Posted by Clayton Johnson | August 12, 2019
One of the most common mistakes we see in SEO is trying to optimize the homepage for every keyword you want to rank for.
This can dramatically reduce your ability to rank for what you want to – AND can even hurt your rankings.
Here are the top reasons why you shouldn’t try to rank your homepage, and what to do instead:
1. The Business Case For Not Optimizing The Homepage
Successful businesses often offer multiple services and products at some point, even if they don’t when they begin.
When you eventually add those services, your homepage won’t be able to rank for all of them.
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say you start out selling 1 product, blue widgets, so you set up your site to be optimized for that:
This is cool, until your business grows bigger, then later on down the road, you realize your customers want green widgets, red widgets, big widgets, and small widgets.
Then you start selling widget repair services, widget management, widget insurance, and more.
And then as you get bigger, you expand to have more locations. Now you have locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and London.
But the problem is, your website is just structured to rank for 1 product, so now it doesn’t make sense.
There is no way that Google is going to rank your homepage for:
- Blue widgets
- Red widgets
- Big widgets
- Widget Insurance
- Widget Repair
- Widget Management
- Los Angeles widgets
- Chicago widgets
- London widgets
Your title tag would have to look like this:
That’s not going to work. Plus, Google usually only displays 50-60 characters of your title tag anyway (this is a faked screenshot for demonstration!)
But that’s not the only problem with trying to rank the homepage….
2. Wrecking Your Rankings Because Of Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization is when you try to rank two pages for the same terms and topic.
This often happens when you try to rank your homepage and rank a subpage.
Google will see that you have 2 pages with the same topic and get confused about which one should actually rank… and many times ends up not ranking either one of them.
Alternatively, it can cause an undesirable page (your home page) to rank ahead of your service page — which actually is about the search query.
It can effectively drag down both rankings in the long-term.
Here’s an example of what that looks like:
This is a screenshot from Ahrefs (an SEO tracking tool). Each color graph represents a different page on the site.
You can see in this example that one page will start to rank, then Google will drop it and try to rank another one.
This cycle continues and none of the pages rank to their full potential because Google can’t figure out the correct one.
3. Usability: Get The User To The Right Page From The Beginning
When a user finds your website, it would be optimal for them to land on a page that talks specifically about what they were searching for, not a homepage that lists everything.
When users land on a specific page that is exactly what they are looking for – they get right to where they need to go without needing to browse.
4. Conversions On The Homepage
This is more of a personal preference, but I really like to use our homepage to focus on conversions vs rankings.
To me, our homepage gets hit more and more as our brand grows, and I want the freedom to do whatever I want with it vs. needing to put 2000 words of text on it to try and rank for a certain keyword.
Our homepage now is still very simple and encourages people to sign up. It works.
So, with all that said, how do you fix these issues?
What To Do Instead
The fix is pretty simple – just build out separate pages for each specific topic (product, service, category, location) that you want to rank for.
For instance, you would build out a page for each product:
..and rank each of these page for what they are actually about.
Essentially, you need a page on your site for every keyword topic you have in mind. If you don’t – you need to build it!
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to build out a page for every single variation of a keyword you have, Google often will rank 1 page for many variations.
Optimizing The Homepage
For your homepage, optimize it for your brand and general category. Explain to users and Google what you do in a broad sense.
That can look something like this:
Most people should find your homepage because they are searching for your brand.
Your home page title should say what you do in general terms, but in general, you shouldn’t count on this to rank.
Your sub-pages are going to be what puts you on the map when a searcher enters the term.
Pass Link Juice From Your Homepage
Your home page is often one of the most powerful pages on your site – so you don’t want to waste it.
Use this to pass the link juice to your most important pages by linking to them.
Build quality links with CTAs (call to actions) from your home page to each of your service pages.
You’ll want to leverage that link power from your home page at the same time that you’re building external links to your inner pages.
There are lots of reasons to NOT rank your homepage – but that doesn’t mean you can’t rank. All you need to do is build up specific pages for each topic.
Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.