Wednesday, October 13, 2010

News sites have not just one start page 'that rules them all'

When revisit your favorite search engine or online dictionary, you typically open the start page and enter a query or a word that you need to be translated. And even though you may have some queries that you enter on a regular basis, or some words of which you just can't memorize how it translates into German or Chinese, the number of times that you do this is nothing compared to the number of visits to the start page of the search engine or dictionary.

When you visit you company's or university's site, there are probably several pages that you check on a regular basis. You read the latest announcements on the start page, you visit the event calendar, you search for your colleagues' phone numbers, you check your project page, and so on.

It is not really surprizing that you can see this effect when you visualize the number of visits to a site's most popular pages - see the figure below. Search engines have a sudden drop between rank 1 and 2, whereas institutional sites and project sites have lower-ranked pages that are still visited relatively often.

What I did find interesting, though, is that news sites follow a different pattern. Besides the start page at rank 1, this particular news site has two other pages that are visited often, followed by a sudden drop at rank 4. These two other pages turn out to be specific news categories, such as Politics or Sports.
For site owners it is important to know how many pages (and which ones) are popular, so that they can ensure that these pages are always up-to-date and well-organized - and possibly sell advertisement places for good money. But also for browser history mechanisms it is important to know whether it should suggest a particular page (such as the page with your colleague's phone numbers) or just bring you to the start page.

I bet there are many other things to discover in how we use the Web - findings that we can use for creating better tools. Help us to do so by contributing to the Web History Repository.

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