Is Your Site Design Being Penalized by Google?

You likely already know the basic tenants of good SEO for your website, but did you know that effective website design can also be a powerful factor that helps your site show up higher in search engine rankings?

Google’s search algorithm evaluates more than just content and backlinks when it ranks your website. More and more, search engines take a holistic approach to website evaluation and ranking, so improper or sloppy web design can cost you in ways that you may not expect.

Broken Links

A fresh redesign often brings changes not only to the visual aspect of the site, but content as well. Outdated pages may be changed, renamed or removed. New pages may be added. The organizational structure of the site itself may be revised.

These changes are often positive – they help website visitors find what they are looking for in a faster, more engaging way. However, if not managed properly, these changes can lead to broken links when outside websites try to reference pages that have been moved or deleted.

When search engines follow these links to your site and uncover multiple 404 errors, this harms your search engine ranking.

The solution: Make sure your website design company performs a full link audit on your site as part of the redesign and implements appropriate redirects from old links to live pages. This will ensure that any SEO rank the old pages had passes on to your new, updated site.

For pages that have been deleted and that have no new counterpart, present a custom 404 page with information that will help visitors find what they are looking for. It’s often best to include the sitemap, but you may want to consider a search feature or other information as well.

Duplicate Content

A common problem on ecommerce sites, duplicate content penalties can take many forms. One prevalent example is when the same product page has several dynamic URLs associated with it as a result of search functionality or multiple user sessions.

When this occurs, search engines may reach the page through these different URLs and assume that several pages on your website have the same content – thus triggering the duplicate content penalty.

Duplicate content can also be a problem when providing syndicated content. Even when sites share your content with permission and link back to you, there is no clear way for Google to know who the content belongs to without appropriate attribution.

The solution: While dynamic URLs and content syndication can helpful and even necessary for a successful online marketing strategy, a professional website redesign will account for these false-duplicates by using canonical URLs, 301 redirects and other methods to let search engines know the preferred URL for a particular page.

Slow Speeds

Website speed is one of several factors Google uses when deciding where to rank your website. Slow sites almost always suffer at least some penalty, regardless of the quality of the content on the page.

While there are multiple factors that feed into how fast your website loads, a properly optimized website redesign will minimize the potential for noticeable slowdowns. In particular, be sure that when your website is redesigned, it is also coded to:

  •  Minify JavaScript, CSS and other resources – compacting these resources will speed up downloading and execution time, which makes for a faster experience overall.
  • Avoid multiple redirects – a single redirect to a new URL is fine, but multiple redirects slow down page load times and can cause your site to drop in search engine rankings.
  • Optimize images – proper use of thumbnails and resizing images before they are loaded onto the site can speed up page load times, especially for people with slower browsing speeds.
  • Use caching (intelligently) – you wouldn’t want to serve up old content to your new visitors, but some pages can be effectively cached in the user’s system, which of course speeds up the user experience.

Mobile Performance

Google is moving forward with plans to penalize mobile websites that aren’t optimized for display on mobile devices. This means that your site could show up high in search results for desktop users but not for mobile users, causing you to miss out on a valuable segment of potential buyers. We are firm believers in responsive mobile web design.

A fully optimized mobile site experience is no longer a luxury, given that many people now regularly access the internet on their phones. Mobile layout and user experience specific to users on phones and tablets should be a part of nearly all successful website redesign projects.

A good web design team will walk you through the many options for creating a mobile-optimized web experience through adaptive or responsive design, and will make a recommendation that fits with the needs of your business and your customers.

How does your site measure up?

Are there any aspects of web design that you’ve seen directly impact your organic SEO efforts? Tell us about it!

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