featured Design

10 Design Flaws Which Can Destroy a Site’s SEO

When it comes to creating a new website, a key dilemma is whether the focus should be on fantastic Design and User Experience (UX), or on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are many cases where mind-blowing animated design negatively affects the site’s SEO. Whilst you may expect an increasing number of visitors on a better designed website, in reality you may see the opposite occur. In order to be successful, any website needs to perform well in search engines.

Therefore, searching for the compromise is essential.

Most web designers likely to ignore SEO as it limits their artistic possibilities. However, there is no need to cut down on design features for the sake of optimization. Designers can work in tune with SEO specialists and developers to find a formula that would meet both users’ wishes, and search engines’ requirements.

Additionally, there is another trap that must be avoided. Pre-existing sites with good SEO may have to reconsider their efforts during a redesign. Even the smallest of changes can create design errors that will hurt its SEO.

What are these errors? Here are the most common mistakes web designers make when not taking SEO into account:

Mistake #1 – Images Instead of Important Elements

Using images as a primary form of navigation will result in search engines treating them without their functional meaning. On the other hand, pure textual navigation is not a good option either.

The compromise is to use text-over-image techniques with CSS.

On top of this, when using headers, it is also not recommended to replace text with images. Content replaced by beautiful graphics with text may look outstanding, but it will not work for SEO. Header text is intended to highlight important keywords; Replacing them with images will devaluate the content.

Speaking generally about images as website content, it’s essential to know the basics of optimizing them for search engines without sacrificing the design. You can find some useful tips on image optimization here.

Mistake #2 – Lack of Breadcrumbs

A perfectly engineered breadcrumb trail will significantly increase a site’s SEO performance. Text links are easily read by search engines and provide a transparent hierarchical navigation structure. Unfortunately, designers often forget about breadcrumbs, despite the fact that they would noticeably increase the user friendliness of the site.


A good example of breadcrumbs on gameinformer.com

Mistake #3 – A Mobile Version of the Site

As mobile devices have gained more and more popularity in recent years, it’s important to take care of the mobile version of your site. This raises concern regarding whether it’s best to create a separate mobile site, or to use responsive design. According to Matt Cutts of Google, responsive design is a smarter choice for SEO needs. When the mobile version of the site does not perform well (ie. without “rel=canonical”), you can end up with PageRank divided between two pages. This is impossible when using responsive design thanks to using just one URL.

Mistake #4 – Frames

It’s hard to believe there are still websites made with frames. Not only did they become obsolete years ago, but they also won’t act in your favor in website SEO-wise. Frame make it difficult for search engines to read your site with valuable content hidden. As framed websites use three html files instead of one, this causes conflicts with indexation.


The world’s worst website definitely uses frames

Mistake #5 – Improper 404 Page

Creating custom 404 pages is always a possibility to add extraordinary humorous ideas for web designers. But in search of some light relief, they often forget to include the necessary elements.

For example, navigation elements – a link to return to the website. Not only will it improve the user experience, but will also improve the SEO. Otherwise, search engines will find your site contains broken internal links that will reduce its search ranking.

Mistake #6 – Too Much Flash

Visually attractive Flash is still badly indexed by search engines. Surely, your website can contain Flash, but it is recommended not to use it for important content and navigation – and definitely don’t make the entire site Flash. However, it is always up to you to prioritize visual or SEO issues.


Beautiful grimoire.jp Flash design

But the good news is that unlike Flash, HTML5 is SEO-friendly and Google successfully indexes HTML 5 content. Several advantages of HTML5 for SEO are reviewed here.

Mistake #7 – Improper Video Embedding

Whilst video content is a great way to engage your audience, it doesn’t always help your SEO. Specifically, custom Java media players are not readable by search engines. The optimal way is embedding videos directly from YouTube which is owned by Google.

Mistake #8 – Pop-Ups

To begin with, pop-ups are a big no no for designers to use. They are equally badly treated by visitors and search engines. They are annoying and usually closed by most users the moment they appear. Moreover, they immediately evoke prejudice about the website. Search engines don’t even index pop-ups as a part of the site. You can always find another place to put pop-up content on your site; just forget about pop-ups altogether for your own sake.

Mistake #9 – Geo-Redirection

Multi-language sites often use automatic geo-redirection which reads a users’ location and the language of their computer to redirect towards the website with the appropriate locale. Although this is convenient, redirecting away from your home page will hurt SEO. The best way to cope with this problem is to let users manually pick their location.

