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First Page SEO Basics

Posted by on Aug 16, 2010

Two weeks ago I was having an interesting debate with a guy on LinkedIn. It was supposed to be on the subject of social media and SEO, and instead it turned into a debate on SEO and what’s important.

He was saying in this group that it wasn’t important to optimize one’s home page anymore because we were all under an illusion if we thought that most of our visitors came in through the home page. In his opinion, optimizing all the other pages were more important to attracting visitors than anything you might think of doing on your home page.

I of course countered, saying that without optimizing and working on your home page that your other pages don’t really have all that much of a chance to get you anywhere. The bots sent out by search engines start off with your main page, “index” if you will, and if you haven’t taken care of that then the bots get confused as to what your site is all about and almost nothing else you do will overcome that lapse.

Strangely enough, I was talking to my wife about it, someone who knows nothing about computers or coding or SEO or anything related to technology, and she said “Don’t you need a foundation before you do anything else?”

Exactly! It’s like what many people write about when they’re talking to brand new bloggers who are getting into the game to make money. The recommendations are always the same, and they’re true; think about content and building up a community more than the money part initially. If the day you start your first blog post your site is already loaded with all sorts of banner and affiliate ads all over the place and your articles are geared towards the “make money” market, you’re going to look at little bit goofy. This isn’t saying you can’t have anything, but unless you’re someone like John Chow, who was already rich before he started blogging, you’re not going to come across as well.

Anyway, back to SEO and foundation. If you’re putting together a site, it works best if you decide what your site is going to be about and then try to figure out what you want to be found for before you even begin constructing your site. Doing that research helps you write your copy, and make it as natural as possible so the search engines have no problems reading your site and determining what it is you do. Sure, you could try to go the backdoor route, and you might possibly succeed in some fashion, but it’s not the best way to do it.

Optimize every page on your site as much as possible. But always start with your main page.

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Makes perfect sense to me.

August 16th, 2010 | 10:58 AM

Thanks Scott; it was obviously a strange conversation.

August 16th, 2010 | 12:51 PM

You’re right, that was a strange conversation. Why would you optimize all of the other pages on a site and not bother with the home page?

Like you said, the index page is the most important page to optimize, and in some cases, if the home page isn’t made correctly the spiders won’t be able to access any of the other pages.

There are some crazy people on the internet.

August 16th, 2010 | 1:10 PM

Thanks for the support agreement. I felt like I had to hammer through that point so that anyone else who didn’t understand it wouldn’t go off doing what he said to do.

August 16th, 2010 | 2:01 PM

I agree with you that the home page has to be optimized – especially on a business site. However, I think there is an exception.

What if a website is nothing but a blog like my organization site? My front page is made up of featured posts that change constantly and I don’t have a static information area. In other words, I’m not consistently using the same keywords other than maybe “organizing” which is too broad to rank. 95% of my Google search traffic comes from specific post pages and not the index. So in my case, wouldn’t it make more sense to optimize each specific page because the topic varies so much.

For example, it is crazy but I get search traffic constantly for the keywords “Pool bag” because of an article I wrote about what should go in one. That keyword certainly isn’t going to be found on my index page because it is too specific.

This is in contrast to my business site that the front page optimization makes perfect sense. Just my observations that I have seen based on 6 months of traffic data and two very different types of websites. I’m so not a SEO expert, and I admit I don’t go for keywords or spend the time optimizing for specific phrases as I should.

I am curious to what your thoughts are on this being a possible exception.

August 16th, 2010 | 2:38 PM

The same applies to your blog, Melinda. See, within your heading, you supposedly have keywords that your blog concentrates on. That then assumes that most of your posts reflect whatever it is you talk about. As you build up content, that will always reinforce whatever your topic is, even if you deviate from it like I always do.

In general, though, the application is infinitely more important for a static website than for a blog.

August 16th, 2010 | 2:52 PM

Some day I’m going to dedicate a whole day to concentrate on the SEO more. Thanks for the advice.

August 16th, 2010 | 3:06 PM

I would not dream of working on a site without concentrating on the homepage and how that is going to flow through the rest of the site (be that link juice, visitors, etc).

