Most modern businesses need a website and probably wouldn’t get very far without one. Whether you sell directly online, need to attract customers to your location, or promote your product or service, your website is likely to be your most valuable marketing tool. This means most business owners will be familiar with the term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and appreciate that having a website built for you is only the start of becoming found on Google and other search engines. What many people don’t realise is that successful SEO should be factored into the web design process from the very start. It’s much harder to ‘add SEO’ to your website at a later date.
In this article, I’ll look into how website design shouldn’t get overlooked when building a successful SEO strategy. Good web design includes many factors, such as website speed, design and layout, user experience, plus the website owner’s ability to update the content.
Standard SEO practices include researching relevant keywords, editing meta tags, building backlinks, and writing useful, unique and engaging content. These are all invaluable ways to get Google to notice your website, but if your web design is not up to scratch, even the best SEO tactics may well become lost when it comes to search engine placement.
SEO & Web Design Advice – 6 Ways Your Website Design will Impact Your Search Results
Search engines use ‘crawlers’ ie. automated software applications, to run checks on all websites online. This process enables the search engine to assess each website and rank them on many factors. This assessment then translates into search engine ‘placement’ or ‘rankings’. The ultimate goal of the search engine is to provide users with the most relevant, useful and engaging content. If your website is deemed invaluable, it will not score a high search engine placement, or worse, not show at all.
At the most basic level, your website needs to be easy for a crawler to access and understand its content. However, this is just the start.
By understanding how website design and SEO go hand in hand, you are well on your way to successfully implementing your SEO plan and avoiding any potential issues. I’ll now explore five crucial web design factors that are key to achieving top-notch SEO.
1. Fast Sites Rank Higher in Search Results
Research shows that website users in 2021 aren’t willing to wait for more than a couple of seconds for a web page to load. If users are leaving your website because they get bored or impatient, this will increase your bounce rate. Google and other search engines use bounce rate as one of their key ranking factors due to the reflection on the user experience.
If your website is slow, search engine crawlers may also have difficulty indexing all your pages. If a website is not indexed correctly, the search engine may lack trust that your website is a reliable resource and negatively affect its search engine placement.
Many factors can affect your page speed; uncompressed or large images can significantly slow down your website and frustrate users. As a general rule, make sure you (or your web designer) aren’t uploading huge photos or graphics and slowing down your page load time. Another speed factor to consider is your web host provider, as there can be a big difference in the download speeds they offer. It’s always worth doing your research.
You can check how Google assesses your website load time on both mobile and desktop by using its online Page Speed Insights tool.
Google makes it clear that speed plays an important role in how your website is ranked. A fast website is also essential for engaging and retaining users. It’s therefore easy to conclude that you should never overlook website speed as a vital element of website design.
2. Websites Designed to Keep Visitors on Pages For Longer Will Rank Higher
Websites that look great will always appeal to visitors, meaning a decrease in bounce rates and increased search engine placements.
Striving for the right balance between creativity and technology is an essential skill in web design. Users need to see concise information; the text should be easy to read, menu systems intuitive and straightforward to navigate, content should be categorised for easy access.
A good web designer will understand how to use scale and proportion in order to prioritise important content. Clever use of colour will help the site look attractive as well as aiding usability. For example, colour can be highly beneficial when categorising information or highlighting navigation elements. Skilful design and layout tactics will help the user not to become overwhelmed or confused by the information or products on screen.
In conclusion, creating a visually appealing, easy to use website with a pleasing balance of images, text and whitespace, will encourage users to spend more time on your site and help raise search engine rankings.
3. Search Engines Index Mobile Sites First
We all know we are now living in the mobile age. A quick look into anyone’s Google Analytics account will prove that mobile devices are now being used more widely to perform web searches than desktop or laptop computer. As a response, in 2019 Google stated that it was switching it’s algorithm to use a ‘mobile-first’ method to rank websites. This means the mobile version is the most important version of your website when assessing ranking factors including usability.
For website content to be properly optimised for ‘mobile-first’, you need to make sure the mobile version shows all the same essential SEO content as the desktop version. Effective mobile design needs to consider the ways in which a mobile user interacts with their device, which differs from a desktop or laptop computer. Research shows that it is still common for sales or enquiries (conversions) to take place on a desktop device, but the first impression your potential client or customer will have of business is more likely to be via mobile device.
I feel it is safe to say that Google will be paying way more attention to your mobile version in order to rank. Therefore, make sure your mobile version counts.
4. Site Navigation Impacts Search Results
Navigation is another huge usability factor. A website without a straightforward menu system, a confusing site structure, or lacking useful internal links will quickly become frustrating. Users will subsequently leave, and the bounce rate will increase.
In order to implement successful SEO, a website’s design must focus on the most useful content and make it easy to find. If the front-end of your website is easy to navigate, it means the underlying structure will be easy for search engines to crawl. Add in a concise XML site map, and you will see even better results with your SEO.
Well executed navigation goes deeper than purely the menu system users see on the front end of your website. Content must be well-structured and organised, and the navigation will then work seamlessly alongside the structure. Having well-organised content is especially important if you are looking at a large site containing lots of pages.
Consider how you name your URLs to make them user friendly and don’t miss any opportunity to (sensibly!) use your keywords in a page URL. For example, if I am designing a website for a business in Sheffield, I’ll make sure I get the word Sheffield into a relevant URL such as the location page. Just make sure you are not creating URLs that are overly lengthy or stuffed purely with keywords. This can then actually harm the user experience.
In order to implement SEO, your website needs to be easy to update. This means any newly discovered, lucrative keywords can be efficiently added to website content and meta tags in order to see results quickly.
An SEO focused website can be built by a trustworthy, professional web designer who will be able to offer valuable advice on design, layout, structure, and website speed. A professional web designer or web design agency will also be able to provide an easy to use CMS (content management system), ensuring changes can easily be made to keep the website content current and with the correct SEO focus.
5. WordPress Offers SEO Enhancement
WordPress websites are a popular choice, and WordPress supports SEO through its many different themes and plugins. Because the WordPress platform will only support properly structured HTML it is naturally well optimised for search engines.
If you choose a decent WordPress theme, it will load quickly and automatically provide an excellent mobile user experience. The WordPress content editor makes it easy to add and edit alt tags, create keyword-friendly page titles, add meta descriptions, or change the page URL to suit your SEO. These benefits can be further enhanced by the vast range of SEO plugins that are available for WordPress.
The Yoast SEO plugin is widely used and makes it really easy for any user to edit metadata. It will give you feedback on how well you are using your keywords and make suggestions on sentence structure and readability. Another feature I like with Yoast is that it enters structured data automatically into each web page. Using Yoast may help implement your SEO, but it’s no replacement for a well researched SEO strategy and a correctly designed website.
If you are looking for an easy, SEO friendly website option, WordPress and it’s many useful plugins can provide the ideal, easy option. I often use WordPress as a CMS solution for my clients when designing a website on their behalf.
6. SEO Web Development for your Website
So if website design is not on your mind when looking to take your SEO to the next level, perhaps you should think again. To re-cap on what I have covered here, website design affects page speed, user retention, content structure, and ease of placing your keywords within your site. All of these are incredibly influential in how Google and other search engines will see your site and rank it accordingly.
No one will be able to take a badly designed website, apply a magic SEO fix and expect to see it on page one of Google. SEO needs to be factored into your website plan from the very start and working with a well established, knowledgeable web designer will be crucial to your success.
WordPress can be a smart choice when it comes to achieving a well-optimised website with an easy to use content management system. Just make sure to factor in website design to your SEO plan, and you’ll be sure to see the results you are looking for.