Designing a new website isn’t always as simple as creating an aesthetically appealing look – there are a lot of other factors to consider. As well as ensuring that your website works from a technical perspective and is user-friendly and easy to navigate, there is also search engine optimisation (SEO) to consider.
Believe it or not, poor web design can make a big difference to your search rankings. Success in a highly competitive online environment is a balancing act between earning high rankings in search results to attract customers, and retaining these customers with a visually appealing, fully functional website.
There are several pitfalls to avoid when designing websites with SEO best practice in mind, starting with these common web design mistakes:
- Slow loading speeds. Page speed can seriously affect your site’s SEO, and that’s not because search engines such as Google compare your site with its competitors and can penalise for slow loading speeds as it represents a poor user experience (UX). If your site doesn’t load quickly enough, users will simply click away and your bounce rates will rocket.
- Replacing text with images. Great quality, compelling images are of course crucial to a visually appealing website, but you need to be careful when replacing too much text content with images. Remember that search engine crawlers do not read images or design elements, only text content, so your website needs to have plenty of rich text filled with relevant keywords.
- Failing to optimise for mobile devices. Research shows that mobile shopping is on the rise, with 69% of iPhone owners using their devices to make purchases. If your website lacks a responsive design that is suitable for smartphones and tablets, you’re not only turning away a potentially lucrative customer base. Your SEO could suffer too, especially as Google is understood to be downgrading websites that are not mobile-ready.
- Not having a proper 404 ‘Page Not found’ page. Broken links do happen, but you can improve your credibility in the eyes of search engine crawlers by designing an optimised 404 page. Reduce the negative effects of a broken link by creatively designing such a page, integrating it into your website in such a way that users are encouraged to remain on your site and given easy access to other important parts of it.
- Poor navigation. Confusing or overly complicated not only frustrates and puts off users – it can aggravate search engine crawlers too. Your site needs to make sense with a clear and logical structure of links. To achieve this, you may need to strip the design back to the bone and start again, with a strong site map strategy in mind.
What do you think are the biggest mistakes a website can make from an SEO point of view, and have you ever fallen into any of these pitfalls? What are your web design bugbears in general? Please feel free to share your thoughts.