Discussion: How Do You Choose Which Keywords to Target on the Homepage?


JoyHawkins

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This is a challenge that I run into all the time: How do you choose what keywords to target for a client's homepage?

Example 1: You have an insurance agent who really wants to rank for auto insurance. They would probably have an auto insurance page on their site (domain.com/auto-insurance) that targets "auto insurance" but would you also target it on the homepage?

Example 2: You have a criminal lawyer that really wants to rank for "DWI Lawyer". Do you target that on the homepage knowing it will have more authority and rank easier or do you leave it for an inner page?

Example 3: You have a dog trainer that really wants to rank for "dog training" because it's searched more than "dog trainer". They have this listed as one of their services on an inner page - do you also target it on the homepage?

I wanted to bring this up because I often see the homepage keywords competing with an inner page that is also targeting the same keywords. Homepages tend to rank more and easier so I think that's why the duplication exists. How do you get around this?
 

iFuse

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Great question! I am always afraid that if you try to optimize more than 1 page for a specific keyword that Google may get confused or one page may lose authority.

We do a lot of blogging for SEO clients, and this question fits that as well. When we optimize the blog post, do we optimize for a keyword that we are not optimizing for on the pages of the site to avoid confusion?
 

mborgelt

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Mapping one page per keyword is something that adhere to pretty tightly. We usually start by building a hierarchy based on the clients' KW goals. So if they want to rank for "DWI Lawyer" and that is all they did, we would target the homepage at that phrase and then build a support map for the rest of the pages. Now, if they want to rank for that same term and they are a law firm that does everything, we will either create a dedicated page or use the practice page. If we did double up on KW targets like you are saying we would pick a priority and secondary phrase, like "DWI Lawyer" for the home page and "DWI Defense Lawyer" for the secondary page.
 

Conor Treacy

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Similar to the others, we use the one page per keyword on a regular basis. It's actually a goal for us NOT to have the home page listing :) I'll explain;

When someone goes searching for a specific item, they should be landing on a page that tells all about that item and nothing else. Links off to other places are fine, as needed, but the core of the page should surround that one item (DUI for example). In that case, we would probably use "criminal defence lawyer" on the home page, and then delve into the specifics of the laws on the internal pages.

An alternate would be to have "dui lawyer" on one page and "dui attorney" on another. They're interchangeable, but language can make a difference on a sale too (just like Marketing Agency vs Firm vs Company).

Having a page compete with other pages can dilute the experience, but not all the time. Sometimes you can have two pages from the same site show in the search results, and that's a good thing.

Our goal usually however is to have the people land on inside pages for what they're targeting specifically, and then the more general aspects can go to the home page.
 
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I like to make the home page a summary of the services they provide and then use individual pages to go deeper on each set of keywords. The home might say that they are a Bankruptcy Attorney and Estate Planning Attorney and Criminal Defense Attorney, but then the individual Criminal Defense Attorney page would have the specifics like DUI Lawyer and such.
 

Dave

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Most of our sites have relatively strong DA (domain authority). (DA--its a moz term, its not google...never forget that). Frankly for many years, regardless of terms and regardless of interior pages with very specific services itemized on individual pages....our home pages would rank highly for the various terms...and if they were very highly ranked...we'd get clicks.

For new clients...just think. If its an attorney with a multi faceted practice...and if you or someone is REALLY working on getting links to the site, can you get the requisite links to an interior page that will compete with sites wherein the juice is going to the home page???

Overall I'd "summarize on the home page EVERY SERVICE. If there are a lot, I'm only going to get Title, and meta tag value on a few. I'll have h2's and h3's and content...but not a lot of substance for the rest.

I need that specific page. Frankly if the specific Page is getting helpful link juice...I'll optimize for that. Otherwise for the home page.

Hey some of it is a guessing game and subject to how well the pages can get optimized over time. If it turns out to be a long term client...you can adjust over time.

I don't think there is a single answer to that very good question
 
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I've seen a lot more internal pages ranking better than home pages in many cases. Broad/general targeting on the homepage can help those higher in the sales funnel, but specific targeting needs to be towards internal landing pages. Taking the attorney example, I would target the homepage with a more general high volume attorney keyword. Criminal law is the primary vertical, while DUI/DWI law is a sub-niche of a criminal law practice. That being the case I would target the home page with criminal defense attorney (assuming that's the only area they practice in), and i'd create dedicated landing pages for dwi/dui. That way someone searching generally for a defense attorney will be able to find the site, but someone searching specifically for DUI/DWI defense will find the better content on the internal page.

Targeting that way will also help the site so you're not cannibalizing pages by keeping one theme per page/section.
 

JoshuaMackens

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This is a challenge that I run into all the time: How do you choose what keywords to target for a client's homepage?

