What Can the New York Times Teach You?

By Bob West

The tremendous growth in web use by growers and retailers across the country has many ag companies getting serious about their own websites. As we talk to them about steps they can take to enhance their sites, they inevitably start discussions about the site’s appearance in the same place: the home page.

The importance of a site’s homepage is commonly overstated, but consider the following metrics:

  1. Less than 5% of all pageviews on a Meister Media website occur on a homepage, and that number falls to as low as 2.3% for our sites with the most traffic, such as GreenhouseGrower.com.
  2. The same is true for consumer media — just look at the NewYorkTimes.com. The number of visitors to the homepage of NewYorkTimes.com has fallen by more than 50% in the last three years despite huge overall traffic growth for the site during this period.

So, what does this all mean for you, a marketer looking to get the most sales and marketing value out of their website?

First, traffic comes to your website from more sources than ever before. “Pull media has quickly been replaced by push media,” notes Zachary Seward of Quartz.com in a recent story.

Gone are the days when web visits began with an audience simply typing in your URL. Now visitors start engaging with your website on any number of different pages, and they get there from search, from Facebook, from Twitter and so on. (In fact, most visitors will probably never even see your home page!) Search engine optimization and social promotion of content matter more than ever.

Second, Seward notes that people have clearly gravitated away from looking online for news and information at pre-set times, a habit that was ingrained in us with old-school media like daily newspapers (read first thing in the morning with our coffee) and the nightly news (watched to close out another day). Instead, nearly 60% of web users report they now get their news periodically throughout the day. Now marketers need to push their content out multiple times through the day.

This isn’t to say homepages are entirely irrelevant. They are still a foundational element of the site. But the analogy we use in our own building is that the homepage is akin to the front door of a house. You want it to look good, but most of the traffic in and out happens through the garage door. That’s where the functionality really matters!

The New York Times has learned this lesson and now ensures that content development and promotion is their top priority. When it comes to your website, what are your top priorities?

Bob West is the Director of Interactive Sales for Meister Media, and he consults regularly with clients on their web site development and digital marketing strategy. He can be reached at 440-602-9129 or bwest@meistermedia.com.