5 reasons why Single Page Websites are bad for SEO

Single page websites

These days everyone has got their knickers all twisty about single page websites.

If you’re not sure what I mean Single Page Websites (SPWs) are basically long, scrolling websites where all the content is contained on a single page. The navigation links at the top essentially work as anchor links, jumping you down to the relevant section rather than taking you to a new page.

There are some gorgeous SPW out there that use lovely transitions to separate the various sections. A more fancy pants term for the effect is the parallax scrolling effect. Essentially it’s achieved by moving different background images with different speed and creates a wonderful feeling of fluidity and movement.

Yes I’ll admit they look super cool and funky. They’re also work really well for responsive design, which obviously is a plus if a fair proportion of your traffic comes via mobile devices:

Here are a few of my favourite scrolly website WordPress themes:

Cutting-Edge-Studio-HTML-preview.__large_preview

Cutting Edge

eleven-responsive-one-page-parallax-template

Eleven

Afresh-Parallax-Responsive-Creative-Portfolio

Afresh

 

BUT (and it’s a big but) single page websites are terrible for Search Engine Optimisation. 

You see with a SPW you’re putting all your SEO eggs in a one page basket.

You only giving yourself one bite of the SEO pie.

Or to put it simply, a single page limits the opportunities for standard website optimisation and here’s why:

1) Only one keyword phrase: Today it’s commonly believed by SEO types that you can only successfully optimise any given website page for one keyword phrase. So having single page site, means you can only target single keyword phrase. Which is a bit pants right?

2) Only one set of Meta Data: As with above you only get one set of meta data on a single page website. You’ve got only one vital title tag and only one salesy meta description to hook your clients and lure them to your site, so it better be awesome

3) Page weight: Obviously the more content you squeeze into yoru one page design (images, text, videos) could result in a super chubby page. Google hates heavy pages as they take too long to load. Will your customers wait despite the weight or go else where?

4) No internal links: Obviously with no internal pages (apart from maybe to your privacy policy) you have zero opportunity for internal linking, which can be a rich source of SEO love if done correctly.

5) Few external links: It’s unlikely that you’re going to cram a heap of external links into your one page site as you don’t want to take the focus away from your business. Google loathes silo sites so again a lack of external links is bad for SEO.

So who would choose a single page website?

Well if that majority of your business comes via word of mouth referral then a one page website might work for you. It can essentially work as a glorified online business card that sums up your sexy bits and gives people a way to get in touch.

You can then drive traffic to it via Social Media sites like LinkedIn.

What’s the solution?

One way to improve your SEO chances with a SPW is to have a comprehensive blog in a separate section. This way all your blog posts will be counted as individual pages and can be optimised accordingly.

Another is to keep your parallax design for your home page but create separate pages for additional content – although this can confuse users.

Another more fiddly option is to turn your HTML home page into a PHP file and load content from external files. But that’s far too dull to explain so go here if you’re interesting in learning how to do that.

Oh and there’s another article here about how to create a parallax scrolling website that’s SEO friendly. It’s a bit ‘yawn’ so drink a coffee before you dive in.

April 2014 update: Since writing this more work has been done on ways of making Single Page websites SEO friendly, here’s a good resource:

In summary think carefully about whether a Single Page Website is right for your business model. Don’t be sucked in by how good they look, but instead weigh up the pros and cons.

Want to have a chat?

If you need a Copywriter, SEO Consultant or Information Architect, then please call me for a chat and an obligation free quote. I'm in Sydney Australia on +61 (0) 418 166 458 or contact me.

  • Lucy Smith

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this since yesterday when you ‘teased’ about it.

    My web dev husband and I were talking about this last night and came up with the exact same reasons you did. Not only that, he reckons it’s soon going to become one of those fads that really dates a website (‘oh, man, that site’s sooooo 2013.’)

    • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/ Kate Toon

      Haha, I agree. Like all those sites with Flash intros back in 2001. Boy how cool did we think they were? Thanks for reading and commenting and glad my tease tactic worked!

      • Oblivious Troll

        “We” didn’t think they were cool but the marketing types loved to demo them to company boards loaded on the boardroom PC (which wasn’t connected to the interwebs) so the decision makers never saw how long they took to load.

        Also do you also remember when a company getting a website was a board level decision?

  • charlotte calder

    Once again a great, informative post Kate!

    • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/ Kate Toon

      Thanks CC!

