Most websites are designed in a fairly linear way, welcoming visitors in through the front door (your homepage or splash page), heading to a series of interior pages, and then moving them slowly to the contact page or contact methods. The user's experience is geared towards this path, and in some cases assumes that path in order to get the full effect of the company's brand/branding experience.
For many small, modern websites (5-10 page sites), this is often still true, as most visitors to the site are likely still coming in through that homepage only. But as content strategies evolved, with websites including more and more pages of content, and search engines delivering more visitors to specific pages deep within your site, it becomes increasingly necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of each page and how it is converting its visitors.
Each page is potentially a landing page.
Landing pages, capture pages, and goals conversions
Before we dive deeper, it's necessary to define a landing page and a capture page, and to understand how they're different, and goal conversions.
A landing page is "the section of a website accessed by clicking a hyperlink on another web page, typically the website's home page." (Google definition)
A capture page is a type of landing page that is created and marketed for the specific purpose of an organizational goal conversion. The visitor is directed at this page for the specific purpose of capturing them.
A goal conversion is when either the user achieves their goal in visiting your site, the site achieves one of its goals, or both the user and the site achieve their goals during the course of a visit. (If you have questions about goal conversions in Google Analytics start here for a primer)
Why they're no longer coming in the front
One of the popular strategies of the last few years has been to develop a Content Strategy and the process of Content Marketing. The premise for this, if you're not familiar with it, is to use content that you produce to generate additional organic search engine traffic, social media sharing and mentions, and to cement your Subject Matter Authority. You want to be known, to people as well as search engines, as authoritative on a subject or subjects. This content, typically housed within your website in a "blog" component or section, becomes the "chum" in the water to lure in visitors.
But what it also does is bring visitors to your site to pages deep within your site.
They bypass your front page and the brand experience you're working to establish.
The visitor is now deep within your site, and this is most likely their first touch point with your website, and possibly with you. They might know absolutely nothing about you; not who you are, not what you do, nor what they should do next. They followed a content trail into your house through the back door, and you might not be giving them directions for what to do next.
Finding where visitors are landing
In our own site, as an example, only 5% of all visitors begin at our homepage; of the remaining 95%, 1% come in through our "static" pages, and 94% come in through one of our many blog posts. This report is easy to find within Google Analytics, and provides you with immediate insights into the success of your visitor's journey within your site when taken from the vantage point of their landing zone.
Using the landing pages report as a starting point, you can quickly look at this data based on source/medium separation, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of those pages on goal conversions as well as other metrics (bounce rate, pages per session, etc.) and compare them against sessions that originated through the homepage. The purpose of looking at these metrics would be to see whether those interior landing pages are performing to the level that you'd want them to perform, when compared to the "main" visitor path.
How are those interior-landing visits performing?
Visitor paths, conversions, and optimizing the landing zone
One of the exercises that we recommend is to identify the layout types within your site that visitors might be landing on, using the landing pages report as a starting point. Come to one of those landing pages fresh, directly to that page/URL without going through any other steps.
This is the part of the process that requires the highest level of introspection, taking a critical look at your site from multiple angles as if from the perspective of a first-time visitor.
- what would be your impressions of this page?
- would you have any idea about the company/organization that wrote this page?
- would you know where to go next?
- would you be interested in learning more about the organization?
- would you want to engage in a Goal action?
Creating successful visits regardless of landing location
- What is the persona of the visitor coming to this page?
- How did they get here, and what are they looking for based on what we know?
- What are our goals for this type of visitor?
- What are the barriers to this type of user achieving those goals?
- Are we providing a clear pathway for achieving those goals?
Yes. This is a lot of work, and requires a critical or even brutal eye on your own website. But remember, this is about performance and increasing the goal conversions of your website. By continually working on and improving your site with the above in mind you will also be improving the success of your website.
"When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don't look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens - and when it happens, it lasts."- Coach John Wooden