I know you’re here looking for a magic number but it really varies from blog to blog. And it can vary a lot! It really comes down to your readers, they’re experience, and their expectations. I recently created a blog for a church which is a perfect example. Follow along and I’ll show you how to decide how many posts you should show on your homepage.
Know Your Audience
My parents spent some time in a rural area and the members of their church have very little experience with the Internet and even less experience with blogs. Most of them had no clue you could scroll down a homepage and see a list of recent posts and they didn’t even know you had to click on the headline to open a post.
For this blog I generally post once or twice a week, and I publish multiple posts each time. So on Tuesday I might publish four posts and on Saturday I might publish six or eight. This posting frequency is ideal for this audience, but yours will probably be different. My point is, each time I post I have multiple new posts and for this audience that presents a problem because they don’t know how a blog works.
When we first launched this blog I created a sticky post that always stayed at the top of the homepage. This post explained how a blog works, how to scroll down the homepage to see the most recent posts, and how readers would have to click on the headlines to open each post. This introduction post was displayed in full at the top of the homepage at all times for the first 6 weeks.
Beneath this post I included excerpts for two week’s worth of posts so readers could get the feel for how a blog rotates posts but not have too much to look at while they were learning.
Now that more people are feeling comfortable with the blog, I’ve changed the set-up. I generally create one compilation post each week and I publish it last so it’s always at the top of the page. This post includes links to all the new posts I’ve published and any other relevant links I want to include, such as a link to the Contact page or a link to their Weekly Bulletin which I upload in a pdf file. I still only include excerpts to two weeks of posts on the homepage.
Since this compilation post is always at the top of the page and I link to everything new, I don’t have to worry about whether or not the reader remembers to scroll down the homepage to find the new content. As long as he lands on that homepage he’s going to be able to find everything he’s looking for, and since most of these readers don’t know how to land anywhere but the homepage, I know they’re going to see this compilation post for sure.
For older content that might still be relevant I use prominent image links in the sidebar so readers will know exactly where to click.
Here are some things you need to consider:
Where is your traffic landing on your blog?
In this case, every single visitor lands on the homepage and that’s where they’d stay if I didn’t take them by the hand and lead them around.
Do your visitors understand how blogs work?
You’d be surprised at how many people don’t understand how blogs work. Never assume anything.
What do you want them to see when they arrive?
In this case I wanted those visitors to see that Introductory sticky post so I displayed it, in full, at the top of the homepage where it couldn’t be missed even if they tried.
How frequently are you posting?
If you’re posting three times a day and your average visitors comes to your blog twice a week then you’ll might want to display at least 12 to 15 excerpts on your homepage so they can see everything you’ve published since their last visit.
Where is your traffic coming from?
In my case, I know all of my traffic at this point is direct traffic and since they’re inexperienced Internet users I gave them the easiest path – the link to the homepage. It’s short and easy to remember. I even included bookmarking directions on that Introduction post so they always come back to the homepage.
It’s important to remember that you can always change the number of posts you show on your homepage, too, like I have. If you have a post you’re really trying to promote, make it a sticky post for a week or two. If you’ve recently published a series of posts, either increase or decrease the number of posts your showing so you’re highlighting only the posts in the series.
Don’t just set your homepage and forget it. Use it to your advantage. Analyze your audience’s viewing habits and remember that for most of them your homepage is the first thing they see. Now, what do you want them to see when they get there?