Homepage SEO – Stop Targeting Key Phrases On Your Home Page

by | Updated April 27, 2017 | Link Building, SEO Strategies | 30 comments

homepage seo tips
I’m about to preach something extremely controversial in the SEO world.

Not controversial in the black-hat sense, in fact it is the exact opposite.

I’m about to explain how you should totally rethink the way you do homepage SEO.

It will be the opposite of how most SEO’s do SEO on the homepage.

As part of the process of giving demos of SEOJet I talk with a ton of people in the SEO world.

One of the issues I come across over and over again is people want to rank for all of their main key phrases on their home page.

As a result they spend both time and money building links to the home page to help them target those keywords.

When I show them what a home page link map looks like most of the time people are surprised to see very few anchor texts that have any reference to a keyword.

The reality is it’s almost counterintuitive. You purposefully don’t get keyword rich anchors so that you can rank for your keywords.

But how does it work?

Google trusts big brands.

Why? Because big brands get links naturally.

People, businesses, and publications link to big brands all the time, naturally.

Brands are newsworthy, brands get PR, and people share the brands they love.

So Google can look at a link profile from a big brand with confidence and know that for the most part the links were acquired naturally.

If they know the links are natural, then the backlink profile of a brand is the template we should probably follow to show Google that your website should be considered a legitimate brand.

So what do we do? We copy the big brands.

And more specifically we copy the home page backlink profile of the big brands on our own homepage.

Why the homepage?

Because your home page is your most important page in your site, this is where if brand fanatics or the press are going to link to you, most of the time it will be to the home page.

This is where we establish trust with Google.

Should The Homepage Of My Website Contain SEO?

Many people struggle with this question of whether the homepage of their website should contain SEO.

The answer is yes.

By all means do on page SEO for your homepage. Target whatever key phrases you want to target.

But when it comes to link building, you have to exercise constraint.

I understand the temptation is there to use the most powerful page in your website to target your most important key phrases.

It’s an internal battle every SEO or business deals with.

But you have to remember, the most important thing you can do in SEO is build trust with Google.

Until Google trusts you, your website will not rank.

The more trust you build, the more authority your site will have.

Let me show you an example of what the trust of Google can do for your website.

Overstock.com is a huge powerhouse online ecommerce brand. They are a competitor to Amazon and other major online retailers.

They have about 12k links from unique domains pointing just at the home page.

Over 80% of those links are either the brand name or some form of the URL as the anchor text. And the vast majority of the other anchors contain the brand name Overstock in the anchor as well.

This is what the backlink profile looks like from a real brand that Google trusts.

With such a large scale of links from referring domains, almost all containing the brand name in some way you can understand why Google trusts Overstock.com.

Let me give you another example from a very well known website in the SEO industry.

Backlinko.com is owned by Brian Dean and the site ranks in the top 10 for pretty much all of the key phrases that are big in the SEO world.

But guess what, he doesn’t target any keywords with links to his home page.

In fact if you look at his homepage backlink profile, he has 12k referring domains and 98% of his links are his brand, his name, or some form of his URL.

That’s right I said 98%.

He doesn’t focus on keywords on his home page at all. He writes huge blog posts and targets his keywords there.

I hope you’re starting to catch the vision.

Why building Google trust is important

Once you are trusted by Google, getting ranked in Google becomes so much easier.

Let’s go back to Overstock.com and see an example of this.

If you search the key phrase “mens gold bracelets” guess who shows up #1?

Yep, it’s Overstock.

You’re probably saying to yourself, big deal Adam, you just told us they are a huge brand.

But if you look at the backlink profile for that page, you’ll see that no other site (besides a couple of spammy search engines) link to that page.

So Overstock can rank for an extremely competitive key phrase that has almost 10k searches a month without one single legitimate link to that page.

And the way they do it is with the brand authority and trust they have built with Google.

Again, this is why it is so important to focus on brand building instead of link building on your home page.

This is how you need to do your homepage SEO. Become a big brand in Google’s eyes.

Is it going to happen overnight? No.

But as you consistently build links in the proper way to your homepage, your brand authority will grow.

What Do The Big Brands Do For Homepage SEO?

So how do you match a big brand?

First you need to stop doing keyword related links for your home page. Remember 80%-90% of the links to your homepage should contain no reference to any keyword, unless there happens to be a keyword in your brand name.

Let’s look at Amazon’s home page link profile. I’ll first list the anchor text that is used most often in links pointing to their home page and then I’ll list the percentage of links that have that anchor text.

Amazon.com – 30%
Amazon – 28%
www.amazon.com – 16%
https://www.amazon.com – 12%
natural anchors – 6%

Between those 5 anchors, that makes up 92% of the links pointing to the home page of Amazon.com.

Here is Overstock’s home page link profile:

Overstock.com – 38%
Overtstock – 20%
http://www.overstock.com – 11%
www.overstock.com – 10%
natural anchors – 7%

86% of the backlinks that point to their home page have 0 reference to any key phrase.

