The homepage of your website is the first thing Google sees when crawling your website, and in the majority of cases, it’s the most important page of your site.
Not only is your homepage responsible for providing a high-level overview of your brand to new visitors, it’s also the page Google prioritizes when it crawls your domain. In many ways, building a strategy around your homepage is an anchor for the rest of your SEO approach; a more robust, higher-ranking homepage will lead to higher ranking pages across your domain.
On top of that, a better homepage will increase your conversion rate, making your site more profitable.
Most people struggle with optimizing their homepage for SEO. Most of the problems related to homepage SEO stem from:
Google crawls websites and analyzes them regularly to see how relevant they are to certain keyword terms. Googlebot, Google’s website scraper and crawler, is responsible for inspecting your website, determining how relevant your pages are, and ranking you appropriately on Google search.
The problem that most people don’t realize is that Googlebot is largely a text-only crawler. Googlebot doesn’t count images or animations as content, and it is mainly looking for text content (even though it has been known to crawl iFrames). This is a problem for websites with a high amount of links and images on their homepage, but very little actual content.
Why does Google consider text content so important?
From a search engine’s point of view, it makes perfect sense; if a website does not have enough relevant content on its homepage for the keyword it is trying to rank for, it will be very difficult for Google to determine that the website is absolutely relevant for its keyword, and ranking on Google will be an uphill battle.
Google wants to try to avoid delivering websites that are of very little use to their visitors, and from a web crawler’s point of view, a website with very little content might be considered too “thin” or not relevant enough to be ranked on the first page of Google.
Content has always been king to Google; those of you with thin homepages may want to reconsider your homepage architecture.
For newer websites, your homepage may not show up in Google (even for branded searches) until you have enough backlinks and your site is fully indexed and vested.
The most important thing a homepage content should do is to engage visitors so that they’re drawn deeper into the other sections of your website.
If done properly, the homepage content provides a solid and attractive introduction or overview to what your site is all about . . . and why your visitors might want to stick around a little longer.
More specifically, the homepage’s typical goals consist of the following:
Set the visitors’ expectations properly by letting them know what other information they can find elsewhere within your site
The ultimate goal is to keep your visitors interested. Don’t picture your homepage as an introduction to you or your business — make it a page for your visitors.
Up to this point, we’ve focused on creating high-quality homepage content that can help your site rank and appeal to your customers at the same time. Now, let’s look at the other side of the equation: link building for homepage SEO.
In addition, Google evaluates both the relevance and trustworthiness of homepages (and other pages on the web) to determine how and when to rank them. It measures trustworthiness in terms of authority—both sitewide “domain authority” (which applies to all your pages) and individual “page authority” (which applies to specific pages). Authority is a subjective score that increases based on a number of factors. However, the most important factors relate to links.
The algorithm Google uses is kept secret, and we know it’s pretty complicated, but we understand how it works on a high level. Basically, the more links you have pointed to your domain, and the better-quality those links are, the higher your authority will grow—and accordingly, the higher you’ll rank.
Does that mean you should spam links to your homepage as often as possible? Absolutely not.
Your link building strategy should focus on links that have the following qualities:
SEO service agencies often focus on one or a combination of two approaches: link earning and full-fledged link building. Link earning relies on naturally attracting links to your site based on the quality of your content. It guarantees you’ll get natural links, but it’s also incredibly inconsistent.
By contrast, SEO link building, if executed properly, can be much more consistent. As long as you’re building links with content, and you’re focused on the natural value and relevance of those links to your audience, you should be able to build your domain authority reliably.
Building links to your homepage is a top-down approach; for every homepage link you build, build one or two links to other internal pages of your site. Homepage links are more valuable, but they can also be trickier to build, since there may be fewer opportunities to reference your homepage in a natural way. Consider referencing your homepage as part of a quote from your founder, or providing it as a company example in an extended list.
Homepage SEO and homepage link building can be exceptionally difficult, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the nuances of link quality. Accordingly, it’s in your best interest to work with an SEO agency for your first campaign.
It is possible to build a content-rich homepage that is both useful to your visitors and search engines alike. It is ideal to have a minimum of 600-1000 words on your homepage. Here are a few different strategies that we have used on our websites, as well as by thousands of other website developers across the web.
Adding a FAQ area to your homepage presents a unique way to include a large amount of content on your homepage. This is useful to both users and search engines, and easily adds to the overall word count of your homepage. In the example above, you can see this author implemented a clever and completely legal way of fitting a ton of content into a small area using collapsible jQuery dropdowns, which is rich and useful to both search engines and users alike.
We know Google loves seeing a frequently updated homepage. What if your homepage doesn’t really need to be updated once a day, though? By pulling excerpts from your recent blog posts, you will both increase your overall homepage content, as well as keep it fresh and updated by simply keeping your blog updated.
This is another clever way of fitting lots of useful content into a small and attractive looking area. Having a sliding testimonials section shows your visitors useful reviews about your company, and all slides are completely visible to Google and are counted as homepage text. Pure SEO goodness!
Content can be placed anywhere on the page depending on the goal of the page. Ideally, text-based content should be placed just below the site’s header and headline.
However, for e-commerce sites with images of product offerings, product images are most effective “above the fold” (the upper half of the homepage, so that they appear on the first screen), with the rest of the content below the fold.
In some instances, such as in the case of sales pages, you may want your visitors to engage with you from the homepage: to sign up for a newsletter, say, or download an ebook, or get your free offer. In this case, it’s best to place a call to action just above the fold, usually on the sidebar.
You can also include calls to action at the end of the content — for example, to direct visitors to subscribe, download a page, or obtain an inquiry form.
Ideally, homepage content should be short but provide sufficient and straightforward information.
You can achieve this by doing the following:
Use headlines not just to grab your visitor’s attention, but also to welcome them to your site or alert them to what they might expect when they get in. Use headlines that make a promise, offer a bold statement, or lead into something they will want to read.
Some of the best headlines are those that provide visitors with a good overview of what’s in it for me?
Remember, the goal is to keep your audience interested and to draw everyone deeper into your content.
Whether you’re an expert in your industry or the superior choice when it comes down to the products you sell, the fact is your customers don’t care. What they care about is the thing they want: something that will ease their pain or increase their pleasure.
That’s why, when you write content for your homepage, you must help your visitors to feel your empathy. Let them know you feel what they feel and you think what they think.
Speak their language. It shouldn’t be hard for you if you have used the product you are offering.
Don’t tell them what your product can do for them. Tell them how to solve their problems.
Wherever possible, you want to plug your business’s strong points — aka Unique Selling Points (USPs). Identify 3-5 USPs and mention them early or simply put them below your content blurb. You have identified these, right? If you haven’t . . . drop everything and go do it!
Of course you’ll want to talk about your product, but only after you’ve shown your visitors how to solve their problems. After telling them several ways to solve their issues, you can show at least three reasons why your product or idea can help them.
Note: Don’t focus on features. Focus on benefits.
Effective homepage content supported with a robust link building strategy will do more than just rank you higher in searches. It will help you achieve growth, both in the number of viewers and in conversion. And, for those looking to dominate by optimizing for local search, homepage design and backlink optimization will be critical for success.