Does homepage SEO seem like a mystery? Would you like to power up your website’s homepage in Google searches and you’re wondering how it’s done?
You’re not alone!
The homepage of a website is usually the most viewed, visited and authoritative page on a site but getting things right from an SEO perspective can be challenging. In fact, some people question whether homepage SEO even exists at all, including Michiel Heijmans from Yoast!
Why Homepage SEO can be tricky.
I’ve talked in various past blogs about the fact that each page of a website should have a single, core focus.
(Check out my guide to on-page SEO as a starter on this topic).
As well as helping search engines to understand the purpose of a page, having a single focus helps you to create super-targeted content for potential clients. You can think about why a person is searching (their “search intent”) and take them to the exact page to meet their needs.
But as I said to someone in my SEO Value Facebook group recently, homepages can be the trickiest web page to rank because they don’t follow the same cut and dried rules as service or category pages or blog articles.
The homepage is like a table of contents for a website, which means it will rarely reflect a single search topic.
Instead, the homepage usually acts as an overview to a business, highlighting multiple products and/or services and acting as an entry point to all of the important content on a site.
So, how can you optimise for a single search term and, if so, how do you know which search term to optimise for?
Tell your ideal customers what your business offers them
Rather than thinking in terms of a single keyword or phrase, I think a better approach for your homepage SEO is to target a general theme that describes your site and brand.
Ideally, this should be one that tells your ideal customers who you are as a service provider and who you serve or what you do best for your customers.
In fact, Crazy Egg’s homepage is a great example of conveying a clear brand message:
We can see from the very first glance at the homepage that Crazy Egg offers website optimisation tools designed to help “small businesses, e-commerce/retail, digital agencies and education companies” reach their website goals faster.
The meta data for Crazy Egg’s homepage (which you can see by right clicking your mouse on any web page and choosing “View page source”) specifically mentions heat maps, snapshots and A/B testing, all of which are popular website optimisation tools.
The purpose and promise of the site is clear. The internal pages simply fulfil this promise.
At first glance, Crazy Egg’s general theme is tools that help small businesses with website optimisation.
By knowing your site’s overarching theme, you should find that you naturally write keyword-rich headings and content.
➙ Action to take: Pinpoint the general theme for your site and brand. What is it that you offer?
A short, snappy mission statement
Continuing from the point above, it’s helpful to include a short, snappy mission statement or a highly descriptive tagline on your homepage that reflects why someone would be looking for what you sell (AKA their “search intent”).
If we go back to the Crazy Egg example above, their customers’ search intent is to find a way to improve the performance of their website as a sales tool.
Or here’s another example from CRM platform, HubSpot:
Clearly, their customers are looking for a CRM platform that’s powerful but easy to use. Everything on the homepage supports the message that their search for a great CRM solution has brought them to the right place.
For my own SEO+ website, I know that my clients – whether they opt for done-for-them SEO services or to enrol in one of my courses – want to bring more high-quality, organic traffic to their site. And why do they want to do this? To reach more customers and grow their business!
I’ve deliberately chosen to focus on this search intent for my homepage SEO because it’s the unifying drive for all of my clients.
Everything else on the site just backs this up and gives potential clients information about different services, based on their needs and budget.
So, have a look at your existing website or the copy that’s being developed for it and ask yourself, “Is what we offer clear?” and “Are we meeting the search intent of our visitors?”
➙ Action to take: Write a short, benefit-laden description of what your business does for your customers.
Identify your goals for your homepage
What do you want your homepage to achieve?
Knowing this will help you understand how to organise your entire site, including how to prioritise the content.
As mentioned above, for most sites the homepage acts as an introduction to everything that can be found inside – a virtual shop window, if you like.
The main purpose of the homepage is to tell Google and your customers what kinds of products or services you offer or why the website exists. For example, you may not sell products or services but instead run an information site, forum, news site or some other format.
The homepage needs to make this clear.
Another vital role of the homepage is to make it easy for visitors to navigate the entire site. Great signposting and a logical site structure will enhance the user experience (UX) and help Google to understand your offering.
Finally, you might want your homepage to answer some of the most common questions from potential customers and to build trust about your credibility as a business (more about this below!)
➙ Action to take: Identify your goals for your homepage.
Find and incorporate potential keywords
As we’ve seen, pinpointing the perfect keywords for your homepage isn’t without challenges.
Again, my advice is to think about search intent.
If you were looking for a business like yours or the products or services that you sell, what would you type into Google to find them?
If you look at the data in Google search console, what are the most common searches?
Now, where could you include these search terms on your home page?
Even taking these few actions above should help you to create copy that naturally includes a good selection of keywords related to your brand.
You can be more specific and target individual high-traffic keywords and phrases on the internal pages of your site.
Look for natural opportunities within the copy to include keywords rather than shoehorning them where they don’t fit!
