Your homepage is the first thing anyone who visits your website is going to see, right? Actually, not always. It’s rare that a websites homepage ranks high in Google for any number of their keywords. It’s far more common for individual blog posts or specifically and purposely built landing pages to be the first thing a user sees when they visit your site – especially because of social media (who expects a post containing their homepage to go viral?).
But that doesn’t mean that you can ignore your home page.
Instead of having as substandard and lackluster homepage, you need to cross several items off our checklist to make sure you have your bases covered.
But what specific information should you put on your home page?
After someone has visited your site, it’s very common for them to click on your homepage to learn more about your business and navigate to other sections of your site. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at what to do with your website's home page.
The Role of Your Homepage
Homepages have evolved over the last decade (what on the Internet hasn’t?), and their purpose is different these days. In the past, it was far more common for a website’s homepage to essentially act as the first stop in the journey. Assumed to be the initial point of entry to any domain, many business incorrectly assumed that every visitor would need all the information about the company in one place.
Now people have different expectations, and have a multitude of ways to visit a site that sometimes doesn’t even involve ever visiting the homepage. So, let’s look at the old techniques and requirements of homepages, and then move on to what modern administrators expect.
The Old Ways of Doing Things Compared to Modern Strategies
Back in the day, the hompage “promoted” all other sections of the site. Even just 10 years ago, the homepage was a sort of “table of contents” or a map to find the other sections of the site. At that time, web design platforms like WordPress weren’t the norm, leaving a lot people to use tools like Dreamweaver and Front Page - or to hard-code entire websites (yuck!).
It was really the only way a user had to find other sections of the site, which made many homepages chaotic and far too busy. Today, however, it’s more important to streamline your hompage – it’s kind of a “less is more” philosophy. You want to present the most pertinent information to the largest number of applicable visitors instead of trying to cater to the lowest denominator.
And as you may already know, keyword strategies evolve at a rapid pace to keep up with the latest Google algorithm changes. In the not so distant past, homepages would typically rank higher than other pages. As such, website owners (and SEOs) would try to cram and stuff as many keywords on their homepage as possible. And this technique worked well...at least until Google introduced new updates that undercut these types of sites.
Today, keyword stuffing is a bad idea in general. But also consider that it’s much rarer for a homepage to rank higher than individual pieces of content in your blog. Now Google can essentially crawl through individual web pages to discern the intent and meaning of your content.
Because of this, it’s much more probable for a visitor to enter your site through a blog page instead of through the traditional homepage. This is very important to understand when building other pieces of content. Quite often, those are the first pages new visitors see.
Remember to sort keywords (and related groups of keywords) into individual pages of content instead of spreading them out across your entire site – or even concentrating them on your homepage.
Due in part to the old keyword practices, it was very common for people to load their homepage with as much text as possible. This practice made homepages look extremely chaotic, and users typically didn’t want to spend time reading unfathomably long blocks of text. The idea was that the more information that was written on a homepage, the better the chance of ranking higher and capturing the user’s attention.
Today, though, it’s the exact opposite. People are busy and want information as fast as possible – plain and simple. Instead of only including text on your homepage, you need to consider alternative content mediums that will capture the user’s attention and serve them the information they crave in a timely manner.
For example, art, diagrams, and video content may help convey a message to a user faster than a giant dump of textual context.
Also, one of the older practices was to keep content “above the fold.” The idea was to make content readily available and visible as soon as a visitor landed on your home page. The thinking is that users wanted to follow the path of least resistant, and didn’t want to work for their meal.
Things have changed now, though. Just think about how accustomed users are to scrolling through content on their smartphones and tablets. Some people have even suffered repetitive motion injuries because they overused their smartphones!
Today it isn’t as crucial to keep content above the fold, because a user doesn’t mind scrolling down a little on a home page. Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend avoiding text altogether above the fold. You want to keep the immediate screen real estate of your homepage enticing yet attractive enough to hook a user into scrolling down.
Home Page Best Practices
Remember to keep the following best practices in mind when creating your homepage:
- Be sure to include a menubar near the top of your homepage to increase accessibility and ease of navigation. I recommend a sticky menu that stays at the top of your page no matter how far the visitor scrolls down (like the one on this page, if you're not on a mobile device).
- Include your logo (if you have one, as you should) on your homepage. Typically this is in the upper left corner and when clicked on it goes to your home page.
- Include tools like PocketApp to allow users to cache your pages (basically allowing them to “save it for later”).
- Don’t cram your homepage with keywords.
- Don’t litter your homepage with too much textual content. Mix it up.
- Explain what your product or service does using visual content.
- Quickly convey your unique value proposition.
- Make sure your homepage loads correctly on a range of platforms, including mobile devices.
- Include social proof, such as positive reviews and testimonials.