When it comes to building a new website, it’s important to balance your website design with your SEO goals. They work hand in hand. It’s all well and good designing a beautiful site that will help you get more sales or leads, but it’s absolutely crucial that it ranks in the search engine results pages of your customers’ queries.
The design and content of your website will impact your pages’ performance as much as the code. In fact, fussy website design can really damage your SEO. But don’t worry, it’s relatively straightforward to design and develop an SEO-friendly website. You just need to adhere to good SEO practices to do with page speed and site architecture, and ensure that your content is presented to your target audience in the right way, as we want to avoid all the valuable content getting lost in search rankings.
There are some easy steps that will improve your website’s performance when building or redesigning your website.
1. When presenting your most crucial information, always use text instead of putting it in an image
Images, videos and audio files are great for user engagement and building your brand, but when it comes to SEO, text is the most important and is mostly easily read by search engines. Search engines crawl media content looking for keywords, but they ignore images and flash files.
With this in mind, if you need to display names, links or contact information, they should always be written in text rather than on an image.
Always ensure your navigation and menu buttons are written with text rather than stated in an image – all pages must be linked from at least one piece of text rather than images. Search engines can’t read the text on an image and it’s more difficult for mobile users to navigate your site. You could consider putting your important web pages in your footer and grouping your ‘high value links’ into categories within it.
If you do need to use an image to show important information, make sure you include descriptive text within the alt tag.
Always include your keywords in the SEO title and meta description and ensure the keyword phrase density of your content is high – as these are the most important elements of your webpage. Writing a unique meta description is important for attaining a high click-through-rate – Ubersuggest can help with this, as it shows you all the design errors and duplications of text.
It’s easy to optimise your images:
- Rename all your image file names using a description of what it is and remember to include your keyword – it will impress Google Image bots.
- Images with higher resolution and larger dimensions can really slow your page load times. Try reducing the size of your images without compromising their quality, because it will improve your page speed.
- When you’re ready to upload, use your image’s alt tags to tell search engines what’s in it – this includes the image caption (where appropriate), alt text (this must include your keyword) and title text.
It’s a good idea to use an online tool to check how search engines are seeing your website. I’d recommend SEO-Browser.com as it gives a full list of all the visible and hidden elements on your website.
2. Optimise your website for mobile users
There’s no excuse for websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. All websites should have a responsive design that ‘will’ respond to whatever device it is being used on. Google ‘demotes’ websites that aren’t optimised for mobile phones.
But it’s a common misconception that you need to build a dedicated mobile website that is separate to your existing one – it will mean you have to manage the two sites separately and you might start duplicating content.
It’s easy to make your website mobile-friendly, responsive and consistent on all platforms. By making a few small easy tweaks, you should see website engagement go up and bounce rate go down.
- Use a content management system like WordPress, because it has a very simple one-click installation for mobile devices. You just need to choose a responsive theme and add search engine optimisation plugins like Yoast SEO.
- Rather than using WordPress, you could buy a mobile-responsive theme from online web design stores.
- Test how mobile-friendly your website is using popular testing tools: Mobile-Friendly Test, Robots Testing Tool, gtmetrix.com or PageSpeed Insights.
3. Have a simple and clear navigation
Websites that are difficult to navigate could mean that your users get frustrated with what they’re trying to find and will click off your site. This will lead to a high bounce rate and will affect your search rankings. You need to make it easy for your website to create conversions. Limit the amount of call-to-actions, ensure the pathway from entrance to conversion is simple and not too long and make sure all your forms are simple and to the point.
4. Design a useful 404 page
404 pages are designed for people that type in your URL wrong or click on a broken link from your website. Having an off-putting or unforgettable 404 page could lead to losing your first-time visitors. Here’s a few things you can include in order to keep them on your website:
- Always include a link to your website on your 404 page. Without a proper navigation or menu, your customer will just click off the site and find another website to look at.
- Avoid using technical jargon, this will just confuse the user.
- Apologise for the error and redirect them to where they want to go.
- Create a contact form to capture more data.
5. Use structured data within your webpages
Google has its own special SERP (Search Engine Results Page) features that rank higher up than the normal organic results. These can include the ‘people also ask’ box, maps, featured snippets, top news stories, shopping results, and ‘images for’ results.
It can be hard to guarantee your webpage will get one of these, but you can include structured data within your pages in order to increase your chances. You write it into your website’s code, enabling the bots to get extra information about a page.
Structured data provides information about a page and classifies the page content – you’ll need to use schema.org – here’s a handy guide on how to use it.
6. Consider using pop-ups (with caution!)
I know they can be contentious, and I personally get frustrated with them sometimes but the research doesn’t lie – they can be a great way of engaging with your customers and providing them with added value.
- Offer discount codes with a time limit.
- Include an email sign-up form.
- Avoid adverts!
- Make sure they’re valuable to your customer and relevant to your website.
- Ensure your pop-up is consistent with the rest of your website design.
- Offer an incentive like a free resource.
7. Don’t base your homepage on Flash files
Having too much Flash media on your homepage isn’t good for SEO for a number of reasons. Firstly, Flash sites are really hard to optimise, so they won’t rank on search engines, because having it means there’ll be no content on the page for Google to index. Flash files, which enable users to play animations, games and audio and visual content, can really hinder your potential customer’s experience of using your website. For this reason, Google Chrome no longer auto-plays Flash adverts and most computers aren’t able to play Flash files, including mobile devices, which means most users won’t be able to play them.
Try to avoid flash on the homepage, as well as in the important parts of your website, such as the menu and contact pages.
Not sure if your website has Flash files? Use SEO SiteCheckUp’s Flash Test tool.
If you want to embed videos on your website, try a Flash alternative like HTML5.
Frames are also relatively obsolete when it comes to website technology. They enable you to keep one part of your webpage static whilst another part is scrolled. Unfortunately, they can hide content inside them and search engines won’t be able to find your text. Or sometimes they do show up on search engine results page, but missing a navigation.
If you want to rank highly within search engines, try to avoid using as many frames as possible.
8. Don’t use too many design elements
Try not to overload your webpage with lots of different elements, such as graphics, animations and widgets. Having too many will considerably slow your site’s speed down, which is terrible for your search engine ranking.
But don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to fix things that are slowing down your site’s loading speed:
- Test your speed using tools like Pingdom. You can remove elements that are slowing down the speed, such as videos or high res images. If you really need these, you could assess the other elements and see if they make a difference.
- Avoid using too many HTTP requests by using a cache plug-in if your website is on WordPress. This will send the webpage to the user without having to ask the server to build your page every time someone goes on it.
- Clean the code of your website. No one wants cluttered code in the backend of their website, so remember to get rid of empty HTML tags. Use an online tool such as Dirty Markup or Clean CSS.
By following these easy steps, your website design will work with your SEO to increase your website engagement and traffic. By focusing on them both in equal measures, you can work towards building or redesigning a website that is a seamless user experience and appears in the most ideal search engine results pages.