Many designers and artists consider their craft to be above all the laws of search engine optimization (SEO). But an article published by the Association for Computing Machinery suggests that about 95 percent of the negative feedback about a website has to do with design issues. Safe to say, design significantly affects the perception of websites and, hence, their rankings.

The Latent Defect in Your Website Design

The time has come where the lines of SEO, content and graphic design have converged. All the three disciplines that were once thought out to work parallelly now work together. And while that presents a lot of opportunities in your marketing, it also opens up more risks of making mistakes that hurt your ranking efforts. There are several design aspects of your website that require attention.

Re-examine your web design and take note of these errors:

Not Focusing on Mobile

Since September 2020, Google has been on an updating spree. One of these changes is the shift to mobile-friendly websites with content that looks good and loads fast on mobile screens. Why?

  • The number of users accessing the internet from mobile has surpassed users using it through other devices in 2018.
  • If your page loads after three seconds, you’re facing a 32 percent bounce rate.

Kissmetrics found some problems mobile users face while accessing a site: 

  • Forty-seven percent of visitors expect a two-second loading time.
  • Forty percent leave if it takes more than three seconds to load.
  • Seventy-nine percent of visitors never revisit the site that performed badly.
  • If loading time increases by 1 percent, you are likely to lose 16 percent of traffic.

We believe these surveys are enough for you to understand that mobile-first indexing is the next key to your SEO success. Google has confirmed this through its recent Page Experience Update, which focuses on enhancing the user experience (UX). Page Experience is live on mobile and set to roll out on desktop Search in March 2022. 

Now, websites that factor in page experience ranking signals and UX design principles have the edge. UX design is a process of understanding how the user interacts and feels after engaging with the product. It is mainly incorporated to increase the ease of use. Google now judges a website’s design on three Core Web Vitals that together measure a website’s overall user-friendliness.

Large Images Defying the Responsive Retrofitting

Have you ever tried pouring a jug of water into a glass? The water starts overflowing as soon as the glass fills up. The same will happen if you start fitting your website design into the small screens of mobile devices.

Imagine a website having hundreds of images on its landing page. Naturally, it will be difficult for users to navigate the page. In the mobile version, everything becomes too small and illegible. 

Research conducted by Searchmetrics revealed that the top 10 websites on the search results page (SERP) had fewer than three images per page on their websites. The lesson learned is the more the mess, the harder it is for search engines.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights test may give you some ideas on how to remove the heavy content elements from the design. It will show what images need compression to make the page more SEO-friendly by more than 50 percent. 

Adding Text in Pictures That Don’t Add Value 

Text is something that Google can read, except it is coded in HTML on the website’s backend. The algorithm is unable to read the images or read text written in them. So, streamlining the text in your website is another important aspect of SEO.

It is advisable to add text not in the images but in the code of the page design. This allows the algorithm to read, identify the keywords and rank them accordingly. Even if some text is added to an image, it will get blurred when zoomed in. 

Additionally, adding text to your website comes with an advantage that most designers miss. If a visitor in another language requires any information, the text encoded can be altered while the image cannot. 

You need to work on certain aspects to get things going, such as:

Adding Alt Tags to Images

An alt tag is a description of the image coded in the HTML on the backend. Search engines read this code to understand the relevance of any image to a query for ranking. Too many graphics is going to do more harm than good. You must use the name of the image as a significant SEO tool. FYI, Google can read the filename. So, instead of using 12345.jpg, you can use the keywords describing the file, which helps spiders in indexing.

Using Proper Color Combinations

Clear images must be chosen with the appropriate color combination. It is was found in a study that more than 40 percent of all websites use the color blue in their design, followed by green. 

Not Including Certain Info

Avoid providing any contact details or useful information in images. Share the information in a subtle but prominent manner in the footer. You could also consider adding important links to your website in the footer for the algorithm to index.

Redirecting… OOPS 404 Error

Designing a broken link page seems so trivial that most SEO experts miss it. People often type the wrong URL or look for a page that is no longer available. 

Here is an opportunity for your website designer to create something that grabs the user’s attention. When visiting an error page, users tend to navigate back and forget about it. What you can do here is highlight your customer service.

