How to Avoid 6 Common Web Design Mistakes That Hurt SEO

How to Avoid 6 Common Web Design Mistakes That Hurt SEO

We can all agree that the best websites are designed for both users and search engines, right?

That means you never should sacrifice beauty over function, or vice versa.

Check your website for the following six common mistakes to see if your beautiful design is preventing your pages from ranking high in search engines.

Mistake 1: Missing H1 Tags (Especially on the Home Page)

Imagine entering a website with a nice background picture, a well thought out font, and an elaborate color scheme. It looks amazing. Browsing through feels like a walk in a beautiful garden.

Too bad nobody will find it in search engines.

Why? Because very often website designers and developers forget about essential SEO elements.

The most common offense is removing an H1 tag just because there is no place for it on the page.

The H1 tag is one of the first elements search engine crawlers will look at to determine what the page is about. Having this tag, and including your target keyword, improves your chances of ranking higher.

Here’s a website that has a clear H1 tag front and center:

Sample website with H1 tag

This H1 tag helps Sock Fancy rank in the top three organic positions for many keywords related to “monthly socks”.

Sock Fancy ranking organically in the top three positions for many keywords related to “monthly socks”.

If you wish to explain to designers and website owners how the website will benefit from an H1 tag, introduce them to a five-second test. According to this test, if a user can easily tell what the website is about after only looking at it for five seconds, its user experience is good.

Usually, the easiest way to explain the purpose of the website is by using a descriptive H1 tag above the fold.

Mistake 2: Large Images & Media Files

Beautiful imagery makes your website look amazing. But you need to be careful with the size of your media files.

Including large images and videos can negatively impact your site speed, which may result in lower rankings.

Google rewards pages that load quickly.

How do you know if you have large content on your website and how can you fix it?

For a quick scan, you can use Google PageSpeed Insights Test that will tell you exactly what images Google thinks are too large on the page.

Google PageSpeed Insights Test

This test shows that the page can be further optimized by reducing the size of the images by 70 percent.

You can also use Screaming Frog as an alternative to identifying large images and media files across your website.

Once you’ve identified those images, resize and/or compress them and re-upload to your website.

Mistake 3: Popups

Recently Google warned websites to avoid using intrusive interstitials and pop-ups.

User experience, especially on mobile devices, is quite important to Google. When creative or elaborate pop-ups appear before your visitors can access main content, it can negatively impact UX and, therefore, your SEO.

Popups for SEO

This might be a good time to reassess your pop-up strategy, especially if you’re seeing a decline in organic traffic.

Mistake 4: Text in Images

Surprisingly, this mistake is widespread. Instead of including a text layer over an image, many website designers just include text into an image.

Why is it so bad?

For starters, search engines can’t “see” the image like people can. Therefore, search engines can’t “read” the text on the image. Essentially, it’s the equivalent to not including the text at all.

In the example below, the entire banner above the fold is one image. Because of that, the website is missing an H1 tag, a subheadline, and main benefits that could be helpful in ranking higher for their target keywords.

Text in Images

Another reason this design tactic is faulty is that it isn’t responsive. So on a mobile device, the text and the button are going to appear very small, causing poor user experience.

Sample of small text and button on mobile device

Mistake 5: Infinite Scroll

This popular web design technique can really hurt your SEO performance when done incorrectly.

Infinite scroll loads more content as the user gets to the bottom of the page. If your pagination isn’t set up correctly, search engines won’t be able to crawl your pages.

Let’s say you have infinite scrolling enabled on your blog that has 100 pages. If you only show 10 most recent posts by default, that’s what search engine robots will see. Since robots crawl websites via links there is no way for them to know there is more content on the page beyond the top 10 articles.

The good news is that you can make infinite scroll pages search-friendly. Follow the instructions Google Webmaster Blog provides and you won’t have to compromise between design and SEO.

Mistake 6: Thin Content

Product and service pages are the most important pages on your website.

The higher rankings you can get for them for your target keywords, the more business you will have. It’s that simple.

Some of the common mistakes related to thin content:

  • Not having service/product pages on the website. By eliminating those pages from your website altogether, you rob yourself of an opportunity to rank organically for your target keywords.

Not including any service pages can hurt your SEO rankings.

  • Having one page listing multiple products or services. The best SEO practice is to have one idea/keyword per page. That way it is clear to search engines what each page is about and they can rank it accordingly. Once you start including multiple products or services on the same page, it becomes confusing and your website can lose rankings.