I’ll give you one more example of a big brand. Let’s look at Auto Trader’s home page backlinks.

autotrader.com – 28%
autotrader – 19%
www.autotrader.com – 17%
http://www.autotrader.com – 14%
auto trader – 7%

Those are the top 5 anchors for AutoTrader.com’s home page making up 85% of their home page links.

This is how you build trust with Google and make your website look like a real brand.

So, for example, if I was building links to the homepage of SEOJet, 80%-90% of the links should have one of these as the anchor text:

  • SEOJet
  • SEO Jet
  • https://seojet.net
  • SEOJet.net
  • seojet.net

BONUS: Download your own homepage link map pdf and use it to build an awesome backlink profile for your home page.

I know your having an internal battle right now thinking, “how can I justify spending the time and money it is going to take to get links that are nothing but URL and brand name as the anchor?”

You just have to do it.

This is what will make all of the difference in your SEO.

This is what will keep you safe from future Google backlink updates. (You notice how big brands are never affected by the updates?)

Your homepage SEO strategy needs to “be build my brand, build my brand, build my brand”.

What is so great is when you have gained Google’s trust, then you can focus on keywords on other pages in your site and it becomes so much easier to rank on those pages.

You can still build links to other pages.

As you are building trust on your home page it is totally fine to also build links to other pages in your site.

In fact it would look unnatural if all of your links only went to your homepage.

I would recommend you follow this guideline:

For every 1 link you build to a sub page in your site, build 1 link to your home page

For example, let’s say you get 1 link each to 3 sub pages in your site, then I would recommend you build about 3 new links to your homepage as well.

Now please note that I called this a guideline and not a hard fast rule. The point is that more links should be going to your homepage than any other page and by a large percentage.

Homepage SEO Content

We haven’t talked much about the content you should have on the homepage. In truth I’m not convinced that homepage content really matters much.

If your goal is to build your brand on the home page then you don’t need much content to do that.

If you are still deadset on trying to rank for your most important keywords on your homepage, even if your links are going to be 80% branded, then yes you should probably have some good content on the homepage.

I don’t know if there is a minimum or a limit. Just do what feels right but if you have bought into what I have laid out for you in this post, then don’t spend too much time worrying about a total number of words.

Just get the message across of who you are and what your business is about.

Make it all about creating an awesome user experience.

SEO Homepage Title

Like I mentioned before it is fine to target a couple of key phrases on your homepage. In fact, I highly recommend you do that in your SEO title.

On the homepage SEO title I would stick to just one or two main key phrases. Save the other keywords for your other pages.

The other big thing is to make sure to include your brand name in the title.

You can see on SEOJet’s homepage our title starts out with our brand name, then has one keyword and then who the software is for.

It is written more for click through than for SEO.

Nofollow vs Dofollow

I could probably write an entire blog post about nofollow links vs dofollow links but I will include it here for now.

Another one of the most commonly excepted myths is that nofollow links don’t do anything to help your SEO.

As I have researched thousands of links that point to #1 ranked websites, about 30% of the links on average have been nofollow. Sometimes that number can be as high as 50%.

30% of Overstock’s homepage links are nofollow.

The point is, it is OK to get nofollow links. Google expects to see them

The nofollow attribute was created in part for us to tell Google that they shouldn’t count a link because it was an advertisement.

Big brands advertise. We are copying the big brands. Get some nofollow links to your homepage.

Exact Match Domains

How do exact match domains play into all of this?

If an exact match domain is your brand this homepage SEO strategy becomes a little bit trickier.

Here is how I would approach it.

Instead of getting a high percentage of links with my brand name (which would also be an exact match key phrase) I would do the majority of the home page links as ExactMatchDomain.com.

So for example, if I owned www.seosoftware.com, as I built links to my home page I would make my backlink profile look something like this:

SEOSoftware.com – 40%
http://www.seosoftware.com – 20%
www.seosoftware.com – 15%
SEO software – 10%
everything else – 15%

Even though I could probably get away with getting more links that have “seo software” as the anchor, personally I would caution on the side of getting majority some form of the URL as the anchor.

At some point you always have to worry if your profile is starting to look unnatural with too many key phrase anchors on your home page, even if the key phrase is the brand name.

If you don’t have an exact match domain and are thinking of getting one, personally I would stay away from them because it is so much simpler to create and match a big brand’s backlink profile when your domain is not exact match.

BONUS: Download your own homepage link map pdf and use it to build an awesome backlink profile for your home page.

Start Building Trust With Google

Let SEOJet help you naturally build trust with Google. Our home page link maps will guide your backlinking efforts so that every link you build will have real purpose and will move you toward a #1 ranked backlink profile.

30 Comments

  1. Nice work Adam. Going to take a lot of convincing to some people but this is the proper way to do SEO now. Takes a bit longer but its not a race 🙂

    Reply
    • Mark, you’re absolutely right. It is hard to spend time and money “not” targeting your keywords but in the end by not targeting them you have a better chance of ranking for more phrases.

