No matter what your target keywords are, there are likely to be millions of other web pages competing for the top 10 spots in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs). An SEO campaign will level the playing field and give you a better chance of appearing for the desired phrases but, it won’t offer a miracle cure if your site’s design makes it difficult for the search engine spiders to accurately read page content.
Although traditional search engine optimization methods are paramount to increased web visibility and better site structure, design and usability factors also play an essential role – not just for site improvements but also as part of the overall user experience. This is a critical metric as a positive experience will drive stronger conversion rates.
Poor design will seriously inhibit search engine rankings with an unsuitable URL structure, too much flash animation and a lack of original content and keyword focus making it difficult for the search engines to make sense of what the page is about. If they can’t get an accurate picture of page theme, it’s difficult to justify inclusion in relevant search results.
Lack of Design and SEO Synergy
The easiest design-related mistake to make is to bring in a search engine optimization team after the designer has finished his work. If the SEO consultant only arrives after navigation, titles, headings and internal links have been finalized, important keywords are likely to have been missed out of the site’s cornerstone navigation architecture. Without these signposts, the end user may also find it difficult to seek out the desired information.
Too Much Flash
Too much flash animation is a second design error that can cause problems when it comes to optimization of the site. While a flash move is aesthetically appearing and will add a visually interesting element to the home page or product pages, too much flash will shroud the site in a veil of secrecy. While search engines are getting closer to being able to build an accurate picture of a page from flash coding, it’s unrealistic to expect a site that is heavily flash focused will rank well for dozens of keywords and synonyms. There is no need to steer away from Flash entirely when designing a site but, the visual benefits must be played off against meaningful HTML and text based content.
Like flash, a splash page may be introduced in to the site design because of its visual impact. We’ll often see a splash page being used as a sales tool to flag up special offers or sale dates. A splash page may well use a flash movie with a link to skip the animation or, may simply be a large graphic with a link to click through to enter the main site. The problem with these pages is the lack of keyword focused content and cross-links needed for effective on page optimization.
A session ID is a unique identifier for each visitor, allowing site owners to chart the user’s journey from start to finish. Session IDs are common for e-commerce sites as they can be used to see what is added and removed from a cart during the user’s time on site. However, since a session ID is tacked on to the end of each URL, each session ID effectively creates a new duplicate page. The URL up to the session ID is the same, the content on page is the same, but the ID is unique to each visit so will be different. This creates a massive duplicate content issue – a problem which search engine’s penalize heavily and one that has caused many an SEO expert hours of lost sleep searching for a viable resolution. Even for small sites this is a big problem as each search engine visit will generate a whole new set of duplicate pages. When the search engines realize this, pages will be dropped and positions will fall. Restoring this broken trust is a massive task that may take months if not years of ethical search engine optimization.
Poor URL Structures
URL structure is very easy to get wrong at the design stage, particularly if a list of keywords and important phrases hasn’t yet been drawn up. As pages are named and navigation structures set up, the use of badly designed URLs can very quickly permeate throughout the site. Poor URL structures include the use of session IDs as mentioned above, the use of characters such as &%*, using only keywords, too many parameters, and using numbers instead of words.