The header slider is always a hot topic of debate among designers. More often than not, our own opinion is circumvented by the client’s insistance on having one and it’s a tough battle to win when our position is based on emotion rather than cold, hard facts. I hope that the following post will arm you with some factual evidence that you can use when trying to dissuade even the most stubborn client from the header element we’ve all come to despise…the slider!

The technical reasons why sliders suck for SEO

Using the appropriate HTML heading order helps search engines sense the hierarchy of information of the page. Ideally, a page should have only one H1 tag, preferably with the keyword or phrase included, and the <H1> should be at the top of the page. The rest of the page should include H2 – H6 tags as needed. It is advisable not to skip heading levels; however, it is ok to go from H2 to H3, then repeat another sequence of H2 and H3 again if needed. If you are using the native Divi slider, the theme’s default value of the slide title is <H2>. Therefore, if using the slider as the header element followed by the page title below, the H2 tags in the slider module will precede the H1 title tag and will disrupt the natural hierarchy of the HTML elements. While it is difficult to pin down an exact statistic as to the degree of harm caused, Google itself recommends not doing this and personally, I’m not one to piss off Google when I want my sites to rank!

There is also the aspect of load time. Yes, a slider can be optimized to minimize it’s load time but there is inevitably going to be some appreciable increase in load time when using a slider versus a static image.  Load time is a factor that is considered in the search engines’ algorithm, therefore most SEO experts are of the mindset that it is not wise to sacrafice even a fraction of a second of load time for an element that does not offer much return in terms of user experience or conversion. I agree wholeheartedly.

The UX reasons why sliders suck for SEO

It is easy to blur the line between SEO and UX, as the two intrinsically dovetail.  In my opinion, the entire purpose of SEO is to convert viewers into customers, therefore user experience is just as crucial to the process as the technical on-page SEO protocol. Extensive research and A/B testing has been conducted for the last decade as to the effectiveness of a home page slider, results of which consistently show a click thru rate of 1% or less. There is where I could bore you to tears with 300+ links to relevant case studies, but I will refrain. You’re welcome. If you can’t sleep; however, I strongly encourage you to go read a few dozen case studies.

The following graph is a compilation of studies done by Notre Dame University, the results of which are consistent with all other similar research. The Notre Dame case study showed the BARELY ONE PERCENT of viewers clicked on a slider. Of those viewers, 84% of those clicks were on the first slide.  The slides in the 2nd, 3rd 4th and 5th position received a dismal amount of clicks varying from 8.8% down to as little as 1.7%. Keep in mind that this is not 8.8% and 1.7% of overall viewers but rather, 8.8% and 1.7% of the initial 1% that took any action on the slider.

For the sake of making the results more tangible, on a site that had a hypothetical 10,000 visitors, only 100 of the visitors (1%) took any degree of action on the slider.  Of those 100 people who clicked through the slider, 84 of them clicked on the first slide and 8.8 clicked on the 2nd slide. Out of those same 10,000 visitors, a whopping 7.2 people followed through to slides 3, 4 & 5 collectively.  This is pretty convincing evidence to prove that sliders are ineffective and viewers are not the least bit compelled by them.

Sliders have become the visual equivalent of the annoying 1990’s telemarketer – that intrusive guy with his masterful skill at cramming the company’s entire mission statement and sales pitch into hopefully less time than it took for the call recipient to untangle the phone cord and walk the receiver back to the wall-mounted base for the dramatic hang-up. (For those readers under the age of 40, Google “rotary phones”. The struggle was real.)  The extensive studies conducted over the last decade unequivocally indicate that viewers do not want, nor do they react positively to, the intrusion of a slider.  As designers, we are doing our clients a disservice if we are wasting this prime real estate with something that is proven to be ineffective for conversions.

We live in a fast paced, instant gratification world. Viewers expect fast load time, clear navigation, skimmable content, and the path of least resistance to find whatever it was that lead them to the site. If your website does not meet these expectations, a viewer will simply move onto the next search result and that conversion opportunity will be lost to a competitor.

So if not a slider, then what??? 

Stay tuned for the next post, which will explore SEO-friendly header options (spoiler alert – they don’t slide!)