Should you optimize your homepage for SEO?
When discussing SEO for various pages on your store, typically we’re talking about product pages, landing pages, blogs etc. Very rarely does your homepage get brought up, even though in terms of traffic it tends to be a key landing page. Every page on your site should speak to the keywords and themes of your store, so they all have a part to play.
However your homepage is a bit trickier to optimize for SEO compared to other pages on your store. Some argue that “homepage SEO” isn’t of much value if you’re talking about keywords unless perhaps your brand name contains a keyword that might be competitive with other brands. Others say that you should still try to rank for branded keywords, so that it’s easier for users to find your homepage in search results.
Is homepage SEO worthwhile?
Part of the difficulty in whether or not “homepage SEO” is of value lies in the effort behind SEO. You want key pages such as product pages to rank with search engines; they contain the most vital info that you want in front of users. Your homepage on the other hand acts as more of a gateway to that important content, so the question lies therein of why should you put resources into ranking a gateway page instead of simply focusing all your efforts on the important content. Moreover, your homepage may already have a decent number of backlinks, and will typically appear in search results when users look for your brand name. Therefore if it’s ticking along on its own then focusing your SEO efforts on the pages you want users to see more makes sense.
That being said, while “homepage SEO” may not be a focus for your strategy, optimization should still be front and center when developing your homepage. As we’ve already mentioned, your homepage is a key landing page for organic search traffic. Therefore it’s still important for it to be optimized in a few key ways; primarily content, structure, and speed.
What you should optimize on your homepage
Content is king when it comes to SEO, and the same goes for your homepage. While it may not have the most amount of content when compared to other pages, what is there is still important. In fact you want there to be less content than other pages, as the homepage should act as that gateway we mentioned earlier. The content on your homepage should be uncluttered and focussed on your brand, key products, and unique selling points. It should summarize for users who land on it exactly what your brand is about and what you sell, so they know exactly what to expect throughout the rest of your store. Keep written content concise, and include some of those branded keywords mentioned earlier; focus on a small number of these so that you don’t run the risk of keyword stuffing. Accompany your written content with some great brand imagery - focus on product photography, lifestyle shots etc. that really highlight your products and brand.
The navigational structure or site architecture of your store is vital to SEO. It helps bots crawl your site better, and helps users to navigate easier which in turn leads to a better user experience and therefore favor better with search engines. Your homepage is at the top of the pyramid when it comes to this site architecture; it’s where all the other categories, subcategories, and pages branch off from. Some key considerations for your homepage navigation:
Menu should be clear and simple to understand. Use short descriptive words for your category names, and focus on key categories. E.g. if you have an apparel store that caters to everyone, “Men”, “Women”, “Children”, rather than having “Men’s T-Shirts”, “Women’s Jeans” etc.
Search bar should be immediately easy to locate, and act as a sort of call-to-action for when users can’t immediately locate what they need from your homepage.
Contact information should be clearly displayed somewhere on your homepage. Make it easy for users to get in touch with you.
- Make use of a sitemap to showcase any additional pages that are relevant to users for navigating your store that don’t necessarily fit in your main menu navigation.
Speed is crucial to any page on your store - 70% of consumers say that page speed affects their likeliness to buy from a retailer, and more than half of users will leave a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. This has even more impact on mobile, as the probability of a user bouncing from a page increases to as much as 123% when load time goes from 1 to 10 seconds. Speed is all part of user experience - a key ranking factor for Google - so every page must be optimized for lightning fast load times. On your homepage, this can be done by optimizing all content including images, videos, etc., including removing any large and unnecessary pieces of content such as hero image sliders. Many merchants use these as they believe they need to try and showcase as much as possible on their homepage, however the click through rates on these pages are extremely low. Focus instead on a high quality piece of content that highlights your brand and products; you can easily swap these hero images out if you’ve got a new product to highlight or a sale.
While it isn’t a key page for you to focus your SEO strategy on, optimizing your homepage still has an indirect impact on SEO. Ensuring that it’s clear and easy to navigate to other pages from, has vital brand info, and loads quickly will all have a positive effect on user experience which will ultimately give your site a boost with search engines when they look for those key UX measures. Your homepage may not have the information that you most want to rank for, but its high visibility with search users means that it’s still important that it’s fully optimized.