To Have An Image Slider or Not?

Does a slider reduce a website’s search engine optimization ability / findability?

The net is a hotbed of creative efforts and over a period of time, no stones have been left unturned by designers to create really interesting and intriguing websites.

One of the things that they do in this direction is to have a set of moving images or videos on the landing page. These are called image sliders or carousel. They definitely attract, entice, lure and engage your attention and your eyes; charm you. But are they really useful in helping your marketing efforts and optimization of your websites?

What are sliders?

Sliders are ubiquitous sets of text and image, placed at prominent locations on the website. It can consist of a series of attractive images, placed next to each other. Or it may consists of a post with numerous links to different parts of the website or call of action. Sliders share the following attributes:

  • Usually at the top of the home page
  • Usually take up a lot of space reaching up to the “fold area”
  • Can showcase multiple content- though they may be spatially distributed and shown on moving the slider only
  • Navigation features which links the multiple content together
  • Shares important information about some promotional or branding strategy

Attractive they maybe; but, in fact, image sliders may do more good than harm in your website optimization efforts. Many experts and SEO developers actually have a bad opinion of them and consider them a hindrance. Carousels have been hitherto used for branding, promotion and sharing thoughts of thought leaders but in reality, they have been held responsible for several issues. Carousels may, indeed help you with creating attractive websites. But the reality is that even though they may look cool and jazzy, they may cost you revenue in the long run.

Sliders are thought to create confusion in conveying the brand message, they negatively affect SEO development, website loading, click-through etc.

1. How it spoils SEO

Standard SEO rules state that there should be one H1 tag per page and it should appear before any other tag. When a slider is used on a page, there would be as many H1 tags as the images; so everytime a slide changes, the H1 tag would change. This would disturb the keyword distribution mechanism and thus, this affects the SEO.

2. Poor conversion

Many experts including Jakob Nielsen say that the use of image sliders lead to poor conversion. Many people fail to click on the slider, even though they may see it. A study conducted on people showed that people failed to notice what is written on the slide of the carousel, even if they are written in bold letters; thus indicating that image sliders are a failure in capturing people’s attention and translating that into results.

3. Flash in banners are killers

Many image sliders using flash in their banners. Using Flash in websites is a number one no-no in SEO strategies. This is because flash containing banners cannot be trawled by search engines and would be not detected in their rankings. So, discard flash and use more traditional HTML tags to do any jazzing up of your website, without killing off the SEO efforts.

4. Poor Loading

Images are heavy. Accept it. And the more images are there in a image slide, you can imagine how long it will take the website to load. This will affect the user experience and performance.The slowed down website will also interfere with smooth SEO and conversion rates as well as click throughs. Not only that, such heavily contoured websites will face even more loading issues on the mobile webpages. This can seriously affect the marketing efforts; as mobile usage and mobile marketing are increasing becoming more and more important. Hence, web pages have to be designed and tailored according to the requirements for mobile platforms. This kind of heavy weight websites won’t find it easy.

5. Usability

In terms of usability also, it has achieved much less as compared to other ways. A study shows that image sliders are very poor contributors to performance in any function such as branding, promotion etc.

6. Reduce content

The use of image sliders on the home page, enables space. Nearly half a webpage length is used up in accommodating the image slider. This is not good when it comes to Google search engines and crawlers.

7. Distracting

The exquisite, colorful and well crafted image sliders can also perform an opposite function; opposite to the intended function. They can serve as distractors. People’s attention may be focused on the images to the extent that they forget to bother about the content lying under their nose. Studies by researchers using heatmaps have demonstrated that people are so focused on the carousels that they show very little attention to the areas under it.

In fact, tracking studies indicate that only 1% of visitors to a site visit this feature. The statistics show that 84 % of the visitors remained on stories displayed on slide 1. This was the result of a study conducted by Erik Kunyon for the University of NotreDame’s website.

8. Poor usability

Another negative point about carousels which makes the user experience bad is their unpredictability and difficult to control. They may tend to move too fast for the user to view the slide; the icons and texts may not be visible enough and there is very less control for the user. This is unlike today’s internet sites, where some amount of user interactivity and control has to be there, to help users enjoy their experience.

9 Lack of control

In addition, there is no guarantee that the slide positioned in the first position may generate maximum viewership, likes, clicks etc.

And yet, with all these, there may be times when you really need to use a carousel. In those cases, here are some suggestions as to what you should do and what you should not do, if you really must include sliders in your website.

Experts give advice to avoid sliders at all cost. Yet, if it really must needs be used, do remember that great content must go hand in hand with it.

