Editor’s note: This is a chapter from Search Engine Journal’s guide, SEO 101: Learn the Basics of Search Engine Optimization.
Before we get into the meat of this chapter, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: When it comes to SEO, every page is a landing page. And when I say “every page,” I mean every single page that is crawlable and indexable by the search engines.
So if you don’t want search engines indexing a page, be sure to block them from it. Everything else – and I mean everything – needs to be treated as a landing page.
So what then makes a good landing page? There are a lot of answers to that question that has to do with design, usability, conversions, etc.
Let me give you some quick hits that cover it all without getting outside of my scope here.
A good landing page:
- Captures the visitors’ attention.
- Addresses their needs, wants, and requirements.
- Answers important/relevant questions.
- Entices them to want the solution you provide.
- Directs them to take a particular action.
- Compels them to do so.
Now with all that in mind, we realize that every page on a website requires an SEO professional’s attention. No webpage is outside the scope and purview of SEO.
Bottom line: If the page is relevant to the visitor, it’s relevant to SEO.
But not all pages are created equal. Every page on a website will:
- Have a unique purpose.
- Attract different audiences,
- Direct visitors to different goals.
It’s the SEO professional’s job to determine which pages present the most value – the biggest opportunities for gain – at any given time in the digital marketing campaign.
With that in mind, let’s discuss what are typically the most important pages to an optimization campaign and why.
Pages Every SEO Must Pay Attention To
1. Home Page
The home page is usually one of the single most visited pages of any website and, just as often, the first page a visitor sees.
But whether a visitor lands on your home page first or navigates there from an internal page, they have certain expectations of what they’ll find.
The home page must provide a global view of what the website offers. It should give visitors the “big picture” of the products and services you offer and why they should do business with you.
Your home page acts as a doorway for the visitor to enter and begin their journey into your site where they’ll find more details about what you offer.
Many SEO pros make the mistake of trying to optimize home pages for the business’s primary product or service. This strategy can be just fine if you’re a singular product or service company. But the moment you offer something outside of the one product/category scope, the optimization of the home page becomes irrelevant.
The better and more sustainable strategy for optimizing a home page is to focus on the company brand name.
In that sense, that makes optimizing the home page easy because when you type in the name of the company, the home page of that business should be more relevant than any page on a competitor’s website.
But rankings are not the only reason to optimize this page.
In fact, I would argue that optimizing the home page for click-throughs and engagement are far more important than anything else.
Getting rankings only presents the opportunity to get the clicks.
- What do searchers see in the search results?
- Does it compel searchers to click into the site?
- Once visitors have clicked, is the messaging they see on point, giving them a reason to dig further into the site?
Part of your job is to see how any page on the site performs. If the home page isn’t doing a good job of keeping visitors on site, then more work is needed.
2. About Us Page
Studies have proven that visitors who have seen a site’s About Us page are more likely to convert than those that don’t. This statistic can prove either a symptom or a result.
- Symptom: Visitors who are close to converting check out a site’s About Us before they commit.
- Result: Visitors who visit an About Us page are heavily influenced by the content and become more likely to convert, if the page satisfies what they wanted to learn.
Which is it? My theory is that it’s both.
But either way, the page is an important part of the conversion process. And that means that the About Us page is an important page to drive traffic to.
Like any good landing page, your About Us page must fulfill its role in the conversion process.
The About Us page may seem like an odd one to try to optimize, but in reality, there are a lot of keywords that are tailor made for these pages.
Any industry- or product-related keywords that are qualified with company, business, agency, firm, office, bureau, or similar types of keywords are ready-made fits for the About Us page. And let’s face it, trying to fit these keywords anywhere else is difficult.
3. Contact Us Page
There is pretty much only one reason a visitor will intentionally navigate to a Contact Us page: They want your contact information.
What they actually do with that information is anyone’s guess. Maybe they’ll send you an email, maybe they’ll call, or maybe they just want to know where you’re located. And it’s this last option that provides us with prime optimization fodder.
Whether you’re a national or a local company, inevitably, some people prefer to do business with someone close by. A quick bit of keyword research will likely prove this out for your industry.
While local business may not be your bread and butter, there is no reason to ignore it either.
Focus your optimization efforts on your location:
- Find what keywords searchers use that are most relevant to your area.
- Integrate maps onto your contact page.
- Use schema on your address and phone number.
Most importantly: Make it easy for visitors to contact you.
This is a primary engagement page. If too many people visit your Contact Us page and don’t engage, that could be a sign that you’re making it difficult, demanding too much information, or simply not providing the right contact options.
4. Product Category & Sub-Category Pages
Product category and sub-category pages provide fantastic optimization opportunities.
In the buying cycle, these pages most frequently serve those who are in the shopping phase. That means those visitors have a good idea of what they want but are looking to learn more about the options available to them.
The goal of the page is to give the visitor access to those options, which are usually the actual product detail pages themselves.
