website to improve traffic is almost always directed at enhancements to the homepage.
But as McGovern points out in this article, the research is suggesting that the people who land on your website are significantly more likely to land on a page other than your home page. As McGovern notes:
Years ago people might have thought about getting to the homepage and then figuring out where to go on the site. Now they will use search or external links to get closer to the place they really want to get to. So, for example, people are becoming less likely to simply type ‘Toyota’ into a search and more likely to type ‘Toyota recall.’
With search engines more precise in their indexing, and people’s searching behaviors becoming more “mature” as McGovern puts it, we are increasing landing in the middle of websites and not at their “front door.”
So, this observation means a lot of different things to web designers, web site owners and marketing folks. It means every page of your website could be the “front door.” It means that when someone lands there, you have to grab them and “sell them” (if indeed you are selling something).
But it means other things as well. I’ll give you an example:
Recently, a friend asked me about going to see Maya Angelou at the University of Maine in Augusta and wondered if I was going or if there were any tickets left. Of course, my first action was to Google “Maya Angelou Augusta Maine.” A second later I was on the University’s webpage devoted to this event. A few seconds later, I had the University on the phone and the answer to the question. Less than a minute later, I had e-mailed my friend and we started to make plans to meet for dinner.
I think this is a perfect example of how people now use the web these days. I never bothered to look at the UMA homepage. I knew it would simply be the portal to the institution and probably be focused primarily to attracting new students, supporting current students and trying to get rich alumni to send them money. That’s what most college/university websites do, right? And yes, a quick look at the UMA homepage reveals I was correct.
Smartly, they do list the Maya Angelou event on their home page. But Google brought me not to the home page, but to the specific page detailing the event.
So, one of the changes is that designers/owners/marketing folks need to realize that websites will be used by people other than for whom you expect. This means you need to broaden your thinking about the purpose of your site and to whom you think you are marketing to.
I will continue to be thinking about the implications of the McGovern article and would love to hear your views. It is clear that we have to rethink our belief systems about design, homepages and SEO.