I can drive a car but I guarantee you no NASCAR team would want me behind the wheel. If I can drive safely and get from point A to point B, why shouldn't I be able to drive for a team?
Easy answer - because it's pretty much guaranteed that I would wreck, and 100% guaranteed that I would come in last if I could even finish. Plus, who in the heck would want to watch me race (other than for the laughs)?
Similarly, did you know that elements of your website can not only be wrecking your chances for good search engine ranking but can also be driving visitors away?
It's so easy now to assemble a website that a majority of “web designers” aren't actually that; they're just people who know how to assemble content in a website.
I want to emphasize that I'm not at all against tools that allow you to have a nice looking site on the cheap.
We regularly advise small clients that they don't need our custom services and point them to services like Wix and Blogger. The last thing we want is for you to spend money that would be better spent elsewhere.
What I'm against is when you pay for services that may look nice, but the behind-the-scenes stuff may be killing you. You've essentially paid someone to hurt your website's chances of helping you.
Even if you have a free site, though, there are unseen ways that you could be hurting yourself so that free site has a cost. A professional can improve your chances of that site being found on search engines, and keeping people on your site when they find it.
A few examples of real websites (no names) being damaged by paid “designers” include:
- Extremely slow page load speed of almost a minute. Yes, you read that right – ALMOST A MINUTE. When the average site visitor leaves if a page doesn't load within 3 seconds, you may as well kiss your visitors goodbye. That's what happens when your designer doesn't optimize your images and code, though.
The site had images of over 3mb EACH on pages, and some pages had several of those images on them. Even worse, that minute load speed is assuming that the visitor is on high speed broadband. Considering a good chunk of rural America is still on dialup or DSL, can you imagine how long it would take to load? You're looking at 17 minutes for just one of those images on dialup and 7.5 minutes on DSL! Now multiply that by 3 for the pages that had 3 images. Whoa!
And that's just the images. Is your site code compressed and cached? My guess is the answer is no, and those are things that search engines grade your site on.
- Actively undermining your efforts at better search engine ranking. You see, search engine optimization (SEO) isn't just keywords and titles like it used to be in the good old days. Actually, those aren't as important now because it's so easy for blackhat SEO operators to abuse them (ever wonder why pages are loaded with text that makes little sense or reads very awkwardly? It's called keyword stuffing).
I hate to tell you that if you're the site above with the huge images, on top of already having visitors leaving your site because it's a turtle, you'll be lucky if they even get to the site in the first place because image optimization and page load speed affects search engine ranking.
Put yourself in the position of search engines. All they care about is giving searchers the best possible matches for what they're looking for. The crappier the matches the more likely searchers will be to go to their competitor.
So... now you know that search engines know that the average visitor won't stick around if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, so they're not going to waste time recommending your slow site.
- Features that serve no purpose other than to make the “designer” think they're cutting edge. Are you old enough to remember all the flying mailboxes from the early days of the web? Thankfully most of those are gone now, but imposter designers will always find a way to throw in something along the same vein.
Your goal is to get visitors to the info they need as soon as possible, and too much happening on the site is aggravating and confusing to visitors. They don't want to dig through a bunch of animated crap to figure out where to click.
Think about whether effects or movement serve any purpose; if not, don't use them. If someone hovers over an image and it flips but shows the same image and has no link, what purpose does the flip effect serve other than for the designer to think “omg – I'm so talented!”? If you have a message or different image to show on the flip that's great, but otherwise you're just as annoying as the person who douses themselves in a bottle of cologne. Nobody wants to be around you.
- A site that isn't optimized for mobile. The thing is, your site can have a mobile or responsive version but still not be mobile friendly. Just yesterday I was on a site that could display only one letter of a word at a time vertically
And I have an iphone 6 plus, which is way larger than the average mobile phone. Even if I rotated the phone, I could still only read one word at a time.
The site had a responsive template but obviously hadn't been tested on mobile to ensure that it displayed okay. Your site should be tested on multiple size devices and include media queries to tell it how to display on each size that needs tweaking. If your designer doesn't know how to create proper media queries, you're wasting money and alienating visitors. Hint – if they have a blank look when you ask about media queries, run.
Web design is way more than meets the eye, and these are just 4 of the many ways your site design can be wrecking SEO and driving visitors away. If you're doing your site yourself, learn as much as you can or have a pro review your site when it's finished; it will be well worth the price. If you're hiring someone to create your site, make sure you do your research to find out if they really know what they're doing - or if they're like me trying to drive a race car. Vroom vroom.