single page website seo issues

Single page websites – why they aren’t good for SEO

Technology is always changing. The art and technology of developing websites moves fast. One reason for this is cool new ways to display information to users (particularly via AJAX, CSS3 and JavaScript).  These approaches are adopted and proliferate quickly. One recent development that has become quite a fad in web development is the single page website. It’s been around for a while but has really taken off in the last couple years.



What is a single page website?

A single page website (aka one page website) has only a single HTML or dynamically generated page.  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: Here are some great examples of single page websites.

single page website example

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, a single page approach seemed appropriate in this 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. Moreover they can be optimised for 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. This is especially true if being found in search engines 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 optimisation best practices you apply to the individual pages on your website. Web searches call for descriptive and keyword-rich title and meta tags. If you have header tags, links to other pages on your site using keyword-rich anchor text, and have your content organised in a strong semantic and informational hierarchy, then a single page won’t work for you.


SEO is a page-by-page competition for ranking
One thing many website operators don’t appreciate is that just having SEO content isn’t enough. SEO is a page-by-page competition for ranking. 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 optimised for its unique subject matter.

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
  • Tummy tuck
  • Breast augmentation

Each of the above practice areas should have its own page, so that each page can be optimised 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.  They convey 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.

The title tag content is the first, bold blue text. The meta description tag is the text below the green URL of the page. Notice that they’re normally optimised for a very specific topic.

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


search engine results


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. That definitely limits even the hottest topic pages.



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!


By Aaron Enright


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