The most common myth about websites is that the home page is the most important page on the site.
It isn’t. It isn’t even mildly important. It is, in fact, just another page on the internet.
The reason we believe the home page is important is because we think a site is like a book (because on the surface, it kind of is).
A book is full of pages that can only be accessed opening. So the first thing you always see is the book’s cover – it’s ‘home’ page if you like.
Yet the way we surf the internet isn’t like this at all. Google doesn’t show us the home page in every result it displays. In fact, it rarely shows the home page of any site at all.
And this is because the internet consists ONLY of pages. Pages with solutions. Unless a home page has a solution, it provides little value, so Google is not going to display it.
People want answers when they search, not business cards.
Rule #1 – The Web is a Page Only Institution
The web is a huge list of pages, not a list of domains.
Yes, there are of course domains, but to think that a domain matters is not to understand the value of the pages a domain contains.
A domain serves NO PURPOSE to the searcher.
A searcher wants an answer to a question or a solution to a problem.
They don’t care if that answer can be found at https://quentinpain.com or at https://quentinpain.com/ideas/successful-business-5-easy-steps/
They only care that they are pointed to A PAGE that contains the answer or solution they want.
Rule #2 – A Home Page is Just Another Page
Every page on the internet has an address called a Universal Resource Locator (URL).
The fact that one URL (the root domain for example) just happens to be a subset of another URL (a so called ‘inner’ page) is of no consequence to the searcher.
Even if a home page contains the complete answer to every question on the topic the website was set up for (ie. it answers one or more questions right there on the Home page), it does not change the fact that it is just another page (and therefore nothing special).
Rule #3 – Google Lists and Ranks Pages NOT Websites
When we search on Google or Bing (or any other search engine), they bring up a list of PAGES. They don’t bring up a list of websites or domains.
(sure, you can see that each page belongs to a domain – but that’s a human thing – NOT a search engine thing – we just love automatically categorising everything we see because it’s how we make sense of the world – but that has no bearing on the usefulness of a search on a search engine).
To put it another way, if Google thought just listing the root domain (the ‘home’ page) was useful, every informational search would result in https:/wikipedia.com (and you’d then have to go into Wikipedia and use their search to actually find what you were looking for in the first place – heck, even I could invent a search engine that was more useful than that – ie. a ‘content’ page).
Rule #4 – The Purpose of a Home Page
Every page on the internet should serve a purpose. That’s the whole point of the web.
If a page serves no purpose, then there’s no point.
So ask this question, what is the purpose of your home page?
Whatever the answer is, it should be written to reflect that answer.
When you do that, you accomplish perhaps the most overlooked thing of all about the web – it’s purpose is to serve its audience’s needs (whatever they may be).
If you ONLY want people to “Enter” your site via its home page, then its home page becomes a search engine. So if that’s the intent (and it would be a serious error of judgement if it was), then the home page is going to need a Search button added to it.
Because if that’s not done, then all you have is a really hard to use directory of links (and it was that problem back in the mid 1990’s that made organisations like Yahoo, Alta-Vista and AOL wake up to the fact that they needed a search engine to replace all those really hard to use sites).
Rule #5 – An Internal or External Link Is Irrelevant
If we truly care about our customer’s experience on our site, then we don’t care if we add internal or external links. We just want to make sure we give them exactly what they need.
We don’t care about so called ‘link juice’ either. If we do, then we’re not giving 100% of our attention to our audience.
However, there’s nothing wrong at all with creating a NEW page on your site that keeps people there by ensuring your new page is BETTER than all the external pages you would have pointed people to otherwise.
That’s the single best tip you will ever here on Search Engine Optimisation. It means you care more about your readers than anyone else (because you’re always delivering the best content).
It means you care about search engines and what they deliver (because you want them to always be delivering the best content).
And you care about your business and the people that work for you by ensuring it always delivers the best possible solutions.
If you’re worried about how hard it is to navigate your site from the home page, then you’ve missed the point about how the web has evolved.
At the start of the world wide web, every site with more than one page was a mini search engine.
Each page had links pointing to other pages. All the pages were related in some way so as to form a web of related useful information.
As the web expanded, it got impossible to find the information we wanted easily, so someone suggested the idea of a universal index, and the concept of the search engine was born.
Now it no longer mattered whether a site had any navigation menus at all – just so long as it had links somewhere that connected it to other pages that mattered given the context of that page.
But legislation (plus business sense) kicked in, and we had to start adding things such as Privacy Pages to our sites. And of course, they needed to be added to every page – just in case.
And then it made sense to add an ‘About Us’ page – and have that available from every page too – just in case someone visited the page, liked what they saw, and wanted to find out more about the company.
And it also made sense to have a contact us page (not least because it’s also necessary for the privacy stuff). And that too needed adding to every page.
And that really is all that matters when it comes to navigational menus.
Except for one single case.
What happens when someone is interested in what you do, but only has 1 URL – and that URL just happens to be your root domain?
Than you’re going to need a way to categorise your whole site into the smallest number of general links possible (so you don’t overwhelm with thousands of home page links).
And each of those category style links will take them to a page containing a more detailed set of links. And they in turn will link to more pages until at last the searcher ends up on the one single page they were looking for in the first place.
And with that said, that’s precisely why we have search engines – to get people as fast as possible to the right PAGE and not website – because no one cares about a website – they just want a solution.
How To Create The Perfect Website
So we know that a home page is just another page on the web.
We know its most likely purpose is to serve people who have ACCIDENTALLY landed there (because no decent search engine is going to send anyone to the root of a domain UNLESS that page has the BEST answer on it).
And we know that the ONLY links on ANY page should be relevant and useful for the intent of that page (so Privacy, Contact, T&C, and Disclaimer pages should be linked to from every page because the law says so).
We know that if a site is a business site, then it’s probably going to be a good idea to have an ‘About Us’ page linked to from every page – so the user can decide if they like what we do before they make a purchase or get in touch.
And we now know categorically that having a link to the HOME page on every page is for 99% of the time, completely useless.
In fact it is ONLY useful IF the site’s page to page navigation is so bad, the user gets completely lost.
So having said all that, what does the perfect web page look like?
- It should be focused on a single topic (otherwise it will not get anywhere in the search engine rankings because there are bound to be other pages that do – and quite rightly so because we won’t be giving our readers the best possible experience).
- It should stand on the shoulders of giants – that means it should have had the maximum research done so that it gives the user the best possible information there is for that specific topic. This is what academics and scientists do, and of all the professions on the planet, we trust these people more than any other (96% in a recent poll I saw – 1% for politicians and 3% for celebrities to give you some idea of the margin of trust).
- It should ONLY link to other pages where they continue the story or add further related information.
- If there’s an external page on another site that you know will help the reader, but you also know it could be improved, then write a better version of it and add that to your own site with an internal link to it.
That is really all you need to know about websites – it’s never about the Home Page, it’s about Every Page.