Homepage SEO – This Is Why You’re Stuck On Page 2
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 homepage 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:
- SEO Jet
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.
Let me take that one step further, you should actively get nofollow links using your money key phrases as the anchor text for those links. Because you have given the links the nofollow attribute you can’t get penalized but Google still looks at those links and so it is your opportunity to tell Google exactly what your site is about.
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.
Start Building Trust With Google
One thing we have seen make a huge difference in rankings on the homepage is the use of exact match keywords in sitewide nofollow links. We’ll be doing a case study soon.
In the meantime we have added a new anchor text category to homepage link maps in SEOJet, the “keyword – sitewide nofollow” anchor. Because the link is nofollow you can get away with using your exact match keywords but Google still counts them for SEO for some reason.
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.