When you are launching a new website, or just updating your design, it is natural to focus your attention on stellar design and User Experience (UX). Typically, good SEO web design goes hand in hand with good user design.
However, there are certain design approaches that search bots don’t index and alternative options that will improve your rankings. So, it is extremely important to be aware of how your design decisions will impact your website’s SEO.
After all, a stellar site isn’t worth much if no one can find it. So, make sure you check on the following 10 most common SEO web design mistakes with your SEO and web design service providers.
Jump to each section of the post with these links:
2. Planning for Your SEO Web Design
3. Optimal Site Navigation
4. Overusing Images
5. Don’t Use Flash Content
7. Avoid Thin Splash Pages
8. Optimize 404 Pages
9. Use Video Transcription
10. Improve Page Speed
10 SEO Web Design Issues to Check With Your Service Provider
So, here are the 10 most common SEO web design flaws you should plan to keep out of your next design to avoid letting your website drop in the rankings from damaged SEO.
Run this list by your web design and SEO companies to ensure that your site is optimized for users and search engines.
1) Design Your Site for Users, But Optimize Your Site for Search Engine Spiders
If you have been keeping up with either UX or SEO then you probably know by now that they go hand in hand. So, you may be scratching your head wondering how you could possibly damage your SEO by focusing on UX.
The truth is, there are plenty of cases of well animated website designs which negatively impact a website’s SEO.
It is crucial to be objective enough during the design phase to make the appropriate decisions to set a solid SEO foundation for your website.
A beautiful website is simply not the end of the story, or at least you should hope that the story goes on and on introducing many new website visitors all the way.
As web design has gotten more complex, many designers are specifically educated on design and not so much on SEO. In fact they often times must work alongside an SEO, and if working on their own would ignore SEO completely because they feel it narrows their artistic ability.
The perfect balance for a high performing SEO web design is achieved when SEOs and designers work together to meet the needs of users and search engines simultaneously with creative SEO and UX design solutions.
Recommendation: Hire a web designer and an SEO company when launching a new site or performing a website redesign. If you want your SEO web design to be effective at both generating traffic and converting visitors then you will need both types of experts, designers and SEOs, to build your website.
2) Planning for Your SEO Web Design
If you have ever worked on a website through the redesign process then you have seen how SEO can be impacted. Google Analytics reports often times report a downward trend in organic search traffic.
This is because old webpages are being re-indexed lower, and sometimes removed from search results completely, while new webpages are just getting crawled and indexed for the first time.
Monitoring this impact to search traffic and addressing issues immediately is important, but even better is looking out ahead of time to avoid big downward trends in your search traffic.
One way to avoid a downward trend in search traffic is to analyze your traffic data to determine the pages on your site driving the most organic traffic.
Make sure that your new design includes these pages and if the URLs are changed that you include 301 redirects to these pages.
This will help Google index your new site quicker and will also have less of a negative impact on your rankings.
Recommendation: Use Google Analytics to analyze your highest trafficked pages before you make any changes to your website. In Google Analytics go to Acquisition > Overview > Organic Search > Landing Page to see your pages that are getting the most search traffic. Make a list of the URLs and ensure that your new site includes these pages with the exact same URL or a 301 redirect to the new URL. If you pay for SEO services then ask your provider to produce this report for your web design company.
3) Poor Site Navigation Is Bad for Users and Crawlers
Internal linking is very important for search engine spiders to be able to crawl and index your website properly.
A creative web design neglecting navigational standards by not including proper header and footer navigation’s can result in poor indexation of your webpages and leave your website ranking on page 50 of Google.
It is essential to organize your content and structure your menu navigation accordingly, so that you can signal to Google and users where your content is and what it is about.
Recommendation: Read KissMetrics post on common website navigation mistakes and plan yours accordingly as to not make these mistakes!
4) Overuse of Images vs. Important Elements
Use graphics with caution. Although they look pretty, they shouldn’t be used to replace key elements of a webpage such as header tags and navigation.
I see a lot of websites that use images to replace a text navigation, and this can be detrimental for your rankings. Think of sites using image buttons for navigation links.
I also see a lot of webpages that don’t have a page header, but instead a large graphic. Again, your main content pages absolutely need keyword rich headers and titles in order to rank competitively.
Recommendation: Use images with care, keep them within your content, don’t make them your only content. Also make sure to include anchor text for all of your images that includes your keywords. For enhanced navigation use CSS text over image techniques to spice up your graphic design while keeping some nice keyword rich text in the navigation links for search engine spiders to read. After your designer has created all of your new graphics, let your SEO company know to optimize the alt text for them.
5) Heavy Use of Flash Content That Is Devalued
Think flash is cool? Well search engines don’t, they hate it, they cannot decipher anything of value from it.
Even though you may be able to create a cool marketing message using flash animation, a search engine will not be able to view your animation and understand your message, so it will leave your site without knowing what niche you are in or which keywords to index your webpages for.
Recommendation: Use minimal flash and try not to use it as your main content. Use it in conjunction with text, images, and video that can all be crawled and indexed by search engine spiders. Look into alternative web animation options that search bots can crawl and index such as video and/or CSS to spice up your design and marketing messages. Nowadays, most web designers, even if they don’t provide SEO services, know that flash is not optimal content.
6) Poor Use of Pop-Ups That Make Your Visitors Bounce And Detour Crawlers
Hate pop-ups? We all do. Statistically pop-ups make your visitors dislike your website and bounce.
They should however be strategically used on specific webpages at the appropriate times to offer valuable assets to your audience.
BUT this needs to be approached with caution. Because, using pop-ups that make your visitors bounce, will also make search engine spiders bounce, resulting in poor search engine rankings.
Recommendation: Don’t use pop-ups on your homepage. Use them on your primary landing pages and set them to only come up after the user has scrolled through and read at least 50% of your content or on exit intent. Web designers frequently use pop ups in their designs, so make sure you have your SEO company make an attempt to optimize any pop ups that your designer creates.
7) Splash Pages Without Content or Links Are Bad For Crawlers
Graphically appealing splash pages can seem like a cool feature to your website, but they can actually detour search engine spiders from properly crawling and indexing your content.
These pages often utilize flash, Java applets, and other non-textual content that is ignored or even devalued by search engines.
A homepage lacking text, video and image content alongside a well laid out navigation will detour spiders from crawling your content resulting in poor indexation of your entire website.
Recommendation: Avoid splash pages altogether, but if you must have one, include at least 400 words of keyword targeted text on the splash page as well as a link to your main landing page containing a navigation menu of your website. Any splash pages that your web design company creates should be optimized by your SEO service provider with some useful content addition(s).
8) Create Useful 404 Pages
A 404 page is the page on your site that is shown when someone accesses a broken URL or visits a page that is no longer live on your site.
By default the 404 page that WordPress generates is stripped down and not useful to users. This is really common of 404 pages on any CMS platform.
It creates a problem because users who are now frustrated unable to find the content they are looking for aren’t presented any additional options.
Recommendation: The solution is to create a useful 404 page that will not just let the user know the content they are searching for isn’t at that URL but will give them some content suggestions and/or an option to search your website to find what they’re looking for.
9) Use Video Transcription for Deaf Users & Google
Your video content is really great content that increases your conversion rates.
It can also drastically improve your search engine traffic, when optimized properly.
One of the best ways to optimize your videos is to create video transcriptions, by typing out the entire audio of the video.
This audio typically is packed with great textual content and your target keywords. By providing it for potential deaf users and for Google you are making your website better and more optimized.
Recommendation: You can have your intern or assistant watch your videos and type out transcriptions. Or you can hire a virtual assistant to do this or even use an automated software to create the transcription. Pay attention to quality to make sure it is accurate and once you have the content make sure to post it alongside your video on your website like a caption. If you already are paying a company to make your videos, then request that they produce transcripts along with each new video.
10) Optimize the Pageload Speeds of Your New Design
Your new design is done and looking really great. But it isn’t ready to launch, not until you’ve optimize the pageload speed.
You probably weren’t paying much attention to the file sizes of the images you uploaded during the design. Also, you are probably making a lot of external requests with all the new plugins you have configured.
Additionally, you have multiple CSS and JS files now and they have gotten pretty big!
No worries, you can optimize all of this and still keep all of your sexy design features in place. It is just going to take some trial and error, code debugging, and page speed testing to get things perfect.
Recommendation: Use GT Metrix and Pingdom Tools to get a baseline performance test done of your new design. Then start addressing each of the issues listed by these tools to increase your performance. Ideally, your pages will load in under 1-2 seconds. WordPress users should checkout Autoptimize and the other performance plugins listed here.
Over to you
So, there you go, the 10 most common SEO web design mistakes that will tank your rankings and traffic.
Use this list to communicate with your web design company and SEO services provider to avoid making these common mistakes. Do this and you will get a leg up on your competitors in the search engine rankings.
Taking the time to create a stellar web design while also incorporating a good foundation for your SEO is crucial, it will save you a lot of headache and lost traffic throughout the life of your website.
Looking for help with your next SEO web design? We would love to help, and you can get started with a free site audit.
So, how is your website redesign going? Are you making these common mistakes or are you planning for SEO now? Let me know in the comments below!