Episode 9

Homepage SEO: What Keywords to Optimize a Startup Homepage for?

Discover the three types of keywords to include in your homepage to maximize its ranking potential.

Episode transcript:

Well, hello hello. Welcome to another episode of the Stacking Pancakes podcast. This is episode nine, and I’m super delighted that you have me back in your ears once again. But of course, if this is my first episode you’re listening to, hello, and it's great to meet you.

Today, we’re talking about choosing keywords for the homepage. And there is a reason why we’re focusing on that. Because, 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 the SEO perspective, so to speak, is not such an easy thing to do.

It’s completely different from choosing keywords for a blog post or a landing page, for example. Sure, you still have to find the right keywords to target. But overall, you pretty much know what sort of phrases you want to use for that content. 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 maybe even keyword in the case of SEO or PPC-focused landing pages. 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.

But the situation is completely different with a homepage, and to make matters worse, it’s for a whole range of reasons, actually.

First of all, the SaaS homepage is often the main driver of conversions. For many startups, it’s 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 as well.

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:

It’s an astonishing number of jobs and as a result, and this is where we get to the SEO aspect of the whole thing - the homepage often doesn’t have a single clear topic or focus.

But believe it or not, that’s still not all.

There’s the thing of 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, and that’s something affecting your homepage SEO, too.

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, for example. They don’t have to worry about making it very SEO-focused.

But you know - Everyone knows their brand. People google their name all the time, too. Not to mention that they have thousands of other pages to target various commerical and informational keywords.

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

You don’t have that luxury yet. Your brand may not be known at all. Or 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.

You have to do it with the homepage, at least for now.

That’s why optimizing a startup homepage is so challenging. But it’s also absolutely necessary to do.

Firstly, the homepage helps you build topical authority in your niche. Since the page is your primary commercial page, it contains the most information about your product, its value, the audience, and so on.

Needless to say, 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.

Another thing - The homepage will attract most if not all, organic links at first. One reason is that you don’t have any other assets others could link to. But also, whatever mentions, media references, or other PR your product acquires will likely link to your homepage, too.

But what about keywords? What should you optimize the homepage for?

I recommend that you focus on three types of keywords on your homepage. I know I know, it does sound weird - three types, right? But let me explain.

The first type of keywords relate to your brand. It’s quite an obvious one, naturally, and ties in with what we discussed just a moment ago - That you need to use your homepage to build brand awareness.

So, include your brand in your meta title and description. Naturally, you would have it scattered throughout the copy, too, so you probably don’t have to do anything else with this here.

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):

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, in spite of having the homepage 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:

The third category of keywords to use on the homepage includes phrases relating to your product’s core functionality. Now, 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, like on a list of features or so.

By having them:

And that’s it. It really is. And I know that I started by saying how challenging homepage SEO is for startups, and I do stand by it. It is challenging if you don’t know how to do it.

Well, I hope that this episode shed some light on the issue for you.

And that's all I wanted to cover in today's episode. I know that I mention it every time but it’s important - If you’ve missed anything in this episode, you can always head to gopancakego.com/podcast to find its show notes and the transcript.

You can also check my full guide to startup SEO, where I walk you through the entire process of building search visibility for an early-stage startup. Again, head to my site, gopancakego.com, and you'll find a link to it in the Resources section of the main navigation.

Don't forget to subscribe to the show if you haven’t already, and I'll see you here next time.

Until then, take care.

Copyright: Smashing Copy Limited T/A Pancake 2023