How to Optimize a Home Page for SEO
While a lot of SEO strategies focus on blog content and product page optimizations, the home page can become overlooked. However, the home page of a site is often your audience’s first impression of the brand and plays a pinnacle role in the user journey. Your home page is often the most visited page on your website, making it important that you optimize it from an SEO perspective and continually test new optimizations in alignment with your CRO team..
What is a Home Page Audit & How Does it Differ From a Typical Content Audit?
A home page audit is exactly what it sounds like - a content audit of the home page. It usually differs from a typical content audit because home pages have different elements than other pages on the site as well as link to a variety of pages on the site. Home pages rank for mostly branded terms, but there’s also an opportunity to increase targeting for nonbranded terms that describe your company/business/product.
[ICYMI] “Nonbranded” or “unbranded” keywords/terms/queries are words that do not contain brand modifiers. “Branded” terms contain your brand’s name/branded product. For example, “seer interactive seo strategy” is a branded query, whereas “seo strategy” is nonbranded.
Identifying the Need for a Home Page AuditIt’s always a good idea to take a look at your site’s home page if you haven’t before, or if you kick off a new client and have never touched the home page. Other indicators that it’s time to audit a site’s home page include:
- Conversion rate for the home page is down
- Traffic has decreased for the home page
- Engagement rate has trended down for the home page
- Keyword rankings are low for nonbrand & brand keywords
- Referral traffic from the home page to other pages on the site is down or nonexistent
Steps to Take to Audit a Home Page for Organic Search
While SEOs will likely perform keyword and competitive research to support content audits, it’s a good idea to also take a deeper dive into site search, heat mapping, and more. Take the following steps to optimize your home page for organic search. page.
1. Start with a Project Brief & Loop in Possible StakeholdersThe home page has a lot of eyes on it inside and outside your organization. For this reason, it’s important to start off with a project brief. There may be a lot of cooks in the kitchen for this project, so to ensure the best possible outcome, include the following in your project brief:
- Stakeholders & decision-makers
- RACI chart
- Approvals needed
- Access needed (for site search & heat mapping)
2. Review Past Analyses & Data
Be sure to review past analyses and data before you begin. Your client may have already performed extensive testing last year and changed the home page based on the outcome of those tests. While you may not usually work closely with your CRO or PPC teams, they may have completed their own analyses that you can work off of.
3. Execute Competitive ResearchLike any SEO content audit, it’s paramount that you perform extensive competitive research to understand what your competitors are promoting on their home pages. Since these insights will likely be more qualitative than quantitative, it’s important that you put yourself in the shoes of a user. What on these home pages is engaging? What would push you to conversion? Be sure to call out things like:
- CTA language
- Use of UGC
- Campaigns like charitable promotions, demos, etc.
- Imagery (For example, are competitors promoting photos of their products?)
- Internal linking
- Social embeds
- Promotion of UVPs
- Verbiage & language used to engage users
4. Perform a Heat Mapping Analysis
Heat mapping can be impactful for a home page analysis because it will tell you the most engaging parts of your page. For example, maybe most of your users are clicking on a CTA halfway down the page, well below the fold. You may recommend moving that element/CTA higher up on the page to increase traffic/conversions. You may also see that no one is clicking on your front-and-center campaign about your partnerships and integrations. It may be time to sunset that campaign or test new language.
5. Conduct Keyword ResearchAs with any content audit, you’ll want to conduct keyword research to increase your home page’s visibility in search results. For this step, here are a few strategies I usually take:
- Analyze Google Search Console queries for the home page to understand gaps in coverage and how most users are getting to your page
- Use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to understand what your home page is currently ranking for
- Analyze search results for SERP features like People Also Asks to understand what questions users have about your brand
- Use your favorite keyword research tool to pull keywords for competitor home pages to analyze possible nonbranded keyword targets
- Use a tool like Answer The Public to further understand the questions users have about your brand
- Brainstorm additional keyword targets relevant to your brand’s products/services using your keyword research tool and check SERPs to understand if intent aligns
6. Optimize Metadata
Now that you have your keyword targets, it’s time to optimize the metadata of your home page. While you may usually use branded tags within your titles, like “Home Page | Seer Interactive”, you may want to lead with your brand name, like “Seer Interactive | Big Data-Powered Digital Marketing Agency”. For example, Semrush’s meta title on their home page is, “Semrush - Online Marketing Can Be Easy”. As always, target primary nonbranded keywords and keep CTR in mind. It’s important to make sure your metadata is engaging as possible and encourages users to click through.
7. Audit On-Page Content for Target Keywords
Once you’ve got your keyword research, competitive insights, and other insights from your analyses under your belt, you’re ready to audit your home page for target keywords. As you normally would with any given content audit, naturally weave your target keywords into the content, without overdoing it and keyword stuffing.
8. Provide Internal Link Recommendations
After you’ve completed your keyword targeting, you probably have a good rough draft of the layout and content of your home page. Before I submit for stakeholder approval, I like to take one more look at the page for internal linking opportunities. In general, I like to ensure that all priority products and/or services are linked to from the home page and all of your CTA destinations make sense.
9. Test & Collaborate with Your CRO Team
Finally, it’s time to implement and test. While some of your optimizations may be no-brainers, like your keyword targeting optimizations, you may want to test others. For example, it’s always a good idea to A/B test different CTAs, images, and language to understand what resonates best with your audience and produces the highest conversion rates. You’ll want to loop in and collaborate with your CRO team here.
Set Your Home Page Audit Up For Success
By following these steps, you’ll have a good amount of optimization opportunities to execute. However, you’ll also likely come up with insights that could be applicable to channels like email, PPC, paid social, and more. Be sure to collaborate across channels and share your insights with all marketing channels to get the most bang for your buck and increase conversions across the board. Looking for support with your homepage and greater SEO strategy? Let’s work together.
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