If you have ever been involved in a digital marketing project that involves designers, developers and SEOs you will understand the relationships at play are complicated! Essentially, website design choices can have a significant impact on organic website rankings. While a design element might look visually appealing, it could also slow down the site or prevent search engine crawlers from accessing important site elements which can cause “passionate” debates within teams.
In today’s digital landscape, it’s crucial for web designers to understand the potential pitfalls and avoid them to ensure that the website is optimised for search engines and delivers a high-performing user experience. This is especially important as new browsers and technologies emerge that reduce clutter, hide ads, and protect user privacy.
In this blog post, we will explore the common design mistakes that can hurt your organic website rankings and provide practical tips for avoiding them. Whether you are in a senior business role, project manager, designer or developer, this information will help you create high-performing websites that drive organic traffic and generate leads and conversions.
Usability and Holistic SEO
In the past, website developers and SEO specialists often worked in silos, where the site would be designed and then handed over for optimisation. However, this approach often overlooked the importance of SEO requirements such as user experience and usability in the design and build stages.
To address this issue, a more holistic approach is needed that focuses on causes, not symptoms, and allows for effective testing and tracking. By taking a holistic approach, it’s possible to gain a deeper understanding of why rankings are fluctuating, why bounce rates are increasing, why web pages are being abandoned, and why pages are performing poorly. It’s a team effort and there’s a clear crossover of skill sets needed to get things right.
From the outset, web design plays a crucial role, as a poor user experience or a difficult-to-follow structure can impact rankings, traffic and interaction on the site. To avoid these issues, it’s important for everyone involved in the development and optimization process to work together and create a beautiful and user-friendly website that has the best chance to rank well in search engines.
Which Practices Can Interfere With SEO?
In order to have the best chance to rank, a site needs to be crawlable, usable, readable, accessible and visible. If anything goes wrong with any of these elements, then SEO work becomes more difficult and (sometimes) even impossible. So, here are a few of the issues for design and development teams to look out for during earlier stages of a project.
Poor website navigation can negatively impact user experience and prevent users from finding the information they need. Furthermore, it’s the same for crawling and indexing content. Some common issues include:
- Confusing or overpopulated hamburger and accordion menus. These types of menus can be difficult to navigate, especially on mobile devices.
- Poorly linked dropdown navigation elements. When users have to choose a sub-category instead of the main category, it can be frustrating and confusing.
- Mega menus that are too large for certain devices. Mega menus can be useful for organizing a large amount of information, but they can be difficult to use on smaller screens or devices.
- Using search parameters instead of filters to create content categories. Search parameters can be useful for finding specific information, but they are not always the best way to organise and display content for users.
By addressing these issues and designing a clear and intuitive navigation structure, you can improve the user experience of a website and make it easier for users to find the information they need – leading to better SEO results and more conversions.
Poor On-Page SEO
There are several technical elements of a website that must be implemented correctly in order to ensure that search engines can access and index the content on your site. Some common mistakes include:
- Redirecting pages improperly. When redirecting pages, it’s important to use the correct HTTP status codes to ensure that search engines understand the intended destination of the redirect.
- Duplicating content. Search engines value unique content and may penalize websites that have duplicate content.
- Incorrectly using robots.txt files, noindex, and nofollow attributes. These elements can be useful for controlling how search engines access and index your content, but they must be used correctly to avoid negatively impacting your search engine rankings.
- Poor internal linking structures. Internal links are important for helping search engines understand the hierarchy and structure of your website, and a poorly designed internal linking structure can make it difficult for search engines to index your content.
- As above, a poorly designed navigation. Confusing or overpopulated navigation menus can make it difficult for users and search engines to access the content on your website.
- Popups that cover important information and functionality. Popups can be useful for capturing user attention, but they should not cover important site information or functionality.
By avoiding these mistakes and implementing on-page SEO best practices, designers and developers can improve the accessibility and indexability of your website, which will put you one step ahead when it comes to search engine rankings.
Uninspiring Design Features
There are many different design elements that can be unappealing to users and may discourage them from staying on your website. These often align with SEO requirements, as the ultimate goal of SEO is the make the site more useful and appealing. Some examples include:
- Oversized images at the top of the page. These can slow down the loading time of your website if not properly optimised and can be overwhelming for users.
- Infinite scrolling without a button to go back to the top. This can make it difficult for users to navigate your website and find the information they need.
- Loading large, unoptimised libraries rather than just the assets you need in a performant manner will cause unnecessary load times.
- Failing to include alt text for images. Alt text provides important context and information for users and search engines, and it should be included for all images on your website.
- Lazy redirects that don’t point to relevant pages. Redirects can be useful for directing users to the correct page, but they should be carefully planned and implemented to avoid confusing or frustrating users.
- URLs with session IDs. These can make your URLs long and difficult to read, and they can also cause problems with indexing and ranking.
- Making design decisions without considering analytics data. It’s important to base design decisions on data and user behavior, rather than opinions or assumptions.
- Using sliders without titles, alt text, or filenames. Sliders can be a useful design element, but they should include relevant titles, alt text, and filenames to provide context and information for users and search engines.
By avoiding these uninspiring design features and focusing on user experience and accessibility, you can improve the overall design of your website and enhance its performance in search engines.
Web design that frustrates users can have a significant impact on SEO and website performance. By testing and studying trends, or consulting with experts, you can avoid these pitfalls and create a website that looks great, functions well, and outranks your competitors.
SEO, design and web development should always be done in conjunction to maximise the benefits offered by each department. By working together, teams can create a website that is both visually appealing and optimized for search engines. This will help attract more visitors, improve your search engine rankings, and drive more traffic and revenue to your business.
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