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Does Website Design matter for SEO?

  • Cathy
  • 8 min read
Does Website Design matter for SEO?

Intro

Today, user experience plays a vital role in search engine ranking, which means how you design your site and how your target audience interacts with it WILL directly affect your rankings in search results.

This makes web design services more than simply adding to the aesthetics. It is every aspect of your online presence. Your brand. Your reputation. It is you.

And a good website design ensures a good user experience which relates to improved SEO.

This full 360 approach means that when we combine marketing and web design we can create a site that looks great and ranks highly.

So how does web design affect SEO?

So how does web design affect SEO?

Just like there are many factors that impact on SEO, there are also numerous design features that affect your position on search engine sites too.

For example, navigation and your site structure can dramatically affect your online metrics.

How?

Because these metrics will look at the average time a user spends on a page, bounce backs, engagement and conversion rates, and much more. And it is these factors, both individually and combined, that can make or break your ranking on search engine results pages, as well as support continued business growth.

In addition, as part of your website design, you will most likely include imagery; however, it is only good and relevant imagery that will increase SEO. Too many images will slow your site down, slow loading times, and negatively impact your rankings. Our advice, when you do use images, make sure to keep them relevant, add the right keywords to image titles, and add alt text to every image you use.

Ultimately, your site must be user-friendly and intuitive, with SEO and web design services working together to achieve success.

So how can you design the most creative and individual website that directly and positively impacts SEO, and how can you improve your rankings going forward?

Designing for SEO

Designing for SEO

SEO in website development is no longer about stuffing a piece of content with keywords and hoping for the best. Instead, there are many factors that search engines such as Google and Bing consider when ranking.

This is why SEO and UX must go hand in hand, developing a user experience for both humans and search engines.

For example, SEO considers how easy your site is to navigate; if you have quality and engaging content online, is your site secure, fast, and mobile-friendly?

Web page design looks at how you can be creative, how you can create engagement, increase conversion rates, stand out from your competitors, and for many designers, how they can show their creative flair. In addition, design can affect how you're perceived. It builds trust and shows your authority and reliability. Boosting awareness, design focuses on evoking emotions by telling your audience a story.

Working together, SEO fast becomes part of the design process when we start to consider the design elements such as:

Site maps – keep your navigation simple. No matter where a user or site crawler lands, they need to be able to navigate to where they want to be quickly and easily. This means no pop-ups or long list options, don't hide content, and make it easy for people to go back to where they started. Clean site navigation can lead to site links appearing in Google, which is a good thing. The design of your website must be helpful to your target audience and for your search ranking position. Design should consider how pages are arranged and how pages can influence your target audience. You must consider informative menu labels, creative calls to action, and ensure your pages are never more than four clicks away from the homepage.

Site speed – how quickly your site and its pages load is vital. Just a one-second delay in site load time can reduce your page views by 11%! Page speed also affects your retention rates, so please, as well as website speed, don't forget about mobile speed. Google's page speed insights tool is a great feature to help show you your site's current performance and any improvements you can make. You can also support your site speed with a reliable hosting plan, using high-quality, compressed, cropped images, and leveraging browser caching.

Good quality content – think 1000+ words, add internal links naturally, make content readable, include conversational, question-based, long tail keywords in your content, and answer your audiences' questions! From an SEO viewpoint, you should also look to optimise meta tags and meta descriptions.

Readability: Readability is the most critical part of website design. Users want information, and you should design your website in a way that answers these questions in the easiest and most user-friendly format. For example, keep things clean and legible, leave white space alone, use appropriate font sizes, and use a suitable font for your target audience. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, keep sentences short and snappy, and use relevant images and videos to break text up.

Headings – web pages and content online are often broken down into headings, making it easier for users to find and follow information and content online and for search engines to crawl and understand your content. Headings tell the reader and search engines what each section/paragraph is about, helping you to create a logical and structured order – and let's face it, we all like a little bit of structure in our lives. My key recommendation regarding headings is to add your targeted keywords toward the front of the heading title, structuring other headers and H tags throughout the rest of the page as appropriate.

Mobile-friendly – websites today must be mobile-friendly for SEO. From a design perspective, everything must be considered, such as the look, feel, navigation, how text and images appear on mobile, etc. Design should be simple, smart, and relatable.

404 pages - if you have any problem pages on your website where a 404 page is displayed, you will lose visitors…and fast. The 404 page commonly appears when a link is broken or a page no longer exists. But you can make your 404 pages work for your SEO strategy. For example, get creative with this page's design – make it interesting and attention-grabbing. Explain to the user what this page is and why. Allow users to leave the page but jump onto another page they want to view. Of course, the ideal situation is that you don't have any broken links on your site, but as nothing is ever 100% certain, putting the right 404 page in place can be the next best thing.

What these elements show is the importance of focusing on behaviour metrics. For example, analysing how users are enjoying your site and how you can optimise these for SEO—moving users and search engine crawlers through your site effortlessly, clicking on your links, spending time on your pages, and returning to your site again and again.

Integrating your content strategy into your web design process

Integrating your content strategy into your web design process

Content development is a huge area and one that needs careful planning, developing, and maintaining.

