How Web Design Can Affect Search Engine Rankings

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Sinoun Chea

Welcome to 2016’s SEO! If you have been in the industry for long, you would know that search engine optimization is almost nothing like it was back in 2010. A lot has changed. From adding ‘no follow’ and ‘do follow’ link tags to giving UI & UX priority, Google has completely revamped the face of SEO. The major changes happened back in 2013 and the updates kept coming. Today, Google has made search engine optimization as natural possible. Keyword stuffing is not the way to go anymore nor is thousands of words on your website. If you want your website to rank better in search engine results then you really need to focus on giving your users a good experience. This experience includes everything, from your website’s design to its performance and speed, and content. Unlike previously, Google has also added support for Adobe’s searchable SWF library, making it possible to index Flash content as well.

In other words, all the previous rules such as ‘not including Flash files in your web design’, ‘keeping multimedia to a minimum’ and others, don’t really matter anymore. While this might sound like a statement of joy, it’s actually quite the opposite. If you want your website to be successful, you really need to get the ground work done.

SEO is no longer just about optimizing your website with keywords but now it’s all about providing your users an excellent experience. Obviously, with this, web design and web development comes right to mind. So, if you really want your website to reach the top in search engine results, you need to follow the following rules:

Size Affects Performance:

Many web developers won’t tell you that the heavier your website is, the difficult it is to be indexed by search engine crawlers. This is what people are unable to understand. The overall size of your web page, including but not limited to the size of your images, banners, multimedia, and content, determines the overall page loading speed. A good page load speed is somewhere between 0 to 2 seconds as per Google. This means that whenever a crawler comes to your web page and is trying to retrieve information, the faster your page loads the easier your information is indexed. If the page takes time to load and your website is slow to be browsed, it will be noted by search engines and your points on User Experience will be deducted.

What to Do?
  • Keep images compressed. (Click here to know how)
  • If you are using videos, try to embed them via YouTube instead of uploading them directly on the website.
  • Compress JavaScript and Flash files
  • Use lighter images
  • Avoid any unnecessary HTML coding errors. Make sure the HTML of your web page along with your content is clean.

Graphical Websites Might Be Troublesome:

Believe it or not, graphics-based websites have always been a challenge for search engines to rank. Back in the day, websites with flash content were completely unacceptable to Google, as there was no support for Flash files. Luckily for creative designers, Google now offers support for Java animations and Adobe’s searchable SWF library for Flash content. While this may sound good, you still need to make sure your website’s graphics are not overwhelming it’s coding and content or else your website won’t be SEO friendly.

What to Do?
  • Keep graphics light and compressed
  • Use Java animation as much possible for animations
  • Reduce the amount of Flash based content as much possible
  • Keep text in readable HTML format. Content on your banners and images should be readable by search engines. Test it by placing your cursor over the text and selecting it. It should be separate from the image.
  • Maintain HTML to text ratio above 25%

Keep Dynamic Web URLs Under Check:

Most ecommerce website owners would testify how difficult it is to manage dynamic web urls. Dynamic generated pages are the ones that are automatically created whenever a new product or post is added to the site. In such situations, it becomes impossible to manually create URLs, especially if you are posting hundreds of products daily. The urls you get have special characters such as $, %, #, etc.

The problem with these pages is that they are automatically generated by the database, making it quite difficult for search engines to keep a track of new pages being added to your website. The best way to get around this is to create a sitemap and add it to the website. The sitemap should include all the static pages of your website. When the crawler will crawl your website, it will read the sitemap and index all your major pages, instead of being diverted by dynamic pages.

What to Do?
  • Keep the sitemap in XML format. Google favors XML sitemaps over others.
  • Add the Sitemap to your Google Webmaster Account.
  • Add major keywords to the URLs of all static pages

Use HTML by the Rules:

While HTML is the most favored language by search engines, it can cause a lot of issues if it is not kept clean. Thanks to content management systems such as WordPress, HTML for your content is automatically generated. However, a lot of times this self-generated HTML creates errors, especially if your website has a variety of content. HTML increase your HTML ratio against your web page’s text, which is a major issue for Google to pull your website down.

