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Fullscreen homepages – the compromise between visual impact & SEO

Following my recommendations of adding (at least some) text to the homepage of a site, I recently received a very interesting question from a photographer, and I wanted to share it with you:

“Adding text to the homepage helps SEO, but what if you’re using a fullscreen homepage (slideshow)? They have great impact visually, but would you recommend them and how can they be improved for SEO?”

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This is relevant to many other photographers out there. Here’s my take on it:

First of all, I’d really assess if the fullscreen homepage is really worth it. It’s obviously a game of compromises: you’re trading usability for visual impact.

Some of the times that’s not really needed, and you can “get away” with just a strong slideshow or static image, while still having content below that (text and links that act as portals to other sections in your site). To make this decision, you need to get an understanding of who your target audience is, and what browsing preferences they have.

And probably the best recommendation I can give you (if you have some technical knowledge or a developer to help you) is to test things out: do an A/B test and compare the results in Google Analytics. Don’t just assume a version of the page is better, get proof.

But let’s say you’re still keen on having a fullscreen homepage. This web-design practice is popular with wedding photography websites, or with general portfolio-type websites (where the main focus is on impressing with images, and not on selling or blogging).

In this case, you have to commit to your decision of not having text on the homepage, and stick to the tools you do have to “tame” SEO:

  1. Make sure your SEO title and meta description for the homepage are perfect
  2. Have a clean & clear navigation menu so visitors can find it easy to jump to other pages without any confusion
  3. Work on the site’s performance (which in turn affects bounce rates and SEO)
  4. Compensate for the lack of text on the other pages: make sure you’re properly describing what your site is all about in the About page, gallery descriptions, etc.

And finally, don’t worry about it too much. Google is smart about it, ranking happens for the entire site as a whole. So if you’re doing a good job with SEO on the other pages (and also off-site), your website will still come up higher in search results, even without text on the homepage.

What I don’t recommend is having hidden text in the homepage source code (just for SEO purposes). Once again Google is smart about it :-)

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