  • Glenn Murray

    I really like parallax scrolling. It allows you to create some great user experiences. But I’m not a fan of single-page sites. Not without a good reason anyway. Even ignoring the SEO implications, they’re just not good usability. It may not be quite as visually overwhelming at the outset, but you still have to scroll and scroll and scroll. And that gets old very quickly. Users quickly start to focus more on the infinite scrolling (and the perception of info overload) than the reading…

    • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/ Kate Toon

      Good point well made Mr Murray. They are fun to play with but I find the content super hard to digest.

      • http://iprofit.hu/ Nemeth Krisztina

        First of all great article Kate :)
        I agree, parallax sites could be very creative, good for UX. For years one of my favorite was the website of Skittles. It was really amazing but I think, it’s good for big brands, who don’t bother to much on SEO,
        Another reason, why I don’t like parallax sites is AdWords. I’m just running a campaign for a client. New brand, law budget, parallax site. I was asked to focus on the search network and to promote the brand and product too. Parallax site is not good for quality score because of the few content and the URL structure, so CPC-s are higher.

        • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/ Kate Toon

          Thanks for reading Nemeth and great point. Not something I even thought of, so thank you for sharing.

  • Daniele Imperi

    I’d like to use the parallax effect, but for a single page, for example in home page or in an internal page. But I don’t like an entire website made with a parallax effect: you can’t get a good indexing, in my opninion, and no ranking.

    There are, now, millions of web pages: how do you win your competitors with a single-page website?

    • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com.au/ Kate Toon

      Agreed. I think they are a passing fad. But boy they look awesome.

      • Webtek

        I started using parallax in my designs late last year, its one of my favorite trends so far and there’s definitely a lot of possibilities. I’m not 100% sold on parallax or one page designs so I will probably end up changing.. Ugh times have definitely changed

        webtekpro

        • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com/ Kate Toon

          Yep I agree it looks great, but not sure it’s for the long term. But to be honest – what is? I’ve redesigned my site four times in as many years. I think it’s just how things are, stuff changes so quickly in web dev!

  • http://websitecopywritingservices.com/ Kevin Carlton

    Kate, I’m another one who really can’t be doing with single-page websites.

    They’re just so so one-dimensional and just seem like an easy way out for people who can’t be bothered to think.

    And putting your point about keyword phrase targeting another way: If you have to put everything about your business and services on the one single page, how on earth are search engines supposed to figure out what that page is specifically about?

    And how you manage to turn such a banal subject into a really entertaining read I do not know.

    • http://www.katetoon.com/ Kate Toon

      haha – I think that banal comment is a back handed compliment, but I’ll take it. I agree they are very quick and easy to build so seem like the easy option. But of course only if you don’t want people to find your site!
      Thanks for commenting Kevin!

      • http://websitecopywritingservices.com/ Kevin Carlton

        Kate, I defo meant it as a compliment.

        I only used the word ‘banal’ because I know what people are like. They seem to go far more for motivational-type posts (which I don’t like) rather than genuinely practical tips and advice, such as here.

        Now back to re-editing my own latest post, which badly needs injection of some of that ‘entertainment factor’!

  • Pingback: Responsive websites: How I learned the hard way | Kate Toon Copywriter()

  • Scott

    Hey Kate,
    I stumbled upon your website from flyingsolo! I’m really digging what you’re doing.

    Just FYI, Google itself have started using one page parallax designs: http://www.google.com.au/nexus/7/
    http://www.android.com/kitkat/

    • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com/ Kate Toon

      Thanks Scott :-) I guess if there’s one thing Google doesn’t have to worry about it’s SEO – unlike us poor small business types!

    • Cris

      check out more articles about seo and online marketing

  • http://www.aaabrains.com Jay Cook

    How to optimize a onepage website

  • http://freelancer-coder.com/ ajaniashish

    Great post Kate I agree with what you described but single page websites are still good for portfolio, isn’t it? I’ve made my portfolio website single page. Do you have any suggestions on how to do SEO for single page sites? Thanks.

  • http://www.easywebleads.com.au Glen Parker

    Great article, thanks so much for sharing – you spelled it out nicely! These sites can sure look great, but not much point if you can’t rank them :)

    • http://www.katetooncopywriter.com/ Kate Toon

      HI Glen

      Thanks for your comment. I think that things have moved on a little since I wrote this and now there are few great workarounds. But I’d still argue that while it’s nice to have a long scrolly wolly home page, you should also have some other good content pages to back it up.

Who is Kate Toon?

Hi, I'm an award-winning SEO copywriter and SEO consultant with over 18 years’ experience. I've worked with big brands such as Westpac, the RTA, Curash and Kmart and helped countless small businesses to produce great content.

Courses

Packages

Let’s get social