Writing SEO-friendly home page content is intimidating, no doubt about it.
Not only is it often the first thing people read, but it’s the most important page on your website when it comes to SEO, because it’s indexed the most often by search engines.
Take a deep breath—we’re going to make it a lot easier.
On most websites, the home page content welcomes visitors and offers an “orienting” message of some kind. It needs to inform visitors about where they are, or affirm that they’ve come to the right place. It also needs to guide them to take the next action – for example, visit another page, read blog posts, or view your products or services.
Choose a target keyword, but use it sparingly.
The main keyword for your home page will probably be relatively obvious. Think about your buyer personas, and how they’ll search for you or a business like yours online.
If your website is new and your brand doesn’t have much presence online, then your first task is ranking #1 for your business name. If you’ve been online for a while, and you’re at the top of search results for your name, it’s probably time to focus on your industry or niche.
I’ll use my favorite fake business, Mike’s Gear Shed (I created Mike and his eponymous sports equipment business a while ago for our Ultimate Facebook Business Page Checklist) as an example.
He already ranks in search results for his business name, so now Mike is focused on ranking above local competitors in his industry. He doesn’t have an ecommerce store, so he’s focused on driving local people to his brick and mortar store. He’s studied his website analytics and done some keyword research, and has chosen “sports equipment Cleveland” as the target keyword for his home page.
Your target keyword should appear in a few places:
- The headline
- The first sentence or paragraph of the content
- The page SEO (or meta) title
- The page meta description
- An image alt text and title, if applicable
Ideally, the keyword for a given page should also be included in the URL, but this can be difficult on your home page. If your URL is your business name, you may get some benefit from using the same form of your name in the copy as appears in the URL. Including the target keyword in the URL is more feasible for internal pages and blog posts, but it’s worth mentioning here.
It’s also important not to overdo it, or you can be penalized by search engines for being too “spammy.” Don’t use your keyword more than twice in the first paragraph, including in additional headlines and link anchor text. Limit the number of times you use the keyword in the whole content of the page to about once every 2 or 3 paragraphs.
Use your target keyword in the places where it has the most value, and then stop. If you need a little basic help understanding keywords, check out our 5 Basic Keyword Questions Answered post.
Put your energy where it counts—the headline.
Far, far more people will see the headline than actually read the rest of your copy. But attracting and engaging readers isn’t the only goal of your home page headline - as the primary H1 tag on your home page, it carries a lot of SEO weight.
The headline needs to:
- Be compelling to your buyer persona
- Demonstrate a key benefit you offer
- Include your target keyword
- Be 6-12 words or 60-75 characters long
Write the headline for your ideal buyer persona – you aren’t going to be successful with 100% of your search traffic, so write directly to the people who are most likely to be delighted by your product or service. Those are the people you want to convert, not the other 60% who aren’t that interested.
What is the primary benefit you offer them? What kind of language do they respond to? And remember – you chose your target keyword based on how they would search for a business like yours.
Mike’s Gear Shed has been around for a long time, and they build long-term relationships with individual customers and sports teams. Mike’s expertise is one of the benefits he offers his clients (who are concerned about safety and quality), so his headline might look like this:
Serving Cleveland with Quality Sports Equipment since 1976
Welcome to Mike’s Gear Shed: Quality Sports Equipment for Cleveland’s Athletes
Mike’s Gear Shed: Providing Quality Sports Equipment for Cleveland Is Our Passion
For 38 Years, Cleveland Has Come to Mike’s for Quality Sports Equipment
Since our target keyword, “sports equipment Cleveland” doesn’t fit naturally into a sentence, we’re taking Google’s word for it that the newish “Hummingbird” algorithm truly does account for human speech patterns and variations like adding a “for” or placing “Cleveland” before “Sports Equipment” rather than after.
As always, A/B test to see what works and what doesn’t! Just a note – it’s important that your home page (or any other internal page, for that matter) include only one H1 tag, so let that be the headline/page title and don’t add any more.
Keep the copy natural.
If people are actually reading your home page copy instead of clicking off to another page, be grateful and considerate!
Use your keyword once in the first sentence if possible, or at least in the first paragraph, and no more than once every 2-3 paragraphs after that. Both search engines and actual humans will get angry if you stuff in your keyword too often.
Start by thinking about who your buyer personas are and how they like to get information, including length, tone, and wording. Regardless of the persona, if your readers get bored or confused, they’ll stop reading, so rule #1 is “Get to the point!”
Mike’s personas are 1) a mom who’s looking for safe, durable equipment for her kids and 2) a coach who’s looking for a good deal on sturdy equipment for his team. Both personas want to be reassured about Mike’s expertise as well as the quality of his products. They’re both looking for someone they can trust, someone who will be straight with them.
As a result, Mike’s welcome message is 3 medium-length paragraphs long, is personable but informative in tone, and goes right to demonstrating Mike’s authority in his industry and the quality of his equipment.
Search engines accord extra value to text that appears in sub-headings (e.g. H2, H3, H4 tags) and even in bold. Again, don’t overdo it, but including carefully worded sub headings to introduce your paragraphs or a few important statements set in bold type may help. (See what I did there?).
Link to important pages in your home page copy.
One linking strategy is to include in your home page copy a sentence or two about each major portion of the website, and then link to those pages. Be sure to include that page’s target keyword in the link anchor text (the words that are hyperlinked).
For example, Mike has pages about the brands he carries, about the local little league team he sponsors, and about the history of his business. In his home page copy, he included a sentence or two about each of these, included the target keywords for the important pages he wants readers to visit, and then linked the keyword to the page.
Mike sells a lot of the latest peewee football pads, because he has an exclusive relationship with the industry leader in the safest football pads for kids. So on his home page, Mike wrote:
“…and we offer exclusively the safest peewee football pads for your little superstar…”
He then linked “the safest peewee football pads” to his page “Brand X: the Safest Peewee Football Pads,” gaining some SEO value for both pages by building an internal link that search engine “spiders” will follow.
Be like Mike and use your home page introduction to link to the features, benefits, products and services that most differentiate your business.
Tell them where to go next.
Don’t end your newly SEO-friendly home page without guiding your visitors a take an action that’s highly desirable for your business. Remember, you’re writing to your most profitable buyer persona, so offer them an action to take that can bring them closer to deciding to do business with you.
You can do this with a “call to action,” or CTA.
We could spend a long time explaining how to make a great CTA; in fact, we already have in our Anatomy of a Call to Action post!
Even with all of this knowledge, we know that writing SEO-friendly home page content isn’t easy. It requires a lot of thought about your business goals and buyer personas, and some research into your analytics and how your customer search online.