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Is Your Website Design Hurting Your SEO?

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Web design

Having an attractive website for your business is no longer optional. It’s now a necessity in today’s digital world.

But what you might not realize is that how your website looks isn’t everything. If your site doesn’t function in the way that web users expect, its visual appeal won’t really matter – to humans or to search engines.

That’s because Google typically prioritizes user experience over attractiveness. Your website might look visually pleasing, but does it actually serve a customer’s needs?

If not, you’re going to end up driving visitors away. And as a result, your search rankings will probably plummet.

Search engine optimization is about more than keyword selection and content creation. Your website needs to be designed in a way that helps users find the information they need. If you fail to do that, your other SEO efforts won’t pay off.

Let’s take a closer look at a few telltale signs that your site’s design could be hurting your SEO.

Your Site Isn’t Responsive

Having a mobile-friendly website is a must. Think With Google estimates that over half of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices. So if you’re ignoring the needs and preferences of mobile customers, you’ll be doing your brand a huge disservice.

One of the most important aspects of a mobile-friendly website is responsive design. These two terms aren’t interchangeable, as mobile-friendliness can encompass a number of features.

Specifically, responsive design refers to a website’s ability to automatically adjust depending on how it’s being viewed. In other words, the site’s design will provide a consistent experience across all devices and will sense when certain design modifications need to be made based on the device being used.

Although not all mobile-accessible websites feature responsive design, this type of design is now considered to be the gold standard. It improves user experience by eliminating the need for pinching and zooming on mobile screens. Instead, your site will adjust the size and positioning of key elements for a more comfortable visit.

On the flip side, non-responsive websites can frustrate web users with illegible text and hard-to-tap buttons. When a mobile user lands on a non-responsive website, they may be inclined to hit the “back” button right away. Some visitors may assume that because you don’t care about the mobile experience, your brand doesn’t care about its mobile customers either.

What’s more, Google doesn’t view non-responsive websites with the same admiration. Because Google now indexes the mobile version of web pages first, the user experience you provide for mobile users will directly impact your rankings in search results.

In short, non-responsive design (especially when paired with the other issues listed below) can hinder your ability to appear prominently in SERPs.

You’ve Got Security Issues

If you’ve ever visited a website with outdated security standards, you can attest to how quickly you “X” out of your browser.

This is true for both desktop and mobile visits. If your site is seen as having poor security, you’re going to have a tough time getting customers to trust you.

You won’t get too far without an SSL certificate. In fact, Google may warn your website visitors that they should abandon their session and return to safety.

And if you use an old CMS with antiquated plugins, your site will be that much easier to infiltrate. A hacking attempt can result in unnecessary downtime and a damaged brand reputation – both of which can mean major losses for your business.

We know that Google uses HTTPS encryption as a ranking signal. And since a recent survey found that 82% of users will leave non-secure websites, ignoring security issues can result in big risks.

Not only will you displease search engines and customers, but you could jeopardize your ability to run your business online if you become the victim of a breach!

Be sure to address any existing security issues and establish a plan for preventing them in the future. That’s the best way to ensure your site won’t scare customers or search engines away.

Your Site Loads Slowly

Page design

Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license

Remember how we said that Google cares about user experience? Well, loading speed plays a gigantic role in how visitors feel about your site (and your brand as a whole).

Data shows that most visitors will leave a website if it takes more than a few seconds to load. That means you have a very short period of time to make a good impression.

Google’s recent Page Experience update shows just how important loading speed is. The newly-introduced Core Web Vitals address the significant effect of page loading delays and unexpected shifts have on the user experience.

At minimum, you should conduct a site speed test and address any obvious issues that could be slowing your site down. You might need to compress your images, use a content delivery network (CDN), upgrade your server, take advantage of caching, or eliminate unnecessary redirects and HTML in order to speed things up.

By taking these steps, you’ll vastly improve the user experience – making both search engines and human visitors a lot happier in the process.

Your Navigation is Confusing

You need to make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. That’s the purpose of a website navigation menu. But some brands try to get too clever with their navigation (and hurt their ability to compete as a result).

Your site’s navigation should be instantly understood by all visitors. While you may want to stand out from others in your industry, that doesn’t mean you should rename your menus in a confusing way.

Your website navigation should be completely user-friendly and make sense from a psychological standpoint. Ideally, accessing your navigation menu should take as few clicks as possible. You’ll also want to include a sitemap, which can help visitors and search engines understand the structure of your website.

Wondering whether your navigation is hard to follow? Look at your site analytics and see where visitors are dropping off. You can also ask someone unfamiliar with your site to visit and give you their thoughts.

As long as you eliminate broken links, orphaned pages, and overly complicated navigation, you shouldn’t experience too many rankings setbacks as a result in this area.

You’ve Added Annoying Pop-Ups

Today’s pop-up ads aren’t for spammy external websites. They’re usually for the brand itself. They’re often used to promote special deals, products, or certain kinds of content (like newsletters).

These pop-ups can be highly effective – but they come with a big caveat. They need to be used sparingly, appear at the right time, and be designed in a way that’s easy to dismiss.

If you have a pop-up on every single page that appears as soon as the page loads, you’re going to annoy web visitors. And if the pop-up covers the entire page, that’s going to be even more frustrating (especially for mobile users).

Pop-ups like these will cause visitors to abandon your site without a second thought. Search engines don’t particularly like intrusive interstitials either, so you should rethink your approach to pop-up windows if you want to protect your rankings.

You don’t need to get rid of pop-ups completely, but you do need to be choosy about how you use them. They should appear after the user has been on the page for a certain period of time and should appear only on specific pages. Make sure they’re designed with a clear way to exit, as well.

Address These Site Issues For Better SEO Results

Ultimately, there’s a lot that goes into determining your site’s ranking in search results. Google uses hundreds of different ranking signals to evaluate the value of a website.

But the importance of user experience can’t be overstated. That’s why web design matters for SEO. By taking care of these web design problems, you’ll make the most of your SEO strategy.

About the author: Jeff Shipman is the Director of Marketing Innovation at Semify, a white label digital marketing agency based in Rochester, New York.

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