Creativity, they say, is limitless. However, what happens when your business begins to suffer because your design goes beyond the box? As a website owner, you’ve probably given your designer free range to experiment all over your website with their design ideas. On one hand, this is great because it provides your brand with a fresh, unique look that users are not accustomed to. On the other hand, your designer could be breaking some serious rules that could ruin your website’s SEO.
Every aspect of your website must be optimized to be search friendly. As beautiful as any website can be, those attributes are not responsible for increasing your website’s search visibility. And by breaking search engine guidelines, they could be causing more harm than good.
7 Design Errors to Avoid
1. Placing important information in images, not text
Search engine bots still primarily evaluate websites using the text content published on a website. There are other supporting factors like images, outbound links and so on that are still important. However, your text and supporting keywords are the essential part of your content.
Placing these texts on images, instead of publishing them directly can hurt your website’s potential. It might seem aesthetically better to have an image with your text in a beautiful font, but that’s the most benefit you could get from that piece of content.
In Google’s Webmaster guideline, website owners are advised that Google’s crawlers do not recognize text in images. It is important that you optimize your text first, then insert supporting visuals.
2. No website structure or page hierarchy
If a user is required to do any digging to find one of your web pages, then you’ve already made a big design mistake. Your website must have a clear structure and a navigation bar where all important pages can be accessed via. This navigation bar must also be present on every page.
If you have more than 5 high-value links, then they should be divided into categories. These categories could either be in the header or footer of your website. Here’s an example.
Also, avoid the use of image-based navigation bars. Apart from the SEO impact of placing your text in images, it can also disrupt usability for mobile users.
3. No image optimization for SEO
Your visual elements can also support your SEO when used correctly. Google (and other search engines) uses an image’s description to understand what it contains. If you’re simply attaching files with names like “Screenshot(9).png” or “726ed729ed73t”, then your images are expected to make zero ranking performance.
Instead, optimize your images using these steps:
- Rename file: instead of a random assortment of letters and numbers, rename your image using the right details e.g. white-drone-camera-for-kids.png
- Resize image: Large image files can slow down webpage load time. It is better to resize before uploading to WordPress, as WordPress can only resize the displayed image, not the file itself.
- Add a relevant caption: Captions will help your readers understand an image quickly, especially if they are simply scanning the content.
- Include alt text and title text: These are the texts displayed when an image doesn’t load. They give search bots a description of the image.
As per a research done by Airborne Digital Marketing Agency, Image Optimization can increase traffic on your website significantly.
4. No mobile optimization of website features
If your design features are not optimized for mobile users, you may already be in Google’s bad books. Google finally rolled out its mobile-first website indexing at the beginning of 2018. Its impact is that the mobile version of a website will be evaluated first to index and rank it before the desktop version is also evaluated.
It is important that every feature made available on your desktop site is also on the mobile site. It should also be very responsive; optimized to work easily on the mobile site. If for some reason you can’t achieve full responsiveness, then it is better to completely remove the feature. You can recreate them using the right methods for better UX across all platforms.
If you refuse to make these changes, Google will devalue every webpage that is not optimized for mobile. Your website can also incur a permanent ban from the Google search engine.
5. Heavy graphics files
Inserting the right gifs at different points in your text might earn you a chuckle or two, but it won’t earn you any favor with the search engines.
When you have too many or too heavy graphics files on your website, it could slow down your website’s loading speed. This becomes a problem because your users don’t have the patience for a slow website. 47% of web users expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. Google has also indicated that it sends fewer site crawlers to websites with slow load speed.
To fix a slow page load due to heavy graphics files, cut down on the number of images and other visual elements on your website. You can also set custom image size for mobile devices and desktop devices. This means that an image will show up in a custom size on a smartphone, and another custom size on a laptop.
You can also compress JPEG, PNG, and GIF files so they require fewer bytes to download.
6. Irrelevant pop-ups
Pop-ups are bad for your website for two reasons; they’re annoying, and Google is against them. Granted, there’s a good way to use pop-ups, and several businesses have reported great results from using them. However, the experience most times is a big banner that takes up the whole screen, with no visible way of closing them. A user will easily be forced to exit the page in frustration. If the information sought is too important to exit, then the user has to spend the next few seconds or minutes trying to figure out how to close them.
Google itself has placed penalties on pop-ups that obscure most of a website’s page, or blocks website content unless manually removed or canceled. To avoid driving visitors away before they have a chance to convert, or incurring a penalty from Google, you must be very cautious about the use of popups on your website.
7. 404 pages
Have you ever opened a page that said “404 Error. Page not Found”? I expect that your next action was to exit the page. As a website owner, you should expect this same reaction from visitors who land on a broken page.
If your website is quite robust, it may not be so easy to notice broken pages/page links once they happen. To avoid losing customers before they convert, you should be ready for such events.
You must have a custom designed 404 page for such events. Beyond looking attractive, it must have at least one link back to your website. Better yet, insert a contact form in your default 404 page. Visitors might use it to air their annoyance at being directed to a broken page, but you still have their contact details to reach them. Also, this will quickly bring your attention to a broken link that needs to be fixed.
As a website owner or webmaster, you will often have to make the call to choose practicality over appearance. Thankfully, you don’t have to abandon all the elements that make a website eye-catching. For the best performance, ensure that your web developer, designer, and SEO person are always working with the same end-goal in mind. Remember to keep a close eye on your website performance with each design modification to ensure that it doesn’t tank your rankings.