homepage optimization

Homepage optimization

Homepage optimization

October 14th, 2014 – 28 Comments

Homepage SEO does not exist. That was the statement in my post on homepage SEO. However, a lot of the people that commented on our site, and on Twitter and Facebook, still feel that a homepage should be optimized for a keyword. Perhaps optimizing your homepage for search engines works for some of you, but ranking in Google should definitely not be the only purpose of your homepage! In this post I want to explore the main purpose of your homepage and give tips on how to optimize your homepage to make it totally awesome!

What is your website about?

The first homepage optimization tip is of course to check what your website is about. This seems obvious, but your mission, the uniqueness of your website, should be reflected on your homepage.

Keyword Strategy

From our previous post we learned that there are still a lot of people trying to optimize their homepage for a certain keyword. Most of them are optimizing for a local business, and feel that the homepage is like the top of their keyword strategy pyramid. We often advice to focus your website on more than one keyword and tend to set out a strategy based upon a multitude of keywords. Even 3 to 5 keywords wouldn’t be a full keyword strategy. If you would like to read more about keyword strategy, keep reading our blog, because we’re currently preparing a number of posts about keyword research and keyword strategy!

Is your homepage just a large list of products and services, or did you actually take the time to write a decent welcome for your visitors? Now one of the most annoying things a website owner can do, is actually write ‘welcome to our website’ of course. By welcoming your visitor, I mean telling him what can be found on your website. What is your main product or service? What can be found on your products and on your company itself on the website? And most important: what is the main benefit (USP; Unique Selling Point) for the visitor?

But isn’t this just common sense?

Make your USP specific

The second homepage optimization tip is to make your Unique Selling Point clear. A couple of years ago, Joost and some other SEO’s did a live site review during WordCamp Netherlands and one of the sites being reviewed had exactly that problem. It was absolutely unclear what that company was bringing the customer. I think it was a business coaching website that had a tagline like: “Helping you improve yourself!”. That isn’t a great intro / tagline, as it tells absolutely nothing about the purpose of the company. It might as well be selling great running shoes, helping you improve your running, right? Make sure your introductory content is about the key benefits for the visitor you offer. “Coaching consultants using self-reflection” would already tell a visitor a lot more.

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Is this Homepage SEO? Pawedu.com

In the above homepage for PawEdu (yes, it’s a slider, I know – but I really like the b/w images), it is very clear what the purpose of the website is. Yes, the three larger words could apply to more websites, but the tagline below it and the image add nuance to these words.

In most cases, that could indeed mean getting back to a boring business tagline. I’m not a big fan of the vague descriptions half of today’s companies seem to use. That only works when you have the marketing budget to make it your own. We all know what company tells me that I’m Lovin’ It.

But clarity isn’t the only thing that matters on your homepage.

Guide your visitor

A third purpose of your homepage is guidance to your visitor. You should make sure your homepage guides your visitor to your main pages. Of course your homepage needs the introduction or tagline I described above. But that one would be useless if your homepage wouldn’t allow the visitor to click to your main or money pages. These would be the pages where the deal is closed, the product is sold or the contact form can be filled out.

Of course there are more, but these are the obvious ‘guides’ on most homepages:

  • Sliders, or better alternatives

Hero image

Hero image is a term used in web design for a specific type of web banner. A hero image is a large banner image, prominently placed on a web page, generally in the front and center.
Source: Wikipedia

It’s pretty obvious that we at Yoast don’t like sliders. Still, a slider is used very often to promote these pages. The lack of attention these pages get, is one of the reasons why we don’t like sliders. But that slider area is a great spot for guidance. If you would add a so-called hero image of your featured product, including a great call-to-action button, that would make sense. If you want to rotate that with every browser refresh, I’m the last one to stop you. It’s a great way to make your homepage appear different with every visit.
  • Menu
    The most obvious one is of course the menu. Have your thought about what is in your menu? Is it structured and focused? Let me give you an example: this is the menu of a financial consultant we reviewed a while ago:
    Be clear
    Start Here could be a call-to-action, of course. But Hard Choices is just too general. In the end, I would replace both with names that describe the content after the click.
  • Products
    If you have an online shop, the possibilities are endless. But don’t add the entire category list in your sidebar. Focus on your most visited categories and add these in a prominent spot on your homepage. Add your best selling product to the homepage, perhaps in that larger image we mentioned at ‘sliders’ above. Be creative. Your homepage seems the best spot on your site to announce a new product, for instance. If your shop has a sale, make sure that people notice it on the homepage.
  • Search as a call-to-action
    In around 80% of the sites we review, the search bar is located in the header or footer. If you are selling thousands of products, or if you have written over a hundred articles on your site, chances are that a search bar will come in handy for your visitor. Why not make that one your main call-to-action and list it as the main element (instead of that slider) on your website? Doing this is actually step two. Step one is making sure your search result pages look decent.
  • Contact
    You also have to realize that a (returning) visitor could just be looking for your contact details. List a link to your contact page where one would expect it. That could be in the last spot in your menu, but could also be an address in your footer, or a (short) contact form in the sidebar.
  • Do not clutter!

