(…) We wanted to hear your thoughts about homepage optimization. So we asked marketers. Here are a few of our favorite answers…
Keyword early, keyword often
1. Keywords are very important. Find the best for you site/business/product. Is your homepage going to be a landing page for your product or service? If so, you can use the appropriate keywords. Otherwise find the keywords that more generally describe your industry/product and use them for the home page.
2. Content: the keywords will be used to develop relevant content. Try to use the keywords early and often (but not unnaturally so) on the page. Especially effective if you can use them in a title, or bold, etc.
3. Title tags: use keywords in title tag, plus the name of your company at the end.
4. Write a good descriptive meta tag – remember this is going to be part of what shows up in natural results on a search results page
5. Limit graphics. For the graphics that are there, use Alt formatting to see that the search engine can read them.
6. Try to build incoming links into your home page
Optimize for people and spiders
A homepage needs to be optimized for two general audiences: Visitors and Search Engines.
From a Visitor Perspective
A truly optimized homepage offers navigation options for all types of visitors, no matter what their intent. Not all your visitors are going to be ready to buy your product/service as soon as they land on the site. They may just be shopping, looking for resources, trying to find a job or partner, or researching your company for a news article.
To help gain an idea of who is visiting your site, review your site analytics and look at what referring sites are driving them there, what keywords they are searching to find your site, and what pages they are going to from your homepage.
An optimized homepage should have a navigation option for all types of visitors. Where these navigation options appear on the page is more a matter of your objectives, and prioritizing your calls to action. For example, if your main goal is to drive visitors to learn more about a specific product/service, that should be the dominate focus of your homepage. While a secondary call to action may be to gain blog subscribers. In this case, maybe you choose to include your blog’s RSS feed below the page’s main content block.
No matter what you choose to put on your homepage, make sure it is clean and easy to navigate. You need to tell visitors who you are, what you do and how to find more information within 3-5 seconds. If it takes longer than that, they’ll get frustrated and leave. And don’t use any type of audio to deliver this message. There are still a number of visitors who can’t, or choose not to, use their computer speakers because they are in an office setting.
Make it simple for visitors to find what they are looking for, and as soon as you think you have it figured out, tweak it again and test it. Never stop trying new things.
From a Search Engine Perspective
I think Brent Carnduff pretty much nailed it. The one thing I would add would be make sure the content here is constantly being refreshed. The more search engines see that you have new content, the more often they’ll come back around and index your site.
Remember, content is the real key to optimization that is within your control. The more content you have, the more pages you can get indexed and potentially the more keywords (both regular and long tail) for which you can rank. Your homepage should make it easy for search engines to find this new content.
Above all, get understanding
I believe a logical first step is to understand what’s currently happening on the homepage and then define goals of what you want your different types of visitors to do.
Leverage your analytics to look at which links/paths are most popular, least popular. Do certain paths lead to conversions vs. others? If there are certain clicks/paths that are popular you need to be careful about making changes if they get repeat visitors who expect certain links to be there – for example, potential customers expecting to see a login button in a certain place.
Divide and conquer
One can divide homepages in two types – 1. Transactional, 2. Non-transactional. The transactional are the homepages which can generate purchases from the website (pages of most electronics companies, for example). Non-transactional homepages are those, which cannot generate sales from the page (majority of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands – think Tide detergent, Ragu sauce, etc.).
The optimization strategies for these two types should be different. Transactional homepages should have clutter-free and clean navigation towards products, reviews, and a super easy way for the visitor to buy a product (plus…actually compel them).
The non-transactional homepage should showcase their ads, latest campaign, and major usage of their product. For example, a food brand should showcase its own super-hot recipes (example: Kraft). These type of brands can integrate the page with a social media presence – this will add excitement and activity to otherwise not very active pages.
Finally, a homepage (irrespective of kind) should not be too advanced or have loads of videos. Many visitors will not have fast Internet connections and will simply navigate away.
– Subhra Ghatak, MBA Candidate at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth