How to fix common SEO mistakes with the design

The complexities of SEO are such that Web Designers and Developers often think they should leave any SEO hacks to Copywriters or Search Professionals, given that SEO hacks frequently revolve around content tagging and manipulation you can see why.
BUT – as a Web Designer/Developer you are responsible for choices that can influence the search friendliness of a website and therefore you are also able to drive the pickup and repair of common SEO mistakes.

Using web design to repair SEO mistakes

Data from Advanced Web Ranking shows the click-through rates (CTR) for each position in a given search based on organic google CTR history. Now bear in mind Google is utilising its prime positions with paid listings, the data is encouraging that users and potential customers value a top organic listing ….. so how can you use design changes to repair SEO mistakes and get to the top of that search?

Repair #1 – Kill the mobile unfriendliness

We have entered a mobile-first world and as such websites need to be optimised for the mobile screen. Be sure to test out every aspect of mobile-friendliness in the design of your website.
Running a google mobile-friendly test isn’t enough, you need to have a good look at image placement, button sizes etc … then correct them.

Repair #2 – Be Z friendly

Usability is key if your website causes confusion you can end up with a high bounce rate, which informs Google that your website isn’t worth ranking.
Easy navigation is crucial – are your labels clear? Are all pages present? Do they flow?
Remember, it’s common for users eyes to track in a Z pattern starting from the top left of your page.
If the layout is unclear and confusing your SEO and performance will be adversely affected.

Repair #3 – Correct the readability struggle

Your visual content may well be amazing, yes wonderful visual content does enhance memorability and can aid comprehension of your page, BUT – Can your customers clearly read the words on your site?
Low readability often translates into short durations on page and high bounce rates.

Making the page easy to read to increase SEO is imperative.

A few good rules to follow are:

  • Keep typefaces black or dark on a white background.
  • Use fonts in serif or sans serif families.
  • Font no smaller than 16 pixels
  • Lines between 50 and 60 characters
  • Paragraphs no more than 3 or 4 lines
  • Add images or lists to break up content
  • Headers enable readers to see what content will contain (also works for search bots)

Repair #4 – Banish bad Pop-Ups

No one enjoys an irrelevant, intrusive, poorly timed pop-up.
This is especially true for mobile content.

Google penalise mobile websites that it believes use intrusive pop-ups which could adversely affect your ranking.

Utilise the least amount of space you can for your pop-ups and keep them to a top or bottom banner if on mobile content.

Repair #5 – Overweight images

File-size is crucial, compression is key.
Google loves fast websites, it rewards websites with load times of less than three seconds.
There are several things developers can do to minimise loading speeds but it’s important for designers to look at and think about images as a way to improve performance and SEO.
If an image is going to show up on a thumbnail in the news feed on a mobile-first site do you need a 12MB oversized high-resolution image?
In order to optimise your search position be sure to resize and use a compression software.

Repair #6 – Free your words

The text inside images is often a bad idea, there are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is the readability issue, the words may look fine placed over an image on a desktop but then illegible when viewed as mobile content. The text may appear over a more distracting part of the image and make it harder for the reader to enjoy your site.

The second issue is how you add the text. If the text is added into an image file it is not visible to search bots and so if your text contained any embedded keywords then Google will no longer pick it up thus putting your SEO at a detriment.

To counter this text can be added using custom fields within your content management system unless you can guarantee uncompromising readability for customers and search bots then it’s probably best to steer clear of text on images.

Repair #7 – Trust is everything

Google likes trust. Your customers want to trust you. Trust can help your SEO.
As a Web Developer, you can do your part to boost the confidence of visitors to your website, look for opportunities to include trust marks into the site.
There is an array of different trust marks depending on the type of business of the website a few important examples are – SSL Certificate, secure payment gateway, anti-malware software etc.
These kinds of trust symbols make your website visitors stay longer, utilise your site and please Google to help your SEO.

To conclude

Now you have seen how Designers and Developers can fix common SEO mistakes with design be sure to add the repair list to your everyday workflow and see what improvements in usability, performance and security do for your websites SEO!

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