Homepage optimization

Homepage OptimizationHomepage SEO does not exist. That was the statement in the post I did last week. 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.

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.

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
    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 an 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. We will do a complete website review starting from $699!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!