Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process that happens all over your site, in the aesthetics as well as the back end coding, and across thousands of off-site points of interest. With such complexity, it's easy to lose sight of the most important page of your website--the homepage. When you're focused on maintaining an active blog, creating dedicated internal pages for your target keywords, and building links, you might neglect the optimization fundamentals that lead to a well-optimized homepage.

Is It Worth Optimizing the Homepage?

There have been some discussions over whether it's "worth it" to optimize a homepage. Let's say you have an internal page where you sell your core product--nightstands. If you optimize this page for keywords related to "nightstands," any similar optimization of your homepage may introduce redundancy, or a kind of SEO cannibalization to your efforts. Along similar lines, any optimization efforts in your internal pages will carry over to your homepage, giving it a kind of "natural" optimization.

However, it's still important to keep your homepage in sufficient shape for branded searches, broad searches related to your industry, and to make a valuable impression to the prospective customers visiting you for the first time.

Features of an Optimized Homepage

These are the most important pillars of homepage optimization:

1. Use a concise and accurate title tag. Your homepage title gives you approximately 55 characters to offer a compelling identifier for your business. That isn't a lot of room, so you'll have to reduce your description to what's most important for your brand. See if you can reduce everything you offer your customers to only three or four words, and be sure to include your brand name at the beginning or end to capitalize on branded searches. FreshBooks provides a valuable example here--its title tag is simple, focused, and to-the-point. "Small Business Accounting Software in the Cloud | FreshBooks."

2. Provide an accurate, compelling description. Along with your title tag should be an equally compelling meta description--and here, you'll have more wiggle room, with 150-160 characters. Here, you should describe a handful of the key solutions you offer your customers. When users encounter your homepage in search results, this description will appear under your page link, so it's the best chance you have to convince a user to click your result instead of the others on the page. Make sure you keep this concise, accurate, and still intriguing enough to encourage new users to click through.

3. Offer an intuitive navigation that shows off your internal pages. Google favors sites with clear, intuitive internal linking and navigation. This is because it's easier for users to find exactly what they want, when they want it. As a general rule, no page of your site should ever be more than three clicks away from another page, so your homepage serves as a central "hub" for connecting all these pages together. Accordingly, you'll need to include an intuitive form of navigation for your users, complete with a breakdown of your most important internal pages. This is important not only for search optimization, but also for your user experience overall. As an example, take Stor-Mor's header navigation, which expands downward to link to all its internal pages. An even more thorough example is the White House homepage, where an exhaustive list of links is provided in the footer.

4. Include ample content. Though some companies have taken to offering only a short headline and a conversion form, it's better for SEO to include detailed, descriptive content about your company and its services on your homepage--at least 300 words' worth. It's tough to say everything about your company in a concise, compelling way, so try segmenting it with various subsections (and of course, strong H1 tags to go along with them). Mint is a good example here--there's less than 500 words of content on the entire page, but it's concise and descriptive enough for any new potential customer to walk away with a relatively complete understanding of the company.

5. Feature social media integrations for user engagement. Google doesn't take your social profiles directly into consideration when it determines your authority and rankings, but including social icons will make it more likely for users to share your material, follow, and engage with your brand. These are secondary ranking signals, because they can influence primary signals like inbound links, but perhaps more importantly, they're a powerful outlet for user engagement. Be sure to include links to all your social profiles in the header or footer of your site.

These aren't the only ways to optimize a homepage, but they are the most important fundamentals if you want to get your homepage more search visibility and higher user engagement rates. Of course, homepage optimization isn't the only important segment of SEO--especially compared to ongoing content marketing and inbound link building--but completing this sequence will earn you higher visibility and might just secure you a higher conversion rate.
April 5, 2016





Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.






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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > 5 Features of a Perfectly SEO-Optimized Homepage