  1. Use engaging, interesting and attractive content that is able to capture and hold the attention of your audience as long as possible- enough for them to explore more and beyond on the page.
  2. Do not put too much content and features on your slides. Excess features can be draggy and distractive and may cause your viewers to lose their attention. Features should not be more than three. As the number of features increases, the number of click-throughs decreases. Use five or lesser than five frames. As the number of frames increases, it becomes more difficult to push your content through.
  3. Use subjects which are currently trending or in the trending list. They would surely capture the attention of the audience.
  4. Carousels can be very important for mobile marketing. Mobile screens are small and information has to be visually displayed on the screens in such a way that maximal density of the screen in utilized while maintaining the context and the user can see everything within that limited space and do not need to scroll further down. Hence, the carousels, if used, should provide the necessary context for the user, so that they can understand and relate to what is being shown up. Ideally, carousels are best used in a single place on the website and where it can be used as an image display gallery for products or services offered. The chances of more click throughs are more there, rather than when the carousel is placed on a page which has little to do with visuals and displays.
    Placing it elsewhere can be a waste of space, distraction as well as result in low click-throughs.
  5. Even though Kunyon’s studies have demonstrated that maybe 1.0% of the total number of visitors to a website clicked on the features displayed on the featured marketing carousel, another study has more encouraging news for carousel users. A study by Peatt has shown that there is in fact greater interaction between visitors and the carousel used on product image galleries.74% of visitors move the carousel at least once and 23 % of users interact with carousel by zooming and tapping on it directly. Thus, interactivity can be depending on how you make sense of it. So, depending on the placement of the carousel in a thoughtful way, one can obtain increased clicks.
  6. Second slide can be impactful- Furthermore, while KUnyon’s studies show that barely 3.1% of people clicked the 2nd slide in the carousel, Peatt and group’s studies show that 15 % of people clicked the 2nd slide and that 64% of people moved from 2nd slide to 3rd slide. So the understanding from this is that different sliders on different websites with different purpose and context may have different results with respect to interactivity and clickthroughs, but if there is a real and important necessity to incorporate the slider in the marketing strategy, it should not come in the way.
  7. Still persisting with sliders? Ensure that the slider has the maximum possible ways of usability.
  8. Auto-rotation of sliders can be an irritant and prevent viewers from focusing on the content. Hence use sliders where the auto-rotation is controlled or not there. I.e. the slider should transition the slides only when the users express a need for it by clicking. The settings should thus include settings for speed, look and feel so that you can tweak the settings according to the responsiveness. Ensure that the time gap between movement of slides should be long enough to allow time for slow readers to pace their way through the slides.
  9. Ensure that your banner does not resemble an ad. Banner blindness is one way by which many users ignore carousels.
  10. Stick to one message per image slider- even though the images in the slides of the slider may differ, ensure that the message across all the slides remain the same so as to ensure consistency. The message should be placed at exactly the same location in all the slides and arranged the same way, so that the message creates maximum impact with the viewer.
  11. Use fonts that can capture the audience attention and do not repel them. Use of wrong fonts in text can also cause users to get repelled. Choose the words properly. Avoid fancy and unnecessarily decorative formatting. The text and image used should be legible and clear and can be easily visualized on the small screen.
  12. Use carefully worded, sensible links which answers the queries of customers or provides them information which they want.

And if you can really afford to skip a carousel and all the irritants that it brings it along with it, one major option to get the benefits of a slider without its associated headache, would be to use a single and fixed image, called the hero image instead of a carousel. While carousels may seem exciting and may create an illusion in the minds of website owners and marketers, that the presence of many images in the slides can provide many choices for the viewer to get attracted, a static image can actually be more enduring in viewers’ minds; may cause them to engage more with the content and lead to more click-throughs; has less distraction options and may also appeal to more people (such as those who are much less lured by graphic and attractive images).

With all these difficulties and irritating features, it is no wonder that many website developers are now shifting to using static images on their homepage. So, unless and until absolutely required, avoid image sliders; protect yourself from SEO disappointments.

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3 Comments

  1. Sorry I just have to make one point from the beginning of your article in regards to h1 tags and their seo influence. That world has gone now. With the shift from html4 to 5 this singular dependance is no longer relevant. HTML5 documents consist of multiple h1’s due to context, or scope rather, and there is no limit to their usage. Would Google disadvantage you for correct use of HTML5 considering their position, especially recently? Sorry, don’t mean to be picky but thanks for sharing this article.

  2. Allot of anti “irritating” slider posts but never real proof. Im indifferent on this but heatmaps on the sites I manage all show excessive use of sliders.

  3. Do some testing to make sure that an image slider really is the best option for your site.

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