So, you’ve got a website, which means you’ve at least got a homepage. Should you spend time optimising it for search engines? And if so, how do you go about it? If these are some of the questions you’re asking yourself, then this article is for you. We’ll cover, in simple terms, how to make sure your brand’s homepage is SEO-friendly, with practical tips you can go away and implement on your own website.
So, what do we mean by SEO friendly?
SEO means search engine optimisation. It’s a branch of digital marketing which in layman terms means making digital content, like a webpage, easy for a search engine to read and understand. SEO-friendly is basically like saying family-friendly or wheelchair-friendly, in that there are certain actions we can take to make sure search engines stand the best chance of engaging with and understanding our content.
When we translate this to a homepage, an SEO-friendly homepage is set up in a way to make it easier for a search engine to quickly read and understand what it’s about. And most importantly understand its value to internet users. The benefit of this is that we make it easier for search engines, like Google, to feel confident to serve our website as a result to people when they search for related, relevant terms. So, say you own a dog grooming salon in Leeds, improving your homepage SEO will help people find you when searching for terms like “dog grooming Leeds” or “best dog groomers in Leeds”.
Other benefits of SEO include:
- Ranking higher on a search engine results page (SERP)
- Driving more traffic to your website
- Boosting your profit margin
- Increasing your market share
Which is why optimising your homepage SEO is something you should definitely consider spending time doing.
What affects SEO on a homepage?
Many factors contribute to improving your SEO, but here are some of the keys ones:
- How quickly your site loads
- The use of relevant keywords
- How your site is structured
- How old your domain is
- How authoritative the domain is
11 Tips To Make Your Homepage Rank Better On Search Engines
There are certain things you can do to improve the SEO of your homepage – and your website more generally – which help you to achieve the benefits above. Everything from how you structure your site to how you label your images can incrementally improve your SEO and how high up you rank on search engine results pages. Here are our top hints and tricks:
1. Use keywords in title tags
A title tag is a title or headline that appears on search engine results pages. It is the one thing people tend to skim read quickly when scrolling through search results to find what they want. In fact, we’d go so far as to say your title tag is the most important factor for SEO ranking. For example, if we search for the term “dog grooming in Leeds” the following results show up on the search engine page. You can see here all of these title tags (in blue) contain relevant keywords such as “dog grooming, “dog groomer,” “pet groomer,” and “Leeds.” Including these keywords in the title tag helps customers find what they are looking for easily, but it also helps search engines know which results are the most relevant to show. Learn more about how to write a good title tag headline here.
2. Break up a page using headings & subheadings
There are at least two reasons to use headlines and subheadings on a homepage:
- User experience – Headings help a visitor orient themselves on your page, skim read quickly and find what they are looking for.
- SEO – Headings help search engines crawl your page more easily and understand what it’s about.
Headings go from H1 (which is the main heading on a page) down to H2, H3, H4, H5 and the list goes on.
They < H1>
Look < H2>
Like < H3>
This < H4>
On an aesthetic level, they’re really helpful for breaking up a page and helping visitors to your page quickly distinguish where they should be focusing their attention. H1s will always be read by humans and search engines, so make sure they use your top keyword and explain what your website is about. Subheadings are also an opportunity to inject keywords, where possible to do so naturally.
Let’s take a look at Position Digital’s homepage as an example of how headings have been used.
Above the fold, aka. the part of your homepage that people will always see instantly without scrolling down, is where the H1 heading sits. It’s big, bold and helps people know they’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ve included “digital marketing agency” as a keyword but also who we’re targeting “startups” and “growing brands”.
Below that is a lesser prominent H6 heading including keywords “SEO,” “content marketing,” and “outreach,” which delves into the services we provide.
Further down the homepage, we’ve used headings to touch upon our services in more detail, including keywords “e-commerce” and “building links,” for example.
So, the key lessons for using headings and subheadings to improve SEO are:
- Use headings and subheadings to break up the content on your homepage
- Use relevant keywords in your headings
- Prioritise your main keyword for your H1
3. Write enough copy but don’t go overboard
It’s a hard balance to strike this one. Obviously, the more words you put on a page, the more information you’re putting out there for search engines and humans to understand what you do and what you’re about. But it’s bad practice to have a website that runs on and on, not least because it’s overwhelming for your visitors.
So, when writing your homepage or commissioning a copywriter to write it for you, be really mindful of your word count. You want just enough words to get across what you and hook a visitor and no more. This is one instance where you should definitely choose your words carefully.
Some products and services require more explanation than others, but a good number to shoot for is 400 words in total.
One tip to include copy without compromising on UX is to include FAQs in a drop-down menu, as Position Digital has here. People can click to expand to read the answers if they’re interested, without it feeling like too much information.
HubSpot has done a good job of creating a copy light homepage. So, if in doubt, when writing your website, do some research on how others have struck a balance between informative and light.
4. Optimise your page load speed
As mentioned above, how quickly your homepage loads is a factor in how highly search engines rate you. If you have a laggy homepage that takes its sweet time to load up, this isn’t good and it needs looking at. Take a look at our guide on how to make your WordPress site run faster. But in a nutshell, you need to:
- Reduce the number of external scripts running
- Reduce the number of widgets and plugins
- Resize your images to be smaller
- Use a high-performing web hosting service
The content above the fold must load up straight away, as soon as visitors hit your site. Because if it doesn’t, people will be very quick to leave. A slow website is no longer acceptable in today’s fast-clicking internet culture and it can make you look low-quality and unprofessional, which damages your brand.
Using a free tool like GTmetrix will give you a sense of how quickly your page is currently loading.
Simply put in your site’s URL and click ‘test your site’ for results and a diagnosis of what’s slowing your site down.