    Do not go overboard in guidance on your website! One of my favorite words of the last decade is ‘clutter’. Don’t clutter your homepage with all kind of actionable guides, but pick two or three that make sense on a site like yours. And focus on these.

    Is this Homepage SEO? Trendypeas.com

    This is a great example of a focused homepage. TrendyPeas has even thought of making that call-to-action a distinctive color. One could argue about the three ‘extras’ on the right of the menu, but due to the use of faded tabs and the hard yellow call-to-action in the main image, I think it works. The extra focus on the Halloween menu item is subtle next to the large image below it and the blue tagline in the header above it.

    Homepage optimization: the conclusion

    Your homepage should make clear what people can find on your website. It should focus on your unique selling point. And, it should guide your visitors to your most important pages. Perhaps you can focus on these things and still optimize your homepage for a certain keyword. What do you think about that?

    Of course your website is more than just your homepage. If you want to optimize your entire site, be sure to check our site reviews.

    Read more: ‘Does homepage SEO exist at all?’ »


    28 Responses to Homepage optimization

    1. Leon Ridge-Cooke
      By Leon Ridge-Cooke on 24 October, 2014

      Another great article on homepage SEO. I especially agree on homepage clutter. It is important to reduce the visual elements and the choices on the homepage as much as possible so that the call to action is immediately clear.

    2. Chris Bunting
      By Chris Bunting on 21 October, 2014

      You don’t need to optimize anything anymore for top rankings.. It all comes down to how active the sites are, and how fast you are growing in traffic! Using seo enabled forums like IPB with a growing active community also helps.. But it really comes down to the amount of traffic you get.. Alexa, Google and many other sites know your traffic data more than we do.. But we have top 5 search engine rankings all over the world for our small mmo.. I don’t use any seo plugins, no meta tag plugins, no google xml plugin, nothing.. Just a super optimized Ubuntu + Nginx setup..

    3. Stu Edwards
      By Stu Edwards on 17 October, 2014

      Sorry for the silly question, but what is the issue with sliders? As a photographer, I want my best images within the slider to be my CTA and guide people to my deeper pages – Or is that wrong?
      Thanks guys!

    4. Patti Ryan
      By Patti Ryan on 16 October, 2014

      I hadn’t thought about the “search” as a CTA. I do have a search box on the side bar, but will rethink including it more prominently on our homepage. (I think I’ve got your other points covered(. Thanks

      • Michiel Heijmans
        By Michiel Heijmans on 17 October, 2014

        No problem! It is always odd to take a step back and replace yourself in the visitor, but it makes sense, right? Sometimes you are so used to your website and the way it has grown over time that the basics get ‘rusty’. A fresh look can help.

        Personally, if Google does not take me to the right page on a website right away, I use the search that is on the website itself. Sometimes I find myself forcing a 404 on a WordPress site just because that page tends to hold a search bar ;-)

        Besides that, for a webmaster, Site search in Google Analytics can provide valuable insights in what people are looking for on your website. An indirect reason to add that search bar to any website (even if it’s just in the footer).

    5. Diane Gracely
      By Diane Gracely on 16 October, 2014

      Thanks for the great read. I’ve been wondering about the homepage and how important it is and if it is wise to use a main keyword on the home page. Thank you for the great information n this subject.

    6. Fakhrul Alam
      By Fakhrul Alam on 16 October, 2014

      I always focus on the homepage rather then other pages, because most of the people checks your homepage first then provide an action.

      If the homepage is good and they love, they will order from your website.

