How Web Design Can Affect Your Search Rankings (Load Time)

Posted by | October 21 | Search Engine Optimization – SEO, Web Design

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Website designing can affect not just your customer’s experience and overall buying decision, but even your site’s search engine rankings. Remember, your website should be making you money in one way or another, not just sitting out there in the cold, crowded web. Everybody knows that search engine rankings mean the difference between feast or famine. When an initial visitor looks for a business in popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, 96% of people will click on listings that appear on the first page. The remaining 4% of visitor traffic goes to page 2 and beyond.

Here Are The Most Common Ways Web Design Affects Your Search Engine Rank

1. The size of your website: Search engines rank a website based on its content and number of pages. Search engines are always on the hunt for more and more content, and if you have a lot of it, odds are you are going to be more relevant for specific search terms. If your company has only a few pages and your competitor’s site has several, then it is going to be difficult to beat them on content alone. You definitely don’t want to cram your website full of unnecessary information, but consider making pages that are deeper or better hidden on your website that might have information that is more relevant as users drill down.

2. Effective use of HTML: There is quite a bit of subpar web design software out there. Word processors usually have a way to create HTML documents which can be easily uploaded to a site via FTP. However, in many cases the code that the search engine robots see is mostly lines and lines of font and position formatting. Not only is this a bunch of extra junk for search engines to crawl through, but it is not information that is relevant to what you are trying to convey. Good websites are clean websites, meaning they are written with modern, efficient code bases. If you are building a website yourself, one great software is Macromedia Dreamweaver, as it is an industry standard. It makes web design using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) a breeze, which can drastically cut down on the amount of text formatting in HTML code. If you are a true overachiever, hand coding your site design in HTML is also a good method.

3. Large databases: If most of your website is generated by a large database, you may find that some of your pages do not get indexed by major search engines. If you look at the URLs of these pages, they can be extremely long and have characters such as ?, #, &, %, or = along with huge amounts of seemingly random numbers or letters. Since these pages are automatically generated by the database as needed, the search engines have a tough time keeping them up to date and relevant for search engine users.

One way to combat this problem is to offer a search engine friendly sitemap listing all your static pages just to let the bots know that you do have permanent content on your site. If search engines see links going to and from these dynamic pages within a good internal linking system, this may also lead to the pages getting indexed. The link popularity of your site may carry more weight in this case as well, so if you can’t offer as much static content as your competition, make sure you have an aggressive link campaign on the go.

Another great workaround is incorporating URL rewriting software, so the critical keywords are displayed in the address of that page, rather than seemingly arbitrary strings of numbers.

4. Using Frames: Don’t use frames. Frames are a thing of the 90s (in the internet world, that is eons ago) and are not even supported by some search engines. The search engines that are able to index your site through frames will most likely deduct a few points if they come across them. Whatever you are trying to accomplish by using frames can usually be done with the help of PHP includes or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Some browsers are not frames-compatible, so there is the danger of some visitors not being able to see your site at all. Bookmarking of individual pages within a frame becomes difficult without lengthy scripts being written.

5. Update Your Information: Nobody likes a website that looks like it was abandoned years ago. Not only does stale information make a bad impression to human readers, but you could also be missing out on some good rankings by not having dynamic content. Make sure your website is a moving target. Websites that continuously update and grow their websites usually experience higher rankings than stagnant sites, especially in industries that experience a high rate of growth or change. While the age of a web page is looked at as part of a search engine algorithm, it has no bearing on searches for items recently in the news. Consider creating a section of your site devoted to news within your organization, or have a constantly updated blog.

6. Avoid the heavy use of Flash: Flash banners are great, and create more of a dynamic feel, but when we are talking about Flash websites or intros that take 30 seconds to load, you are only hurting yourself. Recently Google has started factoring in page load time. Sites that load quickly (like Wikipedia) have no problems ranking highly for specific terms. Plus, as “cool” as you think that flash intro looks the first time you watch it, by the 10th time your visitors see it, it is just plain annoying. Skip it so they can get to the good stuff and start buying from you.

Many shortfalls of websites can easily be attributed to designers who just don’t keep the user or search engines in mind. Search engine algorithms are quickly improving to try and list the most user-friendly sites higher, given that the content and link popularity are there to back it up. So first and foremost, know your target market and make your website work for them before focusing on search engine optimization. If you build you website properly, search engine listing will never be a problem to you!

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