Search engine optimization is a key element of web design. SEO is, in essence, the art and science of getting your website to rank higher on search engine results pages. Most SEO efforts are concentrated on having your website rank highly in Google (the dominant search engine), but the best practices listed here should help you rank higher on any given search engine. We’re going to go over some fairly common mistakes that can hinder your SEO; most of these are relatively simple to fix and could improve your results quite a bit.
When you create your website, you want to stand out from your competition. You can do this by designing a beautiful website, and you can stand out by being the first website they see when they search for a particular term. Optimally, you’ll do both; you want to avoid making web design mistakes while wowing your viewers.
This isn’t so much one mistake as it is a slew of mistakes. There are many factors that can make your website load slowly, from an excess of redirects (more on that later) to image files that are overly large. Search engines penalize sites that load slowly because users tend not to like this. For a search engine, putting results a user actually wants at the top is more or less their whole business.
Fortunately, Google wants you to optimize your website! To that end, they’ve released a handy tool, PageSpeed Insights. This site will tell you how quickly your site is loading relative to other sites, placing you into one of three categories (Fast, Moderate, or Slow). What’s more, PageSpeed will give you ideas about how to optimize your site. You might learn that you have unused CSS you can get rid of, or that third-party code is bogging your site’s performance down. Take advantage of this free tool, find out what’s causing delays, and change things up!
When you’re creating a home page, it can be tempting to use graphics instead of text for every element. That’s a huge mistake newbies often make and you will not find pro website designs firms doing. One of the most essential elements of SEO is the H1 tag, used to make a piece of text the primary heading on your web page (how the heading looks on each page can be modified with CSS).
Search engines work by using an army of bots called crawlers. These crawlers make their way around the web, indexing pages and learning what they’re about. One of the most important pieces of information for these crawlers is the H1 tag. This tag indicates the primary heading, so the bots assume that the text contained within the tag is telling them what the page is about. The bots can then categorize the page appropriately, so when relevant searches are made, the page can pop up. That means that without proper headings, bots may not be aware of what your page is about and will thus find it difficult to categorize. You should note that the H1 tag cannot be applied to images (it’s a text modifier), so be sure to use an appropriate heading on each page of your website.
Responsive web design is absolutely essential to modern web design. Around half of all website traffic is mobile. Responsive design allows your website to be accessed from PCs, tablets, smart phones, and other devices. It’s called responsive because the way the site loads and how the site is laid out responds to the method by which users are accessing the site. We’re going to focus on the SEO benefits of responsiveness, but you should know that there are a lot of other benefits to responsive design.
When a user tries to load your site on their smartphone but finds it loads slowly or improperly, they’ll leave your site. How long a user spends on your site is an important factor to how highly you rank; if users go on your site and leave immediately, search engines might assume the content on your site wasn’t relevant to their needs. You can’t simply design a second home page for mobile, either, because that page would cannibalize optimization from your regular home page. Responsive design is the way to go.
Do you have a bunch of dead links? When someone accesses your homepage, are they redirected several times? Do you have a messy page hierarchy? All of these things can hurt your SEO.
Your website should be designed with live links and a clear hierarchy. Your homepage comes first, a few category pages come next, and content pages come from those category pages. The cleaner this hierarchy is, the easier it is for search engines to navigate your site and categorize content appropriately. Dead links make it difficult for crawlers to navigate your site. Redirects can make it difficult for crawlers to use your site, but only if you’re using them too frequently or incorrectly. You should know the difference between 301 and 302 redirects and use them appropriately.
The crux of this article is simple: search engines like it when you’re providing a clean, relevant experience to their users. They like it when your website provides users with information, products, or services that are relevant to their needs. That means you should create as much high-quality content as you can. The emphasis is on quality because when your content doesn’t serve a purpose, users won’t stay on your site, and you may actually find you lose ranking.
The content you create for your site should be primarily text-based, for much of the same reason that we’re using H1 tags; web crawlers recognize text with more ease than they recognize images and this makes it easier for them to categorize your content appropriately.