I am sure the following sounds familiar to all digital marcom professionals:
“Please link it from the homepage NOW.”
“This is so important that it HAS to stay on the homepage until ‘I’ tell you when to take it down.”
“It needs a lot MORE information on the homepage and then you HAVE to link it several times to MY page.”
“YOU will take personal responsibility if MY event does not have visibility because you FAIL to highlight it ENOUGH on the homepage.”
I call these people “Homepage Nazis“.
Basically, Homepage Nazis are self-centred ignoramuses who have with no inkling of how information is accessed on the internet.
They base their assumptions entirely on how they themselves surf the company website, and they fight tooth and nail to get what they want at the expense of others’ more important needs and above all, the organisation’s overarching marketing and communication needs.
Why do people assume that the homepage is the only way their audience gets to a certain piece of information?
People, especially those with little experience or knowledge in digital marcom, often assume others behave the same way as they do on the internet. It’s unfortunately a wrong yet common misconception. At a workplace, people often go to their company homepage first thing in the morning. They first look at what is new, then they surf to their own pages to feel a sense of satisfaction about their area of work. It’s a vey human and understandable behaviour. It’s how people feel ownership and pride about their work.
But the problem starts when these people assume others, especially their external target audience, do the same:
- that their external target audience will always check out the homepage of their company or organisation.
- that their external target audience do not know how to use the other navigational tools such as the menu bar.
- that their external target audience do not have other preferred and more direct ways of receiving the information other than on a website.
- that their external target audience do not use other more efficient and direct digital channels to access that piece of information on the website.
How are all these assumptions wrong?
It is difficult to convince these homepage nazis otherwise, but if they do listen, here are the reasons how they are so very wrong.
1. The homepage is not the most visited page of a website
Because homepage nazis project their own surfing habits as internal staff members to an external audience, they assume everyone else surfs websites only by going to its homepage. 99% of these people don’t even bookmark their organisation’s homepage. They know it by heart and they type the URL into the browser and they arrive at the homepage. Every single day.
But these people often forget they themselves do not use other websites like that in their daily life. Most likely, they arrive at a page via a search result.
Because of the changing nature of a homepage, the most visited pages of a website is most of the time, a piece of popular content that ranks high in search due to its SEO. Thus, in fact, the homepage may very well be the least visited page of a website!
2. Surfing should an exploratory and pleasurable journey
Unlike the single-minded way homepage nazis surf their own company website, most people surf websites (that are not their own organisation’s website) in an exploratory manner. They search for information in a journey, which often starts with a landing page from a search result.
When this happens, the other navigational tools and the UX designs of the website will determine whether the user will stay to explore to other parts of the website.
The user experience (UX) will make it smooth, intuitive and fun for the user to use and discover various parts of the site.
The navigational menu, when well-organised, gives a bird’s eye view of the breadth and depth of the site and allows the user to jump from section to section.
I will talk more about these in a list below.
That said, you cannot force-feed a user by blasting her/him with content on a homepage, like how you make foie-gras by force-feeding a goose.
If the content does not interest them, they will simply leave.
3. People do not only surf websites
What homepage nazis often forget, is that users do not always access information on a website.
As a marcom director or a consultant, your job is to help them first determine where their primary target audience is, and then develop content specific for the user group and to the channel.
For example, the user group may be located on Facebook and specifically use videos there more than text. There is absolutely no point for them to wage a war with you to congest the homepage, while your users may not even be using the site!
4. More effective channels to deliver content to the right audience
Not everyone is interested in a piece of content, although homepage nazis tend to think otherwise.
Congesting the homepage with one content is not only misleading for all other users of the site, it is counter-productive for the overall marcom goals and the corporate reputation of the organisation.
When you know who will be interested in your content, you are more effective in using other channels to bring your audience to the page.
Direct mailing is a very good example. When you have a good email database, by sending the information only to the user group who will appreciate this content, you are satisfying the content needs of your particular audience.
I will list down the other ways further in this article.
What could be done to prevent homepage congestion by homepage nazis?
