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Avoid 5 Common Web Design Mistakes that Hurt SEO

web design mistakes hurt seoYour website isn’t getting as many visitors as you think it should! Or maybe you’ve got lots of traffic but you’re still not selling anything!

Even if your site looks great, you may be running up against one of these common web design mistakes that hurt SEO.

And it doesn’t matter whether you hired a kid to build a cheap website or you spent a fortune on professional web design. Most web designers just aren’t qualified to practice high level search engine optimization.

Read on to learn these top web design mistakes and how to avoid and fix them.

#1 Poor Choice of Keywords

You’ve got to have the right words in the right places for effective SEO. So start by finding the right words.

There are several free tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and UberSuggest that will help you zero in on the best keywords to use on your website.

Once you’ve identified the right words, use our Perfect SEO cheat sheet to make sure you put those Right Words in the Right Places.

#2 Incorrect Use of Heading Tags

On your pages, there should be html code called heading tags that indicate what is the main headline, what is the second most important headline and so on. They’re indicated like this:
html headling examples

Sometimes we call them H tags or Hx tags.

When you put something inside these H tags, you’re saying “This is what my page is about!”

This can be great for SEO because the search engines really try to understand the meaning of your content. They want you to show up when your content is relevant to a searcher’s query. Proper use of heading tags can really improve your relevancy score with Google.

Unfortunately, these tags are misused by many web designers. Common misuse includes:

  • Putting the logo or company name inside an h1 tag.
  • Using multiple h1 tags (never use more than 1 on a page)
  • Putting too much text inside an Hx tag. They’re for headlines, not for sentences or paragraphs.
  • Using Hx tags for stylings text a certain font, size or color. Never use Hx tags for any text outside the main body content of a page.

All these mistakes make it harder for the search engines to understand what your page is about. That hurts SEO.

Want to learn more about the reasons behind this? Search on poor semantic markup. That’s the fancy term for using heading tags the wrong way.

#3 Page Speed

Ask a web designer or developer to shave a second off the time it takes your page to load and you may get comments like:
We need all those high quality graphics to accurately portray our brand’s image.
or People like to see those animations on web pages.
or It’ll take too long to re-code how our page loads.
or They don’t mind waiting a few more seconds because our site is so awesome.
or (my favorite) Everybody’s got broadband.

Wrong answers.

Page load speed is more important than ever. 1st, Google has officially said that it’s a ranking factor. Second, Google has been pushing the idea of “great user experience” alot and one of the top factors they list is page speed.

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users… – Google

The guys who run the Walmart website made an awesome presentation on how speed impacts the bottom line. They documented their efforts to reduce the load speed of their website pages and how a faster website had a double whammy: improved conversion rates and a decreased bounce rate. Here are my favorite parts:

(There was a) sharp decline in conversion rate as average load speed time increases from 1 to 4 seconds – Walmart

Bounce rate strongly correlates to page speed – Walmart

walmart page load speed conversion case study results

#4 Poor URL and File Names

I see so many websites that miss this easy SEO opportunity.

Pages and images that are named something like example.com/12-rrpwJ1.html don’t give any clue what they’re about. On the other hand, I bet you can tell what this page is about:

Name your files something descriptive and Google will give you a little boost.

#5 Web Redesign that Ignores SEO & Existing Rankings

Time and time again, I’ve heard this story:
We were getting lots of business from the web but it all disappeared after we redesigned our website.

Before you let somebody touch your website, make sure they understand why you’re doing well. If they don’t understand, they may eliminate the reasons why your website is performing. If your old website is getting traffic that you don’t want to lose, consider hiring an SEO expert to consult on your project instead of trusting a web designer that doesn’t understand the difference between your PageRank and your page’s rank.

At minimum, make sure they know which pages on your website have incoming, external links and use 301 redirects to point your old pages to the corresponding new pages.

Bonus Tip: Domain Registered in Web Designer’s Name

Everything that your web design company does for you should be listed in your name, not theirs.

Face it, relationships end, sometimes badly. When you need to leave your web designer for somebody else, you don’t want to have to fight for control of your domain name. I’ve had the experience of dealing with several clients that had lost control of their domains to previous web partners. It’s not fun to have to change your email, your biz cards, stationery and sign just because the old guys are being jerks. Stop what you’re doing now and make sure your domain is registered in your name. Having to change your website is the ultimate way to hurt SEO.

Same goes for who controls your Google Analytics account. Make sure it’s setup under a Google account that you company owns. Your historical analytics data is extremely valuable. Without it, you just can’t do effective ongoing SEO. Make sure your analytics data belongs to you permanently.

What Now?

To avoid these common web design mistakes that hurt SEO, share this article with your web design partner and have a discussion about how you can improve your total web presence.



  1. Really nice and informative post.Thanks for sharing.Web designers make mistakes of all kinds during the process of website design.If you get your website designed wrong, you can easily lose thousands of customers.For a website to really work for your business,you have to avoid common web design mistakes.

    • Thanks, Saira. Sadly, this is only tip of the iceberg when it comes to how web design can hurt rankings. While there are plenty of great web designers, there are even more that are dangerous to the client’s visibility.

  2. Great post and Meetup last night! My first visit and my brain is in overdrive! See you next month.

  3. SPINX INC. says:

    Such a delightful information. It’s okay that a web designer needs to include creative designs but another important part of a website is SEO which requires creating an SEO friendly website. tags help to build an attractive website and also define various keywords. Mostly, SEO works with URL, Title, H1, H2, H3, strong keyword and some common factors. Thanks a lot for the article on avoiding making errors in a web design.