Want to look elsewhere for keyword ideas? These tools will help:
Think about how you can include some keywords in your main (H1) heading and any sub-headings, as well as in small blocks of body copy on your homepage.
One company that does this brilliantly is the Dollar Shave Club:
Scan their homepage and you can instantly see keywords and phrases related to their offering such as: shave club, grooming needs, razor orders, popular razor, and grooming products.
All of these keywords describe the search intent and what the business offers.
How can you do the same on your homepage?
➙ Action to take: Choose a small group of keywords to include in your homepage copy.
Bite-sized sections of copy
There’s no magic word count for homepage copy, although Business 2 Community says it’s sensible to aim for at least 400 words of high-quality content.
This will help visitors and search engines understand what your website is about.
Use too few words and there isn’t much to go on! Too many and people will struggle to pull out the important bits.
Given that so many of us read web content on smartphones, it’s sensible to break the copy into small, bite-sized sections with clear headings and supporting visuals.
Remember, you can always go into more detail on the internal pages of your site.
➙ Action to take: Review your homepage copy. Is it easy to skim read? If someone who is unfamiliar with your business (you could ask a friend) looks at the page, can they name what you offer at a glance?
Website navigation refers to how visitors are able to move through the pages on a site.
Your aim should be to create clear and logical pathways that can all be found from the homepage and tie related content together.
You might find this article from Zyro about website navigation best practice helpful.
Some of the top takeaways are that website navigation should be:
- Logical with clear and distinct navigation elements
- Responsive, so menus display properly on any screen size
- Consistent – e.g. links and menus appearing in the same places throughout the site
- Descriptive – e.g. make it obvious what page visitors will land on if they click a link
- Distinct from calls to action (we’ll be talking about these in a minute)
Above all, try to ensure that there are the fewest possible number of clicks between a website visitor and the information they want to find, wherever they land on the site.
As well as providing a clear and simple main navigation menu, you might also want to include a few key links in the body copy on your home page or even in your site’s footer. HubSpot do the latter to great effect, listing links to their most popular product features and free tools/resources.
The secret is to group relevant content together as much as possible.
➙ Action to take: Review your website’s navigation. Can searchers reach the content they want within just one to three clicks?
Visuals that reflect your website’s purpose
People are increasingly time poor and overwhelmed with information. In fact, research shows that websites have just 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds!) to make a good first impression.
At the moment of landing on your homepage and making that first judgement, people aren’t reading the words on the screen – although these are important once the visitor decides to hang around.
No, during those first 50 milliseconds, your website visitors are noticing the visual elements of your homepage such as its structure, colours, spacing and symmetry, amount of text, font and images.
One study from Google concluded that people love “simple and familiar designs” and will decide whether to stay on a website based on “gut feeling”.
Once again, it’s important to think about that broad theme for your brand and how you can visually represent that on the homepage.
If you can hook a visitor’s interest at first glance, it will increase how long they spend on your site (dwell time) and whether they stay beyond the page they land on (lowering the bounce rate).
So, do you have great quality photos of your products or someone using them? Or how about professional shots of you at work or against a branded backdrop?
If your business has a logo, I’d always recommend that you include that on the homepage of your site. It’s an immediate, visual way to represent your brand to your potential customers.
Remember to save your logo with your business as its file name and in its alt tag. You may also be able to include some of your broader keywords in the file names or alt tags of any other images on the homepage.
Keyword stuffing in alt tags is bad practice but it is possible to optimise non-text elements in a savvy way – check out this guide for more advice.
➙ Action to take: Check whether the visuals on your homepage help to explain what your business/product/main service does.
Show that your business is trustworthy
When was the last time you made a new purchase without some concerns?
In reality, even when someone desperately needs a product or service, they may hold back from buying due to one or more of four common concerns:
- Are they getting good value? (The price)
- Will they be disappointed? (Will the product/service really meet their needs?)
- What will other people think? (Will the buyer look foolish?)
- Fear of change
The homepage of your website is a great place to begin acknowledging these fears and breaking down the barriers that they represent.
There are various ways you can do this.
Instead of focusing on the price of your products/services, for example, you could highlight all the value a client stands to gain or offer different package options for different budgets.
Money-back guarantees can reassure people that they won’t regret their purchase.
Testimonials, reviews and case studies can be used as social proof, showing that other people have bought from you and not only haven’t regretted it but are also happy to share their great experience.
Another option is to show the logos of other clients on your homepage or links to occasions when your business has been featured in the press.
Finally, for potential buyers who are frightened of change, you could offer a free trial of your services or a free download, for example.
These are all ways of showing your customers that you understand them and that they’re in safe hands.
From an SEO perspective, Google looks for signals that demonstrate expertise, authority and trust.
