10 Web Design Mistakes That Hurt Your Website’s SEO

by | Jun 2, 2022 | SEO, Web Tips

10 website mistakes that hurt your seo
So, you’ve finally managed to build a beautiful website, and you’re super excited to watch your business grow through it! You’ve used the most impressive theme, stunning pictures, and compelling copy. You’re convinced that potential customers will lap it up.

But as time passes, you don’t get the kind of visits you thought you would. Moreover, you’re nowhere to be found on the first page of search engines, the place that actually matters.

What could be wrong? There’s a high possibility that your website design is harming your SEO prospects.

In this post, we’ll discuss some unforgivable web design mistakes that’ll make your business pay, and how to steer clear of them.

1. Your Website Loads Slowly

Forty-seven percent of consumers expect a webpage to load in two second or less. Forty percent of consumers will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. The longer your website takes to load, the less likely you are to engage visitors on your website, not to mention convert visitors to leads.

Fortunately, you can take steps to make sure your website load speed doesn’t turn off visitors. First, take a look at your web hosting provider. BlueHost, HostGator, GoDaddy, the list is endless. Not all web hosting providers are created equally. Some use underpowered, overseas servers that host thousands of websites. Taking these facts into consideration, it’s easy to see that going with a cheap web hosting option may affect your website’s load speed. If you’re in the United States, be sure your website is hosted on a US-based server.

Beyond the quality and location of your web hosting server, you can increase load speeds by decreasing the amount of Flash, JavaScript, and CSS your website contains. You can also make sure you optimize your images for the web. Giant image files can bring load speeds to a grinding halt. Last tip: keep your CMS updated. An outdated CMS can create bugs that slow your load speed down, too.

2. Your Website’s Navigation Stinks

People aren’t your website’s only audience. Search engine bots crawl across your website to understand its content and relevance to web searchers. Top-performing websites are structured so the most important content is just one or two clicks away from the homepage, while less important information is farther away. People and bots have an easy time finding the information they’re looking for.

But when your website navigation stinks, information is crowded, incomplete, or not prioritized. People and bots find it difficult to make any sense of your content at all. And if you don’t have internal links between your webpages, people and bots may get stuck at a dead-end. None of this is good for your website’s user experience or its SEO. To fix your site’s navigation, implement a top navigation, aka main navigation, at the top of your website that is present on most or all pages. Incorporate a hamburger menu for mobile-friendly navigation.

3. You Forgot about H1 Tags

Ever noticed that most websites have a hierarchy of headings? Just like the headings in a printed article, your website’s headings help organize your website’s content and break up the text on the page. H1 tags are the largest headings you can use on your website. They are often found top-of-fold (that is, at the very top of a webpage) and describe exactly what a visitor will learn on that page. Think of h1 tags as the page’s title or headline.

H1 tags help visitors (and bots) make sense of your website content and find the information they need. Pair the content of your h1 tags with the content of your webpages’ title tags and you’ll give your SEO a bit of a boost.

4. Your Site’s Not Mobile-Friendly

We’re in the 2020s and mobile devices are everywhere. There’s no excuse for your website not to be mobile-friendly. Google agrees. Search engines penalize sites for not being mobile-responsive. Beyond Google’s preference for mobile-friendly websites, mobile-friendly sites are much easier for phone and tablet users to navigate, and they improve page speed. Plus, mobile users are more likely to share your content on social media if your site’s mobile-responsive.

5. Big Image and Video Files Are Weighing Your Site Down

As we mentioned before, image file size can slow your website down. Savvy web designers optimize their images for the web to make sure they don’t slow down their sites. Most images on your website should be 70 kb or smaller. For big hero images that span the width of your webpages, aim for 100 kb. Use 72 dpi resolution for all of your images. You can use sites such as TinyPNG, Image Optimizer, or WeCompress to compress your file sizes. 

However, no amount of optimization will increase your load speeds if your webpage has hundreds of images. If this is the case, consider trimming down the amount of images you include on your webpage or include a link to a gallery hosted elsewhere. This will help keep load speeds fast.

