Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

The Best Niche Site Home Page Layout: Recent Posts vs. Custom Layout

Home page of website on laptop

When I started my 2nd niche site (my first one didn’t work out), I remember literally spending 5 days perfecting the home page.

At that point I had maybe 20 visitors per day.

I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted the site to look perfect when the onslaught of visitors arrived.

Talk about a huge waste of time.

That site is still going strong earning very nicely month after month.

Guess what the home page is now and has been for years?

It’s a list of recent blog posts using the theme’s default home page layout.

I wasted 5 days years ago which time could have been much better spent focusing on traffic.

Pet Peeve of Mine

I visit a lot of websites, especially in the “how to blog” space.  One thing I’ve noticed is that more and more blogs create custom home page layouts that provide access to popular articles or extensive guides.  This is fine and in many cases helpful, but I’ve noticed it’s hard to find the recent blog posts or the blogroll.

I get really annoyed when sites do this.

I know that they’re trying to improve sales and/or user experience and/or improve SEO by directing visitors to their better content.  However, I’m not a big fan of this home page layout approach.

Why I don’t like it

Here’s why not providing most recent blog posts is wrong and in my view a big mistake.

I publish this site and other sites assuming readers will visit regularly.  In other words, I’m publishing for a loyal audience that visits often.

I also assume they’ve read other articles already.  If they’re fans of the site, they join the email newsletter from which I can send them to the “guides” and all the “epic” stuff.

However, for readers that like dropping by daily, weekly or monthly, I want the new content immediately available.  That’s what they want.  It’s what I want when I visit my usual cadre of websites.

For example, if Search Engine Journal, which is an SEO news site (and a good one at that) made recent posts impossible to find, I’d stop going there.

In fact, I’ve stopped going to some sites because I can’t find their new content.

Google delivers the goods anyway

There have been instances where I know a particular site has an awesome article on a specific topic that I want to return to.  I know the general topic so when I want to revisit it, I just search the site name and general topic in Google.  99 times out of 100 Google spits it up for me front and center.

What Google often can’t do is get me to a site’s recent posts.

From a user perspective, in my view, make it easy for visitors to find your new content and let Google help users find the epic stuff.

What are better approaches?

There are many alternatives.  Here are a few:

Hybrid home page

Set out the epic guides and best content with a blogroll above or below it.

Use menus

Set out the important content in the navigation menus.  I do this on my sites including this site.

For some of my niche sites, I provide links to my cornerstone “custom category” articles that take visitors to many articles on my site.

I figure if a visitor likes the site, they’ll dig around, check out the menus and get to where they want to get to.  I know visitors to this site do this because I get quite a few page views per visit.  Yes, some visitors read one article and leave while other visitors visit many articles.

Exceptions

If a site is “finished” in that it’s not updated often and instead is a site that has a set amount of content, then it makes sense to create a custom home page.  A good example is small business websites.  This type of site has one goal and that’s to quickly communicate the offer(s) and associated info such as hours, staff, location, benefits, etc.

Niche sites can also be complete.  These are typically micro-niche sites that comprehensively cover a topic and once covered is done.  A custom layout home page is better primarily because having old blog posts with no updates make it look like a dead site.

However, if your niche site is regularly updated and you’re hoping for repeat visitors to check out your site regularly, in my view, it’s best to make it easy to find your most recent content.

What about the SEO benefits?

I’ve read that it can be a good on-site SEO strategy to link to the “swing for the fences” SEO content from the home page.  This tells Google what your site is about and that the content linked to from the home page is the most important content.  I tend to agree with this.  It makes sense.

I have two responses to this argument.

First, I’m not suggesting that you don’t offer permanent links/excerpts to evergreen content on the home page.  I’m saying do this but also make the recent posts easy to find on the home page.

Second, in my view, you can gain the same SEO benefit linking to key content in navigation menus.  This is the approach I take with my niche sites.

The main homepage take-away

If your blog/niche site is regularly updated, make it brain-dead easy for visitors to find the new posts.  Also, make it easy for them to click through to older posts in the order they were published with “Previous” or numerical pagination.

Is this a big deal?

Not in the big scheme of things.  I suspect there are some people who prefer visiting sites with static home pages.  This is a personal preference – my opinion only.  I bring it up as something to consider.

What should you do?

It’s up to you.  I display recent posts on the home page in a blogroll style for all my niche sites.  In fact, I keep it simple by using the default theme home page.

Do I test this stuff?

Nope.  I don’t.

Should you test different home page layouts?

If you want to but I wouldn’t bother unless you have a lot of traffic (millions of visitors per month).

In fact, testing is fine and all, but nuanced layout testing isn’t all that productive for ad-supported sites until you have enough traffic where making small changes will have an impact.  You only have so much time so you might as well focus that time into getting more traffic.  That’s what I do.

If you can’t resist the urge to test and tinker, do so with ad placement and ad networks.  In my experience, testing ads result in the biggest bang for your buck (or time).  I’ve scraped and clawed my way to some very decent ad CPMs simply because I regularly try out new placements, ad types and ad networks.  Even if you have 50K monthly visitors, a $1 to $5 CPM increase adds quite a few dollars into your pocket each month.

The good news is…

Most themes’ default layout home page displays your recent posts.  This is a win/win. You get what I think is a very good home page for regularly updated websites and it requires no time on your part to set up.

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