Does your website make Google happy? If you aren’t meeting certain criteria on your home page, chances are your website is harder to find in a search. If you’re in a highly competitive market like mine–Denver, Colorado–being found on page 1 or 2 of search results for your main key phrases helps keep you in business.
What Google does better than any other search engine is delivery relevant results to its users. For organic (vs paid) results, your home page is critical for Google to deliver your content on page 1.
Here are 4 things you need to make sure you’re doing on your home page, plus an example and a tool to help you.
1. Actual words on your home page
Many photographers, even those who have moved from flash to HTML 5 platforms, have beautiful photos on their home pages. That makes for a beautiful landing page … if people can find you. Your home page is the most important page on your website, and unless you have actual words there Google doesn’t like you.
The rule of thumb is 300 words, minimum. My home page has 277, so it’s close.
2. Your focus search phrase included in that copy
I know from looking at my website analytics that people who find my website do so using two key phrases: Denver boudoir photographer and Denver boudoir photography. Slightly more visits come from Denver boudoir photography, so I decided to use that as my focus search phrase.
Note that I include my location in that focus search phrase because my clients are looking for a local photographer.
Google wants that phrase to be in the first paragraph of copy, and even better toward the beginning of the paragraph. You do NOT want to load in the keywords because that can flag your site as spammy, but you DO want to include that exact key phrase on your home page two or three times.
Bonus tip: Always Consider Mobile when designing and writing your website, by the way. I learned earlier this year that nearly half of my website traffic is on a mobile device so I redesigned and rewrote to make it mobile-friendly. If you are using a ProPhoto 5 template, make sure you set up your add-on mobile site (it takes that extra step) and include your copy there as well.
3. Your focus search phrase in a subheading
First, when you’re adding subheadings on your web pages (and you are, right?) be sure to use the actual Heading 2 or Heading 3 style so that Google recognizes it as such. Visitors scan, but don’t read, websites (check your own usage patterns and you’ll see). Subheadings allow visitors to quickly verify your website is delivering the information they’re seeking, and that makes Google happy.
Make sure your focus search phrase is included in a subhead on your page.
4. Your focus search phrase in your image alt text
Alt text is the words that pop up when you hover over a photo. It’s important for usability and search. In WordPress, you can set the alt text in the box on the right side of your screen when you upload an image to your media gallery, or by clicking the edit button on an image you’ve inserted into the page.
An example of good homepage copy
Here’s how I do it. I’ve highlighted my focus search phrase, as well as my secondary search phrases, on this screenshot of my home page. I think that it’s still pretty, even with the words. Because my website is responsive (it resizes depending on the screen size), I chose to have an intro paragraph that captures my focus phrase at the top so that it’s visible on mobile, followed with a slideshow of five images, my three “call to action” buttons, and then the rest of my copy.
How to Know if You’re Doing it Right
I use a WordPress website, and I’ve installed a plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast. (It’s free.) I love this plugin because it gives you a rating for each page/post SEO and it tells you what’s missing and dragging down your score. It’s a bit of a game to get the “green light” (but I think it’s kind of fun).
The General tab is critical. Here, you set your focus keyword, your SEO phrase, your SEO title and your meta description. At the top, you can see the “snippet,” which is the copy that appears under search results. Customizing it gives you another place to make Google happy. You can also see the focus keyword usage. More “greens” equals a better chance of getting a green/good SEO rating.
The Page Analysis tab is where the juicy stuff is. Here, you can see the dozen-ish SEO best practices, and how my page rates. When I was writing the copy, I checked this area as I tweaked it. Once the page overall got a green/good rating, I stopped.
I could improve my score by adding more words, adding Denver Boudoir Photography to the URL, dumbing down the copy a bit (Flesch Reading Ease score is a bit high), adding a text link deeper into my site and some other details. However, I’m fine with the overall result. And I typically rank in the top 3 organic results on Google for my key phrases.
Of course, there are many other elements to ranking high on Google search results. However, without these basics in place, you’ll have a harder time doing so.
I’ve been writing and consulting on website content for more than a decade as a director-level communications expert and a freelancer. I offer website reviews, copy editing and copy writing for photographers and other small businesses. Please contact me for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org. (20% off for The Business of Boudoir readers)