I have worked for 11 years in an international UN-affiliated organisation with four regional organisations and more than two dozen working groups. The fight over what went onto the homepage of the main international site was a daily battle. In my previous role in a renown European thinktank, the same thing happened, with people making it a point to bully me for what was essentially my professional and managerial prerogative on what should be on the homepage in order to advance the organisation’s marcom objectives.
For four years, I was head of digital of a consultancy, and I have seen abhorrent displays of war-torn homepages after years of being an unnecessary and undeserved battlefield.
A mismanaged homepage is one glaringly conspicuous sign of a mismanaged organisation. It is saying to everybody that the marketing, corporate communications, public relations and public affairs goals of an organisation are in shambles due to the lack of management by the highest level and the lack of unwavering support for the marcom department.
Nevertheless, if you are in such a situation and have secured executive support, these are the things you can do to combat homepage nazism.
1. Come up with a clear, concrete, fair and open homepage policy
People need to be informed of the rules that govern the corporate website, so that the website policy is fair to everyone who wants to produce content for the organisation.
Whether they abide by it, is another matter of discussion, but the marcom director is to ensure such a policy exists and how it contributes to one or all of the marketing, corporate communications, public relations, stakeholder relations and public affairs goals of the organisation.
Such a policy should exist for the whole corporate website, not just for the homepage, and also for all your organisation’s external communications channels. It is the sole prerogative of the CCO/marcom director, not the CEO, to decide on the execution of this policy, so that it is applied fairly and consistent to every single staff member.
2. Be sure and confident about what the homepage of your corporate website is for
The homepage of a corporate website – or any website for that matter – is not the place for the self-glorification of a particular staff member or a particular department. It is the face of your organisation. As with any website, it showcases the variety of content and content types, as well as offer glimpses of people, their work and the interesting happenings going on in this organisation.
A homepage should never ever be static in its content, and it constantly changes its offerings because the organisation is alive, it is active, it is engaged and it is enthusiastic.
To focus on one or a few content or to let the homepage drown in huge amounts of information is killing that very first good impression.
As a CCO/marcom director, it is your job to protect the homepage and at the same time, ensure all contents are shown, abiding by the rules of the corporate website policy and making sure people are all given fair chance to showcase their work and not let one person or a few people lobby successfully and dominate the homepage.
3. Things you can put on the homepage to highlight the latest and/or specific content
Once you have a homepage policy and you have defined the aims of your corporate website’s homepage, here are a few things you can put there to ensure fairness and highlight the content links you want to highlight:
- Carousel/slideshow: You decide what are the important content that should go here so that it translates into the ‘current main focuses’ of the organisation.
- Newsfeed: The latest news come first. Old news should not be allow to dominate, because it would look as if the site is never updated.
- Calendar of events: The latest events come first. People who are interested in joining activities will certainly check these out.
- Editor’s Choice widget: You can put up a second carousel to feature important content that continues to bring value to your organisation’s marcom goals.
- Most popular post widget: A third carousel based on visits, again to highlight evergreen content that continues to bring value to your organisation’s marcom goals.
- Employee’s choice: You could highlight a staff member or his/her content, for a week or randomly picked with every page refresh.
- Web banners: These are a relic from the 1990s and have never gotten out of use!
There are tons of other ideas that you can add to your homepage, provided that it does not get congested, so that you can fairly showcase all content and to highlight a few if they conform to the organisation’s marcom goals. This also helps to keep the homepage fresh and constantly renewed.
4. Things you can do to improve the navigational journey experience of your users
As mentioned above, many of your users most likely stumbled upon your site following a search result. What you need to do, is to ensure they do not leave by making sure their navigational experience of your site is pleasurable.
These are a list of things you could consider:
- Better UX design: Engage a UX designer to design your website. Test your homepage and internal pages to see how your target audience surfs your website. The experience should be smooth, intuitive and fun.
- Well-organised navigational menu: This is so vital because it gives a bird’s eye view of the breadth and depth of the site and allows the user to jump from section to section. I personally like the mega-menu for large corporate sites, because of the immensity of the content.
- Suggestions: “More posts like this” kind of widgets so that the user can immediately go to similar content on your site.
- Editor’s choice widget: this doesn’t have to be just on the homepage but on all internal pages
- Other widgets: like the calendar of events, most commented articles, most popular articles etc.