Example 1: You have an insurance agent who really wants to rank for auto insurance. They would probably have an auto insurance page on their site (domain.com/auto-insurance) that targets "auto insurance" but would you also target it on the homepage?

Example 2: You have a criminal lawyer that really wants to rank for "DWI Lawyer". Do you target that on the homepage knowing it will have more authority and rank easier or do you leave it for an inner page?

Example 3: You have a dog trainer that really wants to rank for "dog training" because it's searched more than "dog trainer". They have this listed as one of their services on an inner page - do you also target it on the homepage?

I wanted to bring this up because I often see the homepage keywords competing with an inner page that is also targeting the same keywords. Homepages tend to rank more and easier so I think that's why the duplication exists. How do you get around this?
Example 1:

I would use an inner page to target auto insurance unless that's what they primarily do. Then I would use the homepage and expect to outrank all of my competition that doesn't use their homepage specifically for auto insurance.

Example 2:

Again, same thing, I would user an inner page to optimize for that unless that's what they primarily do. If it was, then I would use it for the homepage and would expect to outrank all my competition who don't have that as their homepage keyword.

Example 3: If they're a dog trainer, that should be on the homepage. And "dog training" and "dog trainer" are the same keyword more or less. If they want to rank for one above the other, use the one they want to rank as the first term in title tag and in the H1 but otherwise, they should rank similarly.

I just take whatever ranking I can get. If it's the homepage or an inner page, doesn't matter to me. However, if I had to choose, I would want an inner page to rank because it's going to convert better due to its relevance to the query.

I don't worry about the homepage competing with inner pages.

Great questions!
 

Dave

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Most of our sites have relatively strong DA (domain authority). (DA--its a moz term, its not google...never forget that). Frankly for many years, regardless of terms and regardless of interior pages with very specific services itemized on individual pages....our home pages would rank highly for the various terms...and if they were very highly ranked...we'd get clicks.

For new clients...just think. If its an attorney with a multi faceted practice...and if you or someone is REALLY working on getting links to the site, can you get the requisite links to an interior page that will compete with sites wherein the juice is going to the home page???

Overall I'd "summarize on the home page EVERY SERVICE. If there are a lot, I'm only going to get Title, and meta tag value on a few. I'll have h2's and h3's and content...but not a lot of substance for the rest.

I need that specific page. Frankly if the specific Page is getting helpful link juice...I'll optimize for that. Otherwise for the home page.

Hey some of it is a guessing game and subject to how well the pages can get optimized over time. If it turns out to be a long term client...you can adjust over time.

I don't think there is a single answer to that very good question
And now for the other side of the coin!!!! :D

I was looking at some auto accident/personal injury type phrases for a certain pretty large city.

At or near the top of a plethora of those phrases and the 3 pacs for each phrase was one firm/ and/or partners of the firm. All of the highest ranking pages were interior pages or pages of a separate website for a partner in that firm with a separate url.

I'm familiar with the firm. They put a ton of effort, and seo staff power into rankings. A ton. They've learned from and paid local seo experts, and they pay for staff to build the websites. its ongoing. Lots of money.

Big city...lots of competitiveness. They are winning on the local front in terms of #1 pac rankings for lots of phrases.

However one does it, its not a cheap, quick, or inexpensive effort!!!!!

But with that effort they are doing it with interior pages vs the firm home page...and they are doing it with specialty urls/ websites....wherein the strength goes to that url home page.
 

HurricaneK8

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Great answers so far! Thanks everyone, and Thanks Joy for posting this question. I think that we've summarized the pros and cons both sides of the coin pretty well.

One thing I'll add is that in my experience we sometimes lose sight of the big picture-- SEO is a tactic in an overall marketing strategy. What I mean by this is that SEO has the goal of getting qualified traffic to your website, but the overall goal of adding SEO to a marketing strategy is that we want that qualified traffic to become a customer.

By optimizing the homepage for a single keyword that is only a part of a business, we run the risk of alienating the traffic. If by optimizing the homepage for a single keyword it looks like the client is a specialist in only that area, a potential customer may look elsewhere for a specialist in the area that they're looking for. That's the reason I wouldn't optimize the homepage for a single keyword unless that keyword summarized their business (For example, homepage is targeting "City Law Firm" or "Dog Training" if cat training is not a big part of their business ;) ). It's not just about getting someone to the website, it's about their experience when they get there.

It may be easier to rank for a keyword with the homepage because it has a higher DA but you have to ask yourself, is it worth potentially alienating traffic who wasn't looking for that service/product but ended up on the homepage? If the answer is yes, maybe that keyword deserves its own specialty site as Dave suggested.
 

hollypowell

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I love this discussion and as may of us here I sometimes struggle with home page SEO as opposed to inner pages.