One page multiple services

  • Having little text on your service/product pages. Once you’ve identified which service/product pages to include on your website, spend some time thinking about the copy you will include on each page. If you have descriptive content that explains to your visitors what the benefits of working with you or buying from you are, there is a greater chance these pages will rank higher. There is also a higher chance that visitors will turn into customers. It’s a win-win!

thin content


Whether you’re working on a new website or redesigning an existing website, don’t forget about these critical SEO elements. After all, what good is a beautiful website that either nobody can find or delivers a hideous user experience?

Image Credits

Featured Image: Unsplash

All screenshots by Katya Bovykina. Taken June 2017.

Why Investing in SEO Makes Good Business Sense

Why Investing in SEO Makes Good Business Sense

As Google continues to unhinge marketing models everywhere, companies are increasing spending on digital marketing services. If you are considering investing in search engine optimization (SEO), it may be hard to decide where to spend money, especially when marketing budgets are always tight. Still, SEO firms can potentially bring a lot of value to your business, and many marketers are taking the plunge. According to media analysts at Borrell, SEO spending will reach $80 billion annually by 2020.

If you are considering hiring an SEO agency for your company, it’s important to understand what you’re buying. In general, SEO work falls into three main buckets:

  1. Keyword research and optimization

This is what most people think of when they think of SEO. “Keyword research and optimization is about defining the audiences you want to reach online, then communicating to Google where you want to meet those people,” explains Andy Kerns, Content Strategist with Digital Third Coast, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency. Kerns continues, “The where in this equation is represented by specific keyword phrases, like “’running shoes’ or ‘payroll software. People search a specific term, and your company shows up in the search results. Then the searchers click on your link — and you meet a new prospect!”

  1. Technical work on websites

This is work you might not associate with SEO, but it is often essential. “The algorithm Google uses to assess and rate all websites is very sophisticated and very picky,” Kerns says. “It has to work extremely fast, in nanoseconds. If you want to meet folks searching for keywords relevant to your offerings, your website needs to be a well-oiled machine that communicates quickly and clearly with Google, at all times. This is not as simple as it sounds. There are literally hundreds of technical considerations when optimizing a website for SEO purposes.”

  1. Link building campaigns

This is an aspect of SEO that might surprise you if you are new to the game — and it’s a game changer. “Consider the hundreds of technical tweaks that need to be made when optimizing a website.There’s a single consideration for Google’s algorithm that rises above all others — we call it links.” Kerns says. “Links from other websites to your website, are what Google counts, and cares about more than anything else. If your website is associated with other important and popular websites, Google will automatically like you more — and display your company much higher (closer to the top of Page 1) in search results.”

The hard part is getting those links in a legitimate way using keywords you care about – and that is where an SEO firm can be invaluable. “If you develop first-class content that is educational, entertaining, or both, and you make a concerted effort to share that content with the world, the world will link back to you. We promise. We do this every single day for our clients.,” Kerns notes.

While often at least some of the work can be done yourself or with in-house staff, the truth is that letting experts do it for you more than pays for itself, and here are several reasons why: 

  • True SEO work is systemic. “If you don’t address everything—technical issues, keyword optimization, link building—it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the results you want,” Kerns warns. “This work is systemic, it’s on-going, and it requires a broad range of skills that would be very tough and costly to add to your existing team.” Hiring an expert or, better yet, a firm of experts, can streamline the process and maximize the ROI —Return on Investment. 
  • Fresh perspective is your friend. “A common challenge we have is helping clients understand when their keyword strategy needs to shift to meet prospects where they are. We also need to clarify the kinds of link building content that will attract attention from journalists without seeming promotional.” Kerns says. “It’s extremely difficult for most people to see beyond the boundaries of their business, to understand where they need to fit in to the larger picture, We can do that for them.”
  • There are no guarantees. You can spend a great deal of time getting educated about SEO and setting yourself up to give it a go on your own, using internal resources. And you may well be successful. But it’s a long shot. SEO is relatively new and it’s a delicate, esoteric trade. Finding a dedicated team with a proven track record and good recommendations is usually the smarter play here.
  • Get access to the coolest toolbox. “Think of someone trying to build a house with an old school toolbox versus the tools professional contractors bring to the job. A great SEO team comes with a remarkable array of software tools,” Kerns notes. “These are the essential tools of the SEO trade. Even if you knew just what to source, they’d cost you tens of thousands of dollars to purchase, much less use.”

So, if you have a product or service that’s ready to go to the next level – especially one that has national appeal – strongly consider hiring an SEO firm as part of your growth plan. It’s a smart move for those who are ready for the big leap!