- Breadcrumbs: This is another relic from the 1990s and people have gotten so used to them, they are often a backtrack for many users to discover more similar content at a higher level.
- Other landing pages: Your internal users should also realise there are other landing pages that could showcase their work and would get more interested users than the corporate homepage. These could be a topic page, a product page, a policy page, a department page… all these could function as secondary ‘homepages’ with the same widgets and content showcases, and would generate more and better quality traffic.
5. Make full use of the other digital channels
As mentioned above, the corporate website should not be the only channel of information for your audience. By focusing wrongly on one channel, you may be perceived as being completely absent – that is a disaster scenario where you do not cater at all to your audience’s needs.
Other digital channels, such as social media, should play a big role to not only bringing traffic to the website, they should also be vehicles of content themselves. This is increasingly the case when users are more and more using non-web channels exclusively!
Therefore, the content should be delivered to the target audience, where they are, and once that is determined, content should be produced accordingly:
- Videos: These are great for purposes of explaining, showcasing, promoting content, products, events and ideas.
- Twitter, Linkedin: These are more platforms more suited for corporate comms use. Especially when employees are encouraged to discuss their work and promote their content with their existing networks.
- Direct mailing: This used to mean ‘pamphlets’ in traditional marketing but they are now used for email marketing. By cultivating a good email database, you are able to finetune your direct mailing campaigns and ensure only interested users are sent the content. Email marketing platforms like Mailchimp help you to resend or send improved content to users who may have missed or ignored your mailing.
6. Don’t be afraid of advertising
Nowadays, any organisation without a marcom budget is a doomed organisation.
That is not just for ‘marketing’ per se, but for corporate communications, for public affairs, for reputation building, for growing your audience, for occupying your online space.
Congesting your homepage simply isn’t the way out. Valuable content sometimes needs to be pushed out to an audience that isn’t yet engaged, that is where advertising comes in.
Here are ways in which you can pay to increase the reach of your content:
- SEA: Google Adsense will help to position your organisation on a keyword, or deliver your web banner to new audiences
- Twitter Promoted Content: You can pay to target a specific group of users if your target audience is using this channel
- Linkedin Promoted Content: Linkedin is a great resource for corporate comms outreach, and is appreciated by users who need that bit of privacy compared to Twitter
- Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok Paid Content: These are not often used by corporates but when it comes to brand and reputation marketing, you are cultivating your future or younger supporters if you use the channels they are using.
7. The Role of the Marcom Director/CCO and internal education
There are two things I’d like to accentuate, in case you get me wrong:
The marcom director or chief communications director should have 100% support from the CEO.
Without the firm support, the marcom policies put in place cannot withstand the slightest resistance and the credibility of not such the marcom director but the whole marcom department is at stake.
I remember a secretary of another department insisted that she has full access to the website and that she can post content on the homepage pertaining to her department. I said no. She then made a big fuss and went to her director, who went straight to the CEO. The CEO at that time did not support me and asked how I could smooth matters over. By giving her access to the homepage meant she would be promoting her department’s content over other departments, and that meant the whole corporate website policy was going down the drain. So to the CEO, I said no.
The role of the marcom director needs to be respected, just as the marcom policy of the company needs to be respected. This is the only way that an organisation can move towards its marcom goals.
That said, there is no external communications without internal communications.
The best content comes from people who work on the content itself. If no one feels like their work is going to be seen, there is more reluctance and less enthusiasm for them to contribute.
The marcom director needs to be open, and listen to people who want to play fair and also want their work to be valued by more people both internally and externally.
This is when internal education needs to come in.
Staff orientation needs to help newcomers understand the marcom policy and how they can showcase their work by working with the marcom team. More experienced staff members who are used to being homepage nazis need to learn and understand the way content is read or seen, and abide by the rules as well as play fair.
I don’t want to typecast the age group of homepage nazis, so shouldn’t you.
I am in my mid-forties and the CEOs of all the internet giants are all my age or even older. It has nothing to do with age but everything to do with the willingness to understand, co-operate and play fair.
In the end, it should be clear to everyone by now that a successful marcom strategy that is consistently well-executed is the lifeline of any organisation, big or small.