Is it really possible to optimize your homepage to get it to rank higher in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?
Whether or not homepage SEO actually exists has long been a hot debate among SEOs.
Some say that if the rest of your webpages are optimized for search engines, your homepage will naturally see a boost in rankings—meaning there’s no need for homepage-specific SEO.
Other SEOs argue that the homepage indicates to Google what your website is about through your content, title, meta description, and other elements. Google uses this information to rank the rest of your website’s pages.
Which argument do you think is correct? We believe the latter is true.
It’s worth going the extra mile to guarantee high rankings for each webpage. Your homepage should be your top priority since it’s the most influential among all your website’s pages.
Why is Homepage SEO Important?
Website visitors and search engine crawlers love visiting the homepage. It is one of the top pages users will visit to learn more about your business or blog, even if they land on other pages. Search engine bots use your homepage’s content to determine your website’s topical authority and relevancy. This effects the ranking of your homepage and also impacts the rest of your website’s pages.
Your homepage is also considered one of the “power” pages. It can attract droves of backlinks organically just through PR initiatives alone. This makes your homepage the top candidate from which to form a ranking strategy around highly competitive keywords. There’s no reason not to optimize your homepage to further boost the page’s position in the SERP.
Now that you know homepage SEO is real and important, let’s take a look at how to do it.
Homepage SEO Techniques
There are three reigning factors to consider when optimizing a homepage:
- Satisfying search intent: Visitors who are already searching for the type of content you offer will spend more time on your pages. This diminishes bounce rates, which may signal to search engines that your page satisfies the search intent. Search engines might rank your page higher because of it (although it’s not proven to be a ranking factor). There’s no official guide to a ‘good’ bounce rate, but one study shows that a 26-40% bounce rate is excellent for most sites.
- Content: You’ll need clear-cut and engaging content for your business or blog. Search engines prioritize high-quality content, considering it to be one of the most important factors in their ranking algorithms. If you provide relevant and valuable information to your users, Google will reward you with higher rankings and more traffic.
- UX: Your homepage should offer unparalleled user experience. Google values UX above anything else. Make sure your webpage is fast, mobile-friendly, easy to use, and provides intuitive navigation providing access to all main website pages in just a few taps or clicks (or ideally, one tap). It should also clearly indicate the website’s structure. If your site is easy to navigate and has an intuitive design, you’re more likely to get higher rankings and conversions.
Now, let’s put these elements to work.
Pick The Right Keywords
Ranking for a single branded keyword isn’t enough to generate ample or even decent organic traffic to your website. Instead, use a small but mighty selection of keywords related to your business and insert them naturally into your content. This will not only help crawlers understand the context behind your homepage, but it will also increase your chance of attracting new visitors currently unfamiliar with your brand.
So how exactly does one pick the right keywords?
Start off by brainstorming a list of potential search terms related to your business that you can use for your website’s content. Next, put these keywords into a keyword research tool and shortlist potential search terms based on search volumes and ranking difficulty. Keyword Suggestion Tool by SE Ranking will help you with this task. Just enter a keyword or upload a keyword list, choose the location, and get keyword ideas. You can use filters to find the best search queries for your business.
It’s best in this case to target keywords with high search volumes and low ranking difficulty.
Also, consider using long-tail keywords. These are longer, more specific key phrases. (e.g., a long-tail variation of “gaming laptops” would be “best gaming laptops on sale.”) Even though long-tail keywords may not have search volumes as high as generic ones, they usually have less competition.
Users who type in long-tail keywords typically have high purchase intent because they already know what they’re looking for, so ranking your homepage for long-tail keywords will bring more quality leads to your website.
To find long-tail keywords with SE Ranking Keyword Suggestion Tool, go to Keyword Suggestions after entering your keyword and click on Filter. There is the Word count filter. Type “3” into the filter to find more specific keywords consisting of at least three words:
Optimize Homepage Content
The homepage is usually one of the most visited pages and is more often than not the first page your visitors will see. For this reason, you need to make it crystal clear (on the homepage) what:
- Your website is about.
- How it can help users.
- And what makes it stand out from the competition.
This will capture your users’ attention, get them interested in your offer, and make the homepage relevant to targeted traffic.
For example, SE Ranking’s offer is as clear as day. New visitors can tell right away that SE Ranking offers an all-in-one, easy-to-use SEO software solution.
Homepages should contain written content alongside images and sometimes embedded videos. Always fit in your small list of target keywords in a natural way (avoid keyword stuffing at all costs). A properly optimized homepage provides users with useful information and helps crawlers understand the meaning of the webpage.
The content on your homepage should be to the point, containing H1 and H2 tags for enhanced readability. Complement these best practices with appealing visuals like images and videos. For SEO purposes, inserting keywords in the H1 tag is almost always a must. Also, it should highlight the Unique Value Proposition (UVP).
You can also highlight key content by placing it above the fold, like in the SE ranking homepage example shown above. This helps grab the users’ attention and sends an even more powerful message.
The type of content you display on your homepage will depend on the kind of website you run. Business websites, for example, should highlight their products’ main benefits, stand-out points, UVP, etc.
On the other hand, eCommerce stores could display the latest discounts and products and provide links to different product categories.
Blog websites can benefit from showing popular articles, like in the Search Engine Journal example below.
You should also include below-the-fold content, like testimonials. Users will naturally scroll down the page, so this is a perfect place to catch their interest by answering common questions and displaying social proof.
Don’t forget about optimizing your meta title and description. Both should provide a general overview of your website, be compelling enough to make the users enter your website, and incorporate keywords for better ranking.
Canva does a great job at this. It pinpoints what the platform is and what it is used for. Canva also grabs the users’ attention by mentioning that it is free.
