Recently I decided to start compiling a series of search engine optimization tips. Each search engine optimization tip will be very specific, should not take a long time to fix (or to check to see if you are following the search engine optimization best practices), and will be rather “short and sweet” and directly to the point.
For this fifth search engine optimization tip, I thought I would talk about linking to your home page. Your web site’s home page is the most important page on your web site. So, it is important to make sure that the search engines know that your most important web page is your home page. This sounds pretty obvious. However, it’s important to make sure that your internal linking is correct.
Too often I see one simple change that can be made that can make a big difference in search engine rankings: change how you are linking to the home page of your site. What is the real home page of your site?
http://www.domain.com/ is your home page, not http://www.domain.com/index.html or http://www.domain.com/default.asp. As far as I am concerned, there is no logical reason to ever link to the actual file; all of your “home” links (in the footer of the pages, the header graphic link, etc.) should point to http://www.domain.com. Why?
If you look at other websites that link to your site, they will tend to link to http://www.domain.com and not some other URL. This will pass “link juice” or “link credit” to your home page URL. If you are not linking internally to your home page (http://www.domain.com”) then you’re not taking advantage of the “link juice” or “link credit” that is being given to your site’s home page. In many cases, if you look at your /index.html URL and you look at your domain.com URL you will see that the PageRank will be different and if you analyze the backlinks to your /index.html file URL you will see that there is a different number of links pointing to your /index.html file URL than to domain.com. It pays to be consistent in your internal linking.
Let’s take a look at an example of this. On my local NBC affiliate’s web site, NBC5i.com. If you go to the site here you will notice that they have some sort of redirect to their index.html page. However, they link correctly to http://www.nbc5i.com when you click on their header logo/graphic. When you click on that header graphic (which points to http://www.nbc5i.com/”), you are redirected to another page, the index.html page. This does not make sense.
What’s also interesting to note is that there is no footer link to their home page. They link out to other NBC-owned web sites, but not to their home page. I am pointing this linking out in particular because the redirect on the home page does not match the internal linking on the NBC5i.com web site.
Let’s take a look at another example, Marriott hotels. They are actually not taking advantage of their full potential. On the site, they link to what a page called default.mi, http://www.marriott.com/default.mi. The real home page is http://www.marriott.com, not http://www.marriott.com/default.mi. Everyone else links to http://www.marriott.com. When you go to http://www.marriott.com/ there is a proper redirect set up (a 301 Permanent Redirect) but it would be better to simply make one little change in the server settings on the Apache web server to tell the web server that the default home page is the default.mi file. By making that change, the site would work just fine when users go to http://www.marriott.com/. I believe that if Marriott made this change–which is to use their real home page–they would see better organic search engine rankings.
Today’s search engine optimization is to take a look at how you are linking to your web site’s home page. Take advantage of people linking to your home page from other web sites and realize that your real home page is http://www.domain.com and not something else.
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