5. Write unique, compelling meta descriptions
The meta description is the text that appears on the search engine results page underneath the title tag. In the example below, it’s the text starting “As a skilled dog groomer…”
The meta description provides a unique opportunity to give more context to your title tag, giving you the chance to sell what’s on the other side if they click through. It’s also an opportunity to again include keywords that will help humans and search engines know what you’re about. Particularly important when people are skimming through the results page.
Our tips for writing a good meta description are:
- Include your top 1-2 keywords
- Include a call to action
- Inject your brand personality into it
- Describe, in a compelling way, what visitors can expect when they visit your page
- Keep it to 150-160 characters to avoid it being cut off with an ellipsis (as you can see it has above). This free snippet optimiser tool will help.
6. Optimise your images
This tip is particularly important for e-commerce websites that contain a lot of images.
Images have a dual purpose when it comes to homepages:
- They enhance the user experience, helping to tell the story of your brand quickly
- They provide an opportunity to add further relevant keywords
While images are important because they add that visual pop that so many of us need to fully engage with a brand, they can weigh down your site, causing it to slow, if the file size is too large. So, it’s important to select quality images over quantity. Use a tool like Optimole to resize images, making the file size up to 80% smaller while retaining the quality of your image.
When uploading your image to your homepage, make sure you:
- Write image alt tags that describe your image using keywords
- Save your image with a filename that uses a relevant keyword
The language used around images is another way to tell a search engine what’s on your page, so don’t waste the opportunity.
7. Use formatting to break up your page
Formatting and good website design will help your homepage be more readable and digestible for people who visit your website. Additionally, using formatting such as bullet points can be useful to search engines when they’re crawling your page for information. Enabling them to grasp information about you more easily.
An example of good formatting is Dower Datech, below. They use bullet points on the left to summarise their key selling points. While on the right, there’s a simple and easy to use form to request a quote for work. The formatting is simple but effective.
8. Consider your site architecture
Site architecture is all to do with how your site is structured and designed for use. There’s a hierarchy to site architecture, with your homepage being at the top of the hierarchy and filtering down to web pages with more specific information at the lower end of the hierarchy.
Make sure that the flow of your website is considered and the user journey makes sense. A clear, well-designed site, with clear links to the next part of the user journey, helps customers and search engines grasp, quickly and easily, what action is supposed to be taken at each stage of the journey and why.
So, if you know the next logical step after you’ve arrived at your homepage is to either make a purchase or read more about the services on offer, make sure the homepage is set up in a way that guides people to take these actions. If in doubt, imagine a real building. Once you’ve arrived at the front door, it doesn’t make sense for people to enter straight into the bedroom, for example. Consider your site in the same way. What makes the most sense for people arriving at your homepage? If it helps, sketch it out.
There are three elements you are always going to need on your homepage, which are:
- A menu bar containing links to important pages, such as categories, about, contact and blog pages.
- Body copy describing who you are and what you do
- Footer containing contact details and site structure
9. Link out to important pages
Tying into the point above, including links to important pages from your homepage will tell humans and search engines
- Where they should go next
- What information on the website is important
- How to get to the information they need
So, if you’re a business owner offering certain key services or products, then make sure you include internal links to those product or service pages from your homepage.
Taking the example of the Leeds-based dog grooming salon again, say your most popular services are claw trimming, bath and blow-dry and fur trimming, you’ll want obvious and prominent links to those pages within your homepage. To show you a real-life example, Art of Dog Grooming has done just that on their homepage, as you can see below.
10. Optimise your homepage for conversions
Search engine optimisation is great and will help bring people through the door but converting is what will make you money. So, when working on your homepage, don’t forget to think about these key steps:
- Put your priority messaging above the fold of your homepage
- Ensure your web design is a stress-free experience for users
- Guide your users to take an action
- Spend most time writing your headline – it’s the one thing people will always read
- Reassure your customers with testimonials and customer reviews
- Make your calls to action prominent and often
We delve into how to optimise your homepage for conversions here.
11. Use SEO tools to help you get your homepage just right
A lot about homepage SEO is in striking a balance between a good user experience, a site structure that makes sense and selling your wares without going overboard. One way to do this easily is to employ the use of SEO tools. They’re specially developed to help site owners and site managers to optimise their website for SEO. Here are a couple of SEO tools we recommend using:
- Yoast – this is a WordPress plugin that walks you through what needs to be done to your site to optimise it. There are free and premium paid versions.
- SEMrush – this is a paid-for keyword research tool – although you can usually do a free trial. It helps you narrow down which keywords you should target to compete in your niche.
- Ahrefs Backlink Checker – this is a free tool that lets you check:
- Your domain rating (how authoritative you are in the eyes of search engines
- How many backlinks point to your site
- How many websites are linking back to your site
A paid version of Ahrefs lets you do more sophisticated SEO checks but the free version is a good place to start to track any improvements in your SEO journey.
Here’s a quick glimpse of what SEMrush looks like behind the scenes. As you can see, there is a tonne of functionality and analysis you can delve into to understand how to improve your keyword usage.
A combination of factors is key
As you can see from reading this article, there are lots of little tweaks you can make to your homepage to improve how SEO-friendly it is. Make sure you take a holistic look at your homepage from design, to structure, user flow and keyword usage to really get the most out of it.
Need help optimising your homepage for success?
At Position Digital, we’re a bunch of SEO enthusiasts that are always looking for creative ways to turn content into cash using expert SEO techniques. As strategic content marketers, we love working with businesses looking to grow by creating quality content that speaks to your audience. So, if you like what you’ve read here, get in touch to chat about how we could work together.