Beginner’s Guide To News Homepage Optimization

A homepage of any news source is a brand’s image. It’s a place where your loyal audience, your subscribers come back to. This page is what starts a day for many of your website visitors.

Yes, a nice design, thought-through sections and clear navigation are the foundation of a homepage’s success. However, how do you know whether it is effective or not? Do readers like it? How fast do you replace outdated information? Does the main story perform as you expected?

Answers to all those questions come from real-time data. Let’s figure out how to optimize your homepage efficiently.

What is the purpose of homepage optimization?

Homepage optimization is an ongoing process of tracking reader preferences in order to serve more effective headlines.

  • Teams that optimize homepages get 28% more pageviews on average
  • 81.2% of homepage visitors are represented by loyal audience
  • The more clicks you get on your homepage, the greater value your brand gains in the eyes of search engines
  • By tracking best performing headlines, you can instantly move them up to get even more engagement
  • By replacing content that doesn’t perform well, you give other stories a chance to shine and climb to the top

A fast response to events gives you chances to become an industry leader in the eyes of your readers and to attract new audiences.

Strategically, a homepage is a place that can be turned into either fertile soil for nurturing loyal readers or a very significant roadblock on your growth path.

How to optimize a homepage

So, where to begin an optimization process? It all starts with an understanding of what should be tracked to gauge the effectiveness of homepage headlines and other elements.

In fact, the whole process looks like this:

1. First step: set up analytics

Depending on what tool you use, approaches may vary.

For instance, in Google analytics you’ll have to set up events.

Let’s quickly go through it.

  • Add a new tag in Tag manager

  • Choose Google Analytics > Universal Analytics and set it up accordingly:
  • Add a trigger click and choose “just links”:

You can limit your events to just happen on the homepage by choosing “some link clicks” and specifying the path to your homepage (most of the time it’s “/”).

  • After finishing, you will be able to observe your homepage clicks data in the behavior – events report. You may also click on the event category “Homepage” and choose the event label as a primary dimension. Set time period that you want – today or yesterday.

Advanced analytics tools offer a more simplified approach to analytics. It converts data into intuitive visualization, supplying you with actionable insights to make faster and informed decisions.

Opt for easier tools to collect data

IO technologies provides a shortcut way to monitor the performance of a homepage. Unlike many other products, it comes with real-time analytics data streaming together with insights at scale.

IO has straightforward mission to become your best adviser on your way to growth. Imagine that you have a like-minded digital companion that shies away from vanity numbers. It has the team behind it, full of energy and united under one idea – to make your growth happen faster by moving past unnecessary actions and worries.

We track the performance of your homepage in real-time. To start using homepage monitoring feature, go to “Overlay widget”:

The overlay widget will bring you to your homepage where we display the performance of each article. You will be able to track which ones are growing in clicks faster than others. Our digestible dashboards are designed to be easy-to-use for organizations of all sizes.

Every page/article on your homepage will be marked with a number that shows its rank. The one that got the most clicks will be displaying “1” next to it. For example, below you may see the screen from our homepage – “grow loyal audience” is the fourth page regarding the number of clicks.

By hovering over a particular article, you’ll get a detailed overview of its performance.

Of course, clicks themselves don’t show the whole picture of an article’s performance. Clickbait headlines won’t bring you long-term value. That is why more detailed data will show you which pages truly resonate with your audience at this moment. These are metrics that you focus on while analysing each article on your homepage.

  • Number of clicks
  • Average time on page
  • Recirculation

With our homepage tracking feature, you can monitor what is happening on your homepage in real time.

2. Second step: identifying best performers

After you’ve done with setting up analytics for your homepage (in our case, it means adding the code to your website), you can start analyzing which pieces of content grab more attention and correlate with reader interest right now. Using real-time data allows you to define reader interest much faster that your competitors.

Of course, not only new websites benefit from the described process. If you’re an e-commerce website, seeing what’s happening on the main page will help you define where do readers go and where do they drop. Don’t forget that your homepage is visited by your subscribers – aka loyal audience. Tracking their journey on your website starting from the homepage will help you figure their search intent and fine-tune your homepage so they stay loyal to your brand. There is no limitation to your experiments here!

3. Third step: moving best performers to the hot spot

And thus, you’ve decided on which article should occupy the top spot for today – basing not on some manual research that took ages to conduct, and even not on your gut feeling that (let’s assume it) fails you from time to time.

It was your reader who told you what they want to see as breaking news. The call is for the editor manager now to lift the content that is gaining in engagement.

4. Fourth step: remove everything that diverges with reader interest

Getting rid of everything that falls past reader interest comes as a reasonable complementary measure. You can move everything that doesn’t match with their interest closer to the footer or remove it at all.

One of the greatest analytical instruments are heatmaps. They allow you track underperforming elements of the page – not just articles. For example, a CTA block. Heatmaps visualize reader journey in detail.

Hotjar’s heatmap. Source: Hotjar

Of course, for news companies it’s not the highest priority. However, if you truly want to outrank competitors – armed by all the mentioned tools, you’ll easier optimize pages and make your readers fall in love with your website.

Headline testing

Don’t forget about headline testing. Material that appears to be hopeless can be a gem with just a misfortunate headline.

IO dashboards allow to run headline testing to define a best performer that works truly great – without involving you in this process.

We’ve described how the headline testing feature works here.

Conducting headline testing results in developing experiment-oriented culture in an organization. This not only affects the efficiency of headlines over time but also helps your team members see the effect from it with their own eyes. 

On average, teams that included headline testing on a regular basis experienced a surge in engagement rate and recirculation by almost 30% in just a few months. It can be explained by their ability to listen to their audience and provide that type of content that appeals to their readers.

Headline testing not only affects reader engagement, it influences your teammates ‘ approach to digital publishing. By seeing real results coming from data-driven approach, journalists and editors become more motivated and empowered to create compelling content. 

The greatest thing about headline testing is that the tool does everything for you. The task is just to install the software once and watch the results every day for months or years. It automatically runs tests for every created variations of a headline and leaves the one that works best. 

5. Fifth step: note your findings

When you start using content analytics, eventually, you reorganize your workflow completely. You receive valuable closed-loop analytics that report on performance of each of your article. But the most valuable outcome from it is, of course, a deeper understanding of your audience. You can even compile a detailed buyer persona portrait based on your insights.

Note all your findings every day to be able to track your readers’ behavior in the long run and understand what drives their interest.

6. Sixth step: share data with your team

As you continue working with analytics, you start recording general patterns in the performance of your individual marketing metrics. When you share insights with your team, they become engaged in data analysis, which is not only educational to them, but encourage to act on data to achieve impressive results.

Nurturing data-driven culture takes every member of your team closer to a marketer’s mindset. Those who were afraid of numbers change their perspective as they see how data propels the team forward in huge leaps. Those who treated marketing tactics as divergent to a journalist’s job can see the benefits the combination of marketing and journalism brings to readers and its impact on the organization’s goals.

Homepage optimization is a mandatory step if you truly want to stand out from competition in the fast-paced news industry.