They might be looking for something when they got redirected to an error page. You may add links related to the homepage of your website or several links to your services. It shows that you care about the visitors’ experience.

Some brands have turned it into an opportunity for marketing and building a positive online reputation. For example, they may have added a link to a free voucher or eBook that users can leverage.

Adding links to the error page can avoid the loss of visitors as the links added are indexed with the existing URL, thereby increasing traffic and ranking. 

This idea is a game-changer for websites that are relaunching. The old URLs are going to serve a 404 error page. So, you can attach a feedback form with each error page for users to mention the URL they are trying to locate or the information they seek. It has been tested, and webmasters who have done it received emails from people seeking the live URL.

Completely Dismissing Pop-Ups

Ethan Zuckerman still feels sorry for creating pop-up ads through JavaScript and server-side Perl 20 years ago. As annoying as they are, they drive up sales.

In contrast to a survey that found 70 percent of users considered pop-ups “irrelevant,” many businesses got to taste real profit through them. Even Entrepreneur found that engaging users through pop-ups by flashing limited offers and sales shot up their sales by 162 percent. These are amazing results for a feature that’s disliked to such an extent that Chrome has an inbuilt mechanism of blocking them. 

Pop-ups are not inherently bad. So, what are we doing wrong? Google’s Webmaster Blog says it all:

  • A pop-up ad intruding soon after the visitor navigates through the page through SERP or while they are looking for some information
  • An ad covering the entire page of the content
  • Adding a layout pop-up above the fold that takes the website’s main content away from the line of action of the user

When done right, pop-ups cannot be that bad. In fact, WebMeUp strongly suggests the inclusion of pop-ups. Why? Because it managed to get 95 percent of its subscribers through them in a few months. So, what are designers missing? 

Here are some ideas to design to make them useful for the visitor:

Pop-ups are a great way of flaunting the number of sales already made or showing any statistics that may benefit your website.

  • Offering sales, discounts, incentives and freebies through pop-ups is a great idea to engage the user.
  • The time it will flash is ideally set at five seconds. For regular visitors, the time of showing pop-up was found to be ideal after every minute.
  • Using the color red as a call to action (CTA) for submitting an email garnered a maximum number of submissions

Homepages Missing H1s

Spiders read elements like meta descriptions, title tags, alt tags, H1, H2 and HTML code to find the relevancy with a query. If any of the elements are not optimized properly, you could be losing out on major ranking opportunities. One such element is the H1.

People tend to equate H1s with title tags, which are seen on SERPs. Title tags are primarily links that take you to the web page. What’s displayed on the web page as an explanation of the query is known as a header or the H1. Headers do not appear while the result of a query is displayed, but they help the spider identify your website’s subject matter. 

Headers that may be H1, H2 and so on are deciding factors in SEO. They form a part of the HTML code that spiders read and make certain words prominent for crawlers to focus on. 

So, including an H1 is a pro tip for webmasters. Remember these:

  • H1s should contain the primary keyword of the webpage.
  • H1s should be placed above the fold. They should not be clouded by a full-page pop-up or above-the-fold advertisement.
  • Remember, you have approximately five seconds to impress your visitor. Make sure your H1s are compelling.

Thinking Google Is a Good Scroller

While users can scroll down to retrieve the relevant information in no time, a spider would not be able to do so. It will not take into account the additional content and pages that might be suitable and make your site rank-worthy. 

Google’s Martin Splitt in an online conference flagged this issue quite empathically. He pointed out that the spider reads and indexes whatever is visible to it upfront. To fix the case of lazy-loading, webmasters must refer to Google Search Central. The search engine giant mentions some fixes:

  • Chrome 76 allows website designers to use loading attributes without coding a library for lazy-loading in JavaScript.
  • A JavaScript library allows the data to be loaded while entering the viewport.
  • Paginated scrolling allows users to click on a link that will take them to the desired section of the content.

You might have invested a lot in your website. But these mistakes can have counter-productive results. Be aware of them and make the necessary steps and updates to make sure you’re on top of your SEO and content game.

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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