Some who know me may find it surprising that I descend to the vernacular in titling this blog post. Be assured that the decision was not taken lightly, but in fact the word 'Suck' is used in a very precise and technical way.
That also was true for another writer on web design whose work I admire immensely. I am really following in his foot-steps. Cameron Moll wrote an article entitled, Great Home Pages Really Suck.
The vacuum is a wonderful invention. It sucks up your household dirt and puts it exactly where you want it to go -- off your floor and into that little bag.
A successful homepage acts exactly like a "digital vacuum" -- it sucks users in, away from the homepage, and straight to important content within the rest of the site.
I am sure that many of the readers of that article will find they agree with most of what is said there.
What I have to say on Home pages and sucking will probably find most readers disagreeing with what I am about to say. As I have done in recent articles on outside in views on websites and on subdomains, I want you to avoid the notion of a domain or website. We are in the business of looking only at web pages.
Of cause we all would prefer that all our web pages rank highly in Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). That would then ensure that the maximum traffic gets to view what we have written. Unfortunately a key factor in Google's algorithms, the PageRank, can work against us. PageRank is a measure of the number of back links that point to any given webpage. The Home page of a website can be particularly troubling in this respect.
Home Pages Suck PageRank
Perhaps it should not surprise us but the Home Page in a website gets all the links. By design it is the front door, the portal by which it is assumed most visitors will enter the website and explore the contents. If you are recommending that someone visits that website, perhaps in a blog post, then it is very natural to give the URL of the Way In.
Within the website the Home page tends to be the means by which most visitors will locate where they are. If in doubt they will go back to the Home page and look for another route to whatever information they may be seeking.
Home Pages In SERPs
This lumping of PageRank on to the Home page has important effects in keyword query Search Engine Results Pages. If the Home page and another page on a website could both be relevant for a given keyword query, then it is highly likely that the Home page will be presented first in the SERP. For example a recent post on BPWrap was about the Google tango. In doing a Google search for the Google tango here is what was found.
Although for that blog, the Home page shows only the content for that single post entry, the title and the meta description of the Home page are those for the blog as a whole. That is why the Home page is beaten out in the rankings by another website showing the same post entry derived from the RSS news feed.
The entry for the BPWrap website shows the title of the blog as a whole. The snippet for the BPWrap entry attempts to show why this entry is relevant but neither that nor the secondary result which is shown are really tempting.
For a static website the Home page is a useful representative of the website as a whole. This is not always true for a blog. In addition there is another problem with the blog Home page. If it is like most blogs, it will contain either a list of recent blog entries or a list of summaries of recent blog entries. It thus changes every time a new post is written up. Even though the URL for the blog is always the same, the content which is related to that is changing through time. This can mean that some links are wasted as they eventually point to the wrong content.
How to improve blog performance in SERPs
The problems illustrated above can be solved. The blog structure of BPWrap was changed slightly and 36 hours later doing the same search for the Google tango this is what now appeared in the SERP.
You will notice that the title of the item is now the blog post title rather than the blog title. The snippet is in fact the front part of the blog post meta description with the post date added before that. In addition to being #1, this particular way of summarizing the blog post is the most likely to get the click.
How did we do it? Perhaps you can offer your suggestions in the comments.
If you're stumped then you will find the answer in a post about the LMNHP approach. It is still early days but it does appear that this approach does give higher search engine rankings and certainly the SERP summaries are much more relevant.
What is not known is how this approach will perform over time. Could the search engines have some mechanisms that neutralize or even reverse what is seen here? Will this approach work with all three major search engines? Only over time will we be able to confirm the upsides and the downsides of this approach.