So what makes a home page SEO friendly? Here’s a few keys.
One of the most exciting recent trends in SEO has been the massive shift in focus away from keywords to a more natural focus on user experience.
While it made sense at the time, SEO specialists spent a lot of the last decade on idiotic practices like finding the “optimal keyword density”. Ultimately, users were the losers, left to read paragraphs of mindless information which had nothing to do with a quality experience.
The good news for everyone (SEO’s and users alike) is that Google is far more advanced now. The clearly defective focus on keywords and links as the primary ranking signal has been replaced with a more complete approach. Factors like load speed, bounce rates, social signals, freshness and quality of site wide content & interface design all play a part in ranking now.
Lose the clutter
One of the biggest contributors to bounce rate (when a user quickly retreats from a page after landing on it) is clutter. With increasingly short tolerance and attention spans, users are now looking for a clean, focussed and uncomplicated home page experience.
Visually represent your message
An effective approach at the moment is to use graphics rather than text to deliver your message. If you can quickly represent a solution or value proposition visually, you’ll have a significantly greater chance of engaging a viewer than with a few paragraphs of text.
Don’t focus on all your products and services
A common home page mistake is to try and cram every product, service and bit of information in. Rotating banners with competing messages, blocks of text and tiles each vying for recognition will dilute your home pages message and cause confusion.
Don’t sacrifice crawlability for visual impact
User experience should never come at the expense of your home pages crawlability (the ability for the search engines to effectively read the content of your page). Simply replacing text with images may reduce bounce rates, however search engines will lose an important indicator of the meaning of your page. Consider alternatives like expandable divs, web fonts and mouse overs to strike a balance.
Since we’re simplifying the home page content, there’s a greater need for intuitive navigation. Another trend is the stronger focus on fresh, high quality content. If it’s buried beneath confusing multi-level navigation users and search engines will quickly lose interest.
Every page needs a focused outcome or purpose, and the homepage is no exception. Your goal might be a contact form, white paper download or a product purchase. One of the reasons it’s important to SEO is because it aligns the pages focus and keeps it outcome driven.
While many people in the SEO world are lamenting the increased complexity of ranking, the more holistic approach we’re seeing has bridged the gap between SEO and website design to the point that the two disciplines are becoming almost seamless.
The recognition that ranking isn’t about tricking the search engines, but having a genuinely great website with real value means we are all the winners.