Good web design is an alluring and complex field that requires expertise in a range of areas including graphic design, marketing acumen, HTML and CSS coding, and technical knowledge as it relates to SEO.

Most designers don’t consider or understand the complexities of coding and layout that affect SEO. Most of them focus on their strength, which is designing a site that is beautiful and great looking, but not always purposely functional. Most sites’ purpose is to sell and with this conversion-oriented design scheme, SEO is the best option that translates into leads and expectantly sales. So overlooking this process could carry grave consequences to the success of your site.

So when it comes to SEO, the following points are the worst some designers make.

Figure 1: Overlaid live text showing it is selected. Hence "readable" and recognizable by Google.

1. Using images in place of real text

Lack of knowledge or sheer laziness often lead designers to use images containing text over using real, live text. Google and other search engines are unable to read text embedded in an image. As much as the text might look really cool with Photoshop effects, it is rendered useless as search engines can read it and frankly most effects can be achieved if you know the proper CSS coding. Consider only using text in images when it plays a significant role of the design such as in an infographic or complex chart.

TIP | If you need to use images to help define the context, always implement ALT tags with a description of the image.

2. Avoid Using Flash

Figure 2: Adobe Flash, avoid using it at all costs.

Flash used to be so cool in that designers could create really awesome animations and web experiences, but it is not easily indexed by search engines, if at all, and has become outdated and in many cases unsecure. Flash also entails additional hours of coding and animation that are typically out of most folks budgets.

With HTML5 and the use of JavaScripting, JQuery and other technologies, you can offer a better experience that is more widely supported (think your mobile devices and iPads), but it is also fully indexed and searchable.

TIP | DON’T USE FLASH! Google and other search engines can’t ‘read’ it. Duh!

3. Need Responsive Design

When it comes to SEO one of the most important factors today is ensuring your site is responsive. Your site should be functional and readable no matter the end-user’s access point, be it a desktop or on the go with their mobile device. Here’s the four main factors that come into play when considering SEO and responsive design:

Usability: Optimize your design for multiple screen sizes. Google prioritizes visitors that have a user-friendly mobile site. It takes note when visitors reach your site and immediately return to the search results.

Duplicate Content: Many designers build a desktop version of a site and then a second version that is optimized for the mobile user. This might work well for scrolling purposes, but it affects how search engines prioritize your site and content. Mobile websites are canonicalized to their desktop versions, so having duplicate content on a desktop and then a mobile site separate deflates its relevance. Use responsive design to keep content in one place—one URL.

Load Time: Having one version of a page coded to be responsive so it loads correctly on the end-user’s access device greatly reduces the load time since there are no redirects which tend to bog down a user’s experience.

Mobile Search Ranking: Sites optimized for a mobile experience are ranked higher by Google while they demote websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, so the need to have a responsive site is that much more important.

Responsive Design

TIP | Make sure to design a site that delivers content that's suitable and that makes sense in the context of a mobile experience.

4. Unfriendly Navigation

If users can’t find their way around easily they will opt to go back to the search results ands move on to the next website. There is no standard for navigation but it is crucial to understand that navigation must be intuitive and consistent.

Text used as navigation should be concise. Hyperlinks should stand out from the body of the text. Dead links have no place on a site. Increases confusion. And please refrain from having a link on the homepage that sends you to the homepage.

TIP | Organize your navigation in tandem with the purpose of the website. Personal websites can afford to be more creative but a business website requires efficiency.

5. Improper H Tags

We use H tags (H1 – H6 tags) to organize text on a page by level of importance, much like you would use headings in a document. The tags play a part in rendering proper SEO results by highlighting key areas of text/content, but overuse or incorrect use of these tags will “confuse” search engines, including Google.

H1 - H6 tags, as part of basic HTML code, allow us to highlight on-page content and prioritize it in a hierarchical order, most often by level of importance. These tags play a part in a site’s SEO and incorrect use, especially overuse, of these labels will "confuse" Google and other search engines.

Here are some suggestions on how to properly use H tags:

  • Limit one H1 tag per page, typically the page’s title.
  • Use the H2 tag as the header between paragraphs.
  • Consider using H3 tags as subheaders or for other elements on sidebar or abstracts.
  • H4 - H6 tags typically are used sparingly and have little effect on SEO.

TIP | Heading tags have a top-down hierarchy from <h1> to <h6>.

6. Heavy Images

The goal of a website is to present information fast, yet in a functional and aesthetically pleasing way. Images play a big part in how we interact with a site and get our information. The incorrect use of imagery though can slow down the user experience, especially for those on the go using their mobile access devices and potentially drive end users away or back to the search results for another company.

Images need to be optimized for use on the web and understanding the correct format for each situation is critical for a good web experience.

TIP | Here are some tools to shrink images without losing quality:
· JPEGmini
· Simple Image Resizer

7. Irrelevant Pop-Ups

User experience and SEO go hand in hand and when search engines, especially Google, “feel” that a guest to your site is unhappy with their experience, they’ll understand this and penalize you by giving better rankings to other sites.

If you have to use popups, make sure to do so for a good reason. Don’t use flash. A popup shouldn’t appear more than once in a session. AND don’t use flash?

TIP | Offer a freebie in return for the interruption or a discount, coupon or other.