The homepage is the most important page on your website. It serves as the initial point of entry for most visitors. They’ll access your homepage, where they’ll navigate to your website’s other pages by clicking internal links.
Search engines behave similarly. While they can enter through other pages, search engines will usually begin crawling your website at the homepage and working their way down to the subpages.
If your homepage isn’t optimized, your entire website’s rankings may suffer. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to optimize your homepage for higher search rankings.
Use Clear Navigation
Clear navigation is an essential element of an effective and well-optimized homepage. According to a Clutch survey of over 600 internet users, it’s the single most crucial feature.
If your homepage has confusing or misleading navigation, it may deter visitors from using your website. At the very least, visitors will struggle to find categories and sections of content.
For high search rankings, you must design your homepage with clear navigation. Visitors will stay longer and browse more pages if your homepage has clear navigation.
These positive onsite engagement signals tell search engines that visitors enjoy using your website, which may cause them to increase your site’s rankings.
In this article, I explain how to set up menus on WordPress to help with navigation.
Link to a Sitemap
Linking to a sitemap from your homepage can encourage higher search rankings. A sitemap is a browser-supported file that contains a structured list of links to your website’s pages.
You can create them in either Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) or Extensible Markup Language (XML). The former is a more visitor-friendly format, whereas the latter is designed primarily for search engines.
When you link to a sitemap from your homepage, search engines will easily find all of your website’s pages. They won’t have to rely on traditional internal links, including those in navigation menus, to see pages.
Whether HTML or XML, sitemaps contain links to all of your website’s pages, so they offer an alternative and easier way for search engines to find pages.
Add a Relevant Meta Title and Meta Description
You’ll need to add a relevant meta title and meta description when optimizing your homepage. As meta elements, they contain structured data about your homepage that search engines use in their ranking algorithms.
The meta title, also known only as the title tag, is the page’s main title. The meta description, conversely, is a more extended and more generalized overview of a page.
Your homepage’s meta title and meta description should be relevant to your website. In other words, they should tell visitors what your website — not necessarily your homepage — is all about.
Search engines will use your homepage’s meta title and meta description to create its organic listings. Since your homepage represents your entire website, its meta title and meta description should be relevant to your site.
Keep in mind, your homepage’s meta title and meta description may not show completely if they are too long.
Search engines display about the first 60 characters of a page’s meta tag and the first 160 characters of its meta description. Any remaining characters are truncated.
Avoid Meta Keywords
While you should add a relevant meta title and meta description to your homepage, you shouldn’t give it any meta keywords.
The meta keywords HTML element was developed in the mid-1990s to help search engines identify pages’ content.
During those early days of the internet, search engines struggled to understand the text, allowing webmasters to specify relevant keywords using the meta keywords HTML element.
Search engines no longer need meta keywords to understand the text, so they’ve stopped using them in their algorithms.
Meta keywords won’t improve your website’s rankings. Adding them to your homepage may expose your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to your competitors. A competitor can view your homepage’s HTML, and upon locating the meta keywords, the competitor will know which keywords you are targeting.
If your homepage contains media, you’ll need to optimize it. Media consists of non-textual forms of digital content, such as images and videos.
When used on your homepage, it can improve onsite engagement by encouraging visitors to stay longer. Media can send other positive signals to search engines as well, but only if you optimize it.
Image optimization revolves around two basic concepts: reducing the image’s file size and making the image easier for search engines to understand.
For a smaller file size, you can crop or resize and then compress your homepage’s image. To make an image easier for search engines to understand, you can give it a text description using the alt text attribute.
You can also use a WordPress Image optimization Plugin.
Video optimization revolves around similar concepts, but it requires different processes to perform. You don’t need to reduce the file size of your homepage’s videos.
Instead, you can host them on a platform that supports embedding, such as YouTube or its Vimeo counterpart.
Embedded videos load quickly because they consume the hosting platform’s resources rather than those of your website’s server.
In addition to embedding them, you can optimize your homepage’s videos by giving them a relevant and descriptive title. All hosting platforms require videos to have a title. By giving a video a relevant and descriptive title, search engines will know what it’s about.
Test for Mobile Compatibility
Don’t forget to test your homepage for mobile compatibility. Even if it performs flawlessly when viewed on a desktop computer, it may experience technical or usability flaws on mobile devices.
To test your homepage for mobile compatibility, enter your website’s domain at search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly.
Google’s free-to-use testing tool will then display a message, revealing whether your homepage is compatible with mobile devices. If your homepage fails, you’ll find recommendations at the bottom of the tool on how to improve it.
While SEO requires site-wide optimization, no page is more important than the homepage. It’s the digital welcome mat that introduces visitors and search engines to your website.
Optimizing your homepage will boost onsite engagement while simultaneously sending positive signals to search engines that increase your website’s SEO success.
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.