Online you need to provide the content your target audience wants and needs, providing answers to the questions they're searching for.

Collaboration is key.

You must communicate, review, and discuss throughout the production process with all parties.

Ideally, start with a content map. A content map can help you develop a more strategic site map by providing a holistic view of the flow of content.

When designing for SEO, you should match your content to the layout of your website. Designers can then build a home for your content, boosting its visibility, chances of engagement, conversions, and more.

You should use SEO analytics to test the quality and effectiveness of your content. Experimenting with web layouts, keeping content fresh and relevant and ensuring content is available 24/7.

SEO-friendly web design will lead to greater efficiencies and better outcomes as you understand the purpose of your content and what it is aiming to support.

Working together, all parties should identify where the content fits in the identified user journey, with designers looking at how they can bring content to life and support SEO. Spec sheets can help provide direction, page objectives, target audience, word count, style guidelines, and more.

My advice when it comes to integrating your content strategy into your web design process is to use SEO analytics and include designers and developers in creating your editorial and content calendar from the beginning.

Is there a possibility that a website redesign could negatively impact your current SEO?

In short, yes.

If your redesign is not handled correctly, yes, it can negatively affect SEO and the long-term growth of the site.

For example, if you remove or change a URL that was ranking and gaining traction, engagement and conversions.

You can also negatively affect your rankings if you change your site navigation without working on the data from your SEO team. Running the risk of burying important pages deep in your site's hierarchy.

What if you change a URL and forget or just don't put a redirect in place. Trust us; new pages take time to crawl and rank. Do you have the time and energy to start from scratch?

Maybe you've accidentally removed or changed strategic content on pages, removing keywords, reducing word count, and ultimately changing the page's focus.

If you're not redesigning your site on a temporary URL, this can cause visitor issues and problems on pages, broken links, lost information, etc.

Maybe you've included a couple of pop-ups on the site…and if we're honest, we're not a fan of pop-ups, nor are search engines. Why? Because pop-ups can be seen as too salesy and in your face, which can affect your credibility. Turning people off and away from your website altogether.

To avoid these errors and keep SEO high:

  • Gather all your keyword rankings, organic search and conversation data for all URLs and use this data to benchmark your new site against.
  • Test your new site and then test and test again. This is very important as you look for broken links, features, CSS, etc.
  • Put in place proper redirects, especially between old and new pages (then Google will not penalise you as a result).
  • Use tools such as Google's webmaster tools to check everything is operating as it should be.
  • Keep search engine crawlers crawling your new site – resubmit your website sitemap and XML to Bing and Google to index.
  • Continuously monitor changes and look for areas of improvement. For example, keep checking your keywords and monitor these for up to three months.

Importance of web design and SEO best practices

So, how can your web design and SEO packages work together to create an SEO-friendly website and pages that work?

1. Make your navigation search engine friendly. Search engine crawlers must be able to access and index your pages, and visitors must be able to quickly find what they're looking for. Note: Search engine crawlers don't like websites that use Flash.

2. Keep JavaScript and CSS external to your HTML document to keep crawling fast and effective!

3. Keep the structure of your content clean and readable. Include proper headings, informational paragraphs, and links to both internal and external pieces of content.

4. Make sure your URLs include your keywords and describe the content on the page. Try to avoid automatically generated URLs – a good CMS will allow you to customise these.

5. If you don't want a search engine indexed, block the page. I.e., pages that add no value, text pages that you don't want to expose, test site pages, etc.

6. Remember search engines can't see images, so they need alt text. Keep your image alt attributes descriptive, relevant, and concise.

7. Keep content fresh, informative, and up to date. Search engines love new, good, relevant content. It shows your website is still alive and well. And more content = greater crawling frequency by search engines.

8. Keep metadata unique. Your page titles, descriptions, and keywords must all be different. Meta descriptions and tags is an area that can build your site's traffic volume and positively affect CTR quite quickly.

9. Keep your code clean – this makes sites much easier to index. Reduce the size of your CSS files, minimise HTTPS requests, minimise redirects, use a caching solution, and upgrade to an appropriate web hosting solution.

10. Last but by no means least - mobile-friendly is a must! Design with mobile in mind and keep menu items and content legible and SEO friendly.

So, does website design impact SEO?

100% yes!

If your site is hard to use and people leave as a result, search engines pick up on this and drop your rankings accordingly. The same goes for hard-to-read text, outdated designs, slow load times, etc.

You need a designer to keep things creative, clean, and easy to navigate and a web developer to format URLs, content, and images so that crawlers can index these and your business can rank successfully.

SEO isn't just a one-time job.

Everyone should know the vision of the business and the value that the business’s website brings to achieve this vision, and more.

For a great website with high SEO, I believe developers and designers must work together in harmony.

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Cathy

Cathy

is the Owner and Digital Marketing Director of Buzz Panda Digital. Before she founded the company, she started her working life as a primary school teacher but after wanting a change of pace and to start her own business she trained in digital marketing and SEO. Setting up several affiliate websites and ranking them gave her the experience and knowledge to start ForwardSEO in 2015 and Buzz Panda in 2020.

Link: Buzz Panda Digital

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