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SEO Design Mistakes You Should Avoid

Following on from last week’s common design mistakes that impact user experience, we’re exploring what else may be negatively affecting your web pages. Picture this, you’ve user-tested your web design to the point that you’re satisfied a potential visitor will happily navigate your site and successfully complete their journey however your page isn’t ranking on search engines. Page 1, page 2, page 3, it’s nowhere to be found for the keywords you want to rank for. Returning customers may dig your excellent choice of font or images but since you’re after new visitors through organic search you’ll ask “where did it go wrong?”. Here we’ll find out why your web design might be causing your pages to not appear in the rankings.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a common language for most stakeholders in the digital industry. Whether you have a small website for your high street shop or have a large business entirely based online, most will understand the need to optimise your pages to suit the requirements of search engine crawlers otherwise few people will discover them amongst the countless competitors. Despite this, SEO is often overlooked ahead of over-designing, snappy images, or simply just not cared for. SEO is a long process, taking months to achieve your goals but should begin with the inception of the site and on every page you create.

Here are our top design mistakes that impact SEO to avoid.

  1. Text in Images
  2. Poor Page Speed
  3. Missing Headings
  4. Not Optimising Your Site For Mobile
  5. Forgetting To Include a 404 Page


Text In Images

All the text placed on your page should be important and relevant to the goals you’re trying to achieve therefore you’ll want crawlers to read everything you’ve written. A common mistake is including images with the text directly inside so it can be read by a user but not by a robot. While it may look punchy to include a call to action or stand out the phrase as an image, you’ll be missing out on a key heading or relevant keyword that Google would deem a ranking factor. This pays especially vital if your image is above the fold or as part of the banner since this is a key area for crawlers. Adding the content in as alt text won’t suffice as it’s only designed for a few choice terms so always remember to keep your words as text to ensure it’s readable by all parties.


Page Speed

When creating a site, your first instincts may be to add every element, design feature, and high-definition image you can find until the pages are filled. On the surface, this is a great idea until you realise they are slowing your site down. Sluggish page speed (over 3 seconds) is a factor that negatively impacts both your user experience and potential rankings that we have talked about in our SEO KPIs. Large, high-quality images are usually the main culprit of a slow page speed so it is recommended to keep the file size under 100kb. There are many other agents such as overuse of scripts or unoptimised code that can also attribute to slow page speeds therefore it is best to use the PageSpeed Insights tool before publishing your site.


Missing Headings

When a visitor enters a page, they should know exactly what the content of it should be by reading the main heading (H1). This is partly through tagging in the HTML code but also providing a clear on-page design. Our H1 for this page is “SEO Design Mistakes You Should Avoid” and that sums up the blog for search engines with its tag as well as for visitors by standing out. Where you might go wrong is to add the heading as an H2 or not as a heading at all. A missing H1 is an easy mistake that causes you to fall in the rankings however it is a simple fix. Further, as a designer its key to ensure your heading stands out and is easily readable for visitors. Remember to create an H1 above the fold, include your primary keyword, and test with users. If you can understand what your page or site is about by your heading quickly, then your tag works. 


Not Optimising Your Site For Mobile

The introduction of mobile-first indexing means that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your site’s content when considering ranking and indexing. This was a natural move for Google as the majority of searches are made on smartphones, just consider your own browsing experience as a reference! After building your site on a desktop, it is likely you may have prioritised the optimisation for that platform and not considered mobile. Features of an unfriendly mobile site could include difficult navigation (requires zooming in to find features), difficulty making actions, small of the font, or slow load speed. It has been said that a visitor is five times more likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly.


While building your pages, be sure to follow Google’s guidelines on mobile-friendliness, ideally producing a dynamic site. Use the Mobile-Friendly Tool to check your page. 


Forgetting To Include a 404 Page

When you’ve built your new site, including all the pages and content you’ve got planned, you might not consider that down the line users will encounter a 404 server error. It’s inevitable that content will be removed or changed or moved elsewhere resulting in a lost page. When this happens, you don’t want the user to be stuck on an empty page because they’ll feel frustrated and leave whereas including a dedicated 404 page is productive. A page with an apology and recommended navigation links will show you regard the visitor highly. Remember to include this page from day one rather than when the issue arises.



After you’ve made sure that the features on your site look attractive and are great for user experience, you’ll want to spend some time considering how search engines are going to crawl your site. Above are the five points we believe are the most important and overlooked SEO design mistakes that you should avoid however the list is endless. Be sure to follow SEO guidelines to include your pages in search engine indexation. 


If you’re looking to improve your SEO or gain some much-needed visibility for your business, contact one of our friendly website experts at HROC today!