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Why Your Homepage Is Holding Back Your Organic Rankings
Building a website is children play these days, literally, anyone can do it. That's the promise of WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and all those content management tools tell you. What they don't tell you is that your "stunningly crafted website" isn't worth much in the eyes of Google and probably won't be ranking for anything worth searching for.
When building your website your homepage is and will naturally be the most critical part of your site. It's where your key offerings live, and in most cases, it's where you're most of your traffic lands for the first time.
As an SEO my job is to audit sites and most if not every time I've been asked to do so, I didn't have to look further than the homepage to see what was going wrong. I can't tell you how many times I review, rinse and repeat fix the same issues on website homepages.
So in the interest of helping homepages everywhere, I've decided to put together my top 10 list of homepage mistakes that hurt your ability to rank.
1. Little or no content
YOU HAVE NO CONTENT ON YOUR HOMEPAGE? Seriously? Why even have a homepage then, that's not a homepage its an Instagram profile page.
A homepage is like a good meme; it needs strong, catchy relatable text to get the users and web crawlers attention. So give the users and crawlers what they want!
2. No internal and deep linking
So you have a navigation great, you have footer links, great but between that is a whole lot of real estate ripe for optimisation. Find ways to contextually deep link to other pages on your site from your page, and I guarantee you'll be sitting pretty in the rankings.
3. No navigation
I'm amazed at how many sites still get this one wrong since it's a website stable. Perhaps you have a simple navigation, a mega navigation or you've split yours into a primary and secondary navigation, find the one that suits your users best and runs with it.
A navigation is essential as it gives users free rein to explore all your site has to offer and quickly find sections of the site they're looking for.
This improves multiple page views, time on site, lowers bounce rates and in turn encourages leads/sales which are all positive signals to search engines.
4. No call to action
I can't believe I have to include this one on the list, but seriously, if you do not have a strong primary call to action and make use of secondary call to actions, you're probably leaving tons of traffic and leads on the table. Not every user thinks and navigates the site the way you do. Some may need a little more encouragement or direction, or they will leave, that's that's why a call to actions are so important.
5. No hierarchy
When you design a homepage, you need to look at what are the primary, secondary and tertiary messages you feel are what users will want most of and then structure your content around this hierarchy. For example, you sell different types of Tea's online, and you've done your keyword research and know what your customers love. So you decide to structure your homepage as follows
- Promotional items
- Store recommends
- Teas by region
- Our tea time blog
You know from your research these five touch points serve the majority of your homepage visitor interest while the rest will be able to use the navigation options to find more in-depth content and products. Having a helpful and distinct hierarchy with supporting content is one strategy that can drastically set your homepage apart from your competitors. If it makes sense to your users and they find it helpful, trust me search engines will reward you generously with all the traffic you could want.
6. Image heavy
I realise you want your website to look good, but unfortunately, images don't carry the same weight as a solid piece of content does. The ideal situation is to find a middle ground, perhaps overlay your text in HTML instead of placing it directly on the image or split your ATL (above the fold) real estate between your pictures and your content.
If you're intent on being an image-driven website, I recommend using a CDN to host your images, take advantage of compression tools and optimise your alt text and image file names with keywords.
7. Poor loading times
If your homepage is slow, its a no go! No one in their right mind is going to wait more than 3 seconds for it to load. Users don't care how great your content or images are if you're seen as wasting their time! The more users you frustrate, the more you lose, the more they bounce, the lower you'll start to rank. It's a vicious cycle you need to make sure you stay out of. For more on site speed I recommend you check out these posts:
8. Too much too soon
Yes, I said you should add content above the fold but it doesn't mean everything should be above the fold, you can't have rich images, call to actions and content all competiting for a users attention. You need to find a balance, keep it clean and create an experience that encourages various user behaviour.
Some may click through; some may scroll to secondary offers, some may want to learn more about you before they take on your service and your homepage should cater for all these potential user touch points in a set framework. It is also important to remember folds on desktop and mobile are different and if you're not using dynamic serving you're probably doing more harm than good with this strategy.
Having a responsive site and trying to keep too much above the fold will see mobile touch points placed too close together, creating a poor experience and you're mobile rankings will plummet.
9. Trying to target too much
We realise your homepage is your most important page, but that doesn't mean you have to turn it into an infinite scroll page, its a homepage, not a Facebook newsfeed. Sites that try to add every offering they have to their homepage, fill it with content and keyword stuff the homepage to try and reach as many search intents as possible will only see the reserve happen.
Your homepage is meant to target brand related searches and 2 - 3 High-value keywords relevant to your industry, product or service. If you're going to try and over-optimise your homepage for more than that, you're going to start diluting its value in the eyes of search engines.
10. No on-page optimisation
If you're not taking full advantage of your titles, meta descriptions, schema markups, H tag and HTML markups you're missing out on some serious targeting options. These options can help highlight the intent of your site and match it to a range of keywords within Google's Index.
Give your visitors something to come home to
Now that you know where the faults lie in your homepage its time to plug those gaps and get your website back on track. You'll be surprised at how quickly your site will improve just by making sure your homepage follows these ten guidelines. Have you been guilty of making any of these mistakes? If so, which one was it? Let us know in the comments; we'd love to hear from you!
If you want to know more about Search Engine Marketing for your site, don’t be shy we’re happy to assist. Simply contact us