LION Learnings #2 – Make Sure Your Side Door Looks Great

— November 11, 2016

Make sure your side door looks as good as your home pageThe side door challenge is the requirement that individual posts be as compelling as the publisher’s home page. Many publishers get links to their site from social media sites, which link directly to an individual post. Unfortunately, the bounce rate for readers who arrive via social media posts is close to 90%. So, if you are getting 100,000 unique visits via social media, but 90% of them bounce after viewing one article, that means 90,000 people are not looking at anything else on your site. Not your ads. Not your other great content. And while you may not care since you can charge more for ads if you have more page views, it’s nearly guaranteed your advertisers are not going to be pleased with their results on your site.

Here is some additional unconventional wisdom regarding your site:

  1. Does your home page have lots of links on your header to different parts of your site? Run a quick test – check all the header links on your home page in Google Analytics. It’s highly likely that there is not a single link on your home page that gets more than 5% of overall page views on your site, and it may be as low as 1%. People aren’t scanning your home page looking for things to click; remove most of the links and only provide links to very popular sections of your site, and make the home page all about the latest news.
  2. Do you have a really pretty slider on your home page that goes through your top 5 articles? How often do you go to a site and watch the slider go by? It’s highly likely that your slider is making your page take too long to load, which seriously hurts your SEO and increases your bounce rate.
  3. The article that you just posted on Facebook – when a reader clicks over to read the article, what else do you give them to do or experience on your site? Keep in mind that the ads you have on your post likely don’t show up on mobile until well after the article. Do you have any content in-line that helps the reader experience other aspects of your site?
  4. Related to #3, are you tracking the size of your posts pages? If you have a lot of ads, not only are they not seen very often (because they are at the bottom of the page), but they are slowing down the page load.

User experience has to be your #1 priority. There is a huge difference between user interface and user experience. Every single time a reader of your site leaves after 1 visit, there is a user experience issue. Unfortunately, with every new plugin you add to make something look “pretty” you are likely improving your user interface at the expense of user experience. User experience is not as obvious to measure, but if Google Analytics is a regular part of your analysis, you are on the right track!

Here are our unconventional suggestions to go along with our unconventional wisdom:

  1. Lighten up your home page. Remove the sliders and all the links in your headers. Give your readers fewer but more important options. Show more editorial content on the home page, your readers that truly care about the news can then find everything they need in one place without having to click.
  2. Create more calls to action or promote other aspects of your site (new sections, businesses, promotions, etc) within your content. Be careful of course, as this can be a poor user experience as well. But it’s where you have their attention, and doing nothing increases dramatically the chances of a high bounce rate.
  3. Focus on page size and load time. All your pages should load within 3 seconds. If they don’t, you have a problem.
  4. Focus on mobile user experience. Over 70% of your readers are coming to you on mobile.

Optimizing the user experience for your side door is equally important to the user experience of your front door. Make sure you put equal time and effort there, and that likely means spending less time on your home page. Unconventional, but effective.

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Author: Scott Barnett

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