Can bad web design harm your SEO efforts?

Web design and SEO are intricately intertwined. So, in short, the answer is yes. Having lousy web design will harm your SEO Google rankings. You may ask how this works, and the answer is simple.
If a user conducts a search online and lands on your website, that’s excellent news. You have managed to get your website high up on the rankings where people can find you. But, if they cannot find what they are looking for and your website doesn’t answer or address their inquiry quickly, they will leave. If this happens often enough, Google will notice this and start penalising your site.

Known as Bounce Rates the more often people come to your website and bounce off that page ( to exit the site – because they didn’t get what they wanted) the worse it will be for your rankings. The most common reason for high bounce rates is a poor web design, and if you do not fix this, your SEO rankings can never improve.

To help you create a fabulous looking website that your customers will love, following are some examples of bad web design mistakes many people make and an in-depth look at SEO’s most essential components.

Examples of terrible website design mistakes

Text is too small or hard to read.

When people come to your site, they are looking for information and want this quickly. If the text is too small or hard to read, they may exit the site. The aim is to keep users on your site looking around for information, products or services they may need. Clear, bold text will reduce bounce rates and in-turn help with your Google rankings.

Also, take a look at the colour you use for your website text. Faint, hard to read colours is a massive mistake and will kill the user’s whole web experience. The trick here is to keep it simple. Make sure the text is easy to read, with separate main paragraph headings and its colour is black.

Also Read: Signs that it’s time to redesign your website

Pop-up notifications

Pop-ups are great if you have a promotion or you want the browser to fill out a form. But, try to limit these as they tend to become too annoying. Remember that people will be very reluctant to leave their details if they don’t know or trust your site. People come to your site to look around, and pop-ups can hamper the whole experience. Irritating your browsers will affect bounce rates as they WILL leave the site if these pesky pop-ups become an issue.

Your website is not mobile-friendly

The nature of search is going mobile. You can’t design your website just for desktop devices. Doing this will kill the user experience, and Google will penalise your site. You also have to look at how your website renders on iPads. People are time-poor, fussy and want information at their fingertips. Give them this! Google has tools to test if your site is mobile compatible.

Most business nowadays has mobile-friendly websites, but there are exceptions to the rule here. Don’t be one of them and expect to see decent online rankings.

Amateur content

You want to portray your business as being professional. Professionally written content will do this. Poorly written websites show users a lack of professionalism or care. You look like an amateur, and the results will speak for themselves. All pages have to have fresh, informative content that you update regularly. Please don’t be complacent about this part of your website as it’s one of the most crucial SEO ranking factors. The more you put into your website’s copy, the more people will engage with the site. It will build trust, authority and your rankings will improve.

Bad user experience

What happens when a potential customer lands on your website? Do they like what they see and start looking around the site, or is there a horrible gasp and they immediately leave? When designing a website, you need to keep the user experience in front of mind, making sure it’s easy to use, memorable, and above all, there are no hurdles to hinder the buying process. Known as conversion-focused pages these are critical to the whole web experience. So what constitutes good website design that’s also SEO compatible?

  • address all questions a user might have at the top of the page. If your essential information is in the lower half of the page, this can be hard for users and therefore, SEO unfriendly.
  • never clutter the text and make use of white space with robust, bold headings in your paragraphs
  • make it easy for people to find what they want. Contact us and buy now buttons should be made very clear.
  • have your phone number at the top of the page

Also read

: 15 gorgeous landing pages that are conversion-focused

Videos with sound

Make sure that all videos you have on your website DO NOT start automatically with sound. Uses can be in an office or a private area, and they will immediately close your site down if there’s a blaring video going off. If you want videos to play automatically, make sure they start as muted. Don’t annoy people before they have had a chance to look through your site. Loud videos can are offensive to some people. Others may like it, and this will depend on your audience. To be on the safe side, have videos as muted.

Long download times

Some people still have slow internet. Websites with large files, long pages and big images can slow the loading process down. If your website takes longer than two seconds to load this will add to your websites bounce rates. People will exit your site if they become too impatient.

While a couple of seconds might not seem like a huge deal, it does when it comes to your website’s speed. Users want fast, snappy websites to load instantly. It’s the nature of the online space and the way people search now. Do a test yourself and see how long your site takes to load. If it’s longer than say 4 seconds, then you have an issue.

Related post: Is your website design killing your business?

Fake images from cheap photo libraries

Users want realistic images of your business and even better of yourself. Try to avoid the overuse of free or cheap stock photos from image libraries. A huge turn off and people can see right through this. A fake photo of people meeting for a coffee that’s unrelated to your business or two people shaking hands ( you know what I mean ) adds to the distrust. Keep it real and spend the money on decent photos or your business and staff. People will respond better to this.

