Gloria Gunn

Feb 14, 2014
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I have a new client and they had their site developed by someone other than my team. It is a WP site- completely custom. Upon looking at the back- end of the site, all of the content is pulled from custom fields they created. It's not using the functionality of the cms. It's almost like creating text boxes in an image on a word doc. My question is, in terms of inner linking, and how the site gets crawled, will this impact SEO and if so, to what extent? Any thoughts on this?



Margaret Ornsby

Local Search Expert
Jul 22, 2013
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If it's a lousy job of coding, I suspect the biggest impact on SEO will be the performance.
It also might make it more difficult for G to discover the valuable bits of info your client is wanting to promote, so G might chose a site that's easier to list before the harder one.
So will it have an impact? Yes, I believe it will.

I had a client like this recently. I advised her of the issues and did the best job I could with the local landing pages. She ended up with first page organic (sometimes even #1) and #1 (or top 3) in the pack for them. From her perspective, I achieved what she wanted. From my perspective, my conscience was clear - she got what she paid for and I wasn't responsible for the rest of the mess.
Feb 24, 2013
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The overall design can impact SEO in the sense that if a user lands on the site and it isn't as beautifully designed as a competitor they may go back to results and look for another business. Google tracks these interactions (bounces basically) and infers the intent the user didn't find what they wanted and then searched and found something more relevant. Also if the overall code structure isn't the greatest it would be harder for Google to relate the various items on the page and build a topical overview of the content.

Do you have some examples you could share on here?

That being said I agree with wonderwoman, I had a client that had a one page site and after implementing some of the best practices he was ranking #3 for his terms but was being beat out by other sites with better design, architecture, structure and content.

With anything these processes take time so for now it's "hurry up and wait" :) and see what happens

Gloria Gunn

Feb 14, 2014
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Thanks so much for the insights. I had a bad feeling that it will cause issues. The site is beautiful but not functional in terms of all content and formatting is hard coded in custom fields in the backend of WP. So you can't just go to pages or posts and create new from the editor box, you have to add content to custom fields and do all the formatting in html code. So my concern is if Google can pull the content from the custom fields and determine what the site is about. It will be interesting to see what happens in the oncoming months-

Thanks again for your responses!



Local Search Expert
Sep 12, 2012
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I wouldn't be too worried about it honestly unless it is a time sink for you.

The only way it would affect your SEO is if the load time is slow and the bounce rate is an issue. If it's a beautiful site as you said, I imagine bounce rate won't be an issue as long as it is also informative and to the point.

From a pure SEO perspective the only thing you need to be worried about is site speed and potentially bounce rate. People's bounce rates are all over the place so I don't worry about that too much.

From a time perspective it could get overwhelming for you. That's what I would watch out for.

You also need to take conversion into account too though if you truly care about the client. Which is where bounce rate really makes a difference. If people like the site but can't find what they need, there's no point. You can drive 10,000 people to your site through SEO but if you can't call you, contact you, or purchase, there's no point.

If it hinders your work, it's a problem. The rest is kind of up to you.


Mar 13, 2014
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I don't think Google can do much in terms of penalties for poor design, being that design is subjective, and the Google bots only view HTML.

Site speed is definitely a big factor though, so a fast site that is designed poorly would most definitely have better rankings than a beautiful site that takes 10 seconds to load.

Poor design affecting results tends to come into play once a user is already on the site, in terms of higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates due to poor UX and UI.


Sep 27, 2012
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Again, all good advice above. Very informative. I personally appreciate this community and the different thoughts shared.

For clarification, the title of your post talks about bad design (which can be interpreted as how the site looks) but your questions/comments speak more about functionality. I believe you are more concerned about functionality vs. aesthetics, correct? Functionality would weigh in more with the search engines while design element would resonate more with visitors. Both have to be considered but the visitors are the ones who buy the product or service, not the search engines.

I have seen many a horribly designed, ugly, just not good looking sites do very well. They had functionality and people were buying. One was an ecommerce site where there were plenty of competitors who had bigger budgets and muuuuuch prettier sites. Their site architecture and functionality was very good therefore, people didn't mind the look. They did make comments about the design but it didn't stop them from purchasing. They had competitive pricing and great customer service so people found more value in that then an aesthetically pleasing website.

Have you run the website through a spider simulator to be sure the text is indexable? Have you used any tools to check for broken links? Have you determined that people can move about the site properly? Is there any confusion as to what you want the visitor to do once they arrive? If there is confusion, this should be addressed immediately IMO. Visitors are finding the website it appears so something must be working right. I do understand that there may be other issues and hopefully with a little grunt work, you can identify them.

I do agree with everyone about about user experience and flow. If people cannot follow the conversion funnel then you need to strongly recommend changes. Coding needs to be clean. Be sure to look at the site in Google Webmaster Tools and see if Google finds any issues. Designs can cost money but I'd make sure that the coding is not preventing search engines from accessing the website or users from navigating.

Greg Schueler

Mar 14, 2013
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My two cents:

The way the site is formatted in the backend of the WP admin area, by itself, does not matter for SEO. It can stink for management and your useability of the site, but Google can't log in and look through the admin area.

The front side, the delivered code, is more related to seo.

If it all comes out good on the front/public side, you are ok.

I have seen many backend nightmares inside WP, but once everything rendered, the pages came out just fine. (I have also seen the opposite).

So, when judging the site's seo goodness or badness, run tests on the live site, not how it is pieced together in the admin panel to get your answer.
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