A big trend these days in website design is to have a single, long-scroll web page that contains different content sections (e.g. Who We Are, What We Do, Our Products, Contact Us).

The site visitor can just scroll down the page and see all of your website’s content. Alternatively, they can quickly navigate to a section of the page via on-page links or a menu item.

It’s hip. It’s cool. It’s all the rage. It’s also just very stupid. Here’s why.

Now, before I explain why single-page, long-scroll sites are stupid, let me be clear that I’m not indicting all long-scroll websites. It’s just these one-page, long-scroll sites that I keep seeing that drive me crazy.

As background, the driving force behind long-scroll websites is something called “parallax scrolling”. In simple terms, this means that as you scroll down, stuff moves on the page. Images of your products can slide in to the page, for example.

The big upside is that it is visually engaging, much more so than a static webpage with no movement.

So Why Shouldn’t I Implement a Single-Page, Parallax Scrolling Website

The problem with having only a single web page is that it’s horrible from an SEO perspective.

Let’s say your competitor has 10 pages, or 100 pages, or 1000 pages. You’ve got one page. Who do you think Google is going to send more traffic to? You or your competitor?

Each of their pages is highly optimized for a single key phrase that drives lead gen. Your single page is an amalgamation of many different topics mashed together, such that it doesn’t deserve to rank well for any single key phrase of value. Who do you think is going to get more SEO traffic?

Listen, a cardinal rule of SEO is that the more pages you have, the more traffic you will get. Every page is a fishhook in the water, a lure that will be entered into Google’s search engine index, show up in searches, and bring prospective customers to your door.

Having a substantial amount of content on a given topic also suggests to Google that you are an authority on that topic. If they view you as an authority, they are likely to send more traffic your way.

We’re not advocating mass production of low-quality pages. Content on your website must be high-quality, add value to the visitor, and be engaging. But the extreme of having only a single web page for your website? That’s borderline marketing malpractice.

Other Issues With Single-Page, Long-Scroll Websites

In the debate on the pros and cons of single-page, parallax scroll websites, it’s important to raise another weakness of the long-scroll format: many people don’t scroll down.

Even worse, they scroll but they don’t scroll as much as you want (and need) them to.

Let’s say your main call to action for the page is way down at the bottom of the page. You’re assuming that the site visitor will scroll down and find that call to action. That’s often not going to happen.

Compare that to a more traditional website page layout, where there’s a call to action that is immediately visible to the site visitor when they land on a page. It’s on the right side of the page, above the fold for example.

Trust me that those old-style pages have much higher goal conversion rates than long-scroll pages where the lead generation mechanism is buried at the bottom of the page.

Can I Have My Cake and Eat It Too? Yes.

The main message here is not that you should never use parallax scrolling on your website. Long-scroll pages can be effective but you need to be smart about it:

  • Don’t go with a single page for the entire website. Instead, build out tens or hundreds of content pages based on smart keyword research. You can still have a long-scroll home page if you want, but don’t forget that 80 percent or more of your website traffic will come from your interior pages, as a result of search traffic. A good strategy is to have a mix of engaging long-scroll pages with shorter, more focused pages.
  • Design in a way that encourages scrolling. The worst sin of a parallax scroll website is when nobody realizes they should scroll down. There are a number of design techniques that can make the site visitor want to keep scrolling down. Learn about them and implement them!
  • Don’t bury your calls to action. With rare exception, the main reason you create a website is to drive lead generation. Getting leads from a website requires an ask of some sort — a call to action. If you are going with a long-scroll website, just make sure that your call to action is seen.
  • Understand how people are interacting with your site. Products like ClickTale allow you to sample visits to your website and watch a video of how people interact with your website. You can see for yourself whether they are scrolling down the page as you’d want them to. Don’t just build your website and forget about it. Monitor how people are using it and make the necessary improvements to increase the value of your site to your business.

From an SEO perspective, there are a number of ways to build parallax scrolling sites that are still SEO-friendly. We could write a long blog post on some of the techniques we use at Walker Sands Digital, but for now I’ll just refer you to Carla Dawson’s excellent post on the subject over at Moz.com.

But the main thing you should know about SEO and one-page, parallax scrolling websites is that if you feel you are not getting the traffic you deserve, you shouldn’t waste your time on solutions that are not going to move the needle on your SEO traffic.

Focus on the biggest bang for your buck, which is adding more content, i.e. more pages, to your website. Any efforts to get links to your single web page will not bear much fruit, relative to the fruit that can be obtained by expanding the breadth, size, and value of your website’s content.

The bottomline? Even if your one-page, long-scroll site looks incredibly cool, don’t be overconfident in its power and effectiveness. You are still a 98-pound weakling from an SEO perspective, and you need to start focusing on bulking up.

Working with a strong SEO and content marketing agency like Walker Sands Digital is a great starting point.

Give us a call to see how we can help you turn your visually pleasing website into an income statement-pleasing website.