      Thanks for sharing this cool method

    7. Nigel Abery
      By Nigel Abery on 15 October, 2014

      Great post Michiel,
      You are correct, the more important question is not can you SEO your home page, but should you SEO your home page. I agree that SEO on your homepage should not be your 1st priority. Once again you have shown that you really know your stuff!
      Cheers,
      Nigel

    8. Sandra BK
      By Sandra BK on 15 October, 2014

      Great post. I love what you guys are doing at Yoast. Installing the Yoast SEO plug-in and answering the question, “How does Yoast help you with SEO,” is a required assignment for my students in the MA of Public Relations program at Full Sail University. You guys get an A+ from me!

    9. Ami Gordon
      By Ami Gordon on 15 October, 2014

      Great post Michiel. The articles on Yoast are invaluable for improving SEO.

      Thank you for including our PAWedu slideshow as a good example. Sometimes it’s worth breaking the rules!

      Everyone at Yoast did an amazing job on our website review. The list of improvements you suggested was comprehensive. Now we have a clear focus to improve our website’s SEO.

      Thanks!
      Ami

      • Michiel Heijmans
        By Michiel Heijmans on 15 October, 2014

        And thank you for your comment, Ami! Let me know if we can be of help if anything in the review is unclear – but you already knew that, right ;)

    10. Kymeshia Morris
      By Kymeshia Morris on 15 October, 2014

      Thanks for the information. I will definitely be implementing some of these tips on the websites I manage.

    11. Don Hesh
      By Don Hesh on 15 October, 2014

      Nice Follow up for “Does Homepage SEO exist at all?” Article. like to add one thing..
      All the major websites in the World has one Two things in common in their home page.
      1. One line about the business (Not what they do, About Why they do it)
      2. Call to Action (Phone number or Form)
      Thanks.
      Don Hesh

      • Michiel Heijmans
        By Michiel Heijmans on 15 October, 2014

        Agreed. Although the need for contact is only for those websites that actually want that. A call to action can be so much more. But a tag line helps a lot, as long as it is crystal clear.

    12. George Papatheodorou
      By George Papatheodorou on 15 October, 2014

      Nice post Michiel. You definitely have a point in many cases. I think though that for most of the cases (like SMBs) this is not an option. Due to (mainly) restricted budget, the only way to rank high is through their homepage. And this is what they are doing… try to convey all their messages to the clients from that same page. I agree with you that this should not be the case but it is :) (at least in the vast majority of the websites in Greece)

      • Michiel Heijmans
        By Michiel Heijmans on 15 October, 2014

        Thanks for your comment!

        So what you are saying is that if you have no budget, your only option is to rank your homepage? That’s bs, George ;-)

        WordPress is free, adding pages is free, setting up a keyword strategy is free, writing content is free, creating cornerstone content is free, the business/website owner is the expert, so even knowledge is free. The investment is TIME. And if you are serious about your website, you’ll make or take that time.

        And this is not an SMB related issue. We deal with SMB’s on a daily basis, for instance in our site reviews (from photographers to backeries) and most of them really understand the need for great content.

    13. Wim Peters
      By Wim Peters on 14 October, 2014

      Thanks for the post! Will give these tips a try on a website I am working on. Also looking forward to your posts about keyword strategy and keyword research.
      Thanks and regards,

      Wim

    14. Nicolas Richer
      By Nicolas Richer on 14 October, 2014

      Hi Michiel,
      I was one of the first to have this statement on the last post : the homepage should be focused on USP and navigation. It’s nice to see we were on the exact same wave length !
      I’m looking forward to the next keyword-oriented articles then !

    15. James Roberts
      By James Roberts on 14 October, 2014

      Nice post Michiel, thanks for the advice. “Welcome to my website”, yes that is facepalm moment right there.

    16. Goutam Bagchi
      By Goutam Bagchi on 14 October, 2014

      Myself Goutam Bagchi Executive consultant of Questkon Consultancy Services & Business Services I am also member of WordPress .com I like this page very much Please reviews my webpage

      • Michiel Heijmans
        By Michiel Heijmans on 14 October, 2014

        Not sure what you mean, Goutam? More on our reviews and ordering can be found here?

    17. Martin
      By Martin on 14 October, 2014

      Hi Michiel,

      Great post but I would definitely recommend optimising a home page, of course all depends on the website we work. Many SMBs relay on the home page to push information to clients and trying to encourage them to browse other pages.
      There is not thing wrong with that.

      Thanks
      Martin

    18. Devin Columbus
      By Devin Columbus on 14 October, 2014

      Great post! I can get behind this one.


    Check out our must read articles about Content SEO