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SEO

How Different Web Design Paradigms Affect SEO

When deciding on the design for your website, there are a number of different aspects you need to consider beyond pure aesthetics. You also need to consider whether that pretty site is going to be intuitive to navigate, and then you need to ensure it’s going to work across a number of devices and not leave out mobile web surfers.

A little more complex task is making sure the site is going to work with search engines and will be easy for Google’s robots to index – sometimes a flashy design can be great to look at, but can affect your chances of ranking highly. Is it worth it? There are plenty of funky and trendy web designs cropping up across the web. But how do these flashy designs affect your site’s SEO?

Lets take a look at some of the most popular web design styles and consider what they mean for SEO.

Parallax Design

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 (Image Source: haschek/Flickr)

Parallax design means you build your entire website onto a single page. This is certainly striking and different, particularly when combined with a fun background that makes use of the unique structure, or menus that jump down to certain points on the page. This design is particularly effective for a company home page or a contest page.

But does it work for SEO?

On the one hand, with all that content on one page, you do risk diluting the impact of multiple keywords, and it could be hard for Google to know what to make of all that varied content. There are simply fewer pages to rank, which can also be a drawback. But then again, this really depends on the nature of the site – if it is a contest page, then you will probably only need to rank for one or two key phrases anyway, so this style might still be a good match.

Infinite Scrolls

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(Image Source: Pixabay under Creative Commons)

If you like the idea of having all your content on one page but want to allow your site to load quickly, consider taking a page out of Facebook and Twitter’s book and using Infinite scroll. This means that content appears as the user scrolls down.  This design is great for browsing quickly through a blog, but what does it do for SEO?

Web designers apply infinite scroll using a framework like Backbone or Bootstrap, which uses crawlable AJAX to allow you to keep all your information on a single page while still winning Google’s approval. And it’s quick to load, which is really important. Here are some examples of what you can do with a good infinite scroll design.

Fixed Position Navigation

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(Screenshot taken 09/01/2014 of nizoapp.com)

Another popular design choice is fixed position navigation. This means using a menu that stays in place while the rest of the site scrolls, allowing users to quickly jump around the site even when they’re deep in content. But what does this do for your SEO? Fortunately, the impact is pretty low – your content will still be arranged normally on individual pages. But with that said, you do want to make sure that your navigation widget it’s still indexable so that Google can find your pages.

HTML5

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(Screenshot taken 09/01/2014 of 360langstrasse.sf.tv)

HTML5 is slowly turning the web into a more beautiful place – allowing for embedded videos and animations that load quickly and are loved by users and search engines alike. While HTML5 is considered a good way to build your sites though, what you do need to do is spend some time learning how to use HTML5 properly and familiarizing yourself with some of the subtle differences. Elements such as the h1 tag for instance have slightly different interpretations in HTML5 as they do in HTML4, which will affect the way Google indexes them. The more time you spend learning, the better the end product will work.

Infographics

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(Image Source: ajc1/Flickr)

Another popular design choice these days is to use lots of infographics in the place of normal content. They’re eye-catching, engaging, and readers apparently like them. Remember though, infographics are just images and can’t be crawled by search engine spiders (until OTR gets really good…). Make sure then that you always supplement your infographics with at least some text, and use alt-tags and other indicators to help Google understand what’s going on.

Responsive Design

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(Image Source: Antoine Lefeuvre/Flickr)

Responsive design means designing a website that can respond to the device it’s being loaded on and thus adapt to suit the screen-size, the input method, and more. Generally this means creating sites that can be viewed on a PC or a mobile and still be optimized for easy navigation. Is responsive design bad for SEO? Seeing as Google encourages web designers to design for mobile using the technique it certainly shouldn’t be, and indeed Google recommends it as a good strategy. It’s been big lately too – according to Mashable 2013 was the ‘year of responsive design‘ and that only looks set to continue into 2014.

Then again, it’s also worth noting that responsive design is no more effective from an SEO standpoint compared to using two separate versions of the same site. The only things you need to worry about are having a site that isn’t well optimized for mobile at all (which will affect its position in mobile searches), or trying to optimize and getting it wrong. Still, responsive design is in many ways the more elegant solution – it means that you aren’t splitting your content across two separate URLs – risking confusion and even duplicate content penalties. So in short, responsive design is fine and even advisable… if that’s what your strategy demands and if it suits the audience you’re targeting.

The Take Away

You need to consider the impact your web design choices will have on SEO, but ultimately, you should be aiming to deliver a great experience for your visitors first. Think about which design will best suit the particular aims of your site, will provide your visitors with the best experience, and that will give the most striking impact. Manage this and Google will do the rest.

 

Featured image via Flickr creative commons.

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Kannav Chaudhary

SEO Project Manager at GetLinksPro
Kannav Chaudhary is an SEO manager with GetLinksPro. He is an engineering graduate and brings an analytical approach to SEO and content marketing. A self-confessed workaholic, he always makes time to go on walks with his dog, Kronos.
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8 thoughts on “How Different Web Design Paradigms Affect SEO

  1. Thanks Kannav, this was a great post. All too often people focus on form over function, but a website’s success is dependent on a lot more than just it’s visual appeal. Excellent article, thanks again.

  2. This is a great post which covers the popular design paradigms nowadays. I think that, in the end, making any of these styles seo friendly will really depend on the determination of the web designer.

  3. Enjoyed reading your posts. I have a problem, though. After I redesigned our company website and changed the web host, we are nowhere to be found in search engines. I am not working with the company that made our previous website since they did not deliver to my expectations and, somehow, our website got lost on the SERP during the transfer. We used to be on 1st or 2nd page on most keywords. Would appreciate if someone can offer me advice.

  4. An important issue not mentioned here on responsive design vs a separate mobile website Is the issue of duplicate content. A separate mobile site often means a different url on the mobile for the same content on the desktop site. You need to then tell Google that one is mobile and not plagiarism. Responsive is most often the better choice also because it can be implemented on an existing well coded/structured site and it can work with a variety of screen sizes, not just iPhone or ipad

  5. The Infinite Scroll is something to take seriously for a users experience, especially when they are mobile browsers. This type of feature would work great for blogs (Tumblr is a perfect example of this as well).

    When your user doesn’t need to click on Page 2, Page 3, Next, Prev drastically helps with usability and interaction with the site. I truly believe it will keep them on the site longer, thus having a positive impact on SEO efforts since Google will recognize their length of stay aiding in building authority. Great piece! Thanks for sharing, Kannav! – Patrick, Cary NC

  6. Responsive website design is a unique approach within the web designing domain to make websites compatible on a wide variety of devices. Whether a smartphone, desktop, tablet or alphabet – the website works smoothly on every device and enables the user to enjoy his experience.