Homepage SEO: How to Choose Keywords for a Startup’s Homepage

by Pawel Grabowski - SEO Consultant for Startups

By far and away, the homepage is the most difficult page to optimize for SEO. It plays several roles, contains a diverse mix of information, and rarely focuses on a single clearly defined topic.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot optimize the homepage for SEO.

In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to do it.

Don't feel like reading the entire guide? Listen to it instead.

If you’ve ever tried to decide what phrases to optimize the homepage for, then you know it very well—choosing those keywords and making the homepage work from an SEO perspective is not easy.

If you haven’t tried that yet, you probably feel that it’s not as straightforward as optimizing other content—a blog post or a landing page, for example.

Granted, you have to find the right keywords for that content, too. But in general, you know what sort of phrases you want to use.

This is because these pages have a clear topic, clear SEO value (and clear SEO goal, too.

A landing page, for example, targets a specific topic, use case, feature, selling point, or, in the case of SEO or PPC-focused landing pages, a keyword.

A blog post naturally focuses on a particular problem, and so you optimize it for keywords people would use when searching for information on that problem.

However, the situation is completely different with a homepage. Here’s why.

What makes the homepage so difficult to SEO?

First of all, for startups, the homepage is often the main driver of conversions.

In fact, for many startups, the homepage is often the main and also the biggest page on the site. By biggest, I mean that it contains the most content and the most sales-focused information.

Here’s one example. This startup’s site features practically only one content asset with information that would make someone want to try out their product - The homepage.

Example of a startup website where the homepage is the primary asset on the site.

For comparison, here’s what an established site looks like. Note that I opened only one drop down menu. And even that contains a wealth of other content that could help attract and convert customers.

Example of a startup with amazing homepage SEO.

So, in the case of a startup, the homepage is where you often send all traffic. It’s also the page your calls to action point to, and as a result, that’s also where they want those visitors to convert.

So, if you look a bit closely at it, that’s an enormous task for a single page to do. That page needs to:

  • Welcome visitors
  • Make a strong first impression about the brand AND the product
  • Convince those people that the product can solve their pain points.
  • Explain the value of using the product.
  • Overcome sales objections as well as any skepticism toward signing up for new tools the person may have.
  • And it must provide almost all the information a person needs to make a buying decision - top benefits, features, testimonials, and so much more.

That’s an astonishing number of jobs. As a result, the homepage often doesn’t have a single clear topic or focus.

It needs to do it all, instead.

Other factors that make homepage SEO so challenging are brand awareness, brand recognition, and trust.

Since the homepage is often the primary landing page on a website, it bears the brunt of having to introduce the brand and build trust.

Let me illustrate this with a quick example: A well-known brand like ClickUp, Asana, or Hubspot can use any fancy label in their homepage’s meta title. They don’t have to worry about making it very SEO-focused.

In fact, Asana does exactly that. Look what their meta title says (at the time of writing this guide, of course): “Manage your team’s work, projects, and tasks online.”

Homepage SEO example.

It’s a good and descriptive title tag. It does the job describing what the company’s product does. But does it target any specific keyword? No, not really.

But the thing is - Everyone knows their brand. People google their names all the time, too. Not to mention that they have thousands of other pages to target various commercial and informational keywords.

As a result, they can get as creative as they want with their meta tags. Or leave them blank if they want to. It wouldn’t matter. (To be clear, leaving the tag blank would matter, I’m just using this as an extreme example.)

But as a startup, you don’t have that luxury yet. Your brand may not be known at all. And even if it is, you’re still relatively new within your niche or product category. And most likely, you don’t have those thousands of pages to target the whole search visibility.

That’s why you have to use the homepage to do it all and more. At least for now.

Why is it absolutely essential to optimize the homepage well?

I admit that I’ve been rambling on about how important the homepage is for a startup. But I haven’t touched on the big question, have I? I haven’t told you why homepage SEO matters so much for a startup.

So, let’s go through that now.

#1. Homepage helps you build topical authority in your niche.

We’ve already established that the homepage is your primary commercial page. It contains the most information about your product, its value, the audience, and so on.

And so, the clearer you are in explaining what your product does, what category it falls into, and what value users get from it, the easier it will be for the search engine to establish how to rank your domain in the search results.

And how do you explain all that well for the search engines? Exactly! By optimizing the homepage properly and ensuring that crawlers can extract and understand all that information.

#2. The homepage will attract most, if not all, organic links.

This happens for several reasons.

One is that you don’t have any other assets others could link to. So, naturally, if other webmasters or journalists want to mention your startup and link to it, they’ll choose the homepage for the link. It’s only later, after you’ve built some body of content, you’ll start noticing a more natural distribution of links between the homepage and other pages.

Another reason is that whatever mentions, media references, or other PR your product acquires will likely link to your homepage, too. This follows a mechanism similar to the first reason. Since those media mentions focus on your startup, they are bound to link to your homepage. That is the primary page on the site, after all.