      Reply
  2. Amazing article as always super helpful with our SEO efforts.

    Reply
    • Bryan, I’m glad you found it useful.

      Reply
  3. Hey Adam,

    Great article. What do you do if your homepage is over optimized? Any dilution tactics?

    Also, I like the Ahrefs integration. Very easy way to import / add existing links. It is a easy way to check your anchor text ratios on existing projects.

    Reply
    • Robert, the best thing to do in an over-optimization scenario is to actively get links to your home page that are brand anchors or url anchors. Try to push the keyword heavy percentages down. The home page link maps will guide you to do that naturally no matter what your current profile looks like.

      Reply
  4. Adam, thanks for your insight and research here. SEO is an ever-changing landscape of evolve or die, posts like these not only help SEO’s to survive but thrive in a post panda world. Lack of strategy is not something any business owner can afford.

    Reply
    • Chris, you’re right. Building trust on the homepage with Google has been a strategy that has worked very well for me and others.

      Reply
  5. Hi, You have given great information. Home optimization comes before out-of-site links and must contain content that contains the right keywords. You have explained this in detail, endlessly thanks to the SeoJet family.

    Reply
    • Kiralik, I’m glad you liked the post.

      Reply
  6. Now I do understand why most of the backlink anchor texts should be branded. It’s nice to see that branding is still important in the 21st century and probably will never go out of fashion. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Daniel, one thing I didn’t even bring up is once you build trust with Google with branding you also qualify your site to get listed above the listings with featured snippets. There is no downside to focusing on building your brand.

      Reply
  7. Thanks for writing about what I have been talking about when I teach a SEO class – trying to make your Home page the SEO Keyword landing page – you can have many keyword landing pages for specific keywords.

    Reply
    • Bob, I’m glad to hear that you are teaching this homepage SEO strategy. Too many people make this beginner mistake.

      Reply
  8. Thank you for writing about Homepage SEO, it’s very useful Adam White (Y)

    Reply
    • Duc, I’m glad you found it useful. With the changing landscape of SEO this is one area that is commonly misunderstood.

      Reply
  9. Great post about Homepage SEO! I always do homepage SEO

    Reply
    • Anik, I always do it as well, but only on homepages. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Very nice article Adam! For me anchor text is one of the most important segments of SEO. There is not much decent info on the topic out there, most of the stuff people write are just rehashed theories of others.

    You talked about gaining trust… since you got access to data, it would be very nice if you write something like a detailed guide on how to gain that trust and share what do you think is working nowadays.

    Reply
    • Mihail, thanks for the feedback. I will have to add that to the list of blog posts to work on next.

      Reply
  11. My question here is – how do we identify number of links we must have ? based on competitors’s total back links +-10%. So like 10 percent is great but 10 percent of how many links to start? Thanks

    Reply
    • Kim, for your homepage you should just keep building branded and url anchors. On other pages we have seen that we can get results using SEOJet with far fewer links than those in the top 3.

      Reply
  12. Yes, this is what you’re supposed to be doing in regards to linking today. A few years ago Google cracked down on spammy keyword anchor text linking. Linking to brand names is a much more natural approach so it won’t cause a penalty.

    Reply
    • Nick, I agree but based on the research we have done this really only holds true on the homepage. Other pages in your site can target key phrases in your link building.

      Reply
  13. Adam,

    I am a happy user of SEOjet and quickly becoming a devoted follower of your blog. You happen to have answered in large part a huge “TODO” on my personal website task list which was figuring out what/if keywords I should target on my home page. Currently it is none as it has been since I launched 3 years ago.

    Reply
    • Robert, thats great to hear. Im glad you’re enjoying the blog and software. Build brand trust on the home page. That is the key to SEO success.

      Reply
  14. Hi Adam,

    I love your service. It’s really helped me with my rankings and I’ve seen a huge increase in leads.
    But, with that logic, why is Overstock ranking higher if there are other domains with more backlinks and trust from google competing for the same keyword?

    Reply
    • Chad, glad to hear its going well. That is a good question. I guess I will have to look into other pages of Overstock and see if maybe they have become a topical authority for jewelry. It could be that their focus has been on jewelry so they have more traction in that category.

      Reply
  15. Hi Adam,

    If I’m building in content links via guest posts, do you think a NAKED URL or Brand name looks natural in that context?

    For example, I’m doing a guest post for a criminal lawyer. The topic is whether you should talk to police or not.

    All things being equal, would you recommend a NAKED or Brand mention, or instead use “criminal lawyer” as an anchor text?

    Do you worry that a NAKED URL or Brand mention can look awkward or unnatural?

    Reply
    • Mariano, yes I do think it looks natural in that scenario because referring to another site using the URL as the anchor happens all the time is probably one of the most natural ways to link to another site.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *