8 of the Worst Design Mistakes Impacting Your Website's SEO.
By Daniel Zrihen
Apr 13, 2016
Web design is a fascinating and complex field, requiring knowledge in a variety of areas including graphic design, code and in some cases, marketing acumen and technical knowledge as far as it relates to SEO and search on Google.
The average designer might not necessarily take into consideration (or understand) the importance of technical elements that affect SEO. Rather, they concentrate on the part of the process that they naturally excel in, a website’s design. However, most websites are built to sell and within this realm of conversion-oriented design, SEO is one of the more popular methods to yield traffic which translates into leads and then hopefully sales. It would, therefore be wrong to neglect this part of the process especially as these are elemental things that should be implemented at the earlier stages of designing a website.
The following points detail some of the worst mistakes a designer can make when it comes to SEO.
1. Images Instead of Live Text
There are many instances where designers, whether out of laziness or lack of knowledge, favor images containing text over live text. When a site is crawled by Google, it is unable to read text on an image. So, while text effects are nice, everything can be done using CSS and there’s no reason to use an image with text inside. The only place that text should be used inside of images is in infographic or others examples where text plays a significant role in the design.
TIP | If using images for textual content is a must, consider using ALT tag with a description of what’s happening in the image.
2. Irrelevant Pop-Ups
The use of pop-ups is a touchy issue when it comes to maintaining a pleasant browsing experience. Evidence of this may be found in the global popularity of extensions such as Adblock. Just because something is unpopular doesn’t mean that we should abandon it completely - if a design element serves a purpose by driving results, that’s no small thing to be ignored.
User experience and SEO are two things that go in tandem and when Google “feels” that a visitor to your site is not satisfied with their experience, it’ll understand this and penalize you by prioritizing other sites.If you do choose to use popups, make sure to do so wisely. Stay away from elements that use flash. Don’t set a popup to appear more than once in a session. Did I mention don’t use flash?
TIP | Offer something in return for the interruption, such as a freebie.
3. Unfriendly Navigation
Unfriendly navigation is a symptom of design taking precedence over user experience. While flashy, complex menus can be charming the first and second time a visitor enters a site, ultimately, visitors need to understand where they are and how to get to where they want to be. If you do want to spice up the menu, take into consideration your audience and whether or not the technology you are using is suited to their needs.
The bottom line is that any visitor who isn’t able to navigate your site will immediately go back to the search results and choose another result without a second thought.
TIP | Try using a Hamburger menu to compress unwieldy menus then have it open from the side.
4. Improper H Tags
H1 - H6 tags, as part of basic HTML code, allow us to highlight on-page content and prioritize it in a hierarchical order, most often by level of importance. These tags play a part in a site’s SEO and incorrect use, especially overuse, of these labels will "confuse" Google and other search engines.
Here are some rules of thumb in using the correct H tags:
- It is recommended to use one H1 tag per page. It’s common practice to use the page’s title for this tag.
- The H2 tag is most often used to denote headers between
- H3 tags may be used as the title for sub headers or for different elements such as abstracts and more.
- Tags H4 - H6 are used less and have no comparable effect on SEO and there’s no problem in integrating them as you see fit.
TIP | H1 should define your core business. At the most, you can add location intent to this tag (e.g. Instead of Daniel’s Designs, try Web Design Service in Austin, TX).
5. Misuse of Design Elements
The speed at which a site loads is a critical subject that has gained increasing importance over the past few years. It is in the interest of search engines to deliver the best results to their users and a significant part of the metric for ranking sites is speed. A fast site means a pleasant browsing experience and most websites today take a maximum of 3-4 seconds to load, anything more and they will lose patience and leave. A lag in load time isn’t just bad for SEO, it’s also bad for business and will scare off visitors very quickly.
Heavy design elements or the misuse of these elements, amateur use of scripts and other things relating to the look and feel of a site, many have a significant impact on the load speed. It’s always a good idea to test a site’s speed prior to launch to identify bottlenecks and improve the situation as much as possible.
TIP | Here are some popular tools can help check the speed of websites:
Google PageSpeed Insights
6. Heavy Images
Digging a bit deeper into one of the things that hampers speed the most, heavy images are a problem warranting a section of their own. Images are integral to the way we interact and expect information to be relayed online. Thus they are an extremely important part of web pages and also how they rank. The incorrect use of images not only has the ability to significantly hamper load speed but also user experience and even sales if we are taking an example of an online store.
Image optimization is a field in it of itself and its worthwhile to devote attention to understanding the correct format to use in any situation, aspect ratio, ideal weight and the use of Cache among other things.
TIP | Here are some tools to shrink images without losing quality:
Simple Image Resizer
7. Using Flash
You could say that flash is a dying technology but the fact is, that it has not yet completely disappeared from this world. Today fewer and fewer browsers and platforms support Flash, which seriously impairs the user experience and, of course, visibility of a site with flash-based elements. This negative effect is even more prominent when a site is based entirely on Flash - it cannot be seen at all in some browsers and Google also has difficulty scanning and indexing Flash-based content.
TIP | JUST DON’T USE FLASH. Search engines can’t ‘read’ it. :-)
8. Ignoring Responsive Design
While Google may be able to get past a site with bad HTML, some heavy images, or even a few extra H tags, there is no salvation for websites that aren’t responsive. There are four main factors at play when it comes to SEO and responsive design: usability, duplicate content, load time, mobile search ranking.
Usability: Google wants to send visitors to sites that have a user-friendly mobile browsing experience. It will take note when visitors reach your site and immediately return to the search results. Make sure to optimize your design for multiple breakpoints and screen sizes.
Duplicate Content: One of the main issues with separate mobile sites is building authority, from scratch. While this type of configuration might be great for the scrolling experience, it will not rank well in search engines as mobile websites are canonicalized to their desktop counterparts. Keep content in one place, on one URL.
Load Time: Responsive design doesn’t necessitate redirects to reach desired URL which means that the load speed for any give mobile page will be significantly less. As discussed before, load time is essential.
Mobile Search Ranking: Google has stated multiple times and in more ways than one way, that it ranks sites optimized for mobile higher in mobile searches and demotes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
TIP | Make sure to design and deliver content suitable for breakpoint and that makes sense in the context of the mobile experience. For example, don’t forget to highlight the cart button on eCommerce sites or take into consideration touch when you have a desktop version of your site with many hover-activated items.
SEO is often this scary topic that designers will more often than not, keep pushing off to consider looking into on “the next project.” In fact, it’s pretty straightforward and follows most design principles and guidelines relating to user experience.
The bottom line is, Google will never change its parameters to rank the “most beautiful websites” first and while aesthetic considerations are an important part of designing a website, they mean nothing if you aren’t driving traffic to your clients’ site.
Moreover, more traffic equals more business for you and your clients.
What are the worst design mistakes you have committed? Are there any other mistakes impacting SEO that you would add to the list?
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Daniel Zrihen has worked in online marketing for nearly a decade, specializing in SEO and content marketing strategies for building real audiences. He also runs a popular blog in Israel covering the topics of SEO and marketing.
This article was originally posted on http://www.pixelperfect.co.il and was translated by Webydo together with Daniel.