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Asking the Experts

Asking the Experts: Is Homepage Traffic Still Relevant?

So, how should we measure digital success in 2019? We asked 6 professionals for their take on the current state of digital marketing

Keith Loria
May 21 2019

For over two decades, homepage traffic was the standard for measuring digital marketing success, but with declining homepage traffic and organic click-through rates, this is no longer the case. In contrast, no-click searches – where a user discovers leads for what they’re seeking without visiting your site – are rapidly increasing.

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Jake Rheude, vice president of marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, said that homepage traffic has become less relevant in marketing as brands have found new ways to connect to their audiences. It’s no longer enough to measure success in terms of traffic, keyword rankings, or even engagement.

“From a purely SEO perspective, we know now that tactics such as keyword stuffing or buying up random websites to point back to your website are completely useless, but keyword research is just as important now as it’s always been,” he said. “The only thing that’s different is we know that longtail keywords are where the money is at, as opposed to general ones.”

What’s changed, he added, is that companies have taken an omnichannel approach to increase their visibility in front of a target audience.

“Your homepage is less important when you can use various social media channels to funnel potential customers or users directly onto custom-crafted landing pages that match up to their respective demographic profiles,” Rheude said.

Founder and CEO of MuteSix, Steve Weiss, said that today’s marketers should be looking at precise ways to show how and where marketing investments drive business and contribute to the bottom line.

He noted that eCommerce has shown great success converting browsers into buyers through powerful product detail pages, while offering more information and utilizing visual enhancements such as rich media, alternative images, zoom functionality, in-page accessories, and audio and video.

“85% of US online adults agree that it’s important for a retailer’s website to include product information,” Weiss said. “Rather than overloading shoppers with too much information and making pages too long, eCommerce brands now emphasize elements such as detailed product specs, ratings and reviews, sizing information, and related products that are essential to encourage shoppers to complete a transaction or explore opportunities to cross-sell.”

Establishing Goals

Heidi Bullock, CMO of Engagio, said that with all marketing initiatives, there should be a clear goal established prior to any tactic being executed.

“For B2B marketers, the primary goal of running digital programs is to drive awareness, engagement, and ultimately pipeline creation,” she said. “Today, teams can set up programs in marketing automation systems that can track how effective a digital initiative is based on new names, early engagement, and ultimately outcomes like pipeline.”

While homepage traffic is important to measure, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Many B2B marketing teams are using account-based marketing (ABM) to drive quality growth and outcomes that are more impactful for the business.

“Measuring engagement within an account is another area that is valuable to assess digital impact,” Bullock said. “For example, if an organization is marketing a new product or service, digital advertising is often a common tactic to execute. While having new potential customers visit your website could seem good, many of those people may not be your target audience and many may not buy.”

Marketers ultimately need to measure a valuable business outcome, not just activity. Therefore, seeing a set of target accounts engage is a better indicator of success.

Illia Termeno, director of Extrabrains marketing agency, said that while the goal of every digital marketing campaign is a positive return on investment, not every campaign directly leads to an increase in profit.

“Some campaigns raise awareness of your brand, while others might bring visitors to your blog,” he said. “They help increase profits in the long run, but their short-term results can’t be quantified with monetary values.”

Therefore, he suggests taking into account conversions that are more directly linked to sales and revenues when measuring the success of digital marketing campaigns, such as online sales, online-to-store sales, leads from web forms, live chats, and leads and sales from phone calls.

“Homepages are less important today because online behavior has changed. Visitors arrive to company websites through different channels: search engines, email links, social media, remarketing, advertising, referrals, related websites, messages etc.,” Termeno said. “These entrance pathways generally direct users to landing pages, blog articles, and deeper website content containing specific topics. Visitors are spending significantly less time on the homepage, and its importance and flow of traffic are declining steadily.”

Ollie Smith, CEO of ExpertSure, noted that as the digital world develops and evolves, so do the metrics companies use to measure success – and homepage traffic is no longer relevant, as it offers practically no real insights into consumer behavior.

“In 2019, the first metric to concern yourself with is time. What was the average amount of time spent by visitors on each page and how long did they spend on your website in total? The longer visitors spend on your website, the better,” he said. “Secondly, check your Instagram insights – keeping an eye on hashtags, your stories and your back navigation is a great indication of returning users, which are great for business.”

Gary J. Nix, founder and chief strategist of The BRANDarchist, noted that the ubiquity and comfort of people’s engagement with digital properties have lessened the importance of homepage hits.

“This is not to say that web traffic to a brand’s homepage is irrelevant; however, its priority has fallen for most,” he said. “All in all, the key is to determine what’s most important to you in a set time period and analyze the appropriate awareness, consideration, advocacy, or conversion KPIs and then link that to the positive or negative effects on revenue.”

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