WordPress web designer and seo strategist, Stephanie O'Keefe sitting at working on website site map in Raleigh, NC.

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6 Web Design Mistakes to Avoid (If You Want Great SEO)

Our mission at Southern Creative is to help service-based brands gain more visibility through strategic WordPress websites paired with SEO. SO often, people come to us with a site full of web design mistakes. And while that’s definitely fixable, working on your SEO strategy before you start on the website design is ideal (read more about why here.)

If you’re starting from scratch with your SEO strategy, a good place to start is checking your site for the most common web design mistakes. In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • Web design mistakes to avoid (and how to fix them)
  • How to start designing your website with SEO in mind
  • What you can include on EVERY page to make your website more search-friendly


6 web design mistakes to avoid

Before we begin, I want to reassure you that if you see yourself on this list…that’s OK. These web design mistakes are common, but they’re also very fixable (and we’ll give you tips on how to do it!). SEO and web design go hand in hand to get your business found online. If you’re not there yet, it’s only a matter of time and work to fix the most common web design mistakes and start moving up the search engine results.

1.  Skipping the keyword research

Knowing what your potential clients are searching for – and how they’re searching for it – is a crucial first step in any website design. Keyword research is the process of finding the words and phrases your target audience is typing into Google. Doing keyword research early on can help you set the scene for avoiding web design mistakes down the road.


THE PROBLEM: Skipping keyword research altogether or leaving it until the last minute. At best, you’ll be shoehorning keywords into your website, leaving things looking and sounding awkward or scammy.


THE FIX: Do keyword research first, so you can design each page with your target keywords in mind. You’ll want one main keyword for each page – before you ever start writing content or laying out the design. When you know your focus and purpose for each page, you can design accordingly.


2. Bad image optimization

Image optimization serves a few functional purposes that can boost your SEO. First, resizing website images ensures that your website loads and runs fast, which is a direct SEO ranking factor. And second, renaming images and giving them descriptive alt tags help search engines and visually impaired people to know what’s in your images and how they relate to the content on your page.


THE PROBLEM: Not going through all of the proper steps to optimize images before uploading them onto your website platform.


THE FIX: Name and size images properly. For image file names and alt tags, go back to your keyword research. Use the focus keyword of the page in image names. Use dashes in between the words so search engines can easily understand the words. Alt tags should accurately describe what’s in the image. If possible, use your main keyword there, too. Before uploading the renamed images to your website, resize them using a plugin like TinyPNG or RedKetchup.


3. No text hierarchy or header tags

Using proper text hierarchy and header tags tells search bots and your audience what the main topic of a page is and why your site is relevant to their search.


THE PROBLEM: Not setting up SEO-ready text hierarchy and header tags. Here are a few of the ways we see this happen:

  • Multiple H1s on a page
  • No H1s on a page
  • Skipping title tags
  • Illogical text hierarchy on the page


THE FIX: Take the time to use text hierarchy and header tags properly

Title tags are like the content building blocks of your page. They tell readers what a given page is about. So, if you have multiple H1 tags on a page, whittle things down to just one H1 tag. That H1 should be near the top of the page, communicate the main topic or title, and contain the focus keyword. 

For text hierarchy and structure, just remember that H2s should support the H1. H3s are for the subtopics under each H2, and so on. Here’s a handy graphic to help you remember: 


Graphic Showing How To Set Up Header Tags In Blog Post.


4. Improper URL structure + page title


The URL is the address for each page that displays in the upper search bar. It looks a little something like this: https://yourbusinessname.com/services (obviously, that would be the URL for a services page). The page title is a short description of each page that tells search engines what the page is about.


THE PROBLEM: Not using keywords or dashes in the URL and forgetting to add page titles.


THE FIX: Use keyword-rich names for your URLs and page titles. Once you know the focus keyword for a page, use it in the URL/permalink for each page. Don’t forget to add dashes between each word! So, for a business coach, this might look like https://yourbusinessname.com/online-coaching-programs. A good page title for the same page would be Online Coaching Programs for Women.


5. Poor mobile optimization


Did you know that over 55% of website traffic comes from mobile devices? Not optimizing your website for mobile users will MAJORLY impact your client experience and search rankings. That’s because Google wants to present users with an excellent user experience, whether that’s on mobile or desktop.


THE PROBLEM: Keeping mobile and desktop features the same. In other words, you haven’t made adjustments that reduce the overall content compared to the desktop experience, changed the text size to make it easy for readers to see, or tweaked the image layout for mobile.


THE FIX: A mobile website should be a simplified but consistent version of your desktop website. Think siblings, not twins! The mobile site should recognizably match your brand but be easier to look at, use, and read from a phone. Make sure you include clear calls to action and next steps for users!


6. Your site isn’t indexed

What’s indexing, you ask? Google’s bots are constantly searching for new website content, so they will eventually catch on to the latest version of your website. 


THE PROBLEM: You don’t have an index tag added to your site – or you haven’t added a site map at all – so you’re stuck waiting around for Google to index your site on its own time.


THE FIX: Instead of waiting around for Google to find you, you can give them a bit of a nudge in the right direction. Do that by requesting your website or new website pages to be indexed right away. Submit your completed website pages to Google directly by adding the URL to Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool and hitting the “Request Indexing” button. 


Pro Tip! Don’t have a site map? Use a plugin like Rank Math to create one. Then, go to the Sitemaps tap in Google Search Console, enter the sitemap URL and hit “submit”.


Ready to incorporate SEO and web design on your site?

Our comprehensive checklist will help you know exactly what you need to add on each page of your website so it is designed to be searchable and SEO-optimized from day one.


Download the guide now!

SEO Checklist

Show Up In Search Results

A guide to help you know exactly what you need to add on each page of your website so it is designed to be searchable and SEO-optimized from day one.

Steph O'Keefe, SEO strategist and WordPress designer sitting at desk wearing a white shirt in Raleigh, NC.

I'm Steph!

I'm the Founder and creative Director behind Southern Creative, a.k.a. your SEO strategist and web designer.

My passion is crafting websites rooted in strategy so you can put your focus where your heart is while we launch your dream website that shows up online.