(The situation might change later, though. You might create dedicated landing pages welcoming visitors coming to you from a specific media mention and use those for digital PR. But I suspect you won’t invest time and effort into this at first. You’ll have many more important things to do than that, after all.)

So, what about optimizing the homepage for specific keywords?

Which phrases should you choose?

Homepage SEO: Three Types of Keywords to Use on the Homepage

I recommend that you focus on three types of keywords on your homepage.

(By the way, I do appreciate that the number - three types - might not sound right at first. But stay with me, it will all make sense in the end.

#1. Brand keywords

The first type of keyword relates to your brand. It’s quite an obvious one, naturally, and it ties in with what we discussed above—that you need to use your homepage to build brand awareness.

So, include your brand in your meta title and description. You would also mention your brand throughout the copy, so you probably don’t have to do anything else with this. These keyword placements would happen naturally.

Postpone, one of my clients, focuses its meta titles on the brand. They also naturally weave the brand into the copy.

Website with branded keywords on the homepage.

#2. Category keywords

The second category is your product category. Product category-related keywords describe the primary category that best defines your product.

These aren’t the keywords that might define the project’s attributes or functionality. They are more general and broad phrases that tell a user what the product is.

In fact, these are often the phrases you use to describe the product to clients, investors, or various stakeholders – Some examples of product category keywords include email marketing platform, content management system, social media scheduler, and so on.

Include your category keyword (or its variation, of course):

  • In meta tags.
  • In the page’s H1 tag.
  • In the page’s body content’s opening.
  • In alt tags, etc.

Here’s how we did it for Postpone as well. Note that we’ve targeted the homepage for general product category, rather than a well-defined search query.

Example of product category keywords on the homepage.

As a result, we were able to reposition the company from its previous positioning (not as a social media scheduler, naturally) to the new category, and convince the search engine that we’re an authority that’s worthy of inclusion in top-ranking SERPs across our entire category.

But, and unfortunately, as with many things in life, there has to be a but…

Often, category keywords target a different search intent than what a homepage can target. So, even if the homepage is optimized well, Google might choose not to rank it, as there is an intent mismatch.

You can check whether that might be the case quite simply by googling your category keyword and analyzing pages that rank at the top. If you see commercial pages ranking, then it might suggest that your homepage will stand a chance of joining them, too. If you see home page ranking, even better. But you might also see Google ranking informational content like blog posts or listicles of tools, and that would suggest that you’ll need to create a similar content as well to appear among those search results.

So, what to do if that’s the case?

You have few options here, neither of which is better than the other. As with many things in SEO, you need to test them to see what works best for you. But overall, your options are:

  • Leave the category keyword on the homepage and create a separate page that matches the keyword’s intent better. Of course, you risk Google ranking the wrong page, in this case, the homepage, which will prevent the other page from ranking. But resolving this requires you just to remove those category keywords from the homepage, so it’s not a risky test to run. And if it works, you’ll have the homepage focusing on the product category and another page ranking for those keywords and attracting relevant traffic.
  • Re-optimize the homepage for more generic keywords (or go deeper into your niche.) So, instead of saying email newsletter software for SaaS (which would be the category keyword), you could use something like Newsletters for SaaS Made Easy. This would still help you communicate the category, but without risking it clashing with the other page, you’ll create it to target that search intent.
  • And finally, you could just focus on the brand and leave it at that. This approach would also work and completely eliminate any risk of Google ranking the wrong page for the category keyword.

#3. Phrases related to core product functionality

The third category of keywords to use on the homepage includes phrases relating to your product’s core functionality.

These would be the core phrases related to your most common features, for example:

  • For an email marketing tool, these would be things like “email builder,” “campaign scheduler,” “image importer,” etc.
  • For an SEO reporting tool, “dashboard,” “custom templates,” “google analytics integration,” etc.

Notice how in either example, hearing those functionality phrases immediately makes you think of the core category. That’s exactly the idea here, to include phrases that will reassure the search engine about the core product category your startup belongs to.

Worth to note - These aren’t absolutely must have and must mention everywhere keywords. For example, I wouldn’t recommend squeezing those keywords into your meta tags and other key on-page elements.

But it’s a good idea to have them scattered around the homepage, on a list of features.

List of features on homepage for SEO.

Again, this is usually something that would happen naturally as you describe your product. But the rule of not pushing them too hard is good to remember if you ever get tempted to try and plug as many of those phrases on your homepage.

By having them:

  • You’ll increase the topical relevance of the homepage. Google and other search engines will better understand what your product does and what phrases would be relevant to your domain.
  • You’ll be assisting visitors in finding any content that’s relevant to their needs.
  • And finally, you’ll be strengthening the page authority of those additional assets you’ve created to rank for keywords related to the product’s features or functionality.

And that’s it.

That’s all you have to do to choose the right keywords and optimize your startup’s homepage for SEO.

Good luck!

Copyright: Smashing Copy Limited  2024