There is a lot of discussion online on the subject of whether a website should or shouldn't have a homepage button. The trend over the last few years is to not have a home button on websites, instead opting for a clickable logo or another route to the homepage. How does having a homepage button impact SEO? Will adding a homepage button get me more visitors? In this post I discuss how customers who visit your website impact your SEO and what role a homepage button in your main navigation has to play in this matter.
How UX impacts SEO:
A large part of SEO is the usability (or UX) of a website. That is improving the customer experience by improving how a site works, making it easier to use. The reasons why webmasters should do this are numerous but here's the top three reasons to make your website easy to use.
The easier a website is to use the happier your customers will be.
The happier your customers are the longer they will spend on your site.
The longer the spend on your site the more likely they are to convert.
So in short, improving the UX of your website will lead to happier customers and in turn more sales. However, there is also a benefit to SEO here as well.
"Happy customers equals more sales!"
SEO can be largely categorised into four main areas. Technical SEO, Content, Back links and UX (or User Experience). User experience is an important factor for one very common sense reason, Google wants to display the best, most relevant results but it also wants to serve websites that provide best customer experience.
Imagine a technical directory from a complicated industry or sector. Full of information but in an old listed format. Although extremely useful, to find the information that you need you probably will need to sift through reams of information, you land on that page, see the mountain that you have to climb in order to find that slice of information, decide its too much and leave the site. Although useful, it was difficult to find. So you have left that site in order to find a better source of information. Google does not want that. It wants you to find the most relevant website to provide you with that information and then you go onto to read it or convert. Staying a few minutes, perhaps browsing some other pages as well.
UX (improving the user experience of your site) can help you improve your customer experience and improve dwell time or session duration, it can help reduce bounce rate and increase the number of pages that a site visitor chooses to look at.
How? By simply making the information more accessible and easy to find. How does Google measure how good your customer experience is? Google is always monitoring these statistics. They have a hugely detailed view of most websites performance via Google Analytics. When Google Analytics turned 10 a couple of years back it was estimated that over 50% of all websites had Google Analytics plugged in, this figure is much higher when you look at the most visited websites. Put simply, Google is tracking the customer experience of the majority of websites and probably a huge percentage of all web traffic. It uses this to sharpen its results and provide not only the best result in terms of answering your query but also the best in terms of experience based on the many visitors that have arrived at those sites before.
"Navigation is a key element to user satisfaction"
But I digress..
Why does including a homepage button improve UX and in turn SEO? Why do I need to have a home button on my website?
I am working with a big client who works within the automotive sector. They have a well designed site, great products and are actively trying to improve their traffic using SEO. As part of a UX audit we noticed that they did not have a homepage button. The site had been recently redesigned and looked great, but the response was, 'Well, the logo is the homepage button. Isn't having a homepage button a bit old fashioned? Our customers will know to use that'.
It's true that over the last five years or so websites have largely been built without homepage buttons. I would suggest that this trend mimics the likes of Facebook and Amazon whom influence website design so greatly. Sites who simultaneously have no place for a traditional home page. Also as mobile first design becomes more important, desktop and tablet formats are sometimes secondary in the mind of the developer when creating a navigation.
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Homepage Button Case Study
We have worked with literally hundreds of businesses to improve their SEO and overall usability of a website. Where a site did not have a home button, one of our first UX jobs is to add a homepage button. Why?
Below is a snap shot of a small e-commerce businesses analytics. Admittedly the customers website did cater largely for 35+'s, however, this is a pattern that we see time and time again across a wide spectrum of websites.
What you can see from the chart is homepage page views prior to adding a home button and after the button had been added.
What the chart shows is that the addition of the home page button increases the amount of page views that the homepage gets. Page views then equalise and remain constant after that change. Why is this significant?
Customers who get lost on a website routinely return to the homepage to begin their search again. Customers who landed on or entered via specific product pages regularly have the home page as part of their customer journey. The home button not being included in its correct location (top left and first on the main navigation) prevented customers from undertaking this common journey - potentially causing friction. Once the button was added page views to the homepage over doubled. The number of pages viewed across the whole site increased by 10% after the homepage button was added and session duration also increased. Overall user metrics improved, this had a positive impact on SEO and conversion rate.
"Reduce friction and you will see a positive improvement in your user metrics."
If your website has no homepage button, add one and monitor your analytics. We know that you'll see a similar pattern.
But.. Do I really need a home button on my website?
Still not convinced? Here's our top 7 reasons why you should not follow trends and make sure that your website (particularly the desktop and tablet versions) have a homepage button.
Seven reasons why you should have a homepage button!
1. The home page will be your most visited page, by far. It probably commands more traffic than any other page on your website. For this reason alone it should command a position in the prime real estate that is the main navigation.
2. Site visitors use the home page to navigate (and re-navigate mid search) to top content, homepage design usually creates a page of links to your top content. Home pages are sign post pages that help users navigate a site. By prioritising the home page as first in the navigation it will draw more clicks and have a greater chance of directing visitors to your selling pages. If you haven't got a home page button add one and see the lift in visitors to that page!
3. Only a small percentage of customers actually arrive via the homepage (as a landing page). If they don't find what they want on their landing page, the best page to recommence their search is via the home page. Highlighting this in the navigation is the best way to draw that click and redirect the customer.
4. It's an opportunity to reduce friction. Customers aren't always as tech savvy as web developers or digital marketing guys and gals, neither is everyone as comfortable with modern website design, they might be looking for the home button (and not find it). If this happens it's called friction, friction causes frustration (not a happy customer) and they will become more likely to leave the site or simply view less pages. Is it safe to assume that your customers are as tech savvy as you?
5. Customers always look to the top left of a website when looking for a navigation. Its called familiarity bias aka the mere-exposure effect, customers look to the top left because so many other websites have the homepage button in this position. That's where they expect to find it, so put it there.
6. A greater percentage of customers who visit your site are new to it and unfamiliar with the design or how it works. Check new versus returning visitors in your Google Analytics account to see how many customers are new to your site. Do they really have time to familiarise themselves with your quirky design?
7. From a technical SEO perspective there is another reason to have a homepage in the main navigation too. Adding the homepage button to the navigation, above the fold, redirects lots more juice and authority to the home page. The homepage isn't just the key place for customers to re-navigate, its the best route to redirect link juice and search bots to your top content. Adding another homepage link will help with internal linking structure and help create a page that is more authoritative. Then you can focus the SEO on tougher, more competitive keywords and phrases.
Adding a homepage button to your website has the following benefits.
Clearly directs customers to your most visited page.
Prioritises your top content and ability to direct customers to it.
Creates a less frictional experience.
It puts the homepage button where site visitors expect to find it.
It assumes that a customer is not familiar with your website.
It redirects link juice and authority and improves site architecture and indexation from search engines.
Ultimately it improves the usability of your website, Google understands this from your analytics account and rewards you with better positions and more traffic if you take care of your website visitors.
If you are still undecided I think the question you need to ask yourself is 'Why wouldn't I have a home button in the top navigation of my website? Are there better reasons to exclude it? If you have one please do take the time to share your thoughts with us.
Paul Lymer is an SEO specialist and founder of Improve Marketing. For more on Improve Marketing's SEO Consultancy Services click the link.
Thanks for reading!
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