Written by Shari Monnes | Boston
on August 02, 2022

Website design isn't just about how your website looks. How it functions and its ability to attract (and convert) website visitors into new leads are critical in today's competitive digital landscape. Yet, many website designs still have some common (but easily corrected) mistakes that are killing their SEO.

The trifecta of powerful website design today is one that attracts the right audience, generates leads, and accurately represents your brand and tone of voice. While it’s not an easy task to create a site that successfully does all three things, it’s not impossible either.

For brand managers and website designers, the primary focus is often on the site design – how it looks and whether or not it presents an appropriate brand image. This may lead to a tug of war between form and function. But you must not overlook the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) in attracting the right audience and delivering leads. After all, your website isn’t just a pretty face, it needs to work for you as well.

Don’t let any of these five common website design mistakes destroy your SEO.

1. No on-page optimization 

Some website designers are so focused on how a web page looks — and brand managers about the message it conveys — that they forget about how well it functions from an SEO perspective. If you want to keep your website ranking high in the search engine results pages (SERPs), then you need to implement essential search engine optimization strategies that help crawlers find your content easily and rank it higher.  That starts with the content that is on the page.

Write your pages using the language and keywords your potential customers would use when searching for your products or services or for solutions that meet their needs. Make sure each page addresses a specific topic.

Add important keywords to your page headlines (especially the H1 and H2 headings) and subheads. As you write your content, focus on structuring it in a way that answers important questions, and include those questions in the subheads.

Having a plan to regularly update your content, especially adding deeper content for topics and keywords that are most important to your page, will boost your SEO, as well.  Search engines reward websites with recent and frequently updated content with higher rankings (that's one reason blogs are so important).

An internal linking strategy that includes linking the on-page content from subcategory topics back to core topic pages is also essential. You can do this by creating text links on your page from important keywords back to longer "pillar" pages with content that covers that topic.

On-page optimization is a permanent work in progress — not something you can do once and then ignore.  You must regularly review your keywords to understand what you are currently ranking for.  SEO tools such as Google's keyword planner or Mangools KWFinder will help find the important keywords to start, and then track how you rank on them.


2. Ineffective page, URL and image naming

Failing to name your images properly (including both the image file names and the alt text that appears on image hovers), page meta titles (which appear in browser windows), and URLs with your keywords is a common mistake. But don’t think this means stuffing a list of keywords into your alt tags. That sort of outdated (and questionable) practice will actually hurt your rankings.

Instead, use alt tags to provide clear explanations about your page and image content. Don’t leave the name of your pages, images and URLs up to your developer or the person uploading your content, or worse, let them be randomly generated by your CMS. Create a focused plan for page naming that addresses your website keywords and page content. The titles, URLs and alt tags for each page should be unique and reflect the keyword topics of that page. 

What matters is relevance. Describe and name page content in a way that is meaningful to your audience. Think about the questions your audience has, and answer them.

It's also important to make sure that you are optimizing your alt tags to ensure your website is accessible for all, including those with vision impairments.

3. Bad user experience 

In today’s fast-paced digital world, website visitors have expectations about what a site should look like, how it should function and what sort of content should be found on it. Websites with hard-to-find content, unanswered questions, or convoluted user journeys are just a few examples of poor user experiences that can negatively impact your engagement rates. This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in visitor retention or raise your bounce rate.

Readers “vote” for your site with their eyeballs and visit duration. The longer they stay on a page (because they are reading or watching relevant content), the more search engines will reward your site with higher rankings. But it’s also important that your content is relevant not only to your target audience but also relevant to the keywords for which you want to optimize your page. (Refer back to point number one).

Some SEO experts suggest that Google ranks pages based on the number of words on the page. So don’t think you can rely solely on flashy images or videos without any words to create high-quality content. Indications are that the best ranking websites have front pages with around 1,500 words. 

On the other hand, using too many words when fewer would be more clear, not including call to action buttons, and failing to include short subheads for easier page skimming, makes a site harder to navigate. 

A successful website uses design to help showcase the important content and direct the readers to what matters. The easier it is for them to find what they are looking for, the longer they will stay on your site. (And perhaps come back again or tell others about it by “sharing” your content).

4. Missing mobile optimization and poor mobile experience

Today, more than 54% of all website traffic comes from mobile devices, and 92.1% of people access the internet using a mobile phone. This means that mobile optimization is more important than ever before. 

The first step to mobile optimization is making sure that your website’s content is visible on a small screen. The content should be easy to read and quick to load as well. Other important considerations are the size and placement of images, video and amount of text on the page. Mobile sites often condense longer text or reflow columns in logical order.

A mobile-first design means creating pages first for mobile viewing, and then scaling this up for desktop viewing (which is the opposite of how some websites are designed).  Responsive design (pages designed to adjust and reflow to fit the window size automatically) is another way to address mobile design. Be sure you take mobile optimization into account when designing your website.

How well optimized for mobile is your site?

5. Slow website load times and site performance issues

A poorly designed site, such as one with extraneous code or too many large, heavy graphics, will load slowly. This is a kiss of death to your website SEO. Speedy page load times are essential to an optimized website.

Google has stated that page load times factor into site rankings. The assumption here is that faster loading makes happy visitors, and happy visitors are what Google is after, and you should be as well.

Website owners can improve the speed of their website by using a CDN or caching plugin, which can reduce the amount of time it takes for a request to be fulfilled. However, this type of “lazy-loading” or “preloading” solution might not be quite as effective if your website has many dynamic requests, such as videos or other types of media.

These are just a few elements that you need to consider. SEO is a vast area that requires a lot of attention from SEO specialists in order to succeed. You can find out all about best practice SEO here, as well as how to devise a winning strategy.

And of course, if you would like some help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our digital team of experts.

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