➙ Action to take: Which of these signs of trust or social proof could you add to your Home page? Think about snippets from reviews, the logos of your big clients, where you’ve been featured in the press. What will give your potential clients the most confidence?
Answer your visitors’ FAQs
Although you probably won’t be able to answer all of your website visitors’ frequently asked questions on your homepage, think about how you can provide some answers to the most common questions.
In 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions were screenless; most of these sessions were voice searches through smart speakers. Stats show that 20% of those voice searches were triggered by a set of just 25 keywords, the majority of which are questions such as how, what, where, when, why and who.
Featuring some of your business’s most searched for questions and short answers on your homepage can help you to capture those voice searches or get your homepage listed in Google’s Featured Snippets.
If you have a FAQs page, be sure to link to it from your homepage.
➙ Action to take: Identify the most frequently asked questions about your business and include the answers on your homepage.
Feature a clear call to action
Growing the quantity of visitors to your website is all very well but it’s the quality of visitors that really matters. You want to attract those all-important ideal customers – people who love your business and who you love working with.
Ideally, your website – including the homepage – should help you to nurture your client relationships from the first point of contact with your brand until someone buys from you and beyond.
After all, it’s far easier to sell to people who know and trust you.
A key part of nurturing this relationship is moving visitors through your site, encouraging enquiries or capturing their contact information. The alternative is that they bounce away from your site, never to be seen again.
A call to action is the mechanism for achieving the above engagements. It tells people what they should do next, depending on their needs.
Hubspot has put together a great list of calls to action with examples of how some of the world’s most famous brands are using them.
Your homepage might include several different calls to action, all designed to encourage visitors to engage with your business at a deeper level.
On the excellent Evernote homepage above, for example, the main call to action is “Sign up for free” but further down the page there are also options to “Learn more” about the different features, “Download” depending on the OS being used, “Get started” or “Choose” a plan.
As visitors scroll down the homepage, the various calls to action aim to meet their needs and give them clear instructions about what they need to do next.
Can you do the same on your site?
Once you decide on a call to action, try to split test what works best.
Do people respond to green buttons or red? A central position in the header or a button to the top right of the main navigation? What wording attracts a higher percentage of clicks?
Check one element at a time.
Fine-tuning the design and placement of your call to action should increase engagement.
➙ Action to take: Review the calls to action on your homepage. Are you telling visitors what to do next? Do the calls to action stand out?
Add a meta title and meta description
The meta title and meta description you give to your homepage could be the first thing that a potential client ever reads about your business, especially if they find you in a Google search.
For this reason, it’s worth making them as compelling as possible.
Ideally, your title tag should include your business name and some of the keywords you’re targeting but in a descriptive, inviting way.
The meta description should mention your business at least once, as well as explaining what you do and what customers will get when they buy from you.
Dropbox Business, for example, has a short but benefit-focused title tag of “Secure Team Collaboration – Dropbox Business” and then a meta description that explains the product and benefits in more detail.
Barkbox succinctly tells us that it’s “The Monthly Dog Toy and Treat Box” with a meta description that explains how the subscription service works.
Meanwhile, Netflix uses the title tag to tell potential customers they can “Watch TV Shows Online, Watch Movies Online” and then explains its content in more detail in the meta description.
Even if people have never heard of these brands, the titles and descriptions clearly lay out what to expect, which is ideal for potential customers and homepage SEO
➙ Action to take: Look at the meta title and meta description for your homepage. Do they explain what your business offers?
Make your home page scrollable
It used to be the advice that all the really important content on a web page should be “above the fold”, i.e. visible on the screen without having to scroll down to see it.
But with so many of us viewing websites on mobile devices now, keeping all of your best content above the fold just isn’t practical anymore.
In truth, most people will happily scroll through a homepage IF the page experience is engaging enough.
My advice is to place the absolutely essential elements of your homepage – the bits you really want people to know – above the fold still. This might be the navigation, main heading and call to action, for example.
You can provide more information further down the page. The key is to explore ways, using the design and copy, to encourage visitors to keep scrolling.
➙ Action to take: View your homepage on a variety of devices. Is the most important information visible at first glance? Is the content clear and simple as you scroll down the page? How could you improve the page experience?
As with your whole website, your homepage should load as quickly as possible and display/work properly on all devices and screen sizes.
You might also find my Core Web Vitals guide helpful if you need to speed up how quickly your homepage displays.
➙ Action to take: Check the pagespeed of your homepage using Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool.
I know I’ve presented you with what looks like a huge list of action points for your homepage SEO.
While all of these points are nice to have, my ultimate advice is that you focus on developing a homepage that is all about meeting the needs of your ideal customers. If you can show them that you understand their search intent and you offer what they’ve been looking for, then a lot of the SEO elements will fall naturally into place.
The above list is here to help you pinpoint small tweaks you can make to improve the user experience. Put your clients first and Google will follow.
Need some help?
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Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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