The Anatomy of a Strategically Search-Engine-Optimized Homepage with Justen Hong


The Anatomy of a Strategically Search-Engine-Optimized Homepage with Justen Hong

Your homepage is the most important page of your site. It almost always has the most page authority, since the majority of inbound links typically link to the homepage. There is no formula to a perfectly search-engine-optimized homepage. There are a couple hundred or so ranking factors, so it’s hard to nail them all down. Even a mediocre website that has a ton of high-quality inbound links can rank very well. The design and content of a homepage can have a tremendous effect on how well a website ranks. Let’s dissect a sample homepage and the design choices I’ve made on it, strategically, to help boost its ranking.


You can’t see it in the screen shot, but the actual website will have a “sticky” header, meaning when you continue to scroll down the page, the header stays at the top of the screen. This allows users to always have access to the main navigation no matter how far down they go. This creates a good user experience, which is a ranking factor, and it makes moving around the site convenient for users. We also added the phone number in the header, making it easy for visitors to call from any page on the site. When users click on your phone number to make a call from a smartphone, search engines take note: It’s called Mobile Clicks to Call, and it can help with your local rankings.


I’ve recently been moving away from slideshows on the homepage because they tend to slow down load times (Google hates slow-loading sites). We’ve developed a high-performance slideshow that loads quickly, and we keep the slideshow image count down. In this sample, we are highlighting the studio’s four core markets with one signature image for each category, along with a button to drive them to the portfolio pages.

One huge mistake I constantly see is photographers keeping a large portion of their portfolio on their homepage, whether in a slideshow or a grid of some kind. By doing this, you are not incentivizing visitors to go any deeper into your site, especially the ones who are just there to look at photos. This can lead to an increased bounce rate (when a visitor looks at one page on your site and then leaves)—or, worse yet, pogo stick (when a visitor looks at one page on your site and then bounces back to his original search). Both can negatively impact your ranking. The best homepages lure visitors into other sections of the site, easily guiding them to the information they want.

Main Content

Down from the slideshow is the main content area. We have this section broken down into tabs. The welcome section will contain the <h1> html tag. The <h1>, also called the “header one” tag, is important when it comes to SEO. It should contain the main targeted search term that the web page is targeting. In this case, I would have it read something like: “Kansas City Wedding Photographer.” It is also important to have additional keywords sprinkled throughout the paragraph copy, but only where they make sense. Do not just add them to add them—and, most importantly, do not keyword-stuff the body copy. That could lead to a search engine penalty.

Shown in the screenshot is the Weddings tab. Weddings & Engagements is another header. We also have a link to learn more, and an important call-to-action button to Secure a Wedding date. It is important to have call-to-actions throughout the site where they make sense.

Next we have a testimonials section. This is here for two reasons: to add credibility and because it’s a good place to add additional keywords. Studies have shown that when websites have testimonials, people tend to trust them more, even if they don’t know the person. We also have an outbound link going to The Knot where users can read more testimonials. Keep in mind that anytime you have an exterior link on your website, it should open in a new window. You don’t want to lose your visitors.

This section is also a great place to have additional natural keywords. In the sample testimonial, the word wedding is used multiple times, along with photographers, photographs and videography. It is important to have your targeted keywords and related keywords throughout your site in natural occurrences. Always avoid keyword stuffing.

Second to last is the “Latest From Our Blog” section. We’ve added this to keep the homepage fresh. Anytime our client adds a new blog post, it is automatically fed into the homepage with an eye-catching featured image. Adding fresh content to your website on a regular basis can help with ranking and bring Google’s spiders back more often. That is why it is so important to blog and keep your portfolio current. You don’t want your site to get stale. Freshness is a ranking factor.

Finally, we have the footer. In the sample footer, there is a “2013-2015 The Knot Best of Weddings” logo, which adds additional credibility to the site. Next we have the NAP (name, address, phone number), along with additional contact info. This is extremely important to have on every page of your site. Google looks for a NAP on every page, and uses it as a ranking factor, especially for local searches.

Use a local phone number rather than an 800 number. Google prefers a local phone number for local searches. To the far right is the copyright, along with links to an HTML site map and a privacy policy. The HTML list site map provides links to every page of your site. If you have a WordPress website, there are multiple plugins for adding HTML site maps.

One last thing: It’s important to have a privacy policy accessible from every page, especially any page where you are collecting personal data. Google looks for these.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the November 2015 magazine.

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