For the most part, the product category pages are nothing more than pass-through pages. Visitors may revisit the page frequently, but only so you can pass them through to the products.
On an SEO level, these pages are an optimization gold mine. The keywords that these pages cover are generally not so broad that they lose all value, but not so specific that they lose all search volume. Consider them the SEO sweet spot.
These pages do, however, present something of a problem.
Pages need content in order to be optimized, but visitors on these pages don’t want content, they just want to see the products. At least that’s what many believe. I, on the other hand, don’t subscribe to this theory.
I agree that you don’t want your content to push the products down the page. Visitors need to see the products without scrolling so they don’t assume it’s an informational page.
But content plays a valuable role in the conversion process.
There are many ways to add content to pages without hiding it or the products. How you do it and how much content each page needs is up to you. Just make sure you’re giving all visitors what they need.
5. Product Detail Pages
When a visitor is in the shop phase of the sales cycle, they will visit a lot of product detail pages. When they move on to the buy phase, that means they have gathered enough information to know fairly precisely what they want. Now they are just looking at the fine details and deciding which version of the product they want and who to buy it from.
When it comes to optimizing product pages, keyword research almost becomes irrelevant. That’s because there are so many variables that it’s impossible to focus the content of these pages on every potential variable in any traditional way.
But, as odd as that sounds, that actually makes optimization of these pages that much easier. And it has less to do with the keywords and more about the construction of the page’s content.
As with any page, you want to optimize the tags: title, description, alt, headings, etc. But where most other pages require a custom approach, product pages can easily be optimized en masse by using dynamic keyword insertion.
You can also write boilerplate content that can be used for all products of a specific category. Just insert the product name in the appropriate place (though unique content here is always preferred).
Beyond that, you want to make sure the page contains the relevant types of information. And this is where keyword research becomes valuable. Not for the specific words but the information types.
- If people are searching for colors, make sure that information is listed on the page.
- If they want sizes, get that in there.
- If they search for product numbers, yep, add those as well.
See where I’m going with this?
It’s not that you need to optimize for a specific product number that you see in your keyword research, it’s that you need to optimize for product numbers, period.
One final bit of information:
How you make these pages accessible can have a huge impact on your SEO.
The more links you have to your product detail pages, the more link authority you drain from your other pages. However, that also means the more link authority you give to these pages which are often the highest converting.
The trade-off could mean lower rankings on category pages in lieu of higher rankings on the product pages, or vice versa. It’s up to you to see what serves you better overall.
6. FAQ Pages
In the age of Google answer boxes, help, and FAQ pages have become more important than ever.
While you always want to make sure you are answering questions throughout your website, FAQ pages provide a good catch-all for the often requested information.
FAQ pages are ready-made for getting your content to appear in the coveted answer box.
Not sure what your most asked questions are? Your keyword research will tell you.
Search for your keyword and then pull out any phrases that start with who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Decide which questions are worth answering and you have yourself the start of a FAQ page!
7. Blog Category & Tag Pages
Every blog needs to have categories that each post goes into.
You can, if you wish, take that a step further and tag your posts with keywords they are relevant for. Readers navigating your blog can use these categories and tags to find more related content.
That’s just good blogging!
But now what?
Those category and tag page can be great landing pages in their own right.
Throw in some optimized text that stays at the top of those pages and then the blog posts that fill the rest of the content takes care of the rest. This is an additional opportunity to rank for phrases that you may not have targeted in your main site.
Just be careful not to duplicate the optimized text on the additional pages (page 2, 3, etc.) for each category, or keep those pages out of the search index so they don’t devalue your optimized text.
8. Blog Posts
Every site has a limit to the number of pages that can be added before it gets overly cluttered and begins to interfere with the conversion process. But there is almost no limit to the number of relevant topics you can optimize pages for. This is where blog posts come into play.
Any topic that you can’t explore – or can’t explore as in depth – on your main site, can be explored in great detail in a blog post. Or a series of blog posts.
Every blog post can be targeted for a specific searcher’s need and be used to drive relevant traffic to your site.
But getting visitors to your site isn’t enough.
Make sure your blog posts contain calls to action back into your site.
That’s not permission to relentlessly promote your products and services with each post, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide some gentle encouragement to direct readers to get more information.
OK, so technically these aren’t webpages, but PDFs are often a part of providing valuable information to your visitors, albeit in a different format.
PDFs should be used sparingly, but when they are used, they should be optimized, just like any other webpage.
The process for optimizing them is different, but the concepts are the same.
If your site has other pages not mentioned here, don’t assume that means they’re not important. Remember, every page is a landing page, which means every page can and should be optimized. And not just for traffic from search engines, but for usability and conversion.
This list will get you started, but you need to create your own adventure from here.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
In-post Photo #1: Created by Stoney deGeyter
In-post Photos #2-6: Screenshots by Stoney deGeyter. Taken August 2017.