What about video? Video files are huge and will absolutely slow your site down. Instead of hosting video files on your website, consider uploading them to a third-party site, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia, and then embedding these videos into your website. That way, you can avoid slowing your site down while incorporating video into your site, an SEO plus.

6.  Your Pop-Ups and Ads Are Out of Control

Pop-ups can be annoying, but there’s a reason you keep seeing them on the websites you visit: they work. Pop-ups have an average conversion of 11 percent, which is pretty darn good in the content marketing world. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Google will penalize sites with intrusive pop-ups that cover the entire page, have to be dismissed before visitors can read your content, or appear as soon as a visitor clicks on your page.

To avoid being dinged for your pop-ups, put your pop-ups on a timer so they appear after a user has spent a few seconds on your site. Choose smaller pop-ups displays or opt for a slide-in or inline design, all of which are less obtrusive.

As for ads, try to keep the ads you host on your website to a minimum. Too many ads are distracting to visitors and can slow down load speeds. Avoid ads that automatically play video or sound, include misleading content, or interrupt your visitors’ experience with your site.

7. You Added Text to an Image Rather Than Over It

Search engines have an easier time reading text that is over an image rather than in it. If you want Google’s bots to find and index the words within an image, you are much better off adding text over the image or as a caption. Better yet, include alt tags with every image. Alt tags are descriptions that pop up when a visitor hovers over an image on your website. Bots crawl alt tags looking for content. Savvy website designers always update their images’ alt tags. 

8. Your Site’s Skimpy on the Content

We’ve talked about how having too many images, pop-ups, and ads can be harmful for your site’s SEO, but having too little content is a big no-no, too. Without content, visitors (and bots) will have a difficult time understanding what your site is all about and whether or not it’s relevant to their needs.

“Content” includes all of the images, videos, and text on your website. The top-performing sites use all three to boost their search engine rankings. Website content is composed of keywords and original content that’s relevant to your website’s main theme and to your target audience. Great content always starts with the audience in mind. By considering your visitors first, you’re more likely to create content that is engaging and relevant to them.

So, how many words do you need to include on each webpage? It depends. At Watermark Web Design, we often shoot for pages that are at least 500 to 1,000 words long, with 700 being our sweet spot. Images and videos complement all this text and improve the performance of your written content.

9. Your Content Contains Too Many Keywords

Savvy designers and copywriters know that writing SEO content is a balance between original ideas and keywords. Keywords help ensure your content shows up in Google searches for key terms. But you can have too much of a good thing. If your content is stuffed with keywords, chances are it reads fairly poorly, which isn’t a good thing for SEO. Plus, Google considers it a little sneaky and will penalize webpages stuffed with keywords.

Instead, try to keep your keyword density between 2 and 4 percent per page. Anything over 5 percent is a big red flag. Make sure you include keywords in the page’s title tag, meta description, title, at least one subheading, and alt text as well as your main text.

10. You Forgot Calls-to-Action

You wouldn’t have a sales meeting without asking for the sale. You shouldn’t design a website that doesn’t ask visitors to take the next step. Calls-to-action tell your site visitors how to interact with you. Would you like them to call you? Contact you? Request a quote? Download your free eBook? Sign up for your emails? Schedule a meeting or tour?

Calls-to-action help increase your site’s lead generation so you convert more site visitors into potential leads. Effective calls-to-action have bold messaging, are set apart from text with color, and start with an action word.

Are you making any of these ten website design mistakes?

If so, a few easy fixes can make a big difference in the performance of your website. The Watermark Web Design team is here to help. Get in touch with us today to request your free website audit.

Mark Haugtad
Mark Haugtad

Owner / Web Designer / SEO Enthusiast

Mark, founder of Watermark Design. With over 10 years of experience in Web Design & Development, Wordpress Services, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Hosting, and Logo Design. Mark has always wanted to provide better quality service, affordability & support to local businesses. At Watermark Design, he performs in-depth research and collaborates with his talented team to give businesses advice they can trust. When Mark is not working you can find him hanging out with his wife, five children enjoying the Minnesota outdoors; hunting, fishing and camping.

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