Do you have homepageitis?

Do you have homepageitis?
  • Has your organisation embarked on a website redesign that was mainly a homepage redesign?
  • Does your team focus on the homepage as if it constituted the entirety of your website?
  • Does important messaging that needs to be seen by all visitors go just on the homepage?

Then your organisation may have a case of:

Homepageitis (n): a disproportionate preoccupation with your website’s homepage, even if it’s not actually making a substantial difference to your business.

The homepage may be the most important single page of your website. But that doesn’t make it a stand-in for your website. The stereotype that your typical visitor starts by going to the homepage and then navigates to where they want from there is probably false. The truth is,most websites’ homepages are not nearly as important as people think.

Here are three metrics you should be looking at when determining how much love and attention your homepage might need (as opposed to improving other page templates that might have far more impact). To work out the baselines, we used anonymised Google Analytics data from 10 websites across different industries, but you should do this for your own website!

Metric 1: What percentage of sessions include a visit to the homepage?

Note that this is not the same as saying how many people start on the homepage. This is about asking which percentage of sessions visit the homepage at any point in the session. To do this, you will need Google Analytics advanced segments and include sessions where Page equals the homepage (however you define it).

As you can see the highest scoring website did not even have half of its visitors view the homepage. On average, just 14% of sessions included the homepage at all. This means that 86% of the time, the user’s session consists only of other pages. If you have product pages, destination pages, service pages, anything else that makes up a bigger chunk of users’ actual browsing behaviour, these are the pages you should focus your optimisation efforts on to increase conversions.

“Great”, you might say, “maybe the average user doesn’t actually visit my homepage. But the users that convert, the users that matter most are more likely to visit my homepage, maybe because they have heard of my organisation before.”

In which case the next question to answer is:

Metric 2: What percentage of converting sessions include a visit to the homepage?

Here is the actual data (websites have been renumbered in each graph). There is one big outlier, website number one. If 75% of your converting sessions include a visit to the homepage then you probably should give it a very big slice of your attention. However for the other websites (and probably for yours), a majority of converting sessions (over ⅔!) still do not visit the homepage at any point. For the sample as a whole, just 20% of converting sessions included the homepage.

Metric 3: are converting sessions more likely to include the homepage than all sessions? (Metric 1 minus metric 2)

This is an easy way to compare the two above metrics.

  • If the difference between metric 1 and metric 2 is a positive number, this means converters are more likely to visit the homepage than general visitors.
  • If it’s a negative number this means converters are less likely to visit the homepage than general visitors.
  • If it’s exactly 0 it means converters are as likely to visit the homepage than general visitors.

Here we see the full range, the average of these ten websites being positive 6%.

You would probably expect the number to be positive, after all it is true that people who are close to converting are more likely to have your homepage bookmarked, or to search for it and click on the homepage link etc.

If the number is negative, it’s a good idea to work out why. Keeping in mind, that correlation is not causation, but that one potential explanation for a negative number is that your homepage’s messaging/navigation is actually hindering conversion. There are of course, plenty of other potential explanations (eg. most people convert from a free account to a paid account and people using free accounts go to their account dashboard page and not the homepage before converting etc).

Your homepage will always be disproportionately important in terms of putting your brand’s message forward. However checking how important it actually is to visitors and converters will help you allocate time, and perhaps spend it on optimising more relevant pages instead.

Got a question?

For something quick, the best place to ask would be on Twitter or in our Facebook group (you'll need to join the group but it’s a one-click process).