The homepage is the main page or the start page of a website, whether it’s for a blog, eCommerce site or a corporate website. The homepage typically ranks for your brand terms or brand misspellings. It’s not the page you want to target for generic terms as that’s the job of the other deeper pages on your site.
If you notice the homepage cannibalising rankings for your target high volume generics, you need to review your site architecture and taxonomy and fix your keyword targeting immediately.
Why should you SEO your homepage?
A homepage acts as a site index to facilitate navigation to key pages of your site by linking to your prioritised content. In the case of an eCommerce site, you would link to your trending categories based on seasonality or call out sales or promotions on your hero banner. On a news site, the homepage usually presents the top news stories and latest news links with some excerpts and links to full news articles.
The homepage tends to be one of the most visited pages of your site. In many cases, it ranks in the 1st position of SERPs when you perform a branded search term. Visitors tend to navigate to the homepage or use the navigation menu to find links to your most important pages.
Over time, your homepage would start ranking for highly competitive broad keywords in your industry as it would have gathered link equity and page rank from all the other internal pages.
Homepage SEO Best Practices
From an SEO perspective, the principles of homepage SEO is the same as implementing SEO on other pages of your website. Let’s look at the different steps to consider to create an SEO friendly homepage.
Step 1: Optimise Homepage Title Tag & Meta Description
- When it comes to optimising your homepage title tag, it is recommended to begin the title with the name of the brand. This is opposite to what we recommended for other pages where the name of the brand is placed towards the end.
- Don’t just use your brand or domain name as the homepage title. Try to add broad target keywords that describe what your brand/page is about. Notice how ASOS uses relevant broader terms such as online shopping, clothes, fashion in the page title right after the brand name.
- Your homepage meta description may not be a direct ranking factor. But creating an effective meta description is important to improve CTR from the SERPs to your homepage. It is recommended to keep the length of your meta descriptions to about 160 characters in length including spaces and include a good description of your homepage to entice the visitor to click through to the site.
Follow this guide for other general best practices for title tag and meta descriptions.
You may also be tempted to use an H1 heading tag on your homepage because it is normally important to use an H1 tag on all your pages. If you don’t have one on your homepage, it doesn’t matter. If you do have an H1, make sure to use broad terms within it.
Step 2: Optimise your Homepage Images
When using images on your homepage, please use the following image optimisation recommendations;
- Specify image dimensions, both width and height for all images to allow for faster rendering of your images by eliminating the need for unnecessary repaints.
- Apply lossless compression for all your images to reduce their file sizes. If you are using a CMS such as WordPress, there are plugins available to optimise your images. You could also use free image optimisers such as FileOptimiser to bulk compress your images.
- Use properly sized images to reduce your homepage load times rather than relying on CSS to resize them on page load. Serving appropriately-sized images can also reduce file size to improve the performance of your homepage.
- Set the ALT text on all the images used on the homepage to describe the image. Ensure you use target keywords on your image ALT text.
- Use live text around your images so crawlers can crawl the content. Crawlers can’t parse the text if it’s part of your image.
- Avoid using image sliders on your homepage. Sliders can impact your page speed.
- Make sure you use keyword optimised image file names that describe what your image is about. For example, a proper filename would be “black-Nike-trainers.jpg” instead of “NBK_homepage_week14.jog”.
Step 3: Optimise Site Structure & Navigation
Your website should have a hierarchical structure with the homepage at the top (click depth of 0). A well-structured homepage can get you optimised site links on SERPs for brand name searches. You can influence what appears as a site link through your site structure and navigation. Ensure all your key pages are linked from the homepage through clear text call to action (CTAs) to pass the link juice to the most important pages.
All pages of your site should be accessible from the homepage within 3 clicks. Your hierarchy should be no more than 3 levels deep.
Step 4: Add Proper Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup is not a ranking factor. But they are useful to make it easier for search engines to understand the structure of your page. When the rich snippets are displayed on SERPs, they help improve CTR.
When it comes to homepage structured data, it’s most common to see websites use Organization (if you are an online business) and Local Business (if you have a physical presence) schema. If you are running a personal blog, you could also use Person schema.
Step 5: Add Content on the Homepage
It is recommended to add body copy to the homepage to provide some crawlable content to the search spiders instead of just filling your homepage with media. Avoid setting up a homepage with just images and videos. The text is useful as it can be crawled by search engine spiders to better understand the brand.
Take a look at the homepage of Evans Cycles. Notice how the brand includes content towards the bottom of the homepage using target keywords and internal links to their most important categories and buying guides.
- On a corporate website, for example, you’ll typically find content such as about the company, services, testimonials, services and links to other pages of the site on the homepage.
- On an eCommerce website, for example, you’ll typically find hero banners, USPs of the brand such as delivery info or key promotions, latest offers, trending products or brands, content and internal links to relevant categories based on seasonality.
- If it’s a blog, it can either have a static homepage with text and links to the relevant blog categories or your homepage could be a list of the latest blog posts and featured posts.
Step 6: Optimise Page Speed of your Homepage
You should have a fast loading homepage not only for Google because it’s a ranking factor, but also for your site visitors for a better user experience, especially for users with slow internet connections. A study has shown that a large percentage of visitors abandon the page if it does not load within 3 seconds. Let’s look at a few ways to ensure your homepage (and other pages of your site) loads faster.
- Run a page speed test using the various site speed test tools available online to analyse the performance of your homepage. I would recommend you run the URL on Google page speed insights, Google Lighthouse, GTMetrix, WebPageTest, etc to be presented with recommendations to improve your page speed.
- No amount of page speed optimisations would work if your server is slow, especially a shared host. If you are serious about page speed, my recommendation is to use a reliable dedicated host. Hosting on a VPS is a relatively cheaper option.
- We have already seen a few image speed optimisation recommendations above. If you use a lot of images you can also consider serving them through a CDN.
- Avoid featuring videos on your homepage. If the business requires you to feature a video on specific days to push a new product launch or if it’s a key seasonal date and you want to use a video on the homepage for your campaign, make sure the video is hosted externally on YouTube or other video streaming services and then embedded on your site using an iframe with the lazyload attribute. Hosting the video file on your server would increase homepage load time as it would require the site visitor to download the video when the homepage is being loaded.
Other Homepage SEO Guide Considerations
- Your homepage must be mobile-friendly. You could run the mobile-friendly test to check mobile friendliness and fix any issues if flagged.
- Ensure you follow mobile-first index best practices for your homepage and other site pages. Google recommends a responsive site to ensure your desktop and mobile versions of your site are the same.
- To improve your brand trust among your site visitors, try to feature trust badges, testimonials and reviews on your homepage. Even successful case studies, portfolios and achievements are common among corporate sites.