One of the hot trends circulating in web design these days is parallax scrolling. Sites that feature long pages with parts that appear to be moving at different speeds as the user scrolls have become a common part of the internet landscape. This technique can be a great addition to a web design by creating depth in a two dimensional format and by adding a level of interactivity for a more compelling user experience. But sites that employ this technique can pay a heavy price in search.
How does parallax scrolling impact SEO?
Fundamentally, parallax scrolling is just a design technique. It doesn’t really impact SEO per se but the use of it can when the technique defines the structure of the site. By this I mean if it is used to take what would have been a 5 or 6 page site and create a single long index page site, it definitely limits the search potential of the site. So before you dive headlong into a parallax site, it’s important to understand the ramifications for search engines and the ways to mitigate the negative effects.
What’s the problem with a single page parallax site in search?
If you work as a search professional that is a rhetorical question. Pages are the canvas that SEO is conducted on so if there is only one page, there is very little space on which to work. Typically, pages in a site are optimized to a single keyword phrase per page. That phrase is supported by the latent semantic word cloud around the keyword phrase and the single H1 tag on the page needs to support that singular phrase. So if there is only one page in the entire site, you get one keyword phrase and one H1 for the entire site. That is a lean profile.
It also limits your ability to push competitors out of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). Sites that are content rich and multi-paged can occupy two or three positions in a SERP with an index page and child pages that relate to the search query. With a one page, one url site, one position in the SERP is all you can hope to get.
So a parallax scrolling, single page site poses significant problems for search. The good news is you can have the best of both worlds.
Use Parallax Scrolling Wisely.
As I said earlier parallax scrolling is simply a design technique. As such it can be used without funneling all of your sites pages into a single file. In fact the best approach is to apply it to a typical site map and retain the structure of the site while adding a dynamic design element. Page linking and optimization can be applied in a normal fashion and the benefit of the design to the user experience can be used to enhance individual page content and user experience. Invest the design and coding time in the pages of your site that will see the most traffic and use the design to present information in a compelling way.
“Search is not critical for my site.”
Whenever I hear this I pause. My gut reaction is, “The hell you say,” but the reality is there are instances when search is irrelevant, but it’s typically not where you might think. Search is always important for the primary site for a business even if it’s only brand search, (i.e. your business name) it’s still important. The only issue with a primary site is the degree of importance.
But many businesses will also have sites that act primarily as landing pages for other efforts. These are often sequestered from search in order to quarantine the traffic for analysis. In cases like this your design may be unhampered by the SEO damage a single page parallax site can cause. A great example of this would be the Range Rover Evoque site. Range Rover developed a parallax site for their Evoque Special Edition which brings together high fashion and design innovation in a collaboration with Victoria Beckham. It is visually rich and beautifully designed parallax site that blurs the line between a web site and a tactile slick brochure. It was developed on a subdomain and doesn’t even rank for a brand search for “Range Rover Evoque”
Knowing is half the battle.
Like any technique that becomes trendy, parallax scrolling has become a topic of design discussion between prospective clients and web professionals. Knowing how to use the technique effectively for design as well as search will allow for an honest open discussion about the legitimate use and ramifications of the technique and help to avoid any nasty surprises after the fact.