What to Do?
  • Maintain proper content structure.
  • Manually check all the important tags such as meta title, meta description, h1, h2, h3 and other header tags.
  • Manually check HTML for coding errors through any SEO auditing tool.
  • Maintain HTML to Content Ratio above 25

Optimize Your Domain Name:

Domain names are an important factor for search engine optimization. A rule of thumb is to ensure your domain name has your important keyword in it. However, this does not work every time. While this might get your ranked better in search engines, it may have a negative impact on your website’s branding. For instance, if you are selling cheap children clothing then buying a domain ‘’ would be effective for SEO but might hurt your website’s branding. Also, you need to keep in mind that such domains are difficult to get.

What to Do?
  • Focus more on branding so that your website gains popularity among your customers.
  • A more popular website means better reviews and more social media signals which will eventually boost your rankings.

Frames Hurt Your Rankings:

It is optimization 101 that frames are no longer good for your website. They not only make it difficult for search engines to crawl your website but they also make your website sloppy. In fact, you should know that most search engines do not even support frames. So, if you are using frames in your website, chances are that your website will be highly difficult to index for most search engines.

Most developers argue that frames constitute an important part of the development process. This is not true. Frames a thing of the past. In fact, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the new shape of frames. You can achieve anything you want by using CSS.

What to Do?
  • Don’t fret. There’s nothing that cannot be achieved without frames. No one uses frames anymore. If your developer or if you are using it then stop the practice immediately. Frames will impede your website’s rankings.
  • Use an SEO audit tool check if your website has frames or not.

Obsolete Information or Websites that are Not Updated Regularly are Hard to Rank:

When the entire craze of Google Adsense and other income generating advertisements was at its peak, many webmasters created websites and left them for months without updating.

However, they did make good money through advertisements. In order to discourage this practice, most search engines emphasize on regular updating of information of websites.

What to Do?
  • Instead of using banners, use landing pages for promotions and new products. This way, you will regularly add new pages to the website.
  • Integrate your blog with your website. Adding a blog will not only help your website get higher rankings but will also ensure your website is regularly being updated.

User Experience Adds to Your Rankings:

Many people think of a lavish design when the term user experience pops up. There is a lot of difference between maintaining good user experience and maintain a lavish design.
In fact, in most cases, the more high-end design your website has, the more difficult it is to maintain its UX. UX is a lot more than design; it includes your website’s structure, navigation and much more.

In short, the following major aspects are most important when it comes to user experience:

  • Navigation of Your Website
  • Internal Linking: How easily can a user reach your most important pages?
  • Website Load Time
  • Content: Content Structure, Length and Schedule

Don’t Forget Mobile Optimization:

Mobile optimization has become an essential part of Google’s algorithm. Any website that is not mobile optimized will not be able to rank well. Most webmasters think mobile optimization only affects mobile search results but this is not true. Mobile optimization also affects your desktop and tablet based search rankings.

What to Do?
  • Make sure your website is mobile optimized.
  • Make sure your website is providing good user experience on mobile and tablets
  • Make sure your website’s load time is under 2 seconds on mobile

Why this is so important for Search Engines?

It’s simple – Google wants to make sure that the most deserving website comes on top. When we say ‘most deserving’, we mean websites that are more authentic and true to their business, and at the same time provide outstanding value to their customers in terms of User Experience. Five years ago, it was impossible to rank such a website on Google, which is why most webmasters were creating simple, content loaded websites to stuff keywords. The answer to this problem was to provide more room to webmasters. Now, webmasters can add multimedia, banners and even flash files to the website to make sure users are getting the right experience. This helps you in maintaining the right brand strategy on your pages and at the same time ensuring your website is being ranked well. In other words, Google now places users before its algorithms.


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Sinoun Chea

I help small businesses Do Better Online™. When businesses thrive, people also thrive. #morethanjustbusiness

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