Outbound links

If your web page has lots of links pointing to other websites, this is good if you reference a document. It is not ideal if there are too many outbound links as this helps people leave your site. Keep these to a maximum of two per page.

Any of the above web design mistakes can and will negatively impact your SEO efforts. As a web design agency, we recommend fixing these as soon as possible to avoid any further Google ranking issues.

A great example of a horrible website design!

SEO tips to help rank your website higher.

A thorough website audit

If you have designed and built a new website, it’s time for a complete audit. Or, if you have an existing site, you need an audit also. Factors to consider n your website audit are:

  • site speed ( are images loading with a couple of seconds )
  • content ( is the copy unique – make sure you haven’t plagiarised it from other sites). Content plays a crucial role in any SEO campaign, so make sure you have it written by a professional copywriter as highlighted above.
  • look at your current backlink profile. Where are the links coming from to your site, and are they trustworthy? If they look dodgy or unrelated to your site get them disavowed through your Google search console.
  • look at your URL structure and make sure it’s SEO friendly. All service and product pages should reflect the nature of the content of that page. For example, if you’re a divorce lawyer in Sydney and one of the services you offer is child custody, then the URL for that service page need to be:

This URL structure should be uniform throughout the site as it makes it easier for Google to index this page and rank it.

Write amazing content

As discussed above, the copy is king for any website. But first of all, you need to address each page on the site and write unique, informative & exciting copy based on your keywords for that particular service or product.

Using the example of a child custody lawyer in Sydney, the content for that page has to be anywhere between 1000-2000 words and the trick here is to write it better than your competition.

The SEO and web design combined formula we like to use is incredible content combined with a great backlink profile will equal higher Google rankings.

It’s a simple process, and this is the cornerstone of what Google is wanting.

Offer more insights into the processes involved in child custody and reasons why your the best divorce lawyer in Sydney to handle any child custody matter. For SEO purposes, each page must have a clear introduction and subheadings ( we can create H1, H2 and H3 headings – in the backend of your WordPress website content management system ). Make it easy for the user to read with clear call to action buttons on the page.

Title tags & meta descriptions

These are a vital component for any website as the title sets the tone for the page and is what Google reads.

The descriptions are the information under the title to give the reader more insight into the page’s nature and topic.

These titles and descriptions are your selling point on Google and entice users to click on them.

Ideally, your title tag should not be longer than 60 characters, while meta descriptions should be 160 characters at most.

Never try to overuse keywords in an attempt to rank higher. Known as keyword stuffing, Google frowns upon this. Sounding natural with a sales angle to this is the best approach.

Please take a look at our example below of a well-worded SEO friendly title and meta description:

Title = Child Custody Lawyers in Sydney | Company XYZ

Meta Description = Sydney Child Custody Lawyers. Company XYZ is a specialist divorce and child custody law firm based in Sydney offering cost-effective solutions. Call 02 1234 5678

Creating backlinks

A backlink is created when a link from an external website links back to your site. The more links you get from authoritative websites, the more trustworthy your site will be. Backlinking is, without a doubt, one of the essential components of your SEO strategy. Getting it right will shoot you up the rankings, but getting it wrong will produce dire consequences.

I could go on and on about backlinking as it’s a complicated topic, but the golden rule is this; it’s quality over quantity.

Quality linking is what so many businesses fail to understand. One quality backlink from a trustworthy site is better than 1000 links from untrustworthy cheap sites. Many SEO agencies offer cheap SEO packages where they can build ‘so-called’ links to your website for next to nothing. Cheap SEO and the building of these types of dodgy links are why so many businesses fail online.

If you’re a new business start-up in a competitive niche and want to rank BUT have a limited budget, I would be cautious about commencing any backlinking campaign. Rather blog instead and aim for the long tail easier keywords.

For existing businesses with a decent SEO budget investing in a backlinking campaign is one of the best marketing moves you can make.

In summary

I always tell my clients that the road to SEO success is a long one. There are no short cuts, and you have to be prepared to invest your time, energy and some of your marketing budget. It’s an on-going process where you have to continually improve your website’s performance, creating high-quality backlinks and producing great content if you are to succeed online. But, if you put in the hard yards, there are rewards for you.

Do you want your website to rank higher on Google? Contact our Sydney web design team to find out how our SEO services can help your business grow and beat the hell out of your competition.

inlineThis article was written by Steven Walberg, one of the marketing team at Hopping Mad Designs who has helped many businesses with their online marketing. He’s a business mentor and loves creating exciting new online strategies for Sydney businesses.


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