Mistake #10 – Neglecting Heading Tags

Heading tags are used not only for visual emphasis of content, but have a considerable impact on SEO as well. Saying that search engines like H1 tags means that Google gives them a higher importance. The proper use of H tags includes putting keywords into H1 tag and not using it for a company name or styling purposes.

Generally, all of the mistakes mentioned above are the result of one major mistake which is to consider SEO after designing a website. SEO must be treated as one of the components of a design. A designer can create perfect artwork, but it’ll be absolutely worthless if nobody can find it.


Author Bio Andrew Smith is a marketing manager, a web developer in the past working in QArea software development company which is specialized in providing web, mobile, desktop app development/testing and SEO services. Andrew enjoys writing about social media, web design, marketing, mobile and IT technologies.

10 comments

  1. Nathan Whitaker

    What do you think about the potential SEO impact of parallax scrolling sites, and AJAX websites? These design elements seem to be in vogue right now and a lot of web designers (as usual) seem to be more interested in having cool effects rather than focusing on UX and search engine performance.

  2. Andrew Smith

    Hi Nathan,
    You’re right – parallax and AJAX are definitely a trend today and their implementation can have drawbacks for SEO. Since most web designers apply parallax scrolling to one-page web design, it might limit you in keywords and H1 tag number, as well as slow down your site that affects behavioral factors. Although most parallax sites are not SEO-friendly, it doesn’t mean that they cannot be SEO-friendly. You can find solutions on utilizing parallax not harming SEO here and tips to make your AJAX application crawlable here.

  3. Justin Brideson

    Very interesting information about the use of breadcrumbs. I am using the other tips but this one is new to me, thanks.

  4. Patrick

    Another issue that’s often overlooked (and you’re doing it on this page), is using non-descriptive link text – meaning link text that does not describe the destination page.

    The classic example is ‘click here’ or ‘here’ on links. A wider discussion on this topic is available he.. – sorry ;-) – on this page: http://www.moghill.co.uk/wp/never-say-click-here-website-sins/

    Hope you find it useful.

  5. Jenny McDermott

    The site I’m referring to below is that of my former employer, Conklin Company. In 2012 we changed the slideshow on the home page. Previously, the original (Flash) slideshow included pictures representing each product line with two smaller pictures and a bit of text below the main graphics. The smaller pictures described some of the company’s distributors and linked to other pages on the site with articles about the distributors and their businesses.

    Prior to the update, the home page’s bounce rate was in the mid- to low 30th percentile; not great, but respectable. I used the swfobject.embedSWF() Javascript to keep the actual Flash movie displaying in the center of the page, unless you were looking at it on an iPhone. In that case, you saw a couple lines of keyword-rich text.

    In the summer of 2012 we changed the Flash slideshow to a jquery slideshow. For design reasons the pairs of smaller pictures with text and links were also eliminated in favor of a short list of company news. There were some keywords in the text on the slide show slides.

    One week after this change was made, Google Analytics showed traffic to the home page falling off a cliff; bounce rate went up to the high 60s. I speculate that the new slideshow didn’t contain enough interesting content to get most visitors to click through to other pages. As the distributors featured in the old slideshow were very similar in demographics and psychographics to qualified prospects, their mini-bios served to intrigue and interest visitors to explore further.

    So there are two lessons here, I think: content is king, and using Flash doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice SEO.

  6. Jeff Marlon

    Actually the biggest mistake among all these is using too much flash. The reason is that Google is now highly considering onsite content so if your website has no or less content and full of flash then it will highly harm.

  7. Andrew Smith

    Hi Jeff,
    I agree with you, nevertheless it is up to every web designer to decide whether they need a SEO-friendly site of just a beatiful art work made in flash.

  8. Rahul Chouhan

    Really good tips but i often see that site keyword stuffing is also effect on on page seo.. Nice post

  9. ip changer

    It’s amazing to pay a quick visit this web page and reading the
    views of all colleagues on the topic of this paragraph, while I am
    also eager of getting experience.

  10. Ayesha Goyal

    Great information as it very essential to consider these factors while going through redesigning or thinking of any change in websites.
    It is important for business owners inorder to protect their search engine rankings ,search traffic and sales.

    KAOS professional web designers and developers from hong kong helps you out as they plans accordingly from the start which gives success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *