As a designer, I absolutely love talking about SEO, and I incorporate SEO strategy into every template and website I design. It might surprise you, but before you even input your own information, a website template can already be SEO-friendly or be a disaster that you'll have to fix later. While most SEO strategies are implemented after you customize the template with your own content, images, and SEO settings, there are certain things you can look for in templates to ensure they're SEO-friendly before you even buy them. Today, I'm sharing three common SEO mistakes that website templates might make, along with tips for how to check them on your own template and website to ensure you're on the right track.
Basically - get ready to gain some major SEO knowledge because this episode is going way beyond the basics.
And hey, just a little disclaimer - while I design on Showit and sell Showit templates, the information I'm sharing applies to all types of website templates, including WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Kajabi, Webflow, and more. No matter what website software you use, these SEO tips matter. Whether you're a designer or someone DIY-ing your website, you’ll want to keep these things in mind.
Even if you already have a website template from me (so you know your website is SEO-friendly!), you'll still learn some cool SEO stuff that will benefit you as a business owner by listening to this episode. Now let's get started!
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1. The Page Designs Lack Content and Word Count
This is probably the biggest and baddest SEO mistake in my opinion. The complexity or nuances here made me hesitate to include it but ultimately this is a mistake I see a lot of website templates making so I did want to include it anyway. In fact, my pal, Sara Dunn from Sara Does SEO, has told me specifically that she finds the lack of content frustrating on a lot of templates out there. But it also does depend.
What I mean by that is that pages on a website can have various lengths, and that’s okay. Not every page needs to be excessively long, and some pages should be short out of necessity. For instance, a lead magnet opt-in page may only consist of the lead magnet title, a compelling sentence to encourage opt-ins, and the opt-in section with an image. It's a short page, and there might not even be any scroll required. That is OK! If you check out my landing page bundle, which includes 20 designs, you'll notice that those pages don't contain a lot of content. Some pages don’t need a lot of text!
That being said, for pages like your homepage, service page, about page, and course sales page, it is important to have space for actual content (and by content I mean text). This is super important for SEO purposes and to improve your ranking. When choosing a template, you need to ensure that it allows you to easily add content. For example, if you work with a copywriter or an SEO expert, they need to have space in your templates to add their words.
While there is no minimum word count per page, Google's known to rank content higher when it has more words, therefore is more in depth and more helpful information. So it’s a bit complex BUT also so important!
Read More: Stop Saying THIS on Your Sales Page
Pay Attention to the Text HTML Ratio
What that means is that it's important for there to be more text content on a webpage compared to the HTML code. If the ratio is off, it can negatively affect your SEO. This can happen due to a low word count or issues like hidden text or text behind images on the website. Additionally, a slow site speed can result from excessive use of plugins or similar factors. But word count is a big factor!
What to Look for in an SEO-Friendly Website Template
Knowing this, what should you look for before you buy a website template? Look for templates that offer ample opportunities to add text, particularly on the homepage. Additionally, prioritize placing important information higher up on the page, preferably in the top hero section. If space is limited on the hero section of the template, make sure there is an area immediately following for you to add your copy.
When a homepage layout limits your ability to include keywords, describe your products and services, and share your location, you miss out on valuable chances to improve your search engine rankings! This can make a HUGE difference so it’s worth getting right when buying a new website template!
2. Text Tag Settings Are Set Up Incorrectly
I always make it a point to teach new designers whenever I can because it's something that many designers are not aware of. And don’t feel bad if that’s you - I remember when I first started designing on Showit, I had no clue about this. I find myself constantly explaining this to my Booked Out Designer students when I review their work, whether it's their own website, a template they've created, or a client's site. I’m always checking for this issue because it’s so common!
What I mean when I say “text tags” from an SEO perspective is the title tag, also known as the H1 tag or heading one tag. It's something that is found on every website, but it may be described or edited differently depending on the platform you use. For instance, if you're using Squarespace, the interface may look slightly different than it does on Showit. In Showit, you can find it under the advanced settings when selecting a specific section of text on your website. It's labeled as "text tag" and provides options such as div, H1, H2, H3, nav (for navigation), or P (for paragraph).
Every piece of text is declared one of these things on every page of your website.
So everything is declared something, even if you never said it, because your template or the custom site you got built, came with this stuff already declared.
Ideally, you want just one H1 per page. Although now it's said that Google is fine with there being more than one H1, it's still considered best practice to have just one. Regardless, you want the H1 to declare the most important piece of text on the page. That's what you're telling Google, like, "Hey, this is what this page is about."
The mistake I often see on templates is when everything is in H1 or nothing is in H1. Also, sometimes I see weird combinations, like when the button text on all the buttons on the page is in H1 or the navigation where it says home about services, contact, all those are in H1. Which is NOT ideal because then you are starting your site off on the wrong foot, SEO-wise.
If you want to check for yourself, there's a plugin I use. Before you buy a new template, you can check and view the demo website with “Header Checker”. It tells you the H1, H2, H3, and possibly H4 elements when you load it on any website. It won't tell you the paragraph, div, or nav text, but it'll indicate the headings. So you can check if it's set up well without having to go into Showit and click on each individual text box.
3. SEO Settings Already Being Set Up For Your Website
Another common mistake I often see is the presence of pre-existing SEO settings on your website, or worse, an accidental request for Google to IGNORE a page accidentally clicked on your template.
These unintentional settings can hinder your online visibility and affect how Google displays your information. For example, if you do start to rank for your chosen keyword, you're basically asking Google to show information about the template in the search results instead of what you would actually want in there! Obviously - this is not ideal. On Showit, you can check this on the overall page settings in the bottom section called “SEO settings”. That's where you're going to see a page title, meta description, and share image.
Then, make sure that your template is not asking Google to ignore the page! This is in the same area underneath SEO settings, called “advanced settings”. There is a box there that you can check or uncheck if you want Google to avoid ranking the page. Usually, you are NOT going to want that checked unless it’s a private client pricing guide or something like that!
Let’s Recap - these SEO mistakes your website might be making!
- The page design lacks content and space for higher word counts.
- Your text tags are set up incorrectly (especially your H1 setting!)
- SEO settings are already set up and/or your template is asking Google to ignore the page!
If you're looking for a new website, make sure to check out my Showit template shop here! Black Friday is around the corner, starting on November 17th, and my sale will last for a while which is the perfect opportunity to shop while also enjoying some time off for Thanksgiving. It’s always my biggest sale of the year, and I am giving a TON of stuff this year in celebration of my 5 year shop anniversary!
Learn More About Website SEO with Sara Dunn On Episode 201
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November 14, 2023