Choosing Your Home Page Links – Homepage SEO

We’ve all faced this challenge: when you’re optimising your homepage’s internal link architecture, what links should you feature on your homepage? Do you have the right links featured? Search engines tell us; you should consider featuring your most important pages on the home page. Well, that’s great – you’ll certainly want to feature your “top pages” right?

Today I’ll share a simple but effective methodology using Excel with Analytics to enhance your choice of featured links to internal pages.

Evolving your site content using seasonality and experience

Before we get started, it’s really worth noting that most websites receive very seasonally influenced traffic. If you owned a clothes shop, you wouldn’t sell coats in the middle of summer, right? Seasonal SEO strategy is a savvy way to make sure your web content, homepage offers and promotions match the likely intent of your visitors at that particular moment. You’ll know your business well, you understand your priorities, so remember that when you’re planning your links. Analytics and deep dive data mining is great, but the human touch should always be considered.

When are the seasonal peaks in demand for your target keywords? Do you adjust your homepage links according to seasonal trends?

Choosing your homepage links based on analytics

Last week I was reviewing a site with a medium size location based page architecture. I needed to know which pages might be good candidates to promote to the homepage. The challenge was to come up with a quick way to determine two things:

– Which internal pages receive traffic from organic search
– Which of those pages are not featured on the homepage?

The real challenge is finding an easy way to get, and compare the data. First, you need to know which pages on your site receive the most entries from organic search. Second you need to understand which of those pages are not linked to from the homepage.

Which pages receive the most traffic from organic search?

That’s an easy question to answer. Head to analytics and follow this step by step process:

traffic sources search engines in Google Analytics

Select “traffic sources > search engines”

source in GA

Being sure that you’re filtering non-paid traffic, select “landing page”

landing page

This process yields a list of pages that received visits from organic search, sorted in volume order. When you’re exporting this data into Excel, be sure to set your export limit (&limit=) to a level where you’ll get as much data as you can get your hands on. I’ll reiterate the importance of stripping your paid search data and (optional) restricting the numbers to Google search only. When you’re ready, create a table in Excel ready to construct a pivot table.

What links do I have on my homepage?

Next, you’re going to need to know which links are featured on your homepage. That’s not as easy as it initially sounds – fortunately there are a few ways to scrape the data you need. First, you could actually build a simple scraper (Tom’s advanced guide here) in Google Docs, use Scraper plugin for Chrome, or the Simple Links Counter plugin for Firefox.

Our friends at netcars.com have kindly allowed me to use their data for this post, so here’s a screenshot of Simple Links Counter’s extract of all internal links on their homepage (click to enlarge):

simple links for firefox

As soon as you’re done, export the internal links to a text file and create another tab in your Excel spreadsheet.

Which of the highest traffic driving pages are not on my homepage?

Create another table (called: “homepage”) and paste your list of homepage links. I’m a little lazy with this – I created a second column named “homepage”, and put the text “yes” next to the url, like this:

homepage

I’ll be using a VLOOKUP in my example but if you want to do this bit differently / properly – something like COUNTIF would probably do it. Anyway – next, add a new column in your analytics landing pages list called “homepage?” and use a query like this:

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP([@[Landing Page]],homepage,2,0),"no")

If a URL is on your homepage, you get a “yes” and, if it’s not, you get a “no”. Nice:

data

Create a sweet pivot table

I don’t think we need to do a step by step guide for this bit. Suffice it to say, create a pivot table and have fun filtering by “no” and “yes” for your homepage column:

How many links per (home) page?

Simple links counter will tell you how many internal and external links you have on your homepage, I work from anything between 100 and 200 links depending on the authority of the page – all you have to do is test…

Now, you have a potential priority order list of URLs to consider for inclusion on your homepage. Next, you could think about finding the top keywords driving traffic to each URL (that could easily be included in your analytics export by including  “keywords” in the selection), grabbing search volumes for those terms and Google Rank. That would form a near perfect view (data wise) on your priorities for homepage link inclusion. Awesome!

Image credits:
TMview



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6 thoughts on “Choosing Your Home Page Links – Homepage SEO

  1. Jon Q says:

    Just saw this as I was on my way through to use your tool, trying to work through this with a client at the moment…talk about timing!

  2. Nice one Jon – the keyword tool export could be combined with the analytics export if you include keyword in the export from analytics. Good luck and thanks for dropping by!

  3. Tom says:

    …from there, include ranking data to cross-pivot and find KW’s (and associated pages) which need a ranking boost :)

  4. Hi Tom – yes, you got it! Then… How about download the top pages on domain data to add number of unique RD’s to the URL list?

  5. Michael says:

    Richard,

    Nice tip about quickly grabbing the anchor text to use from the top keywords for that particular page.

  6. Ryan says:

    Those are some good Analytics tips Richard, great post. I like to keep my links at 100 or less on the homepage. It helps establish better hierarchies and distributes more PageRank to top category pages. As for the anchor text, I’ve read in multiple places that Google and others count the first anchor text on a link for a page so It’s really important to research your anchor text in your navigation and other places on your homepage.

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