Why “Good” Design is Often Bad SEO

Designers are often tempted to go overboard when it comes to websites. There are so many cool things you can do online that you can’t do in print, why not take advantage of the technology?

Well, I agree that the appropriate use of graphics, video and animation can add a lot to a website. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. And nothing beats a video demonstration to show how a product works.

The trouble comes when you’re trying to rank a site higher in the search engines, but you give Google very little text to work with. How does it know what keywords to rank your site for if those keywords don’t appear on the site — or if they only appear in the meta tags?

More to the point, how will your graphics-heavy site compare to one that is full of articles, blog posts, information and other text containing the desired keywords? Sure, you can label your pictures, add captions, title your flash animations, and name the web pages with the keywords — but you’ll still fall far short of a site full of text.

I’m not saying you should replace all your graphics with text only. I’m just cautioning against letting the design get in the way of your site’s ability to rank in the search engines.

For search engine optimization, you need to include a lot of text on the website, and that text needs to include the keywords you want to rank for.

When I work with clients, I give them some terms to use in their text, but tell them not to feel obligated to use them. You’re writing for the customer, not for the search engine. However, if you have about 250 words of text on a page, it’s more likely that you can include the search terms a few times without making it sound forced to your readers.

Your site can include press releases, blogs, articles, information about your products or services, and company info. And on pages that have a flash presentation or a large picture, you can always tuck a paragraph or two of text below it. Your designer may complain about how it ruins the look of the page, but Google doesn’t rank sites based on page design — not yet, at least.

While graphics-heavy sites may be nice to look at, they are not always good for search engine optimization. Remember, Google reads text, it doesn’t watch flash animations.