I think I would have found this a vrey frustrating conversation to be a part of Mitch!


August 16th, 2010 | 3:09 PM

I was frustrated, Karl, and though I got the last word in, I’m still not sure I got my point across. I certainly hope so.

August 16th, 2010 | 8:24 PM

“If you’re putting together a site, it works best if you decide what your site is going to be about and then try to figure out what you want to be found for before you even begin constructing your site.”

Good advice for a niche blog or website perhaps. Hard to do with a personal blog.

Ps: I know how frustrating it can be when your point is not being heard. lol Hang in there Mitch!

August 17th, 2010 | 1:55 AM

Heck, you know I will Rose. lol

August 17th, 2010 | 10:25 AM

The home page is the homepage- the others are just “rooms” within the blog….

If you were looking to buy a new home, you would look at the main part first, then check out then rooms.

Does that make sense to anyone but me?

August 17th, 2010 | 9:31 AM

Makes a lot of sense to me. πŸ™‚

August 17th, 2010 | 10:27 AM

Hey Mitch,

I’m trying to wrap my mind on where he was going with that line of thinking but I still don’t get it.I have heard a blogger say something similar on their site. II wish I could remember where I heard it? I read it a few weeks ago. It makes me wonder if he heard this from some “SEO guru” and that’s why he’s resistant?

When I first got into monetizing (a few years ago) some of my sites I read a lot of information on the topic. I even purchased a few books and one ebook (SEO toolbook) and followed several SEO blogs. Many seemed to stress that you needed to focus on what you mentioned to really see its effectiveness. I applied what I learned and did notice an increase SEO wise.

I’m currently working on another tech website. I’ve written several articles, but haven’t published them yet. I’m still working on the terms I want to use for that site.

August 17th, 2010 | 6:09 PM

Opal, once you’ve set a foundation, that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize for other things. For instance, when I created my SEO site, I was only concentrating on that and building websites. As the business modified, I’d create new pages and new articles and then start aiming for those things as well. And my website’s prominence would move up, and I could be found on search engines for those topics, even though they weren’t overly prominent on my main page. However, the relationship was set because of what I’d originally done for my main page. It all has to start somewhere.

August 17th, 2010 | 11:20 PM

Put in a simplistic way the home page is your FRONT door or shop window. If your front door or shop window isn’t setup right how are you going to get people to come in?

August 18th, 2010 | 6:21 AM

Good stuff, Peter, and I like how you put it. Even if people come in through a side window, it was the house that planned for that window to be open in the first place.

August 18th, 2010 | 11:04 AM

Good tips about SEO, currently I am having a headache as Yahoo and Bing are going to merge soon and my traffic which was coming from Yahoo – more than 20 listing number one results are in the history and my sales are down nearly 50%.

August 18th, 2010 | 9:16 AM

I haven’t heard about this merger, Carl, but I’m sure you’ll find ways of working within the system to get your rankings and sales back up.

August 18th, 2010 | 11:06 AM

Mitch it seems like your wife made the most sensible comment.
I’m honestly baffled about his logic of not placing importance on optimizing the homepage. I’ve worked hard at getting my site not only to page one of Google but first billing on certain searches. I know part of it was due to regularly updating my site and all the other footwork of on and off site SEO but when someone lands on my homepage they quickly know if it’s the site for their interest or not.

August 18th, 2010 | 10:02 PM

Aaron, I get what his point was, but he was far off the mark. Foundation first, then of course you make sure to optimize all your other pages.

August 19th, 2010 | 7:32 AM

I love this post Mitch, and it’s not because I agree with you either. Actually I doubt you’ll ever guess why I like it so much and so I’m going to tell you. It’s because it was one of your shorter ones πŸ˜‰

August 19th, 2010 | 7:08 AM

Yeah, but not short enough obviously, since you don’t agree or disagree. lol

August 19th, 2010 | 7:34 AM

That’s strange, I thought I said I agreed with you. Is my Aussie accent confusing you again? πŸ˜‰

August 22nd, 2010 | 2:17 AM

I interpreted it as you saying you weren’t agreeing or disagreeing because you had something else to say. So yeah, it was that Aussie accent lol

August 22nd, 2010 | 2:24 AM