An example of a solid article page layout

The problem:

Google tells us that 70% of all readers land on your article pages or blog posts and not your homepage.

This is an amazing statistic and I have experienced the same. Now why does this happen? When people search, they search for something very specific. So lets pretend you published an article called “how to grow grape tomatoes“. Click the link to search Google for this phrase. What is the #1 result? It’s an article on how to grow grape tomatoes  Amazing eh? Searches on your topic will bypass your homepage and land on your new tomato article.

This means the biggest problem is that most visitors never see your homepage. They come straight to your article from Google search. Facebook and Twitter links also tend to link straight to an article rather than your homepage. Keep in mind your homepage does nothing to answer the specific questions that your readers are asking. But your articles do.

The worst part is you probably spend most of your time fussing about your homepage, right?

What’s the solution?

Treat your article or story pages more importantly than you treat your homepage. Here are some fundamental things you need to make sure are included on your article pages:

  1. Subscribe options: make sure that people can subscribe via e-mail, RSS, and have access to your Facebook and twitter accounts right on your article page.
  2. Sharing options: each article should have icons that display the Facebook like, Retweet, Google +1, and maybe Pinterest (if floks might want to share photos in your publication).
  3. Commenting: if your site provides free content, in other words it’s not protected for subscribers, I would strongly suggest that you install Facebook comments or the DISQUS plugin. The plug-in is called Facebook social and that introduces a Facebook commenting structure underneath each of your articles, rather than using the default WordPress comments. What’s the benefit here? Well you don’t have any spam and you have much more participation with your readership, since 70%+ of the US is logged in to Facebook during the day. On average each person checks their Facebook account 2 or more times per day!
  4. Make sure you have a photo on every article. This is especially important for anyone that pins your article on Pinterest as it will capture the photo from the article. If you don’t have a photo, then quite frankly your article is one step more boring. Make sure that you have categories and tags available for people to get to other articles.
  5. Keep them reading: Also at the bottom or sidebar of each article you probably want to have a related articles function which will show other articles you’ve written in the same category or genre of the article. This will let people jump and read related articles. I like the Yet Another Related Posts plugin
  6. Mobile friendly: it’s very important that your website is very mobile friendly today since half the US carrying smartphones in the pocket and checking on their e-mail and reading stories and searching, they will likely be reading your stories on their phone. And if your stories are not mobile friendly they are not going to bother. I would suggest that you install the WPtouch plug-in (affiliate) for WordPress which does a real nice job right out of the box of formatting your stories for a smart device.
  7. Most importantly make sure you promote what you need to promote. In other words if your main objective is to build an e-mail list,  make sure that the e-mail subscribe option is prominent on each article page. Or if you sell a product or a service then make sure you promote that product and service on each article page. Think about what action you’re trying to get visitors to perform. Make sure that you give people a very easy and obvious way to get them to click on that action.

So with your audience reaching you at the article level, make sure you think on an article level. I’m not saying that your homepage isn’t important… because it is important, but keep in mind your article page is even more important.