The Top 12 SEO Mistakes Designers Make
Many designers have very little forethought when it comes to optimizing their designs for search engines. There are many common practices that can help pages rank better in search engines without putting a lot of effort in. Here are the top 12 SEO mistakes designers make, beautiful examples from the designers that make them, and how to fix them.
Title Tags Have Same Keywords
Many designers put the title of the website first and the name of the page second, and this creates some serious SEO problems. The title tag should have unique keywords on each specific page. The ideal title tag should first include one or two of the site’s overall keywords, and second an extremely brief summary of the page’s content within the first three to six words. It’s also important to keep in mind that search engines only pay attention to the first 60 characters of any title tag, so keep it short if you want it to count. In addition to SEO reasons, creating short and descriptive title tags also helps click-through rates from search engines.
Using Image Headings
For many years designers have created image based headings in order to use non-websafe (and usually better) fonts on their sites. While this allows beautiful typography to be seen by all, it is a serious SEO problem, as search engines outright ignore all text inside images. Fortunately there are now several powerful alternatives to using image based typography:
@Font-face is the newest and best way to use your own fonts as headings and is built into the new CSS3 specification. This method has several temporary drawbacks; first that many professional font foundries do not license their fonts for upload to the web, and second, only the most recent browsers support the @font-face feature. To get up to speed on @font-face, start with How to use CSS @font-face over at Nice Web Type, then grab some fresh and @font-face ready typefaces at SpyreStudios.
Using Image-based Buttons
Along the same lines as not using images as headings, search engines simply do not understand what image based buttons are. While there are many methods of coding buttons in css, but the easiest is to create a div class with backround-image:url() defined, and then put the link text inside. Using text based navigation also has many usability advantages particularly for mobile applications.
No Keyword Research
Keyword research is a vital part of ranking well in search engines, and using keyword research in tandem with design is the best way to start off on the right foot. Even doing basic keyword research with the Google Keyword Tool can help you target your project’s content and its keywords enough to make a difference in the search engine results pages.
Structuring Content Improperly
The structure of the DIV elements in a design affects how search engines rank content. The main content area of the website needs to come first in the code. While in many designs the sidebar will be on the left and it seems to make sense to have it in hierarchical order, having your sidebar content ranking before the main content will lower the search ranks of all of your keyword rich content.
Not Using Alt Attributes
If you use any images on your site, then add image ALT=”” attributes are required. This is a necessary element of valid xhtml, but many designers skip it without a thought. It’s best to use descriptive alt tags that inform what the image is and what’s its function is. This helps both the user if they cannot see the images, and also provides additional keyword data to the search engines. The SEO value for keywords inside alt tags is somewhat low, but it is best to keep your bases covered.
Using Too Much Flash
Lack of Content Keywords
Many designers write web copy that does little to help them sell their services. Having several keywords related to your business, location, or whatever in the content is vital to ranking well in the search engine results pages. In addition, a call to action (while not really SEO) is a powerful way of generating leads, and many designers completely miss the boat on using them for themselves and their clients. By writing something such as “contact us today for a free quote,” a site has a much better chance of connecting with potential clients over saying something ambiguous like “hello there.”
Using splash pages
Splash pages were cool in 1997 when you could add a sweet animated GIF of a perpetually running jaguar to greet your readers. These days a splash page serves almost zero purpose except to serve as a launching point for flash websites. Since you shouldn’t be using flash as a foundation for a website anyway, your probably don’t need a running jaguar either. The problem is that search engines will spider the splash page as your main page instead of the one with the content. In addition, a splash page serves as a bottleneck to many users actually visiting your site. As a result splash pages should not be used at all in contemporary web design especially when aiming for good search engine results.
Overuse of Ajax
Ajax provides a lot of functionality to modern websites, but because the content is loaded dynamically on a click, it is not crawled by search engines. Thus using a lot of AJax to load your content will result in poor SEO performance. Instead of using Ajax to load basic content, do it the old fashioned way unless there is a really compelling reason to do so.
Lack of Regularly Posted Site Content
If there’s anything that you can do that will ensure regular visits from search engine bots, its adding regular content to your website. Whether its in the form of a blog or something else, adding regular, keyword rich content will help you rank for a wide variety of keywords terms and will keep the search engine bots coming back for more. There are obviously other powerful side effects of this: you will naturally build links around the web, you will have something to share on social media, and you will make a positive impression on potential clients that find your content.
Implementing SEO Too Late
SEO is most effectively implemented when it is considered before the site is coded. Adding SEO after the fact takes significant time and can often require recoding large portions of a design. As a result it is best to implement proper SEO from the beginning of the project. Additionally, if you have been using a CMS such as WordPress for some time and did not setup the perma-links, canonical domains, titles, categories/tags and other elements properly from the beginning it will take a major time investment to get everything in order.