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  • Single Page Websites and SEO — A One Page Site Can Clobber Your SEO

    Single Page Websites - One Page WebsitesThe art and technology of developing websites moves fast and as technology facilitates cool new ways to display information to users (particularly via AJAX, CSS3 and JavaScript), these approaches are quickly adopted and proliferate quickly. A fairly recent development that has become quite a fad in Web development is the Single Page website, which has been around for a few years but really taken off in the last couple years.

    What is a Single Page Website?

    A Single Page website (aka One Page website) consists of only a single HTML or dynamically generated page, and navigating to different sections of the site — which would normally take a user to a new page — just scrolls down the one page to that particular content’s section. The effect is pretty cool, sort of like being on an elevator and whizzing past the other site sections to arrive at your destination.

    NOTE: Check out Smashing Magazine’s post for a good overview and great examples of Single Page websites.

     

    When is it Appropriate to have a Single Page Website?

    For websites that are tightly focused on a single topic and don’t have a ton of content, a Single Page website can work nicely. For example, Mari Smith’s The New Relationship Marketing page, which we developed in 2011, is ONLY about her book, and the Single Page approach seemed appropriate in that case.

    A Single Page site would be appropriate as the landing page for a PPC / Adwords ad, since these landing pages should have a single-topic focus and be optimized for just that one topic, the subject of your ad.

    However, if your website doesn’t fit the above profile, then a Single Page may not be such a good idea, particularly if being found in searches is important to your business. Why? On-page SEO.

    Why Single Page Websites Compromise your On-page SEO

    “On-page” SEO is the Search Engine Optimization best practices you apply to the individual pages on your website — descriptive and keyword-rich title and meta tags, header tags, linking to other pages on your site using keyword-rich anchor text, and having your content organized in a strong semantic and informational hierarchy.

    It is in this regard that the Single Site website fails (unless it fits the profile above).

    SEO is a Page-by-Page Competition for Ranking

    SEO is a page-by-page competition for ranking and when developing your website architecture (the structure of the directories and individual pages), it’s best practice to limit each page to a single topic, so that each page can be optimized for its unique subject matter.

    For example, if your site is for a plastic surgeon, that surgeon may offer a number of specialty areas:

    • Face and Neck Lift
    • Cosmetic Eyelid Surgery
    • Liposuction
    • Nasal Surgery (Rhinoplasty)
    • Abdominal Lipectomy (Tummy Tuck)
    • Breast Augmentation

    Each of the above practice areas should have its own page, so that each page (whether static or generated with dynamic server-side code) can be optimized for its particular subject, according to the SEO best practices mentioned above.

    With Single Page Websites You Have Only a Single Title Tag and Meta Description Tag

    These two tags are probably the single most important on-page SEO elements, conveying to the search engines the EXACT topic of each page. They are also displayed on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) when one of your pages is listed:

    SERP showing Title and Description Meta Tag

    The title tag content for the above page is the first, bolded blue text. The meta description tag is the text below the green URL of the page. Notice that they’re optimized for a very specific top, i.e., brow-life surgery.

    You get only 60-63 characters for the title tag content and 155 characters for the meta “description” tag, so if you want your site optimized for more than one topic, you simply won’t have the room to leverage these most important on-page SEO elements.

    A Single Page Website Means Only One Page in Google’s or Bing’s Index

    Search engines will index all the pages of your website, providing multiple opportunities for your site to come up in searches. When your site consists of only one page, a single page is exactly what you’ll have indexed.

    Conclusion: Be Cool, but Be Careful!

    Personally, I really love many of the Single Page websites I’ve seen. It’s a visually appealing effect and if your site fits the appropriate Single Page profile, it’s a fine way to go.

    But if your site has numerous topics and sub-topics, then I think it best to skip this approach and go the convention route of individual pages.

    I welcome your thoughts about this subject in the comments!

    Comments

    1. Here’s a WP Theme I created with a dev to develop a “One Page Site” that actually uses the WP pages structure. It’s pretty rad http://hungrybearcookiesfundraising.com/ each page can be indexed.

      • Very nice, Mikel, and a good example of a site that actually IS appropriate for being single page. The reason is that there is a very singular focus on the cookies it promotes.
        Of course, if Hungry Bear wanted to optimize for searches for each of the various cookies, then it’d be better to have a unique page for each.

        • Each menu item is a unique page so it’s easy to optimize for that. If you take out the anchor in the url you can view just the single page. So if the client would like to expand we could hyperlink the text to the specific page but the theme defaults to the original navigation.

          • Sounds like you have it covered, Mikel.

            • Mikel, I can’t find your website on Google when searching for “Hungry Bear” or “Cookie fund rising”. What keyword should i ever user to find the website on search?

              I was thinking of creating a single-page site – and I need people to find me on search. Doing a bit of research here and there, I now agree with Tim and I’m thinking – true, single pages look nice but better serve sites that mainly generate traffic through ads.

            • They also can work for sites where the offering is very focused and singular, as I say in the article. And I mean VERY focused and singular.

          • Have you tested how your site indexed with Google? I’d like to know if the individual pages show up and rank well.

    2. Excellent article Tim! An absolute must read.

    3. I think it’s faddish and silly in most cases. I like the idea of using this concept within large articles, or on a non-paginated search results to jump to specific sections, but not for entire sites.

    4. very nice article…, I think it is good for single topic portfolio. is that 65 or 55 characters for the title tag ?

    5. Anglicka Gramatika says:

      I was also wondering if an educational website dedicated to English grammar would be better as a signe page website or as a multiple page website. The site contains lot of text. See at http://www.anglickagramatika.sk The truth is, that it is quite a disadvantake that you mey only use one set of keywords, and title.

    6. Spot on the mark. We recently did a one-page design for a client because it was the direction they wanted to take and it invariably ended up hurting their SEO campaign. So unless the focus is tight towards one or two keywords, Id say a one-page design wouldnt do anything for helping your rankings.

    7. Honestly, whether or not it’s good for your SEO depends on how many keywords you want to rank for and how closely related they are. It’s all in this article.

    8. Bonnie David says:

      Insightful Indeed! Mine is a single pager! I am aware that it is not SEO friendly but for the time being, it works like a charm.

      • Your one-pager looks good.

        You should work on your title tag for the site (and each post of your blog). This is probably the most important on-page SEO element and should be a descriptive and keyword-rich description of your services, all in less than 55 characters which is the cut-off for what Google displays on search results that include your site.

        • Bonnie David says:

          Awesome advice! Thanks Tim! I have SEO Yoast Plugin for both my site and my blog site which runs on a different theme.

    9. I can’t really provide this kind of support, Bonnie. You should contact a developer to help you with your blog and theme. Our clients tend to be larger companies, so I don’t think HyperArts would be a good fit for you.
      You can use our contact form to send a message to me and I can recommend a developer here on the West Coast who could help.

      • Bonnie David says:

        Thanks Tim! I bought a new domain name and am working with Genesis Framework and Copyblogger Child Theme. When I have my new site launched, I will map the old one to it. Genesis is so powerful. I love it.

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