Optimize Homepage Design
Since UX is crucial in SEO, you must put user experience at the top of your list when optimizing your homepage’s design.
Start by adopting a minimalist design and integrating a straightforward navigation menu.
Hootsuite’s homepage (shown above) uses minimal design elements, but it still drives the users’ attention where it matters—its tagline and Call-To-Action (CTA) button.
Also, notice how the logo is placed next to where you’d expect to find the navigation bar. This reinforces brand identity and serves as a button users can press whenever they want to return to the homepage.
The navigation menu is simple, but it provides users with all the essential links to explore every nook and cranny of the website.
There is a big difference between CTAs (or Calls to Action) on the homepage and other pages of your website. For most businesses, having CTAs on the homepage is usually more critical than having them on the website’s inner pages because they serve as the first impression of your business and lure visitors into taking action (i.e., make a purchase or sign up for a free trial/consultation).
With other pages like blog posts, the focus is more on delivering high-quality content that users find helpful and engaging. This builds brand awareness and cultivates positive relationships with visitors.
A while ago, there was an SEO myth saying that it’s bad for SEO to place CTAs above the fold. However, John Mueller of Google clarified on Reddit that “Google’s search doesn’t say anything about CTA buttons.” — CTAs do not impact SEO. But with effective CTAs, more visitors will take the necessary action on your website to generate a conversion—this is what matters most.
CTAs should be bold, clear, and stand out from the rest of the webpage. To make your CTAs stand out, use contrasting colors and write compelling and interesting copy that is specific to your target audience. Also, don’t be afraid to place your CTAs in several locations on your homepage—just don’t overdo it. One excellent spot to put your CTAs is above the fold.
Hubspot, one of the most popular CRM software, is a perfect example. It uses contrasting colors to make the CTAs stand out, and their copy is simple and to the point. Also, the buttons are placed in highly visible areas (the central part of the page and next to the navigation menu).
The last thing to do is conduct thorough A/B testing. Getting your CTAs right on the first try is nearly impossible. Experiment with your CTAs’ placement, copy, and color schemes until you find the variation your target audience loves best.
In layman’s terms, schema markup is code that describes data to search engine crawlers and helps them understand your website’s content. For example, you could use markups to indicate articles, events, reviews, products, etc.
It is important to add schema Organization markup to your homepage to help search engines understand who you are and what you do. Here’s Google’s official documentation.
Crawlers will pull that information and display it on Goolge as rich results, improving your listing visibility and bringing more traffic to your website.
You can write schema manually, but plenty of plugins can help you generate it automatically if you use WordPress to build your websites.
Image SEO is used to help crawlers understand your content better. Start by customizing image file names. Search engine bots will use them to determine what your images are about.
Your file names should include keywords and be descriptive. Let’s say you’re writing blog content about white chocolate cake and you want to include an image of it in your post. Google will have a clearer understanding of what your content is about if you named the image file, “white-chocolate-cake.jpg”, instead of “screen-shot.jpg”.
The same thing goes with alt text—the main image element to take care of SEO-wise. Alt-text is a part of HTML code used to describe a photo’s contents if the image does not load properly. Search engine crawlers will use it to get an idea of what your content is about, so your alt text should be descriptive and preferably contain keywords.
Don’t forget to compress your images before uploading them to your website. Large image files are one of the leading causes of slow loading speeds.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
Mobile-friendliness is essential both in terms of SEO and UX. That’s because mobile devices account for 54.8% of all web traffic. Meanwhile, Google plans to set mobile-first indexing as the default for all websites.
You heard that right. Going mobile friendly is now a must (no longer just a recommendation) because crawlers prioritize mobile web pages when ranking them in the SERP.
You’ve got three website design options:
- Responsive. These websites use fluid grids and media queries to automatically adjust their layout based on the device being used to view it. This method is cost-effective, easy to maintain, and offers a consistent UX across all devices.
- Adaptive. These require building separate layouts based on the most common screen widths. This method is more expensive and harder to maintain, but with it you can maintain an optimal UX regardless of the screen size.
- Mobile-first. This kind of design entails building a web layout for mobile platforms first, then gradually adding more features and elements as you move up in screen sizes.
Of course, mobile-first websites provide the greatest experience for mobile users, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to create. Designers might be limited in creativity because of the lack of screen space, and the visual appeal on desktops might be lackluster.
You can check your site’s mobile friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Optimize for Loading Speed
53% of mobile visitors will abandon a web page if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
You read that right! Page speed is most definitely a ranking factor.
According to Google’s official blog in July 2018, “The Search team announced speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010 and as of this month (July 2018), page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too.”
Make sure to speed test your website to see whether it stacks up against the 2.5 seconds or less standard. If it doesn’t, some standard practices for improving load times are compressing images, enabling lazy loading, reducing the number of redirects, and working with a Content Delivery Network.
In addition, pay attention to your Core Web Vitals—a set of metrics that quantify real-world user experience based on page loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability.
To quickly summarize the points:
- Your homepage content should be engaging and clear so visitors and crawlers can understand it easily. Use H1 and H2 tags to highlight key elements and help crawlers understand the meaning of your homepage. This will capture your visitors’ attention and encourage them to stick around longer.
- Avoid using a single branded keyword. Target a small list of keywords relevant to your niche instead.
- Optimize your meta title and description.
- Design your homepage with user experience in mind. While you’re at it, optimize it for mobile devices and loading speeds. You might otherwise endure a heavy ranking blow.
- CTAs must be bold and clear.
- Lastly, add schema markup and optimize your images.
Homepage SEO is important for all types of websites. Your homepage is more than just a “storefront” or an entry point. An optimized homepage means happier visitors who trust you and search engines that can easily find and rank your pages.