I take the approach that if the client is an attorney we would optimize the home page for attorney/lawyer and use inner pages to more specific types of practiced law areas: personal injury, medical malpractice, etc.

Again, I love the input from other SEO experts here.
 

billbean

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As Google continues to evolve, I think it's better to think in terms of a keyword index (i.e. group of keywords) for a page: dog training, dog trainers, dog trainer, dog training services, local dog trainer, trainer for dogs, training for dogs, etc.... All one page.

Using separate pages to "target" small variations in the keyword or query is unnecessary. Use separate pages when it is a distinctly different thing: dog training vs dog grooming.

Ultimately, do what is best for the user.
 

Tim Colling

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So, to take this concept to a perhaps extreme point:

Is blogging a bad idea if your blog posts target keywords that are also keywords that you are targeting for the homepage or one of those keyword-specific interior pages?

I'm not asking to be silly about this. I'm somewhat serious. For example, in the niche that I specialize in, I might have a homecare client (a company that provides in-home caregivers) and so I might target for "in-home caregiving" on the home page. I might also have some interior pages that target cities within the client's service area, with titles like "in-home care in orlando".

So for blog posts for that client, while we can focus on something like a typical ailment of the elderly like dementia, perhaps some news about dementia research, is it a *bad* idea to try to target "in-home care in orlando" in that blog post, linking to the interior page that is dedicated to that keyword phrase?

Maybe it's a better idea to create *pages* that are sub-pages to a city page, and then publish those on a regularly scheduled basis?

Arrgghh. Makes my head hurt sometimes.
 

Kristen

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As Google continues to evolve, I think it's better to think in terms of a keyword index (i.e. group of keywords) for a page: dog training, dog trainers, dog trainer, dog training services, local dog trainer, trainer for dogs, training for dogs, etc.... All one page.
Yep, agreed. When it comes to the home page, in the example of dog trainer, I try to come up with any variation or different way people would search for that term, and optimize the homepage for what they are, vs. what they offer, assuming they offer multiple services.

While each internal page does need to have a primary keyword focus, I've seen great results from coming up possible questions visitors might ask, objectives they might have about hiring a dog trainer and base keyword research off of that. Through this "bucket" of keywords, I'll then narrow them down in terms of commerciality, traffic and where the keyword search is in the buying funnel. We'll then build content around these ideas and keywords and optimize the page accordingly.
 

JoshuaMackens

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So, to take this concept to a perhaps extreme point:

Is blogging a bad idea if your blog posts target keywords that are also keywords that you are targeting for the homepage or one of those keyword-specific interior pages?

I'm not asking to be silly about this. I'm somewhat serious. For example, in the niche that I specialize in, I might have a homecare client (a company that provides in-home caregivers) and so I might target for "in-home caregiving" on the home page. I might also have some interior pages that target cities within the client's service area, with titles like "in-home care in orlando".

So for blog posts for that client, while we can focus on something like a typical ailment of the elderly like dementia, perhaps some news about dementia research, is it a *bad* idea to try to target "in-home care in orlando" in that blog post, linking to the interior page that is dedicated to that keyword phrase?

Maybe it's a better idea to create *pages* that are sub-pages to a city page, and then publish those on a regularly scheduled basis?

Arrgghh. Makes my head hurt sometimes.
Your homepage is too powerful. If you target terms in your blog post that are targeted by your homepage, the blog post won't outrank it. In fact, the keywords should reinforce your homepage and if anything, make you rank higher. The increase will probably be negligible initially but the takeaway point here is: your homepage is safe.
 

Conor Treacy

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Is blogging a bad idea if your blog posts target keywords that are also keywords that you are targeting for the homepage or one of those keyword-specific interior pages?
If you are blogging on the same topic, then you'll likely run into a problem when it comes to long term results. Keep in mind however that blogging can lead to great traffic outside of just SEO, so all is not lost. But if you have the blog fighting against another page with lots of power, the other page is likely going to win.

Maybe it's a better idea to create *pages* that are sub-pages to a city page, and then publish those on a regularly scheduled basis?
This would be the route that we use. Pages are permanent information and Posts are topical reinforcements. So I'd create a page regarding Home Care in Orlando, and then use all the various scenarios in posts that can link to pages. You can then cross link posts to reinforce the topics and pages as necessary.
 

Conor Treacy

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Thanks, Conor. Say "howdy" to Omaha for me, too. (I'm Omaha born, California raised).
I'm keeping this place warm for ya ;) Heck, it's almost as warm as Oceanside today! I lived in Fullerton (Anaheim area) for 10 years, 10 years in Palm Springs (while working in Mira Mar for 1 year - a heck of a commute!), and a few years in Oroville (north of Sacramento). I'm now in Omaha 8 years. Another 2 and it's probably time to move again ;) hehe
 

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