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Is Your Website’s Design Helping Your SEO – Or Hurting It?

Posted by | February 13, 2018

Your website might look great, but could its design be hurting your search engine rankings?

SEO and web design are more closely linked than many people realize. The search giants are constantly adjusting their ranking algorithms, and generally putting more and more value on a positive user experience. But if you don’t study this stuff full-time, it’s not always clear what a “positive user experience” reallymeans.

Here are a few of the most common design mistakes we see – and how they could be affecting your bottom line:

Mistake #1: Missing Header Tags (Especially H1s)

When a search engine is trying to decide what your website is all about, one of the first things it looks at is the H1 tag/s in your HTML code. Unfortunately, this is also an element that some websites don’t include.

Your H1 tag should be prominently displayed towards the beginning of the page, and should include some of the keywords you’re most interested in ranking for. Think of it this way: if a randomly chosen person can figure out what your website is all about just by looking at the homepage for 5 seconds, you’re delivering a solid user experience and probably at a good starting point, SEO-wise.

Here’s a really common mistake we’ve seen: using a banner image on the home page to give your business’s basic pitch, rather than using an actual H1 or other text elements. Remember that search engines can’t read words that are “painted” on an image file (though you can use overlays to display typed text over an image).

Mistake #2: Intrusive Pop-Ups

It’s easier than ever to add a “welcome mat” to your site, and everyone seems to be taking advantage of that. These web elements usually serve to greet visitors, and carry some sort of strong call-to-action: perhaps prompting them to sign up for an email newsletter, for instance. While welcome mats usually have more personality than a standard, irritating pop-up, they do carry some of the same controversy.

Welcome mats don’t necessarily harm you web presence more than they help it, but it’s worth noting that Google may slightly penalize you for having any pop-up elements that it interprets as not being mobile-friendly. Consider whether such elements are really that critical to your online success. As mobile traffic continues to outpace traffic from traditional desktop/laptop sources, it’s reasonable to suspect that these penalties could increase in the future.

Mistake #3: Way-Too-Big Media Files

Images and videos are great tools to use in your business’ website. They do everything from inviting users to click on your links in search results, to inviting visitors to share your content, to boosting customer confidence in the quality of your products. (Check out this neat infographic for more statistics on the importance of using images).

But image and video files can be rather large compared to the rest of your website, and that means they may cause page load time to increase considerably. This has a serious negative impact on your SEO, and may even cause visitors to get frustrated and hit the “back” button before your site has finished loading.

One common mistake we see with businesses is the practice of uploading huge image or video files to a website, and then resizing them with HTML or CSS to better fit the page. What’s going on behind the scenes here is that these websites are forcing visitors to load the original, large image along with the rest of the page content. By resizing the image offline and then uploading a file that’s the correct display size, you can cut down on page load time for your visitors.